Going solo lets you explore at your pace
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Journalist, author and adoptee, Seth Berkman, got a taste of his birth country when the New York Times sent him to report on the United Korean women’s hockey team. Consisting of players from North and South Korea, select players trained and competed together as teammates at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South
Korea. Berkman’s coverage spurred him to write “A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History” (Hanover Square Press, $19.99).
An edited version of our conversation follows.
Q: How have your trips for work shaped how you travel?
A: Traveling for work has been one of the privileges of my job. In particular, traveling to smaller cities in America is always intriguing. I often find that it’s helpful to capture the ethos of a location, to learn about the subject I’m reporting on. Environment can critically shape who we are. I also enjoy going running in new places. I find that’s a great way to explore the intricate nooks of somewhere new.
Q: Where have you been to that you’d like to return to explore further?
A: Seoul. I was born in Seoul, then adopted at a very young age. I didn’t go back until February 2018 for the Winter Olympics. I was so busy with work duties on that trip and follow-up reporting trips, I feel like I really haven’t had a chance to get to know the city where I was born.
Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?
A: Vienna, Austria. I was lucky enough to live in Vienna for a few months on a fellowship and have immensely enjoyed going back. The city is a wonderful combination of old Europe and new style, which can be seen in their abundance of museums.
Q: What untapped destination should people know about?
A: Fukushima city, Japan. In the fall of 2017, I traveled to Fukushima to report on their preparation for hosting events at the 2020 Olympics (in Tokyo). While many parts of Fukushima are still uninhabitable after the 2011 (nuclear) disaster, the city of Fukushima is a great destination. Not only are there numerous onsens (hot springs) and great local restaurants, there is resonance in the sincerity of the residents and their hopes for more tourism and to change the perception that all of Fukushima is a permanently damaged area.
Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
A: I really like to travel
Qalone, because it gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. I have cultivated some memorable friendships with people I’ve randomly met on the road, who I probably wouldn’t have talked to or bothered to spend the time to get to know if I encountered them in New York. The city hardens you in a way that is not conducive to the best of human nature, so it’s important to remember to let down my guard when I’m traveling.
Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. I’m not a real weekend getaway person, but I do enjoy jogging in Central Park or running alongside the Hudson River. Go early, though, because these paths become too crowded later in the day.
Q: What is your best vacation memory?
A: On one of my first days in Seoul in February 2018, I randomly met up with a friend of a friend, who showed me around the city and had me run a lot of errands with her. It was a great way to explore. We ended the night in Itaewon until about five in the morning. She’s an Olympic athlete and this was like a week before the Games began, so I’ll keep her name confidential.