How to mend a broken heart: Dear Korea..

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Living in South Korea for three years of my life helped me evolve into the person I am today. A lot of memories were made.A lot of kimchi was eaten. I ate a ton of rice cakes on a daily basis. Yummy snacks appeared on my desk on a daily basis. When I told my close co-workers that I was cutting back on choco pies and rice cakes the treats mysteriously kept appearing. I explored every corner, crevice, city, province, that my guide book offered me in Korea. A lot of great people came into my life. A lot of great people left. A lot of visits were made at the swimming pool in Gumi to do laps where nobody would talk to me. I accepted that. I could ramble on and on of what I wish I was prepared for when I left Korea for life back in the USA.

I wish somebody told me that it was going to be hard. That not everybody would want to hear my endless stories. Stories about kimchi. Stories about my coteachers. Stories about how cool the public transportation system is all around the peninsula. Stories about he time I toured the DMZ- the most heavily protected borders in the world. Stories about all the cool cafes in Seoul including Hello Kitty in Hongdae. Stories about the moments that made me into who I am today based on the coolness I experienced.

I wish I was prepared to know that my pictures didn’t justify what I really experienced. That talking about my travels would be compared in translation to someones weekend at home at the bar or a birthday celebration. That I was going to feel extremely confused and sad sometimes. That I was going to feel at times that something in my life had died. That finding Korean food at home was going to pretty hard and non existent basically. That my chopstick skills didn’t impress everyone. That my thoughts would be consumed with my experiences and tales in Korea.

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That I was going to miss Korea for a long time. That I would still be talking about Korea almost every day until that day I would visit three years later. That soondubu jiggae would be my favorite food and I would long for yummy korean snacks that I could not find at home. That choco pies became my go to comfort food. That on cold winter nights back home I would be longing for Korean ramen.

I wish someone had told me that I was going to feel disconnected from the place that I grew up. That I would constantly compare South Korea to the United States.That I would always wish and talk about how great the public transportation is in South Korea and how I didn’t need a car when I lived there. That the healthcare system in Korea was awesome and seeing a doctor cost me $3 compared to the crazy $100 co-pay to see a doctor back home.  That I would love and embrace Korean strangers. That at any chance I could get I could try to talk to a Korean person and share with them how much I love Korea and that I lived there for three years and ask them if they had ever had the chance to travel to Dokdo and Ulleung Island like i had.

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Moving forward hasn’t been easy. At the beginning stages of initially leaving Korea it felt as if I was mourning a death of something so dear to me that I lost.However after a recent visit I made finally with South Korea, it really opened my eyes to how much of the world I have seen in the past three years and how much Korea has not changed. Of course I think I am not as homesick for Korea these days. It is not Korea I long for as a place now. Instead what I miss are the people who made my life better and showed me how to be a good friend and taught me how to learn to enjoy Korea. What I know now is that I will always have love for Korea and Korean people. That dried seaweed, bibimbap, chamchi kimbap, and soon dubu jiggae will always be my favorite Korean comfort foods. What I do know now is that Korea will always be there and I can always visit. It is a place I can always return to in the case that I need a reminder of how great I had it there.

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Life in the countryside of South Korea with EPIK

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Adjusting to the countryside in Korea was a process that took me many months to make work for me. When I was placed in Angye-myeong in Uiseong country in the province of Gyeongbuk in October of 2010 I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. When I applied to EPIK through Reach to Teach recruiting I didn’t specifically state whereexactly I wanted to lived. I thought I would be happy living anywhere in Korea.

Upon getting placed and settling into my new apartment my friends in bigger cities were enjoying meals together after work at Mr. Pizza, going to the movies together on Friday nights, and coffee meet ups at Sleepless in Seattle on Tuesdays while I felt stuck in rice paddie land searching for the reason why I was placed in my tiny town in the first place.

 

One of my first weekends after I had settled in I took the bus up to Seoul to drown myself in all things foreign and wonderful; coffee shops galore, kebabs and Indian curries in Itaewon, endless shopping in  Myeongdong with bright lights and music pumping, and enjoying the subway rides around the city. I loved Seoul but the idea of taking the bus back to Anyge (three and a half hours southeast) sounded unbearable.I was drowning  myself in all the wonderful things that Korea afforded me and returning to the quiet town of Angye made me feel resentful.

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A really nice girl who I know through a friend invited me out with her friends for Thanksgiving celebration in Seoul. Most of the teachers were teaching at hagwons around the city and were super cool. I couldn’t help but feel completely sorry for myself and feeling quite miserable for the place I had to return to on Sunday night as they all talked about the cool places they were discovering around Seoul and how they spent their free time after work.  What was there for me back in Angye? What on earth was the point of a year in the land of makkoli, rice, and a whole lot of nothing? Tami became my sounding board and gave me some advice that stuck with me.As I look back six years later this was exactly what I needed to hear. “Focus on your goals for the next year of your life. You are going to save so much money by living there. Learn more about Korean culture and immerse yourself. You can always come to Seoul on the weekends.”

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Angye (from the rice fields)

The next morning on  my walk to school those words stuck with me over and over again in the back of my mind as I walked past the locals who were practically now my neighbors.
With a new goal in mind that I had to set for myself I had to learn how to adjust and try to enjoy my placement. I had to learn how to get comfortable spending a lot of time on my own during the week. I had to immerse myself in what I did have in my town; places to go for quiet walks to reflect, trying and discovering local restaurants, and making friends with those who lived around me.

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Angye, Gyeongbuk Province, South Korea

First thing I began doing was getting to know my local community. I started learning names of the bank tellers, pharmacists in our only pharmacy in town, and exploring the restaurant scene that offered only Korean fare.During the cold winter months in my first contract I became friendly with one of the restaurant owners who offered me a free Korean dinner if I tutored his daughter for an hour in English. She was very shy but her parents really wanted her to learn English from a foreigner. For about a month plenty of side dishes and bibimbap was waiting for me on the table and I couldn’t believe that all of that food for for me. I started to realize that as humble an offer as this was it wasn’t worth my time to sit for an hour with the owners daughter who wasn’t interested in learning in the first place and me talking to her. Nevertheless, that was worth the experience though.
Passing by a large chicken coup one day I spotted a beautiful dog who started following me to school one day and back to my apartment after passing by the shop. I soon fell in love with this beautiful creature. The obstacle of not being able to converse with the owner all seemed to fade away because she accepted me and seemed to enjoy my company. She was a widow and always invited me in especially during the cold winter months. Soon to follow however was to find out after being home on vacation in the USA for a month was that this animal friend of mine was run over by a car. I will always remember the kindness and commitment to sticking by me that this creature showed me.

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Being immersed in my local community familiarized me with all I had to be thankful for. As small as Angye was I held deep gratitude for a safe community where locals recognized me and invited me often to share a snack. One afternoon walking through the local market after work I heard my name being called through the crowd. I turned around and one of my students had a big box of strawberries for me. “This is for you, teacher.” I will never forget how that moment made me feel and I will carry it with me forever. Sometimes in our lives we are called to do something we aren’t ready for and unwilling to accept. Find the quiet time when you are called and accept it graciously.

Travel tips for planning your safari

My 2008 southern Africa safari sweeping up seven countries was truly a trip of a lifetime for me. The landscapes were truly breathtaking. The friendships made are ones I will never forget. After taking in all of the sights, animals, local cultures, and main points of interest I compiled my top advice for those interested in planning their first over landing safari in Africa.

Do your research
Where do you want your safari to take you? What main sights do you want to see? Dying to see the big five in Kruger National Park? Curious to go off the beaten path and camp inside a game drive and wake up to lions roaring in the middle of the night? Head to Zambia for that along the Zambezi River. Want to wrap up your sightseeing with the spectacular Indian Ocean for whale watching, snorkeling, and relaxation beach time? Head to the coast of Mozambique.
Choosing a safari is very overwhelming with many fine details to be mindful of and with so many tour operators to choose from the decision making seems endless. With different climates to consider based on the time of year you decide to travel packing alone I’m sure sounds overwhelming. The best rule of thumb is to really narrow down and to finally make your decision by focusing on the content, not the frame. Make a detailed list of what it is you really want to see. Take a look at the countries you want to go to. Check out Drifters Tours (based in Johannesburg) which give you the options of longer safaris as well as short tours. I took an unforgettable 24 day safari which included South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique with the main highlights of Victoria Falls, Chobe National Park, Mount Mulanje hike in Malawi, camping on Lake Malawi, and sleeping in beach bungalows in Inhambane, Mozambique. For shorter safaris around South Africa check out Nomad Tours that depart from a few different places in SA. I did a 7 day unforgettable Swaziland and Kruger Tour that blew my mind. With regular game drives, free time in our base camp in bee hive huts in Swaziland and night game drivers followed by campfires under the stars in Kruger, my time there was well spent while spotting the big five.
Get all immunizations
As malaria is common in Africa with all of the mosquitoes, talk to a specialist on the topic of proper malaria medicines you need and whether or not you need a yellow fever shot. Your safari operator may be able to give you some tools and advice as well. Two weeks before departing from Johannesburg for my safari I began taking malaria pills. These pills gave me wild and crazy dreams, not to mention deep sleeps where I slept like a rock for up to nine hours without waking up. It took a while for my body to adjust especially with the wild food cravings I started to have. Be sure to take your prescribed meds after meal as I learned this the hard way.

Pack in layers
Like anyone planning to take a once in a lifetime safari might think that because they are going to Africa it is going to be stiffing hot the whole trip, wrong. I took a 24 day safari in June and because southern Africa is in the southern hemisphere the climate is opposite of my summer back home in Connecticut. As the sun was strong during the daytime the evenings became very cool where many layers were needed as the nights became freezing in the bush. I can distinctively remember opening my suitcase in the middle of the night to find more sweaters and long shirts to layer myself with because I was that cold. I found comfort in my warm sleeping bag hearing the sounds of lions roaring somewhere out in the distance. Just know that evenings may be chilly depending on which country and time of the year you are traveling.
Put down your camera
Of course you want to take loads of pictures to share with your family and friends back home but after a while looking through a lens during a once in a lifetime moment doesn’t really capture the moment. After a few game drives I literally had to just put the camera down to truly be in the moment to establish my reality. Viewing a mommy elephant with her baby crossing a river together during sunset doesn’t do itself justice when you are more concerned about getting the best shot. I distinctly remember paddling in my canoe with my group along the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia with crocodiles sunbathing without moving an inch. To my left I watched a family of elephants playing in the water at sunsest. In these moments I had to pinch myself, asking myself If I had died and gone to heaven and was looking down at this beauty, if I was dreaming this, or if yes, this was reality. You will reach a moment in time during your safari where you literally put away your camera and just sit an awe of what you are viewing. I sure hope this happens to you.
Once in a lifetime memories.
Finally, with all the tips here to gain so that you can truly have a once in a lifetime safari don’t forget all of the great things to come. Whether you are doing a five night or twenty four night over landing safari tour you are bound to create beautiful friendships with those traveling with you from all over the world. Imagine yourself under the stars at night drinking a hot tea sharing your travel experience with those on your tour.Lastly, don’t forget to journal while you are on the road. It is important to jot down your thoughts and take note of the fine details of your day when you have some quiet time to with yourself.  As most travelers are open minded, get yourself ready to exchange contact details at the end of your safari with beautiful photos and memories that will last you a lifetime.

“Malling” in Manila

Upon arrival in Manila you may discover how hot and balmy the weather is and how you need to find air con ASAP! In the metro Manila area part of the lifestyle of living here is actually going to the malls to stay cool and get your errands done. Some people go to malls for window shopping or just to browse around while others go to malls to tackle many tasks at one location.

It’s sometimes overwhelming to discover which mall you actually want to visit because there are too many to choose from; SM Manila, Mall of Asia, Robinson’s, and so forth. In the Philippines, shopping malls offer so much more than just shopping. For many people in western countries going to the mall isn’t an everyday habit to “kill time”. We actually go when we literally need to buy something or window shop. But in the Philippines you go to the mall to eat meals with family and friends, pay bills at SM, do some grocery shopping, browse for home goods at Lowes, get a massage or foot spa, mail or send parcels, drop off the kids at kiddy play zones for a designated amount of time, watch a movie in the theater and also for other entertainment purposes.
Families actually walk the mall together to just simply get out of the house because they don’t have Air Con in their dwellings and want a change of scenery. I find this phenomenon and way of living mind blowing compared to the reasoning for malling in the west. But we need to factor my main point of seeking Air Con for the top reasoning for malling in the Philippines. Back home I never go to the mall unless Macy’s is having a sale and I have a surplus of coupons to shop around and buy what I need getting unbelievable deals to show my mom when I come back home. “Malling” in my family happens usually during the holidays when we are shopping for gifts and usually this isn’t done as a family. We usually go on our own and at our own pace. Malling in the Philippines is for multipurpose task running where you can get a lot of errands done in one place instead or driving around the city trying to find parking spots for all of the individual places you need to visit to get your errands done for; massage, mailing a parcel, grocery shopping, eating a meal, buying a light bulb, and finally breaking for a coffee with friends or family.
So whether you’re visiting the metropolitan Manila area before heading to another destination keep in mind that you are going to do some serious people watching here! If you head over to Starbucks or Bo’s Coffee you will find many students with their books open and a frappachino studying for endless hours. Security will greet you at the door and even open it for you with a lovely “Hello Ma’m or Sir” greeting. Back home we usually go to Starbucks to meet up with friends to catch up. Starbucks is usually a good meeting place for business or quick coffee dates. I think that any traveler will be surprised by the security greeting you from all entrances of the mall with wooden sticks briefly checking through your belongings making sure you aren’t carrying weapons. But how carefully are they really checking through your bags?
Be sure to eat some of the snacks such as buko juice, brownies, bibimka bread, and lumpia. I have come up with the conclusion that the reason why you will be paying a quadruple cost for the lumpia (usually 10 php each) in the malls is because you are essentially paying for the aircon that comes along with it! Take note at the salespeople in the store as you browse around. They usually greet you with “ma’m and sir” followed by “what are you looking for today?” as they follow you around the store. One thing that I like about retail in the Philippines is that you are never ignored! I can’t even come up with how many times I actually had a question or couldn’t find an item in the mall and could not find one salesperson to assist me or one that looked like they were interested in assisting me. Get ready for plenty of pleasant greetings, some good people watching, and oh..some Air Con!

Why it’s better to travel alone

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Dragon Tiger Tower, Taiwan

Traveling alone makes me feel like I am in control of what I want to see, explore, eat, and do all at my own pace. Wanderlust is something that has taken control over me ever since I took my first trip abroad to Mexico at the ripe age of seventeen with my  best friend. Since then I have explored more than forty countries on every continent except for Antarctica.

I can say that I have traveled a lot by myself in the past six years. Bali, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, and  South Africa. Many of the other countries I visited were on my cruise ship with shore excursions and friends. The travel I did on my own taught me so much about self reliance, how to read a map, figuring out the public transportation system (trains, buses, high speed rail), trusting my instincts, and being guided by my own natural intuition.

Here are my top reasons for why you should travel solo NOW !

  • Build your problem solving skills
  • Learn to navigate the public transportation routes
  • Eat and dine whenever you want
  • No negotiation because you aren’t in a group
  • Mingle with more people at your own pace
  • More flexibility for last minute changes
  • See more, Do more!
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Taking a rest of cycling in Kyoto, Japan

Look. Traveling solo isn’t for everyone but it is something you should try at least once in your life when planning to see new places. Some people feel funny sightseeing alone and looking at magnificent places without someone special along side them but you don’t have to look at it that way. For me there is nothing more celebrating than making plans of places I want to visit without negotiating with others along the way. “What time do you want to eat? What do you want to do next? What do you want to do tomorrow? Do we have enough time there? Well if you don’t want to go there, I will go and meet you later” I seriously cannot imagine having these conversations when I travel because it will just complicate my plans and ideas. Trust me that you will meet really cool people during your travels. Once you take those baby steps and prepare your trip you will look back and realize that traveling alone was the wisest decision you have made. And in the case that it’s not for you at least it’s something you can add to your list of things you did in your life that you learned from that you can share with others!

 

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Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

 

 

Reunited with the past: South Korea

I had romanticized being reunited with South Korea since the day I left August 25, 2013.

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Closing that chapter in my life living abroad in Korea was a difficult one. It wasn’t an easy decision to pack up all of my belongings and move back home to Connecticut but I knew that the time had come. All of my friends were finishing their contracts and putting the pieces together to build a new life elsewhere. What would I be staying for?

South Korea was the place I had called home since I graduated university. It was the place where I learned how to pay all of bills.It was the place that was kind enough to me on Christmas eve to add a full book of passport pages before I flew to Thailand on a last minute trip.  It was the place where I had my first “real job”. It was the place where I conquered my fears.It was the place where I had covered all the land quite literally. I visited every province, almost every city, almost every national park, and even venturing out to Ulleung and Dokdo Islands. It was the place I had paid off all of my student loans. It was the place that felt so lonely at times but full of people I knew that cared for me. I knew that one day I would go back and visit.It was the place where I failed to understand everything but somehow felt that I knew everything about Korea.  That was one thing I knew for sure.

Fast forward to September 2016 and I was picking up my checked bags and going through immigration at Incheon Airport. All around me were Koreans. All around me were whispers of a language I could barely understand. “yogi-yo” (Come here)… I heard in the crowds as I gathered my bags in search of the AREX (Airport Railroad) to Seoul Station. Shuffling through the crowds of families and more Koreans I felt a bit out of place. I didn’t look like them. I didn’t speak like them. Did I still know them?

Spotting a 7-11 convenience store with bright florescent lights I remembered my dedication to my favorite Denmark Yoghurt drink. Quickly grabbing the last yoghurt off the shelf and checking out, an expressionless young high school kid  rung me out. Really? My disappointment was slowly starting to build up as I walked out looking and recognizing all of my favorite korean snacks. Really giddy to find the counter to book my AREX ticket and kind of bouncing around with all of my excitement I booked my AREX ticket with the lady at the desk. I was explaining my excitement with her about reunited with South Korea after three years. I felt compelled to share the reason as to why I was in Korea. Blank expressions. Bland “ok’s” and “I see” mumbled back at me as she handed me my ticket. Really? I wanted to just flop on the floor and cry. What exactly had I romanticized about visiting Korea specifically?  Oh wait, that wasn’t what I was expecting. That’s not how this was supposed to play out.

Looking out the window from Seoul Station all of the skyrises and LG and Samsung apartment complexes all mirrored one another. Soon the open land of rice fields swallowed up the emptiness that would follow. The countryside of Gyeonggi province looked empty. Quiet. Quite like how Anyge looked. A place that I’m not sure I could ever visit again. Rewind to six years ago that was my first stomping ground village where my emptiness swallowed me alive. Studying the land carefully out the window as we glided by villages and mountains we soon arrived in Gumi.

Arriving at Gumi station was a surreal feeling. It was my home for a year of my life. I thought back then that I had the best life. I lived right behind Gumi station and stones throw from downtown. Reaching the top of the escalator I checked all my heavy suitcases into a locker and with high expectations booked it to the same coffee shop where I use to for language exchange and coffee. My korean friend Eunye owned it but married a Swiss man so now resides in France so her mom operates it. There at the front counter was Eunhye’s mom. I have met her many times before. Her English was almost non existent but I always sat in her coffee shop with her daughter while she was in the back. My mouth was running a mile a minute in my own excitement and adrenaline to see her and pop in to say hi. All of Eunye’s travel photos were still on the wall and I was standing in the past. I was anticipating something more than a “nothing” response. Hmm… so I took the steps down Gumi station to a familiar hair salon that I use to visit.

The same round figured jolly lady who I once shared deep and challenging conversation on New Years Eve with was standing at the counter. I couldn’t believe my own eyes.”Your here!”  I had forgotten her name but knew exactly who she was. “Hi! Remember me! You curled my hair a few years ago but we talked a lot and you use to live in Ireland. I didn’t forget you!” I was literally filled with so much excitement to rekindle the past and share the picture of my hair that she styled so beautifully on my tablet. Holding the picture and asking her how she was I sank in confusion to receive next to nothing in terms of an expression, response, or acknowledgement for my present and excitement to see her. My “homecoming” reunion was seriously cracking right in front of me. To have been out of the country for three years now was realizing that Korea didn’t change. I was the once who had changed.

Reflecting on my week long jaunt with Korea was highlighted by my visit with a coworker from the last school I taught at. Jeong Im is my moms age but she opened her roomy apartment to me with open arms in Chilgok. Meeting me at the new tram station with bright hiking wear (totally ajumma style) the real Korea I knew was coming back. Treating me to a vegetarian restaurant we retreated back to her place eating and reminiscing over korean grapes which was purely nostalgia. Korean grapes are so deeply purple and a sweet taste of heaven in your mouth. Drinking chinese green tea on the floor and chatting I felt a rumbling that shook the whole room. A 4.5 magnitude earthquake had struck Gyeongju with aftershocks reaching the rest of the Korean peninsula.

The following day we found ourselves viewing the big city of Daegu from the tram that was recently built. Getting off at Seomun Market we toured the food stalls taking in the scents of fresh fruits in big red bowls, tteokbokki cooking over the stove, and ajummas selling hanbok. This was the Korea that I couldn’t wait to be familiar with again. Jeong Im and I settled on a small ondol style restaurant that served haemul kalguksu (seafood noodles). The warm steam made my nose run like crazy and the cold that I had been fighting for five days now was starting to heal. Seomun Market was a place I use to pass by when I use to visit Daegu. Our afternoon venture was so familiar and I loved it.

Jeong Im had recently retired and opened her own Korean style Jimjilbang spa. She had prepared all these wonderful spa treatments for me. With both of her kids moved out I felt like the third child she now had. Being treated with all these glorious spa treatments was I a princess for the day? I needed my tiara. After dripping sweat in the sauna a spa “menu” was prepared for me. Warm sweet potato, korean grapes, and a hard boiled egg with hot water. I will never forget the way that I felt in this moment. I could never come up with a gift savvy enough to wrap up my gratitude to Jeong Im in a box. No present could ever express how Jeong Im made me feel while I visited with her. Maybe I should just consider writing her a nice note and mailing it to her.

The following afternoon we reunited with teachers over warm songpyeon and an orange vitamin C drink (korean style). Sitting at my old desk that was once mine that faced the principal three years ago gave me a rush of old memories that were once my reality at that time.Every day sitting at my desk not understanding what anybody was talking about lost in translation while facing the principal was truly comical. I met the new principal introducing myself and listening him ramble to me about who knows what because well, I don’t speak Korean. I should have learned Korean beyond just learning the alphabet.   Sharing a steaming hot of seafood, side dishes, and warm rice with Mina and Hyun Ji who were my main coteachers at Jinpyeong Middle School really encapsulated the entire reason for why I went back to Korea. To share deep engaging conversation, laughing, and chatting together the past and present. Sharing with them where I am today. Telling my struggles with missing Korea. Explaining who I am today. This is the Korea I missed.

My visit to Korea surprised me. I think I expected everybody to be just as ecstatic as I was to visit a place I use to live. A foreign friend once told me that Korea was always going to be there. I was the one who had changed and change after all is not a bad thing.

 

Tsushima, Japan

Out of all of the trips I have taken around Asia and Africa   I have only been on one trip with a group of friends. It was during Chuseok holiday (Korean Thanksgiving) and it was early September. The leaves were slowly starting to change to luscious red, oranges, and yellows. The air was beginning to feel much cooler after such a humid summer in Korea. Autumn in Korea has always been my favorite season and two girlfriends of mine had agreed with me to go on a three day cycling and camping trip in Tsushima, Japan with a small group of expats. The weather would be the same as Korea and the best part was that we didn’t have to plan a thing!

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After taking a quick ferry from Busan our days consisted of dreamily cycling the rolling hills heading northbound along beautiful and isolated island called Tsushima. My body was in complete peace and tenderness as I soaked in the small traditional simple living of Japan. The nostalgia of crisp apples in the market and the deliciousness of fresh sushi being rolled along with bento boxes took my sense to a whole new place.All of the newness of our first day was extremely comforting if that makes any sense.  In fact, many Japanese travelers who I have met in my travelers have never even heard of this island. What made this trip so enjoyable was that there was such little planning and decision making for us girls to make together. I think our biggest group decisions were: where we were going to pitch our tent, which Japanese grocery store we would park our bikes to pick up some food, and at what time we would take short water breaks to stop and take pictures.

I enjoyed this kind of travel because at the time this trip was so low key! It was almost too good to be true. We woke up at the break of dawn to watch the sun rise over the scenic waters with cascading hills and mountains in clear sight. As we cycled we contemplated our life goals, dreams, and ideas. This was the kind of trip that for the rest of my life I will carry with me the smells, sights, surroundings, and feelings. I will carry with me the glorious smell of autumn in Japan as we cycled along the sea watching local fisherman catch their daily supply. I will hold with me my appreciation of warmth and togetherness as we all huddled together around the warm campfire in the cold evenings with warm mugs of hot drinks under the stars with the campfire roaring in front of us.

 

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I will forever be in love with this weekend jaunt on the quiet and quaint island of Tsushima. Cycling the countryside of Japan on Chuseok weekend was one of those experiences you have that when you retell small pieces of the story all of the fine details are still fresh in your mind. Thank you Savannah and Adina for a trip that I certainly have not forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My personal travel style: super ‘travel’ savvy

My personal travel style would have to be titled “travel savvy” while still being on a budget. Enjoying local foods, cafes, markets all at the local level instead of finding “western” places. When I am traveling I cannot afford to plunge into expensive hotels however I steer very far from backpackers and cheap hostels to my favorite, airbnb.. Let me explain.

There are a lot of places to see in the world. There are a lot of things that I have done and more that I want to do. With that said, whenever I am traveling I find unique ways to cut back on travel costs while still traveling in comfort while enjoying all that’s around me. Let me give you a perfect example.

Two years ago I spent a week in New South Wales, Australia on my own and my main focus was Hunter Valley and seeing the Blue Mountains. First thing first I did a little research on public transportation in that area. Renting a car, organizing a private tour and hiring a taxi was out of the question. In the Sydney Tourist Information Center they actually recommended me joining a tour but when I found out what that would cost me I refused. I knew there was a much cheaper way. I began my adventure in Sydney Central Train station with a one way ticket booked to Katoomba which was roughly a two hour train ride through gorgeous scenery and mountains before reaching my final destination. The train ticket cost me no more than 20$ Australian dollars. I pre booked a youth hostel ( but now I always travel with Airbnb) that had good reviews and a two day hop on hop off red bus that toured me all around the Blue Mountains regions. Two days was the perfect amount of time to see all of the beautiful highlights that this region had to offer. I didn’t do any shopping or go on any buying sprees. My rule of thumb is to always compare my dining options and find the best deal to get the most for my “bucks”.

I never cut back my spending on foods to eat a cup of noodles or cheap snacks instead of local meals. Instead what I do is sort out all of my options of places to dine locally by asking around and using tripadvisor to steer me in the right direction. As a lover of food and fresh ingredients I absolutely love trying all the foods that are native to where I am visiting.

Do you travel on a tight budget? What kinds of goods do you find your cutting back on? What do you not mind spending money on?  I would love to know!