A Year in a Life: Korea Part II
“Traveling solo does not always mean you’re alone. Most often, you meet marvelous people along the way and make connections that last a lifetime.”
– Jacqueline Boone
Today is the day I officially touched down in Seoul. To quote myself, “Time, she is a speedy bitch.” As noted in Parts 1 & 2, I have had some trials, some tribulations, and some adventures. As I reflect on my first twelve months, my new contract has been signed, I’m digging into my Korean lessons, and I am looking forward to the second year in my expat journey.
Lauren Greer, one of the two women you are about to meet arrived in Korea several months before me after traveling extensively through other Asian countries. And the second lady, Sarai Navarrete, arrived a couple of months after me, having only ever been on one small group jaunty out of the USA. Both intend to fulfill their one-year contracts and move on. Lauren is headed to the Land Down Under and Sarai will make her way back home to the fragrant groves of Orange County.
I met both women within weeks of one another and have spent many a lovely, laughter filled afternoon exploring the Bamboo forests and tulips of the Hermit Kingdom with them. They have enriched and inspired my first year.
Part 3: The Free Spirit
1. Name: Lauren
2. Age: 26
3. Home city/Current city:
Newquay, Cornwall - a beach town in the Southwest and Jinju, South Korea
5. Favorite travel possession?
Scrapbooks with all my memories!
6. Cities/Countries you’ve traveled to?
Parts of Europe, heaps of South East Asia, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand
7. Why do you travel?
To escape the mundane routines and to live life on the edge.
8. You’re pretty young and a have been traveling for a few years now. When did you get the travel bug? What made you take the leap, especially in the face of family pressure to come home and follow a more traditional route?
It all escalated when my best friend and I were swamped with University assignments in our final year and feeling the pressures of getting a career. We had a 'there's got to be more than life' moment and decided on an Asian, island adventure to put our life back to the basics. We were only meant to be gone a few months... (she says four years later.)
9. You started out traveling with your best friend? What made you strike out on your own? What do you like best and least about solo travel?
So, along the way I had a sudden urge to become a teacher and to delve into living in a completely new culture, and what better way to become ESL qualified. My friend, however, did not feel this urge. It just so happened that we had to part for this time (*cry cry*) but all for the reunion to be immensely worth it.
The best: finding out that my own company is actually pretty sweet. The least: not being able to share special moments.
10. How is living in Korea?
The overall lifestyle is just amazing. Jinju itself is very relaxed, a small city in where everything is accessible - I LOVE the intercity express buses. But it's the people that make the lifestyle what it is. As a generalization, they're so nurturing and giving. And I've been incredibly lucky with my job - never will I find myself in this kind of work for the pay, all with free rent that's a 3 minute walk away surrounded be delicious food.
11. Where to next?
Melbourne, Australia to study dance teaching.
12. Dream destination?
South America; preferably a yoga retreat up in the mountains of Columbia. And then central America; for all the Latin dancing and cuisine!
13. Favorite thing to do while traveling?
To be immersed in a really tranquil surrounding and to just stop and listen. A quick meditation in naturalistic spot. Oh, and sunsets. Probably my favorite thing ever. AND to drink and try different tea. Haha (you can take the girl out of England.)
14. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned or has happened to you during your travels?
To be honest, this past year has probably been one of my most eye-opening experiences. To find that I actually have the courage to be on my own (and survived it) has been uplifting. I'm going home an empowered woman!
15. Biggest travel regret?
I wouldn't change anything about the trip itself as every experience has happened for a reason. But maybe to have helped and volunteered more. Only the ever regret I would have in life.
16. Is there a woman in your family or community who inspired you to travel or choose your own path?
My independence is solely down to my mum, but my inspiration is definitely my best girl. 'Friends who travel together, stay together'.
17. What do you think about the modern British/western woman and her life and travel options?
I think there are dangers and still high-risk places where women should consider maybe not to travel alone. I personally wouldn't risk it in some societies, only being their views on women are different. An example being when my friend and I travelled to Lombok, Indonesia to teach in a remote village for a week - we learnt a lot about the culture where they 'kidnap' the woman they want to marry. I would have felt very uneasy if I had been on my own. Beautiful group of people though, don't get me wrong! I think everyone just needs to do their research, stay on top of things and take caution.
18. Last Question: Favorite place in the world?
Oh, that's tough... home because of family and friends, Melbourne because of the memories, but then there is also a piece of New Zealand that will always have my heart. And Thailand because that was the first stop of the travels! I really can't define one haha. I kind of hope that's a good thing. :)
Part 4: The New Kid on the Block
1. Name: Sarai Navarrete
2. Age: 23
3. Home City: Orange, CA
4. Korea City: Good ol' Sacheon.
5. Occupation: English Teacher
6. Favorite possession you take with you when you travel or something you got during your travels?
My planner! It travels with me everywhere.
7. Cities/Countries you’ve traveled to?
I've been to Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, and South Korea.
8. This is your first major trip abroad and your first time living abroad. What made you take such a big, bold move?
I wanted to experience life as an outsider; see what it felt like immerse myself in a country where I did not understand the language or much of the culture and learn it through observation, trial and error, and meeting and conversing with new people.
9. What do you miss most about home?
10. What do you like most about your new freedoms?
What I enjoy most about my new freedoms has a lot to do with Korea's incredible transportation services and accessibility. I live very close to a bus terminal and a small airport so getting around in Korea has been a breeze and a lot of fun to explore new cities and sights.
11. Favorite thing to do when traveling?
Slowing down, taking a walk and taking in the scene.
12. Most surprising thing you’ve learned while traveling or the most surprising thing that has happened to you?
Like you mentioned before, this is my first time living my myself so perhaps one of the most surprising things I have learned has been how easily and natural living alone and independently has felt. I am incredibly comfortable and content.
13. Has your experience(s) in Korea made you more likely to travel solo? Why or why not?
Oh yes! I'd love to do this again in South America.
14. Would you recommend traveling to your younger friends or family?
Definitely. It has been an invaluable experience, I have learned SO much about myself, Korean culture and language, I've met and shared memories with great people, and so much more. As the quote goes, "Travel is not a reward for working, it's education for living."
15.What’s your dream destination?
Greece or Italy.
16. Sum up living abroad in one word:
Thanks for stopping by!
Be sure to come back in June for more hijinks and calamity!
In the meantime, be kind to one another, keep on traveling with a feminist eye, and keep on being Feminist AF!