Finding Meaning on the Road: The Right to Travel by Kim Yeonsu

  • onOctober 20, 2014
  • Vol.4 Summer 2009
  • byJung Yeo-ul
The Right to Travel

A common wish among the terminally ill is to travel, probably because traveling is the very wish people put off for years and years, believing that one day they will have the time and the money to go somewhere. Although it has never been more convenient for humans to travel as it is now, those people are the very same ones who most fiercely desire to travel. Travel books are both a substitute for those who are too busy to go away and fuel that sets the longing for travel ablaze. However, most travel guides frankly remind us of the sad reality that we cannot travel, instead of encouraging the hope that we may one day get to go explore.

Kim Yeonsu’s The Right to Travel, on the other hand, approaches travel from an angle entirely different from traditional travelogues. The purpose of this book is not to introduce sites or give readers tips on how to make the most of a trip. The Right to Travel addresses the question, “For what must we travel?” rather than “To where must we travel?” For Kim Yeonsu, traveling is not a means of rest, rejuvenation, or seeing something interesting and new, but a struggle to understand beings other than himself:

The reason I am drawn to the airport is perhaps because I yearn to become someone I am not. I am perhaps subconsciously mesmerized by oblivion, abstraction from reality, or maybe banishment. What an irony that the first thing a person captivated by these things must do in order to satisfy his desires is to get a passport? Such documents are more fitting for detention centers, boot camps, and test centers; to those who dream of a faraway land of anonymity, this is an unsettling document. To become someone else, I must first return to myself.

The Right to Travel convinces us that no single identity that informs a person, whether it be family, nationality, gender, or occupation, can make life richer than the desire to travel. To travel is to push one’s limits and become someone else, and, ironically, the more actively one tries to be someone else, the closer one comes to discovering the most beautiful form of oneself. 



Author's Profile

Kim Yeonsu is a novelist. Kim debuted in 1993 by publishing a poem in Writer’s World. He published the novels Walking While Pointing to the MaskGoodbye Mr. Yi Sang, Route 7The Night Is Singing, and Wonderboy and the short story collections I Am a Ghost WriterTwenty, and World's End Girlfriend. Kim has received a number of literary awards, including the Daesan Literary Award and Yi Sang Literary Award.