Texpat of the Week: Kathleen Callahan

7 Nov

World traveler, environmentalist, and cyclist Kathleen Callahan is currently teaching (and snorkeling) on the island of Jeju in South Korea. She gives the Texpats some words of wisdom from the road.

Where are you from in Texas?

I’m from Dallas originally, and I called Austin home before coming to Korea.

Did you always want to travel?

This is a question I haven’t ever really thought about oddly enough, but definitely YES. You know when you’re a child and you pretend to do grown up things like cook dinner or work for a law firm? Well, this is a bit weird now that I think about it, but I remember very specifically going into JC Penny’s and heading straight for the luggage section. I would take a piece of the American Tourister and pretend to pack up for a big trip then roll the luggage around for a while. My family never really traveled but after my first big trip with my school to New Mexico I was hooked. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting on an airplane knowing you’ll be landing in a new city, state, or better yet continent. I’m most certainly a travel junky for life!

What do you miss about home?

Friends and family foremost but two other very important things await my return to the great country of Austin Texas, salsa and easily accessible English yoga classes.

Most surreal international adventure?

Easy, being in Morocco, in the Sarah Desert, and camping with the Berbers. We talked, ate their homemade tagine, smoked hashish all night long, and sang a special Berber rendition of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” with the chorus “Whyeyeyaya, whyeyaya, why are there so many scorpions (in the Sahara)”. The night ended with an hour hike up a large sand dune, where it proceeded to rain. Rain in the African desert with the nomads, that is my moment. Life has been good to me.

Worst traveling mistake?

Brushing my teeth with the water in India. This particular mistake had consequences for the entire trip (ones which need not be discussed) and when I returned, most memorably coming home from NYC to Austin in the security line at JFK. You saw me, you know. Enough said.

You’re hosting a dinner party with five of your favorite historical, literary or mythological cretures living or dead. Who are they?

1) Steven Hawking
2) Anthony Bourdain
3) Benazir Bhutto
4) Nick Drake
5) A Talking Narwhal

What kind of impact have you had in Korea?

Well, I as far as teaching goes I think I’ve given the kids a good perception of Westerners and expanded their world view a little bit (they won’t come in contact with non-Koreans in Korea almost anywhere but in my class). But in all honesty my trip here was selfish in nature. I wanted to see the eastern perspective, and enjoy this beautiful island. Jeju has made way more of an impact on me than I on it. The scenery is unreal here and I find a new island treasure almost everyday. From the lava tubes, volcanoes and orums, to natural springs and soft coral, Jeju is a magical place with as much heart and soul in its people as its terrain. The Koreans (Jeju-doites) have been remarkably kind and hospitable. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation abroad.

PS Vote for JEJU as a Natural Wonder of the World (http://www.new7wonders.com/) 7 days and counting!!!

How can I get you to name a student after me?

Advice on life?

If you are reading this you’re probably more privileged than most of the world. Don’t take it for granted. I’ve visited really, really poor places where people are born starving and homeless. Stop complaining, and make sure you love every moment here because there’s a strong possibility that this is it.
Also, don’t ever miss a good pun opportunity.


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