First Impressions of Seoul, South Korea
Leaving Malaysia was unexpectedly sad. After a month there, I had adjusted to the heat, the culture, and even felt like I knew a neighborhood and people in it. I treated myself to a business class seat with miles flying from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul, South Korea. It was epic! I’ve never ridden in a business class bus, with leather seats, exclusive to those of us sitting in the best seats on the plane.
At one point in my flight, I looked out to the right, and I saw lightning in the distance. I felt completely nervous, and wondered why we were flying in a storm. Then I realized, the ride was smooth, and the storm must have been far enough away so as not to be a problem.
After a month in heat where I wished for a shower three times a day, I landed into the rain that apparently washed away the last of the season’s cherry blossoms. It was grey, cold, and my first confrontation happened at the SIM card desk at the airport. I had pre-ordered a SIM card online, and found that I couldn’t make voice calls on it. The woman at the counter, when I went to complain, insisted it was my fault for ordering the wrong card, though she did exchange it for me.
Next was the most difficult experience I’ve had in five years getting a taxi. You see, none of the usual apps work in South Korea. I had to get Kakao Taxi, which you have to link with Kakao Talk (that’s how I discovered I didn’t have a voice SIM card) and then figure out how to get the darn thing to work in English. Eventually, I got a taxi but couldn’t link my credit card to the app due to another requirement I didn’t meet so had to pay in cash. And, the driver spoke only enough English to tell me his age, ask me mine, and tell me I am very pretty. Not a comfortable entry to the country.
I cashed in some Marriott points for a lovely room outside the center of Seoul. This meant living in a residential neighborhood. There was very little English spoken outside of my hotel. My first night, I was rejected from a restaurant because I was alone! The next morning I was yelled at by the cashier at the convenience store where I tried to add cash to my subway card. She was right, I spoke no Korean, and it’s her country. But, I walked away feeling there were 100 rules I was breaking just by standing there. I noticed no bright colors, no eye contact, and just felt like I was getting everything wrong. And, I was alone, another rule broken.
I had been looking forward to coming to South Korea for years. Now I wondered whether I ought to figure out someplace else to go and cut the trip short.
I’m freezing, and I need something warm to wear. The hotel suggests the student area of Hongdae, and helps me use another new app, Kakao Metro, to figure out how to get there. 40 minutes later, I’m walking around the shops, umbrella in tow. Another rude awakening happens at the first shop where I find something I might like to try. They don’t allow trying on any tops! There’s no fitting room. I can’t put the items on over my clothes. It’s just take it or leave it. I am somewhere between insulted and stupefied. How am I supposed to buy a sweater if I can’t try it on and see if I like it??!!
I’m soon tired, disappointed, frustrated, and still cold with no sweater. I realize this area isn’t going to work for me and head back to the subway. On the way, I pass a larger store (as opposed to the boutiques I was visiting). I duck inside. There are no rude sales women to stop me, so I weave through the store, and hit the jackpot. I find a lovely green sweater and it’s about $17 USD! It becomes my treasured sweater for my month in South Korea. It warms me and it matches just about everything.
Over the next week, I spend most days trying to figure out how to exist and see Seoul. I take a free walking tour. There are too many people in the group and somehow doesn’t cover what I expected. I do learn about a K-Pop museum and see one of the main palaces. I also learn that the beautiful dresses people wear around the city are called Hanbok and that anyone can rent them for a few hours or a day. Mental note – I’m going to do that! I also take a tour to the DMZ which is fascinating. To see North Korea’s flag waving in the distance, as well as an idea of one of the tunnels they built to try and overtake Seoul was, well, beyond what any history book could have taught me.
While I came here for the green tea, I had no idea there was such a big skincare culture. I’ve never seen so many masks in my life. If you’ve got a body part, there’s a mask for it somewhere in South Korea! I try eye masks, face masks, hand masks, neck masks and the most interesting – a neck lifting mask! It hurts the ears, but it might just work a little bit! Here is me in three masks, simultaneously. It looks scary, but the results are nice!
Near the end of the week, I discover Bukchon Hanok Village. Somehow, all the difficulties of the week are replaced with this feeling of happy inspiration. There are people in beautiful Hanbok everywhere and I’m walking along houses from the Joseon dynasty, and one of them even looks like a scene I saw in a K-Pop show on Netflix. Something inside me clicks, and I realize, I’m beginning to “get it”. Customs and behaviors here take a lot of getting used to, but I now am beginning to understand how people will react to my behavior and how to semi fit in! It makes a world of difference. I no longer feel like leaving. In any case, I’m about to fulfill the action that is my reason for coming to South Korea in the first place – journey to Jeju Island! I end my first week feeling satisfied and ready to discover more of this fascinating country.
BOOK A FREE FULL-TIME TRAVEL CONSULTATION!
Heather understands the nuances of traveling and living well while doing it and she is willing to take you along for the planning journey so you can, too.
Most of what’s keeping you from what you want – full-time travel, a new business idea, a radical career shift – are your excuses. After one session with Heather, you’ll understand which excuses are holding you back the most, how to get them out of the way, and you’ll leave with an action plan that helps you set the foundation to pivot into the life you want.
You know you don’t like your job, but you can’t figure out how to survive without it. Designed for frustrated professionals the program focuses on teaching you the key steps to shifting your work and money mindsets, and giving you the money and work strategies to pursue, leaving you empowered to quit with confidence and see that it really is possible to live happily without a stable job.
Whether traveling full time was your dream before the pandemic, or after, this session will help you understand how to prepare, what you need to know, and how to get your finances in order to make it happen. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the “How To Afford The Travel Life” eBook. You’ll also get an understanding of both what’s great about full-time travel and some of the challenges. You can also discuss planning help, and how to get the most out of your experience.
It’s always been essential to understand your money, but if you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic, now it’s even more important that you create financial empowerment. In this session, Heather will work with you to first understand your gaps in managing your money, then she’ll help you with the framework on how to ensure you can afford the life you dream of. You’ll get tips to save and budget, and also discuss ways to earn money that will shift you out of feeling like a victim of the times, to seeing the opportunities in front of you to begin making money in a different way.
You want to quit and travel full time, but when can you go? This eBook gives you all the formulas you need to calculate when you can quit and afford the travel lifestyle you want, in under and hour.
Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve all had a chance to ask the question, “what now?” If you’ve decided it’s time to quit your 9-to-5 to travel full time (or take it with you while you live nomadically), this program will help you address the core mindset, money, and planning gaps you have. This is the program that will help you acknowledge and overcome your fears about what’s next, figure out how to afford and sustain your travels, and feel confident about planning your adventure. Book your free session to see if you’re a fit!
You’re finally serious about traveling full time, but you cannot figure out how you’ll afford it. Or, you’re just curious whether it’s really even possible to afford the lifestyle. Bootcamp is for you! We’ll go dive deep into savings strategies before you go, how to save on the road, and how to sustain your travels, as well as look at lots of work opportunities if you want to work while you travel! Includes a 3-day build your budget challenge to get you thinking about how to replace dreams with real logical steps to make it happen.
You’ve dreamed about traveling full time for as long as you can remember, and now you’ve learned that it’s a little more challenging than you thought. Get help getting through the initial shock and changes when you realize you’re not on vacation. Learn how to manage those experiences where you meet parts of yourself long forgotten, and create a plan to help you have the best experience with your journey.
- Main blog
- Full Time Travel Expert Advice
- Solo Travelers
- Country Specific
- City Reviews
- Coronavirus Chronicles
- Culture Lessons
- Self Discovery
If you want to see every post I’ve written, starting with the most recent, this is the place to start!
If you need some tips on getting started, traveling safe, and saving money while traveling full time, go here!
I’ve been traveling the globe solo, and many of my posts share thoughts and resources specifically for other solo travelers. If you’re a fellow solo traveler, or you’re thinking about solo travel, this is a collection you will find of interest.
If you’re looking to read blog posts about specific destinations, click the country of your interest below to go to it’s blog page and get country-specific reviews and thoughts.
Sometimes I write posts where I give insider information on certain cities I’ve visited, which may be more along the lines of places to go, how to save money, etc. If that’s your main interest, check out this compilation of posts.
In 2020, I was traveling in New Zealand as the coronavirus pandemic brewed, and, got stuck there. If you want to read about what this time was like and traveling during this time, check out this page.
At the heart of international travel is learning about the many different cultures and ways of being around the world. The posts compiled on this page speak, specifically, about the cultural observations I’ve had.
Many of my blog posts are about things I’ve discovered about myself or about being, while I’ve traveled. If you’d like to focus on posts that only have self-discovery themes, click the button below.