Blast him because he was right. “No man is an island.” 

A few years ago I visited England and while browsing one of the outdoor markets in Cambridge, picked up a small, gloriously worn and leather bound, “made for your pocket” book of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. I love Mr. Stevenson. I love “Treasure Island” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Kidnapped, “Travels with a Donkey” and the other works I’ve read. I have yet to read them all, but believe me I’m going to try.

And this small book of poems garnered just as much adoration from me. Especially “The Vagabond” as it spoke to the truly naive part of me that harbored desperate and overly romanticized notions of running away to start over in some quaint part of Earth, where no one knew me.  Saying the poem out loud felt like brandishing a weapon in the face of my greatest nemesis: reality. And I foolishly tucked the theme of this poem deep into my heart, believing it was an accurate description of jolly old me… stubborn and off to traipse the world, with this ringing stoicly in my ears:

 “Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me

Oh how I scoff at myself of years ago (which I’m sure will be a continual habit throughout life).  Eight months of “heaven above and road below me” without friend or love has effectively slapped some sense into my “everything is epic and dramatic” addled head.

My time in Korea so far has taught me that I love traveling. I love new places. I love exploring and finding new places. But, I’m sorry Mr. Stevenson, I do need hope and love and a friend to know me. You were right about the wealth part, but as far as the rest… well, I think you may have missed the  mark.

I’ve been reluctant to be truly honest about how lonely this past 8 months has been, for fear I’d sound a nancy or pathetic or would make this great adventure sound less than stellar. But the truth is it’s a mix of many things. I don’t regret moving here. Not one smidgeon of regret. I just find myself wondering if people have it right when they say (whoever “they” is) that you can’t have it all.

Does a person have to trade in a life of exploration and adventure in order to have family and love and friends? I guess logic would say yes… it’s kind of hard to maintain consistent friendships if you don’t stay in one place for too long. But what if you’re built with this infuriating desire for change and all that is new and an insatiable appetite for the unknown?  But at the same time  you want deep and meaningful relationships. And you thrive on those friendships like a drug which, left too long out of the system, causes withdrawals of the acutest kind. What then?

I’ve seen some wonderful things this past 8 months, which has only fueled my desire to see more. I’m already making lists of places in my head, have already started searching for possibilities to make said places happen, and have already determined I’m not coming back to the US for a while, if I can help it.  But at the same time, I’m hampered by a very consistent part of my personality.

Upon seeing these “wonderful” things my first instinct (beyond hearing Handel’s “”Messiah” in my head and clasping my hands to my heart in appreciation) is that it has to be shared… with others. Things are just not as grand when you’re the only one seeing them. I can’t explain it, or prove it, or justify my stubborn belief that this is so. I just know it to be true. There is an ache that presses it’s way through my system whispering, “what’s the point?”

So here I am… knee deep in a conundrum and completely at a loss concerning how to free myself. Or how to live in said conundrum with some measure of contentment.  And along with me and my conundrum, Mr. “You’re not contributing to Society” likes to join the party as a third wheel, flinging various lectures all the while.

Alas, alack. I could go on but doing so would only result in further rambling without further conclusion (like a true woman)… 😉

**Here’s the rest of “The Vagabond” in all it’s glory. Despite my previously  mentioned epiphanies (however lacking in solid conclusions) regarding this poem, it still gets me. Every time.

The Vagabond

Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river –
There’s the life for a man like me,
There’s the life for ever.

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
And the road below me.

Or let autumn fall on me
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger.
White as meal the frosty field –
Warm the fireside haven –
Not to autumn will I yield,
Not to winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.