|▲ While Yoon Seung-chul was staying in an uninhabited island in Palawan, he was trying to create a variety of tools, such as a harpoon and a dugout for survival.|
/Photography from Yoon Seung-chul
Yoon Seung-chul is an explorer and a writer, He writes his experiences of traveling the world such as memory in the Desert Marathon Grand Slam and crossing of the Silk Road. The way he chose to live his life is quite different from other people around his age. University students these days have difficulties in choosing their path and their future. Yoon Seung-chul, who was a university student one time, when he made up his mind to go his own way has also gone through the same struggles. The Post interviewed Yoon to listen to his experiences, worries, difficulties, nevertheless his resolution and finally his messages to the students who hesitate to make their own steps forward.
Q. Hello, it is such an honor to meet you. Please introduce yourself to the readers.
A. Hello. My name is Yoon Seung-chul. I entered Dongguk University in 2008, studied Korean Literature and Creative Writing. I was recorded as the youngest person to complete Desert Marathon Grand Slam, and wrote a book based on this experience, A Poem of Running Youth. Now I am visiting desert islands of both in and outside of Korea, also writing a new book about this as well. I run a desert island research institute, which provides tour programs for people who want to experience the wildness.
Q. Did you wanted to become a explorer from the very first time? How id you make up your mind to become an explorer?
A. It started from the very first class I attended in university. The professor told the class to write a novel I still remember it so vividly because it was the first class, and the first assignment. When I came back home, I started to think about the characters of my novel. I wanted to create a character who was adventurous and bright, and looked for suitable adventures and experiences the character goes through. “Desert marathon was what I found during this process. I wanted to actually experience it, so I prepared since then until I finished my military service which took totally three years for the preparation.
Q. When you started the challenge, your friends might had been looking for jobs. Weren’t you afraid of going into a different way from others?
A. I was very afraid. Financial problem was the biggest part of my concerns. Yet, I started getting confidence with my decision when my friends gave envious eyes. Doing what I truly enjoy was the most meaningful part. But at the same time, I had to look for the ways to earn money as well to continue the things I like. For instance, I established a desert island research institute. The institute runs a program for people who want to stay in desert islands for several days. This is one of the ways I make money. I also gain profits through writing books, or articles for travel magazines.
I was insecure of my future, but everyone has insecurity inside, especially ones around my age. I just had a different question; what should do to continue the things I like?
Q. What is your driving force that keeps you trying new things?
A. I read many interesting articles about people from newspapers and magazines. There are people who make impossible things into reality. For example, I read one article about people who rode across Han River with a boat made out of plastic bottle, and another about a student who was accepted to a university just for his research on insects. I was stimulated by those people who hang on to their own path no matter whether others notice them or not.
Q. It sounds very attractive to us that you write during your adventures. How does it feel like when you write about those experiences, and when you are finished with writing?
A. It is the time I enjoy the most. When I share my experiences with others, it feels like that I am contributing to the society. Actually, there is no end in writing. When I am done with writing one article, I would rather feel pressured. The best part of the process is seeing my book published. One time, I have seen a man reading my book on a subway. It was the greatest moment.
|▲ Yoon Seung-chul is having an interview with the Post reporters.|
/Photograph by Kim Ji-seun
Q. How did you find out that there are people who want to live in desert islands?
A. I have never expected it. I once stayed in a desert island in Palawan of Philippines for three weeks with my brother. After the stay, I uploaded all the photos and videos I took such as building a real house, fishing or eating lizards on Facebook. I did not know that so many people would see it because it was my private account. I was surprised to see more than a hundred comments. People were asking how they can get to the islands or asking me to bring them next time. Then I wrote a comment asking for people to join my next journey. 15 people messaged me that they had always wanted to go to desert islands, but had never tried, because they did not know how. This made me think of the research institute, guiding people to remote islands. It was a coincidence.
Q. I believe that there were some unexpected situations in deserted islands. Is there any unforgettable experiences passing the crisis?
A. I was really thirsty at the island since I had not taken water there. I had to climb up the trees to get coconut for the coconut water. At first I failed and came down after climbing up all the way to the middle since it was my first time trying to climb up trees.
It was totally a dilemma since I had to choose whether to wait for the clear water that was evaporated from the seawater fills or to climb up the tree to get coconut water. Waiting for the clear water to get filled as the water was extracted drop by drop, it took so much time, and climbing up trees was really scary and seemed impossible. But then, I got really thirsty at night that it was inevitable to give one more try, and I was finally able to climb up a little more than the first try. It was very scary. I tried to go to sleep, but I the early morning, I got extremely thirsty that my throat started to hurt and felt that I could possibly die if I had not drunk water. So, I gave my last try. I finally reached the top the tree and realized that it works when I am really desperate. Yet, I was not able to get down for more than 30 minutes because I realized the distance and got so scared that I could not even put one step down. After a long struggle, I just slid down, all exhausted.
When I was hanging on the tree, I came up to sudden weird realization that many people do not really care about what would happen after achieving their goals. Rather, they just think about accomplishing it and run for it. To this, I thought that considering about your surroundings and drawing in the mind to the situation after accomplishment are also as important as striving to reach goals.
Not only that, when I first went there, I was confused whether to hunt, to make fire, or to build a house out of trees. So, I went around the island wondering what to do first. I hardly had a time to look back and organize what I did in the past and what I should do in the future. While walking around the island, I realized that such things are the most important things I should do in life. I thought that it is important to slow down a little once in your lifetime to look back at what you have achieved.
Q. What is your ultimate goal in life?
A. There are more than 3,500 deserted islands in Korea. Most of them are just left aside, and I found the importance on finding ways to use them effectively. As such, I think that the most important value is discovering the ways to spark people’s interests on hidden or even set aside areas. My ultimate goal is the challenge to find new values and to truly find myself at unfamiliar and new environment.
Q. Is there any message that you would like to give to the young people in Korea?
A. I do not think that I am at the position to advise them. If I have to anyway give my opinion, I would like to first mention that it is wrong to say my decisions are better than others’.
Personally, it is all about valuation. I think it all differs by how each person judges and puts their most important values in life. Some people can value getting better jobs to achieve economic stability and spend the spare time doing what they like. I do think that is really a good choice since it is possible that they can start to hate the things they once loved when it becomes their job. So do I. I also think that if writing had become my one and only job without going on adventures, I would have begun to hate writing.
What I want to say is, you do not have to be swayed by external factors. In TV, newspapers, and other media, people come out what talk about what they think of the right ways to live, leading many young people to believe that they have the answers to life. But I do not think that following their values is the only correct way to live a life.
Yet, what is really crucial is that you need to have your own standards in choosing jobs. It is find to consider values such as economic stability and challenges as your most important ones in life, but it is even more necessary to weigh the pros and cons on choosing your values. If those values were carefully concerned, getting a job at a start-up company for a challenge and getting a job at conglomerates for economic stability are both right and worthy enough.
Choi Young-eun, Yim Se-youn firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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