In our 20s, we hear a lot of lessons about how to design our own lives. Many people who are close to success speak their words that inspire us. They help us how to lead our lives. However, we sometimes discover ourselves built by others’ thoughts, not ours. We who are not made by ourselves act according to how the society has taught us to do. They make us “flow” with the main stream of society until we finally reach a place where everyone else has. This is time to ask us to decide between to lead or be led. Even though these types of questions are common nowadays, I would like to ask you one: Can you lead your own life to success?
I met Park Ji-wan (Dept. of Statistics, ’07) at a cafe near Wangsimni Station. When I got there with a photographer, he was already waiting for us. While I set up the recorder and took out the question list, he seemed to be thinking of what to say. I initially expected that he would give us some lessons about how he overcame his hardship in his youth in his experiences - for example, obtaining 160 academic credits, which was 30 more than what his major required, or his 70-day trip to Europe with only 500 Euro (approximately 700,000 won). Thus, I was going to write about his determination and courage in my article about Park. However, his story completely tore up my question list and allowed me to write a whole new, yet more worthy article.
When Park first opened his mouth, he began with his journey in Europe. “Uh.. let me start the story. I went on a trip to Europe for 70 days. If there were something amazing about it, it was that I was there with just 700,000 won and returned alive. I traveled by hitchhiking, not taking the Euro rail even once.” Park has already mentioned his trip to Europe with limited traveling expenses during his lecture held by UOS Speech and this interested me and many other UOS students. However, the trip was very meaningful not just because it was done with very few expenses. This campaign was done in order to make the rough world warm - its name was ‘Still Warm? about people.’
▲ He passed 17 countries through this course
“We live in the world that is too rough.” He said he began to have had this thought during his military service. While watching TV programs that showed terrible crimes, he thought that our society was becoming chaotic. He began to consider what he could do for people. “I knew my campaign was not big as to change the society, but I just thought…this world is too rough. Rather than trying to solve the society’s problems, back to the basics, I would like to ask people, ‘Do you feel warm around you?’. ‘Still Warm? about people’ was made for such purpose.” Park wanted people to feel love around them and believe that the world was still warm. His campaign was carried out with a two-step process: asking people about faith in humanity while on the trip and returning from the trip safely. His successful journey with helps from strangers could not only spread the seeds of warm thinking, but also demonstrated that the world is “still warm” by itself.
Park went on talking about his trip. He and his friend got on a plane to leave for Paris on Dec. 21, 2010. They then spent some time in Italy and went on their own ways, promising to meet in Rome after 70 days. Paris, which was the first city to visit, completely in a holiday mood - it was the end the year. However, he had to sleep in a subway station during Christmas because there was no one to offer a bed to him. For his sleeping accommodations, he used Couch Surfing, which was an online community connecting travelers looking for a place to sleep with the locals willing to provide them with their couch for free. Also, he traveled from place to place by hitchhiking. Such things completely depended on luck, and nothing was scheduled. Nevertheless, he solved these problems by directly confronting the locals and asking and talking to them. He carried with him a poster saying “Still warm?” while walking and talking to people. When he hitchhiked, he had diverse conversations with the drivers and became friends with every one of them. Sometimes, those who became very close to Park did favors for him such as driving him to his destination (even to out-of-the-way places) or giving him some money. Park could not speak English fluently, and some people could not understand English at all, but the universal idea of his campaign made them understand each other.
▲ He stopped by a hitchhiker's house on the way to Amsterdam
“The trip brought many fun events, yet in the end, experiences of hardship remain in my memories the most,” Park said. When he was travelling across Slovenia, for instance, he fainted from the pain of inflammation in his gums. He did not have money for the operation and was about to go back to Korea, but a hitchhiker told him that there was a special law allowing foreigners have medical care with no charge in case of emergency in Slovenia. Park then asked for a free operation and they approved it, so he was still able to keep traveling. “I always try one more time when others give up thanks to this trip. Whenever I want to give up on what I am working on, it always remind me of the experiences I had during the trip.” When he left for Europe, his friends also wanted to go on trips overseas. However, they did not go, because they kept saying, ‘I do not have enough money or time’ to him. Park said, however, “We will have less time after graduation. You have relatively plenty of time to do what you want to do when you are a university student. Even if you do not have enough money, you can still go on a trip like I did.” Park called his trip an “organized travel.” Because its purpose and methods were organized all by himself completely - it had his own theme.
He emphasized that the trip was his own and that people should not follow his way – rather, make their own unique plans. Back in Korea, he told the same thing to his friends. Inspired by him, some of them went on their trips with their own campaigns. “What I think is most important is to spread your own ideas. It does not matter whether your idea requires low or high budget. If you want to learn something from a trip, you should plan your trip with your own theme.” He mentioned that many university students are doing many activities like taking a trip to other countries but merely following how others have done.
Of course, he did not go to Europe only for the campaign work. He loved traveling, so had already been to many areas in Korea. Traveling to a foreign country was what he had been looking forward to. Therefore, he expressed his desire to show his idea - Is the world still warm? - in the manner of a journey across Europe. If you were him, could you come up with such a plan, let alone put it into practice? His campaign was difficult to complete, but the process was one of his favorites and involved a lot of creativity. He could do all of his likes and wants because the entire process during his campaign was based on own idea.
If any part of it had not been his, it could not have satisfied him fully and his trip would have lost its meaning. Many people wish to show their ideas, styles and appeals to people, but they are scared to try. They say that money, time and many other things drag their lives down during their 20s. However, excuses do not turn back time, especially as you have less time after graduation than in university. Of course, what Park had done may not be easy for others to do - at least I would feel so. He would not have left for Europe if he were not brave. However, it does not matter if you have the courage to spread your ideas as Park, because you can do small things that are still planned, organized and carried out according to your own choice. His courage let him leave for Europe, but your special gift, may it not be courage, can still give you wings to spread across the world. Of course, you would have to think and think again to make your special flight happen. The means is not important, however. Just give it a shot and spread your wings.