Oct 30

Taking risks and why I’m moving to South Korea

Risk: “Exposure to the chance of injury or loss”

I always considered myself a “risky” person in life. I enjoy jumping out of perfectly good airplanes; swimming to the bottom of the ocean; rappelling down steep cliff sides; gallivanting through third world countries alone; hanging upside down on a rope in aerial class. Everyone always says, “Wow, Kaleena, you’re so brave.”

Skydiving and scuba diving
But what I’ve realized is that those things were never truly risky. Some might balk at that notion, sure. But the way I see it, each of the “scary” things I’ve done have safety built in and the statistics show I’m actually in more danger every time I step into my car. I always went into them knowing that, barring disaster, I would come out of the experience relatively unscathed and still safe, both physically and emotionally.

It’s only now, at a time in my life that I am truly faced with some risky choices, that I realize I don’t like risk. It’s scary. I am a planner, and I like having a solid path to follow. The only problem with plans, though, is that they don’t always work out. And sometimes they change.

My plan to be married to my soul mate by 25? Didn’t exactly happen. My vision of climbing the corporate ladder to to a high paying HR job? Haven’t started that one yet. My deadline of having kids by 30? Not looking promising.

So what do you do when you suddenly realize that all of your timelines, expectations, and life plans aren’t panning out? When you realize you can continue on the safe path with your steady job, but know that it’s only spinning you into a life of mediocrity? When the only way out is taking a chance to chase your dreams, but it means giving up everything and everyone familiar and starting a new life with a huge potential for failure?

What do you do? You take the risk.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the silly self-help, inspirational, “you can do it” websites I’ve been reading lately, it’s that great success cannot come without a certain measure of risk. For the past few years I have been playing it too safe.


Which is why, in February 2013, I am moving to South Korea to be an English teacher. (Cue applause).


Moving to Korea is a pretty big deal, but some could argue that it’s not all that risky a thing to do in the grand scheme of things. Thousands of people go teach English all the time, have their fun for a year, and then come back to “real life”. What’s different for me is that it’s a launching pad for a whole new chapter of life, and an introduction to a whole new me.

Crossing an old bridge

Crossing metaphorical life bridges and whatnot

My plan is to teach for a year, and if I like it I’ll stay for another year. If I don’t enjoy it, then I’ll use the money to go traveling around the world for as long as possible. I have a bucket list of things I’d like to eventually do, including WOOFing in New Zealand, backpacking Southeast Asia, working at a good brewery in Eastern Europe, and living and working on a sailboat in the Caribbean. In the process, though, I will be developing my career as a writer and forging into the world of entrepreneurship. I have a few projects in mind and now it’s just a matter of figuring out how in the heck to bring them to life.

A few years ago, I NEVER would have thought I’d be saying, or doing, these things.  Traveling alone? “Not for me”. Becoming a writer? “I couldn’t be successful.” Entrepreneurship? “I wouldn’t have a clue.” It’s funny how life can change your attitude. One thing leads to another and, even if it wasn’t the path you originally had in mind, you have to follow the road you were meant to take. It’s time for me to stop the excuses and go for it.

I have no idea if any of my new ideas will succeed. Hell, by this time next year I might be homeless in a ditch, licking the ketchup off your McDonald’s trash (actually, I take that back; I would literally rather die than eat ketchup). If something goes awry, I have no savings, no backup plan, no job to return to, and my parents don’t even have a spare bedroom. I am giving up all stability for the unknown.

And somehow, that’s exactly why I know I have to do it.

 Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.  ~Redmoon

What do you think of my plan? Have you ever done anything bold and risky? (words of encouragement gladly accepted…)

  • So exciting. When I met you, I knew you were one of those people that I’d be proud to say I’ve met. You don’t seem to want things as much as you just want to experience life itself. I love reading about your little adventures and even when you don’t have anything specific to report, your little blurbs are still very entertaining.

    Take lots of pics and can’t wait to hear what happens next.

    • Thanks, Lorrie! You’re absolutely right, I’m really not into collecting material things as I am life experiences. I’ll be sure to keep the blog running to keep everyone abreast of my (mis)adventures in this new phase of life!

  • Kaleena:

    Yes, yes and yes! I love your philosophy. It’s worked for me. Follow your blintz…for sure! Or even for unsure! What other choice is there except to succumb to a life of quiet desperation?

    I am starting what I believe will be an organization that I believe will impact over a million kids nationally when it reaches its fruition: EduARTS. It’s bringing the arts back into the schools and after school too. Let’s talk about it if this resonates with you. I didn’t expect to bring this up here but it jumped out.

    Blessings in your adventures,


    • Thanks, David! Your organization sounds like a great idea and very exciting. Keep me “Posted”! (haha–bet you’ve never heard that one before)

  • Lianne

    All the risks I’ve taken have been worth it, even though most people would say my personal Korea experience was far from successful. Where in Korea will you be living?

    • Hey Lianne! Yes, I’m hoping my stint in Korea is a bit more long-lived than yours, haha. I don’t know yet where I’ll be, I’ve been accepted through EPIK so I am requesting Daegu but nothing is guaranteed. I’m just staying open minded to enjoying wherever I’m placed! How is New Zealand treating you? 🙂

  • This is so weird that you posted this today. Read this! http://thevioletonline.com/journal/10/29/2012/n61esgzpb5moj28cbgdkf366h6welc
    Ashlee recently posted..a weekend in the country.My Profile

  • You’re going to have so much fun! Teaching English is Asia is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

    • Thanks Sarah! I’m really excited! Where did you teach?

  • Deciding to come to Korea to teach English has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m sure you will love it, and you are completely right- it’s a great stepping stone to other things. While here I’ve rediscovered my passion for writing, started a freelance career, and started to save. I’ll be backpacking around SE Asia soon, a dream come true, and then maybe heading to Australia.

    Taking the leap, whether you know what will happen or not, is the best thing you can do in life!

    Good luck, and I look forward to reading about your Korea adventures next year.
    Amanda @ Farsickness recently posted..Flashback Friday: Learning to Love Travel Through Road TripsMy Profile

    • Thank you! I’m truly excited, if a little terrified, for what it will all lead to. I’d like to start a freelance career, too, though I’m a little lost as to where to begin. What kind of things do you do? It’s too bad you’re leaving before I’ll arrive! I’m definitely going to follow along your blog because it sounds like you’ll be doing a lot of things I hope to do one day, myself. Cheers to adventures! 🙂

  • Derek Hippler

    Wow. Your plans sound exactly like mine, with all the same reasons behind them. There is one clear difference though….

    Ketchup is wonderful. 🙂

    • Derek, I don’t think we can be friends. I’m sorry. Ketchup is just the vilest of all foods! Haha. So are you moving to Korea to teach, as well?

  • Love it! Great post. The best reasons too. I have questions about your own trip, but maybe I’ll save them so I don’t bombard you all at once. Also, I didn’t want to mention this on my own blog yet, as this plan is on the downlow, but I’ll be backpacking through SE Asia in February and March and then possibly moving somewhere in Asia shortly thereafter (with little to no plan). So…yes! Here’s to living awesome, uncharted lives!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Dearest Heather, this is all crazy sauce. I think we have much to discuss. I’m going to email you. 🙂

  • Nina Hong

    Hey Kaleena – Awesome reasons to go to South Korea!! I myself had similar life changes happen to me and I sit back and wonder how is it that everything I had hoped for myself has gone the opposite way? I was married and now I am divorced, I work a dead-end job and I thought I would have kids before I was 27 now it looks like if I have kids before I am 30 it may be a miracle. Which to me has been hard to swallow. So I decided to follow my heart and do something I have always wanted to try. I am going to teach English in South Korea in Gangwon-do. I’m excited and nervous. My life has not gone how I planned but somehow I think once I step away from the life I know I will be able to move forward and find myself. Your blog is great ! I hope you get to pursue everything that you want while you are in South Korea.

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Wow Nina, thanks so much for reading and sharing your story. We’re in the same boat in a lot of ways. I think the hardest thing has been accepting that life hasn’t followed the “formula” I always envisioned it would, and really opening up to the new possibilities. I think this adventure to Korea will be so healing and helpful for us to truly experience life in a new way and discover the paths we were meant to take. I look forward to meeting you in Korea! 🙂