Going back to reality has been difficult and I’m in denial, so I’m going to keep reliving my travel experiences until I can make new ones. This time last year, I returned from a month in South Korea. So here are 5 things I learned from traveling South Korea.
1. Choose your travel companion wisely
The main outcome of my holiday was the realisation that I enjoyed it a lot more on my own than I did staying with someone else. I went on holiday with someone that I didn’t know very well and spending too much time together was very draining. But considering that I was getting annoyed with her on the first day, I realised I made a mistake when it came to choosing someone to come on my travels. We had decided to make separate plans for most days, but staying in the same accommodation was hard and I found myself staying out longer to avoid her until she eventually went home early. I don’t really talk to her anymore.
This was a massive difference between traveling with my best friend of 5 years. We did have a few arguments and spend some time apart, but spending 24 hours a day together for a month is bound to have that effect. We traveled to Japan, Amsterdam and Croatia together. On our third holiday together, we seemed to have perfected the balance of time together and apart. The only issue we ever have with each other when we’re traveling now is finding food that we will both eat. She is the fussiest eater in the world and I’m a pescetarian, so we sometimes struggle to find a restaurant with something that she will eat on the menu. It’s improved a lot though and we’re going to travel the world together next year.
2. Challenge yourself
Traveling is a perfect opportunity to try new experiences and find things that will challenge you. In South Korea, I climbed my first mountain. The person I was traveling with booked us onto a hike up the Seoul Fortress walls and it wasn’t until I got there (alone, because she decided she didn’t want to go anymore), that I realised the hike was a whole mountain. It was physically one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done and there was a point where I held up the entire group by having to take a break. The tour guide was so friendly, helpful and supportive. He never once made me feel bad about slowing anyone down or needing to rest and without that encouragement, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Sam still runs this tour as an Airbnb experience if anyone is interested. Although I disagree with the description of it as a “relatively easy night hike”.
3. Always talk to the locals
I talked to a lot of locals. Whether it was tour guides, owners or waitresses in restaurants, taxi drivers or strangers on the train who ask where I’m from. I had the advantage that I learned conversational Korean, but a lot of people also spoke English for when I had gaps where I don’t understand. It really made my day when I had a successful Korean conversation or just a chance to connect with someone by talking about our lives. I had a really long conversation with a guy in the LUSH store while trying out products on me about how much he wanted to go to the Oxford Street Lush store and how much I wanted to teach abroad.
4. It’s okay to not be really busy every day
I really burned myself out during my time in South Korea trying to make every day “worthwhile”. However, when you are out somewhere for a whole month sometimes you needed that rest day. In Thailand, I had days dedicated to traveling between locations where I would just rest when I arrived. Even if the only thing I achieved in a day was going out to get a meal, that was okay. I was so focused on not wasting my time that I ended up having to have forced rest days where I was too tired to get out of bed. I also realised that going on day trips is nice every once in a while, but not every day. It’s nice to explore places on your own and not be confined to the itinerary of a group tour.
On the days where I was exhausted, I would just go down to Myeongdong or Hongdae in the afternoon to grab some street food or a smoothie and just walking around was really relaxing.
5. Don’t bring home too much stuff
My first major travel disaster was that my suitcase weighed too much coming home from Korea and I had a pay a fee at the airport. It was a nightmare and I basically ended up having a panic attack, crying my way through security and being a mess the whole flight. It wasn’t a good way to finish my holiday. All the beauty products I brought home were worth it though and I want to go back to stock up on Korean skincare!
6. Stick to your budget
A lesson that I thought I learned but obviously didn’t fully understand was to stick to your budget for the entire holiday. Don’t think to yourself “I’ve been so good with money so far, I’m allowed to spend now” and then mess up your budget for the rest of your time. Running out of money during my time in South Korea was a massive mistake and it definitely helped me during my time in Thailand to manage my spending. But even then, I still ended up having to dip into my savings because I kept buying tickets to extra things during my last days in Phuket. I was definitely better this time around, but there’s definitely still room for improvement.
Anyone else here gone over the luggage limit or run out of money traveling? Let me know in the comments. Any stories about lessons you learned the hard way while traveling are welcome.