My Gypsy Soul

My Gypsy Soul

Traveling feeds my soul and fuels my free spirit. I just returned home from a four-country journey to Japan, China, Thailand and South Korea — a true voyage of discovery, not just for the sights and sounds each destination offers, but also for the opportunity to be part of something larger than myself.  I am enriched while deciphering personal meaning, engaging within a multicultural movement, and connecting to a global community.

As I strolled and admired the cherry blossoms on the island of Miyajima in Japan, I felt a flow of spirituality and the deep sense of my free spirit smiling. It is a sacred space, a place of magic and wonder. A shrine floating on the sea, numerous preserved pagodas and temples with lanterns lined the banks of the island. Serenity was sensed by all; even the native deer roam freely, fearless within the peacefulness of this protected World Heritage Site. It was simply divine and rich with history.

I have never known my freedom to be in danger, never questioned its continued existence, its loss never feared.

The deer reminded me of my deceased father, who loved the native Michigan white tail, far removed in time from this world, but never far from my soul. Sometimes, when I travel I lose sight of where I am and how far I have travelled to get there. I long to see new things. I enjoy watching people in their environments.

Before I visited China, I envisioned a corrupt country, polluted by an immense population, as depicted in U.S. media. There may be areas that fit this, but my experience was completely the opposite. Debunking cultural stigmas is one of my favorite hobbies when traveling. I enjoyed walking the streets near Wangfujing, which is one of the most famous shopping streets of Beijing, located in the Dongcheng District. I discovered local markets selling unusual snacks such as skewered scorpions, mini seahorses, or for the less adventurous, candied fruit.

As I walked the Great Wall of China outside Beijing, there was time for reflection. Marveling at the longest human-made structure on earth, I felt deep admiration for the laborers who built it. The heavy work and difficult conditions are unimaginable to us today from our comfortable easy chairs. The Great Wall is also known as “the longest cemetery on earth” because so many people died building it. I paid my respects to the souls of those who are entombed in the stone and earth, and marveled at their accomplishment.

The deer reminded me of my deceased father, who loved the native Michigan white tail, far removed in time from this world, but never far from my soul.

While travelling, my senses are piqued. A stranger’s smile or gentle friendliness comforts me. In Bangkok, Thailand, I was riding the Sky Train when a twenty-something female smiled and made a motion towards my hair.  It took a short game of cultural charades to comprehend she liked my haircut. With a revived spring in my step, I quickly left the train platform remembering the time constraint I was under. My destination was a singular residence made up of various old Thai structures. An American businessman named Jim Thompson built and lived in this impressive home in the 1950s, which is now a museum. I only had an hour before it closed, and I must have looked rushed because a local provided step by step directions on how to arrive in time. These are the moments that make my heart soar.

I crave the thrill of venturing into the unknown. I want to see the differences in the everyday existence of those that live there compared to mine.

Seoul, South Korea is an unusual place to visit due to the political tornado that is its neighbor in the north. The worry, fear, and anger led to a common retort from many of the people I spoke to when I told them my itinerary.  It was the controversial rapport between the two countries that drew me there yet concerned me. I have never known my freedom to be in danger, never questioned its continued existence, its loss never feared. The physical line between that loss and enjoyment was literally in front of me.

Being adjacent to North Korea was unnerving. As I straddled the Military Demarcation Line dividing North and South Korea within the Joint Security Area, I felt numb with a leg on each side of a positive and negative force. The guide took my group into the Third Infiltration Tunnel on the South Korean side. This dark, dank tunnel is 250 meters under the border between North Korea and South Korea. The depth and the weight above us was a discernible burden, and dynamite holes were clearly visible in the coal-covered walls. I experienced discomfort of the unknown as well as the joy of it, and was reminded to cherish the life we have.

I have this urge to trek to the furthest corners of the map. There is beauty hidden in all pockets of the world, and I am open to seeing it. Travel challenges me and changes my perspectives on life. There will always be more to see, more to explore and more cities to get lost in. As wanderlust permeates through my veins, the restlessness of my free spirit will never stop. “I have not been everywhere, but it is on my list!” cries my gypsy soul.

About Shannon Hogan Cohen

Shannon Hogan CohenThere has always been a special place in my heart for storytelling. I write because there is so much to say and my two teenage boys’ tire of listening to me. I write for insight, the more written the more I learn about myself. My passion for life and learning drives my appetite for adventure. Interests include traveling and learning about different cultures. I am married to a man who joins me on this journey and encourages me to grow.

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