The end of the road is in sight.
With another 100 under my belt, a mere handful of days are left ahead to tease me. And as I confront them, I find myself with an outlook significantly different from any other I have had during this trip. The last several weeks have acted as a sort of tapering period; with university responsibilities slowly resurfacing and looming thoughts of returning to a structured lifestyle creeping in from the depths of my mind, I have found myself settled in my travels. Two and a half months in Japan resembled more a period of assimilation than one of traveling, gradually replacing adventurous fervor aimed at seeing, exploring and experiencing to a calmer, slower, localized pursuit. I steeped in mundane activities that I would normally take part in back home, only adjusted to fit and integrate into the context of the local surroundings and culture. Instead of ascending mountains and covering kilometers, I found myself clocking more hours in the same neighborhoods, quantifying my time with finished books and the strengthening familiarity of local faces. What I first assessed as a lack of motivation to travel turned out to be an unintentional preparation for the new life that awaits me after the 427th day on the road.
But most importantly, I enjoyed this change of pace.
Several of my fellow traveling friends who find themselves nearing the end of their journeys all expressed similar feelings, despite length of travel. Although everyone has described it in a slightly different way, certain emotions prevailed…namely, the urge to hit the brakes, take a step back, and “normalize” their activities. Become a regular person again. Merge with the ebb and flow of daily life. Simply put, prepare to leave their traveler self behind. In this effort, I was lucky enough to indulge in and grow more intimately familiar with a unique and fascinating culture. And following Japan, I found myself adopting the exact same approach in Seoul. At first, the wanderlust peeked its head in momentarily, and I wandered around the city, tapping into the unique and unexpected energy that Seoul has to offer. But again, I quickly settled into a comfortable corner of the city, growing familiar with the area and culture while literally growing through heaps of kimchee.
Now as I sit at the airport, waiting for my flight to Taipei, I anticipate a similar trend for my final week.
And so I find myself quickly approaching the end.