I was 28 years old at the time, and she was likely around 32—although the age difference is purely conjectural on my part. I never actually asked her age. In some cultures, women consider their age a well-guarded secret, and it can be deemed impolite to inquire. My best guess is that she was a year or two older than me. And it's worth noting that many Asian women age gracefully.
We met in a bar. After a night of drinks, she agreed to go out with me. How could I refuse? She was the most stunning companion I had ever had. Her name was Kim, and she hailed from Busan, South Korea. We both shared a love for travel. She had visited Canada, the United States, and Australia. Kim even became my Korean language tutor; I was enamored every time she spoke in her native tongue. She was a mature young woman who no longer harbored naïve notions about relationships or romance.
We traveled extensively. We visited the tallest building in Hong Kong, dined at amazing restaurants, and shared stories from our respective pasts. She affectionately called me "Oppa," the term Korean women use for their boyfriends, which technically means 'older brother'. Ironically, I think I was younger than her. I called her "Noona" (older sister), which seemed to irritate her. One thing about Korean women is that they highly value their appearance and worry about aging, often turning to cosmetic surgery to maintain their looks.
One day, she announced a change.
"I'm moving to a new place, Oppa. Will you join me on my journey?" she asked.
Without hesitation, I said, "Of course."
But then it dawned on me: I also valued my career. How could I just leave for another city? We exchanged glances, and she took my hand.
"Alright," she said, "you're coming with me."
I nodded, hiding my inner turmoil. I needed time to weigh my options.
The next day, she flew to Australia for a short-term English course. Yet that wasn't the end of our story. We continued to message each other on KakaoTalk for another month, saying how much we missed each other. We made every effort to communicate, as English was neither her first language nor mine. Although we both yearned to be together, we knew it was impossible. I had my career, she had hers, and my family wouldn't understand. Besides, my friends weren't supportive—they teased me for dating a Korean woman.
It was New Year's Eve, and I decided to fly to Sydney on a 7-hour journey during my long vacation. We met at a lovely restaurant in Darling Harbour. I had brought an expensive gift, hoping she would like it. The evening was magical. We held hands and spoke intimately about our future.
The next day, we visited Watsons Bay, indulging our shared love for travel. It was one of the happiest days of my life. As I was getting ready to pick her up for another adventure, she sent me a KakaoTalk message. She said she couldn't continue the journey with me. She needed a more mature, financially stable man who was older than she was.
After she left, I was alone but resolved to be mature about it. Instead of begging her to come back, I told her that I respected her decision. I realized that whether I traveled alone or with someone, it didn't matter—I was capable of looking after myself. I'd traveled alone to various countries, but the journey would have been complete with a beautiful traveling companion. How wonderful it would have been to hold her hand while strolling along the River Seine in Paris, or embracing tightly near the Matterhorn in the Alps. I may have forgotten the names of many places we visited, but I'll never forget my beautiful journey's companion.