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‘Rediscover yourself by breaking free’

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Updated : November 06 2015

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Sohn Mi-na at Machu Picchu in Peru (Sohn Mina & Co.)

Travel writer Sohn Mi-na encourages going after love in life


Sohn Mi-na is more excited than ever. The former news anchor and host of Korean network broadcaster KBS’ popular quiz show “Golden Bell” has begun a new chapter in her life.

With the launch of The School of Life education institution in Seoul, Sohn now has added another job title to her resume -- teacher-principal -- in addition to being a travel writer, entrepreneur, mentor, freelance broadcaster, podcaster and Huffington Post Korea’s editorial director.

Her first class at the school on “Creating and Finding Thrilling Jobs” filled up completely as soon as it was opened.

“The School of Life is not an ordinary school where students learn math and other subjects normally taught at schools. We help students and adults rediscover their passion -- the things they need to learn in real life like love, relationship, sex, money and so on,” said Sohn in an interview.

“It is a school that teaches ‘good ideas for everyday life.’”

The school offers not only lectures, but also workshops, one-on-one mentoring and discussion sessions for personal discovery and growth, she noted.

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Sohn Mi-na (Sohn Mina & Co.)

Sohn brought The School of Life brand, founded by philosopher Alain de Botton, from the U.K. to Korea, as she felt “very sad” to read and see various surveys showing that most people were unsatisfied with their current jobs in Korea.

She said she knows how that feels -- working in a conventional and typical top-down office environment, trying to fit in and satisfy standards while facing limits in personal growth.

“Korea is all about standards, and we are so caught up and under pressure trying to work so hard to meet those standards, individuals don’t have the time to look back at themselves and explore what they truly love and what they are good at,” Sohn said.
“We need to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Old rules like companies guaranteeing lifetime employment no longer apply today. In this age, we can create a number of new jobs for ourselves by rediscovering our passion in life.”

Sohn’s life journey has become a model for both the young and old.

She worked as a female anchor in the male-dominated and low glass ceiling culture at KBS, where important news presenting jobs were mostly given to men, while women worked to assist them.

Sohn, albeit with good education and work ethic, often found herself frustrated “living inside a tube unattached from the real world.”

“Many people believe that (broadcast) reporters and announcers work closely with the big world, but instead you gain a self-centered perspective of the world,” she said.

Sohn wanted to break away and be free from that environment, deciding to go to Spain to pursue a master’s degree in 2004.
This was where she had time to look back at herself and explore what she loved and her potential.

After her stay in Spain, she wrote her first travel book, “Spain, You’re Free,” which became an instant bestseller and remains a steady seller.

“The book really changed my life,” Sohn said.

“Breaking free from the conventional space made me feel so exhilarated, which also led me to learn to become independent, find love and enjoy life.”

She was, at one point, conflicted as to whether to go back to broadcasting after her study in Spain, or travel and write books.

But after calculating the odds and factors ahead, she said she thought she had more to gain by chasing after what she really wanted and loved to do for herself, rather than go back to a conventional setting to collect the monthly paychecks.

“It was not all rosy and easy after that decision, but I thought I could find more opportunities in life by charting unknown territory,” Sohn said.

She has visited and traveled to “many countless countries,” she said, noting, “I have touched down on all continents, including North and South America, and Africa.”

And she said she would love to revisit countries such as Spain and France, countries she lived for three years.

“I tend to ‘live’ in places for a long period when I travel overseas.”

She now wants to share her experience with people in distress, saying that a little change in life can make a huge difference.

For instance, her friend and The School of Life founder de Botton hates driving, and does not find himself in need of buying or driving a fancy luxury car. But what he enjoys the most is eating cheese delivered from Switzerland, though others may find it awkward.

“We often take the path that ‘others’ believe is right or wrong, and by constantly comparing with what others have and what others are good at,” Sohn said.

“Like caterpillars becoming butterflies, we can change even by going after small things in life, like de Botton’s Swiss cheese.”
She said people should not be discouraged in their current situation, but keep on exploring what they love and can do.

Working at KBS for about 10 years was hard at times for Sohn, but she said people should gain a different perspective toward their current situation.

“This does not mean I hated working there. I was able to ‘lay one brick upon another’ while working there, leading to become who I am today.”

Sohn has given numerous seminars and lectures, such as on female leadership, traveling and Spanish culture, following the release of her hit travel book “Spain, You’re Free.”

Above all, she said people have shown most interest and attendance to her seminar on topics such as “Can You Really Be Happy After Quitting?” and “How to Take Charge of Your Life.”

“It is difficult to be fearless, and I don’t have the absolute answer to leading life-changing experiences,” she said.

“But I strongly believe that if you make efforts to keep on exploring, you will discover many opportunities.”

Sohn is about to release her new travel book on Peru.

Besides expanding The School of Life in Korea, she said her “next destination” could be New York, where she wishes to find newer things in life.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)

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