On #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016

A few weeks ago, I shared that I was quitting my job at UXPin to visit Asia for the next 4.5 months.

I fully realize this is the most Millennial thing I’ve ever done, which is why I’m jokingly naming this trip the #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016. In case you’re worried, I’m not really going through a crisis – this is a trip I’ve been thinking about doing ever since High School (thanks, Mr. Levering). The timing just couldn’t have come at a better time.

Rumblings of an Idea

Three months ago, my new manager was kind enough to let me work remotely in Los Angeles as a trial run. I soon enjoyed not paying exorbitant rent in Silicon Valley, using the extra money to help support my parents. It’s a pretty good feeling when you can help your parents pay rent, buy them a computer after theirs gets stolen, or replace a car battery without thinking twice about finances.

With this newfound time together, my parents and I started talking quite a bit, mainly about the realities of our financial situation. While the money I was providing them was nice, it was not yet a necessity. Because more likely than not, I’ll need to finance their retirement soon. It sucks, but that’s just how it is. The conversations left me with a somber impression of how much risk I can truly take in my 20’s.

The window to do something unconventional was rapidly closing.

2016 has been a phenomenal year of travel thus far: New Year’s in Hong Kong, my annual pilgrimage back to Notre Dame for my 25th birthday, Canada Day in Vancouver, Mayan Ruins in Mexico, and an unforgettable trip to Cuba. But there was one country I’ve been longing to visit. Korea. Especially the countryside where I spent the majority of my childhood.

This particular feeling skyrocketed over the past few years when I befriended numerous Korean nationals during my travels. I met a few in Cuba, a few in Seattle, and a few in Hong Kong. And after meeting a couple of awesome Koreans in Vancouver, I thought 17 years is long enough. It was time to go back the Motherland. For the longest time, none of us in my family had the time or the money to go back. But now that I have both, it felt right. And I felt particularly happy that I am doing this on my own dime, a reward for all the hard work over these past few years.

Game Plan

When planning my travels, I always start with my musts and then try to build my itinerary around them. For this trip, here were my musts:

  1. Starting the trip in the Philippines. I booked an awards flight last year that remained unused, so before it expires in October I want to take advantage of the ticket.
  2. At least two or three weeks in Korea
  3. Singapore was a must, otherwise Michelle Sumantri would probably never stop complaining in every single conversation we have for the following 23 years.
  4. Angkor Wat was a must
  5. Kristmas with Kristoff in Manila
  6. New Years in Tokyo with Jon Lagoy and a meal at Jiro’s Sushi restaurant (fingers crossed)

With those points in mind, here’s my itinerary (in chronological order):

  1. Manila, Philippines
  2. Davao City, Philippines
  3. Cebu, Philippines
  4. Dumaguete, Philippines*
  5. Seoul, Korea
  6. Gyeongju, Korea
  7. Incheon, Korea
  8. Gangwha, Korea (the countryside where I spent my childhood)
  9. Sokcho, Korea (grandparents and family)
  10. Singapore, Singapore
  11. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  12. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  13. Bangkok, Thailand
  14. Siem Reap, Cambodia
  15. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  16. Hanoi, Vietnam
  17. Taipei, Taiwan
  18. Okinawa, Japan* (the city houses the 2nd largest Aquarium in the world!)
  19. Manila, Philippines (for Kristmas with Kristoff)
  20. Palawan, Philippines*
  21. Tokyo, Japan
  22. Kyoto, Japan
  23. Hilo, Hawaii
  24. Honolulu, Hawaii*
  25. Los Angeles, USA

* = maybe, still undecided

On Keeping My Career Going

One of my biggest worries, aside from getting extremely sick or having everything stolen, is that I’d be taking too much time off of my career. I don’t know how valid these concerns are, but here’s what I’m doing to mitigate this gap of employment.

I’ve been setting up UX talks with local meetups and co-working spaces in each major cities I’m visiting. So far, I have confirmed speeches in Manila, Davao, Cebu, and Seoul. I’m incredibly excited to learn more about UX communities outside of the United States, the challenges they face, and the projects they’re working on. I connected with UX practitioners in the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, so I’m looking forward to meeting them soon. In addition, I hope to be producing some content in the UX field, though I understand it is getting more and more crowded. Lastly, if a short-term remote contract opportunity arises, I’ll definitely consider it.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there’s a sense of nervousness when planning a trip like this. You start thinking about everything that can go wrong and it paralyzes you. As I get older, I can feel my prefrontal cortex screaming at me to play it safe. But regardless, I’m excited. Can’t wait to check off some places off the list and make some cool memories. Can’t wait to enjoy again the discomfort of being in a foreign country with language barriers and cultural disparities. Can’t wait to see my grandparents again and family members that I haven’t seen in 17 years – hard to believe I was 8 years old when I last saw them. Lastly, I’m just excited for all the food.

Can’t wait for the adventures ahead, bring on #QuarterLifeCrisisTour2016!
– B. Kim

P.S. I’ll be posting a lot to Instagram, so make sure to follow me here.

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