by Julie Upmeyer

Travel, for most of human history, was a risk — risk of disease, potentially hostile foreigners, inedible food, and unpredictable terrain. One embarked upon the unknown with only modest hopes of returning. No internet, no phone, no TripAdvisor or Booking.com. No airlines to ensure a point-to-point, on-time departure with safe landing. Even the purpose was dubious at best. Why would you want to leave your home and your family and be a stranger somewhere else? Ok, so you are an explorer. What is the purpose of that, exactly? Conquest? Science? Art? Academia? And what would the purpose of the journey be if you never shared your discoveries with someone else upon your return?

As I boarded bus 123 in front of some massive stop in the outskirts of Seoul, I questioned my own sense of purpose in this journey.
The bus was to take me an additional hour out of the city, to
what I understood to be an island. I had the stop name written in my notebook, spelled in English letters, and beside it, my best attempt at the Korean characters. I guess someone understood, or some locals just knew from experience, that confused, tall, luggage-bearing foreigners needed to get off at the Gyeonggi Creation Center on Debu Island. As I wandered around the empty campus, trying to find another human being, I wondered indeed why I had left my studio and home to create a temporary life elsewhere.