The trip of a lifetime began with this message on my birthday from my friend Jordan
Hey happy birthday man! All the best!
What do you have planned for this year?
p.s. I’m going to North Korea in August -get jealous! 🙂
North Korea?!? That came out of the blue. I had never considered going before. Could I travel there legally? Safely? I didn’t even know what questions to ask.
But I knew Jordan. He’s a great guy with great friends. I knew enough that if he was organizing, I would love the trip.
Besides — f’ing North Korea!
I agreed to go before thinking what would come of it. I didn’t have the budget after Shanghai the month before. But who knew the next time I’d get to visit North Korea with a great group of people?
So I went to North Korea for seven days in August and September. This blog will cover mostly my North Korea trip for the next few weeks. How do I reconcile that with joshuaspodek.com not being a travel blog? The purpose of the trip was the same as the purpose of my life, which was to improve it. I plan to write about how the trip expands my horizons and learn about my world.
Most accounts I’ve seen on North Korea sensationalize it. While the country was unique in many ways, my experience was dominated by the humanity of the people I interacted with — that is, they were just like you and me. However different their culture, they were human beings.
I learned from them about themselves, their world, and about myself more than I ever would have expected — as well things about sport, government, cold war history, propaganda, advertising, control, and more.
We’ve all seen white sandy beaches, snow-capped mountains, beautiful works of art in world-class museums, ancient ruins, exotic cuisine, and all the things travel agents show, even if only in pictures. I love novelty as much as anyone, but how many of those places do you have to visit before you’ve saturated your potential to learn and grow from them? And if you aren’t learning and growing, what are you getting out of the vacation?
Well how about visiting Nineteen Eighty-Four? Or Animal Farm? Instead of natural beauty and exotic foods, how about a drab environment and even more drab food? If you want to learn about people, I’ve found that Eiffel Towers and Great Pyramids distract you. In North Korea, nothing distracts you and the people are amazing — both like none other in the world and just like you and me.
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