The sun is shining!
It is a little slice of heaven, for although the temperature has soared with the appearance of blue sky, the sweaty, sticky, swirling steam bath of the past few weeks has temporarily lifted. I can once again step outside without a blanket of Pure Wet settling around me.
As I walked to school this morning in the sunshine, I got that feeling that I often do while in Korea – the sense that my life here is really a sort of working holiday. I mean, yes, certainly, I have to go to work every day. But what is my job? Am I sitting behind a desk, filing papers and crunching numbers and stressing about deadlines? No, I’m laughing (well, mostly!) with adorable little children with whom I spend the day engaged in messy art projects and singing songs from my childhood and watching cartoons. Granted, there are bad days from time to time, but for the most part, it’s a dream job for me.
And all the while, here I am in this foreign, exotic land where everything is bustling and nothing is humdrum. People are walking around in shorts and flip-flops, fanning themselves as they seek out a shady pavement table, where they sit and drink iced tea and watch the world go by. I could be lazing on a white sandy beach on a tropical(ish) island within a couple of hours if the notion takes me. Downtown, every night of the week is party night, with the streets resembling those of a popular holiday resort, and people drinking cocktails on terraces. There is an endless supply of tourist attractions and off-the-beaten-track places for me to explore, without ever having to pack a suitcase or board a plane.
So why do I spend so much time in the same place, cooped up in the same little apartment, browsing the same time-wasting websites, watching the same TV shows, going to the same restaurants and bars, repeating the same familiar, enjoyable-but-tired experiences?
Actually, I know why – I am a creature of habit, and it’s very easy for me to settle into a routine, get stuck in a rut, and then find that a year (or several) has simply disappeared without me having done anything. Thankfully the whole issue of my now dangerously close 30th birthday has been nudging me out of this tendency of late, as I have this thing about wanting to have packed as much excitement into my 20s as I possibly can, and I’m nearly out of time!
The point of this post (as I know it’s looking uncertain as to whether there is one) is that I had actually abandoned the idea of going anywhere during my precious one-week holiday at the start of August. Me! The eager explorer! The girl who rides wild horses in the Mongolian wilderness and hops from one European country to another, staying with total strangers! Nah, it’s all too much effort, I decided when I realised that everywhere nearby that I wanted to visit would just be Too Frickin’ Hot at this time of year, and when my notions of seeking out the cold (in the form of wild bear watching and volcano trekking in Russia) proved to be ridiculously expensive and complicated to arrange. Instead, I would simply hole up in my air-conditioned
apartment room and watch TV.
This would have been a horrible waste of one of only 2 weeks of holiday time I get in Korea. And no, I still don’t want to pay lots of money to suffer in the heat in some other country, but it occurred to me this morning that there’s so much left for me to see in the country I’m in right now. Why not go on the road for a week? Just me, myself, my camera, my guidebook, and a small backpack. And of course, a fresh new notebook and pens.
I will seek out the unusual, couchsurf with Korean families, tour the big cities, amble through the little villages, eat only foods that I haven’t yet tried, and experience more of Korea than the comfortable 1-mile radius I’ve been seeing lately. And yes, it will probably rain on me for the entire week, and yes, it will be uncomfortably hot, and yes, I will be a big walking puddle of sweat, but sure I’ll be on my own and no one will know me, so what the hell.
And after all, I live in Korea. If it’s not fun, home is only a short train ride away at any given point!
Suggestions, ideas, facts about potentially interesting Korean places, challenges, photo requests, or anything at all that might give me ideas for my itinerary, are all welcome via email or comments or whatever. Alternatively, just accept what you get.
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