Go­ing solo lets you ex­plore at your pace

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - LIFE & TRAVEL - By Jae-Ha Kim

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.


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