Exploring Seoul and having easy access to travel around different parts of Asia
I’ll be honest. One of the main reasons I went to Korea was so that I had easy travel access to different countries in Asia I’d always wanted to go to. To get to Japan from to Korea I would just hop on a two hour flight and I was there. Same goes for Taiwan. It was about 6-7 hours to get to places like Bali and Singapore, but I’d rather do that than spend 21 hours in transit going from the UK to another Asian country.
Plus it was cheaper, so I was saving money whilst making great memories. What a privilege.
I really loved to explore Seoul too. Wading through the hustle and bustle of 명동/Myeongdong, side to side with fellow shoppers eager to swipe up a deal on some Korean skin care. Waltzing through the backstreets of 홍대/Hongdae and 상수/Sangsu area searching for little gem restaurants and ice cream parlours. Gawking at the high rise buildings and structures in 강남/Gangnam and 잠실/Jamsil, coming to terms with how small I actually was.
Other areas I liked to go to were 광화문/Gwanghwamun whenever there was a big city event on, 인사동/Insadong which is a lot quieter and has lots of nice little tea houses and cafes, 이태원/Itaewon where I would get some of my curly hair products and find familiar tastes of the Western world in various restaurants and 동대문/Dongdaemun where I could find some cool artwork.
There are so many other lovely places I remember exploring but we’d be here forever if I listed them.
Honestly Seoul is just a cool place to explore and has surprises around every turn. If I wanted to find something particular, I did my research before venturing out at the weekend. It did take a while to get from my house to Seoul, so having a plan and directions was a wise way to make the most of my time.
Towards the end of my time in Korea I did have my favourite spots I liked to frequent but that’s not to say I didn’t like exploring something new when I had the time.
Seoul is a pretty easy and efficient city to explore once you get familiar with the bus systems and the subway, so if you plan to visit, sometime in the post-lockdown future, rest assured you will probably find it very easy to navigate and get around.
I first met my lovely Korean friends at Manchester University, summer 2016, during a Summer School which I volunteered to help at. We hit it off right away and I was thrilled that I had some new international friends.
I travelled through Korea the next year (2017) and I met up with them again. They showed me amazing hospitality and friendship and it was wonderful.
Then during the two years I was living and working in Korea we met up a lot more frequently, one of them got married and I was invited to the ceremony, we went to lots of restaurants, events and markets together and they showed me an insiders version of Seoul, something I may have missed out on if I didn’t have them to guide me.
I do miss them and I miss exploring Seoul together but we do keep in contact when we can. We all have busy adult lives now PLUS we live on different sides of the world so it can be tough, but I think it’s worth making the effort.
I miss my other foreigner friends too. There’s just something that connects you in a different way. You all have a Western upbringing, then you come to Korea which can be vastly different than what you’re used to and you all experience the ups and downs together. It’s a very unique shared experience that connects you. It can be difficult to connect that way with other people who just haven’t experienced a life like that.
Everyone I met was honestly lovely and they were all just doing life there in Korea. Getting new jobs, learning the language, finding SOs (significant others), joining hobby groups, exploring… I hope those who are still in Korea are having a good life and I hope those who left manage to fine something else they are passionate about.
I’m grateful for all those people who I shared an experience with in Korea.
There are for sure lots of other things I miss about living in Korea, but they’re either too niche, random or specific to include here. The blog post would be too long.
I did enjoy my experience in Korea despite the challenges and I can really tell it changed and shaped me into a more grown up, confident and responsible version of myself who is more willing to actively participate in her adult life.
Before Korea I was a little insecure and afraid of ‘adulting’ as they say, but the entire two years in Korea really made me see what I am actually capable of when it comes down to it. It gave me more faith in myself and I now have the confidence and understanding to say if I don’t know how to do something, be it important or trivial, I can always learn as I go, as long as I am willing to put the work in.
Hope you enjoyed that.
One thing before you go. As mentioned before, I also have some Things I Don’t Miss about Living in South Korea so feel free to check that out.
Have a great day.