Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Korean BBQ

My favorite Korean food is definitely barbeque. The best part is, you cook the meat yourself on a grill built into the table. It's fun and you get to cook it exactly like you like it! It's great for me because I like my meat cooked well, with some black on it. Of course, this always causes the wait staff to think that we're just silly foreigners who don't know how to cook and they come over and "fix" it for us. :)

After the meat is almost done cooking, you use scissors to cut it up. It's super efficient and way easier than knives and forks. The restaurant we went to mixes egg and chopped kimchi to sort of bake on the sides of the grill. It's delicious!

We also got sides, kimchi soup, and beer. Everything you need for a good night out in Korea! :)

Here you have (starting top left and going clockwise) pickled radish, kimchi, some kind of oily/spice/sesame seed mixture, garlic, Korean red sauce (YUM! Suncheon is known for its good red sauce), and I can't remember what the powder stuff is.
the best kimchi soup in Suncheon
We also ordered kimchi soup because this restaurant has the most delicious kimchi soup I have had in Korea. It's spicy and kind of almost creamy, like tomato soup. It's amazing.

It's hardly a night out to barbeque if you don't have some beer. The little glass is for mixing beer and soju but we didn't drink any soju that night since it was a school night. Can you imagine being hungover while trying to teach this lot? No, thank you! 

A big thanks to our friends Rachel and Jonathan for introducing us to this restaurant. It's one of our faves in Suncheon!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Our Side of Suncheon

Like almost every city in Korea, Suncheon has a Bongwa mountain. Back in the day, it would be the lookout mountain for invaders and would have signal fires and stuff. Today, it's just a place to hike and take in the scenery.

Suncheon is divided into the "old downtown" and the "new downtown" by our Bongwa mountain. We didn't hike all the way to the top but we did get to see some great views of our side of Suncheon, "new downtown." Most of those tall rectangular buildings are apartments. It's amazing how many people can live here in such a small space and it's all due to those monsters.

On the way down, I spotting these purple beauties and couldn't resist taking a couple photos. Korea has tons of great flowers blooming now.

Also, this very big, very scary bug.

Lat but not least, here is Spencer hula hooping with a very large and heavy black hula hoop. I couldn't do it. It was too heavy!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cycling to Suncheon Bay

Spring is here and the weather has been gorgeous. There are sunny blue skies, fresh breezes, and flowers blooming everywhere. We are loving every minute of it and trying to fully enjoy it before the horribly hot, sticky summer arrives.

A couple weekends ago we took our bikes out to Suncheon Bay. We heard it was a nice, easy ride and good for a day trip. We've been to Suncheon Bay once before but we've heard the reeds are always changing and so it's cool to go at different times of the year to see the changes in the environment.

The bike ride down was easy and relaxing. It took us about an hour but we stopped a few times to take pictures. They are currently doing some construction (installing a monorail) and going through the construction zones was a bit rocky. Most of the time, we had a nice path like the one below.

Most of the land along the river was left wild and we saw some cool birds and men fishing under big umbrellas.

The path got a little nicer and then we were there.

We got in half price since we live in Suncheon. Score! :)

I'm no sure if they stepped up their game since the Yeosu Expo just opened or it's like this every year in the spring, but the flowers were amazing!

California poppies! :) a little taste of home
Spencer with the fountain
water garden in a pot
The first thing we did was eat lunch in this super cool little hut.

Then we were off to go hike the little mountain to the look out point. We walked through the mud fields of reeds on raised wooden walkways with all the other people out enjoying the beautiful day. There were groups of screaming kids, a tour group of elderly people, young couples, old couples...just about anyone and everyone, really.

You have two options when hiking up to the lookout point:

Here's both trail heads:

We chose the mediation path which is more of a big ramp up the side of the mountain. On the way up we spotted a traditional Korean graveyard.

The view from the top is great and I wish we could have stayed a bit later in the day. I think it would be an excellent place to watch the sunset. However, we still had to bike home and wanted to do so in daylight.

Here's a panorama picture I took using the Photosynth app on my iPod touch.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Anniversary Lover

Happy Anniversary to us. This year has been glorious.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Making and Breaking Plans, Left and Right

Before we moved to South Korea, I wanted to do the Peace Corps. I had to wait because I wanted to go with my then boyfriend (now husband), and only married couples can serve together in the Peace Corps. Then I found out we would have to wait even longer because it's Peace Corps policy that couples must be married for at least a year before their departure date. That changed everything.

I was stuck in a paper pushing, cubicle job and hated it so much that I would sometimes go cry in the bathroom by myself. I was getting nowhere fast and hating 40 hours a week of my life but I was making big plans to make travel and the expat lifestyle central in my life.

I did tons of research at work. I explored so many options. I read travel blogs, and I searched for overseas job opportunities. I gushed about all the choices and opportunities we had to Spencer after work every night and we made a plan.

At this time last year, the plan was to get married, teach English in South Korea for a year, apply for the Peace Corps, and hope the timing worked out so that our year long contract in Korea was over before our departure date. It would have worked since applying for the Peace Corps is a long process, especially when they are trying to place two people in the same place.

This is not what happened. As we got to South Korea and started dealing with living in another country, we forgot about the plan. We pushed it aside. There are so many other opportunities in the world! We want to do a work/holiday visa in Australia but you have to be under 30 so we only have a few years left to do that. We want to travel SE Asia. We want to spend a year living in Europe. We want to eventually have kids. We have to make sure we have enough savings or make enough money for our expensive student loan payments every month.

All I keep thinking is: how are we ever going to accomplish everything? We don't have enough time! Life it too short! We must get out there now!

We need to stay in South Korea because we can save a lot of money here and we need the money for those aforementioned student loans but I can't help but feel like we are wasting time. We are only going to be under 30 for so long. After that my baby maker clock will be ticking. It's scary to think I only have four and a half years left until I'm 30. I don't really feel like I'm a real adult yet and honestly, I don't ever want to feel that way. 

Maybe I'm planning too much but that's what I do. I'm a planner. I like having a five year plan, even if that plan changes every 3 months...or weeks (which it often does!). I like knowing that I am headed in some kind of direction and what that direction is.

Unfortunately, I think my planning tendencies have backed me into a corner with Spencer. He wants to follow the plans we made previously, but I want to change them. I don't want to stay in Korea through November.

I've been reading a lot about development recently through books and blogs and I've discovered, for the second time, my desire to help people through aid work. I want to do the Peace Corps but first I want to have some kind of experience and knowledge that I can use to actually help people. If I don't have any valuable skills or knowledge to teach people, what would I be doing there? Nothing. I want to help people but I want it to be meaningful and real. Good intentions are nothing without something substantial to back them up.

I want to move to India to do volunteer work or move to Australia to get experience working on organic farms. I want to begin my on the ground training to be an international aid worker and I want to start NOW. (I've never been very good at being patient.)

So, these are the thoughts floating around in my brain right now. I'm not sure what will happen next. It seems like a lot rides on being able to pay our student loan payments, which is disheartening. Spencer wanting to follow our plan to stay in Korea is based on that sad fact. If we stay, we will be financially secure and able to sustain our semi-nomadic lifestyle longer. If we leave, we can start our adventures a few months earlier but might be hard strapped for cash sooner.

I know Spencer is right. It makes the most sense to stay and I have to remember that a few months is not really that long. I think the payoff will be worth it in the end but it's so hard to wait while there's so much to learn and do in this world! People always say, "good things come to those who wait." I sure hope they're right.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Don't Want to be a Travel Blogger

Travel is my passion. I love the endless opportunities and possibilities in the world. I love exploring new places, discovering beautiful things, and opening up my mind to new ideas and perspectives. Travel is constantly changing, engaging, and is never boring. 

I also love sharing my stories, pictures, and experiences with you here on this blog. I'd like to think that maybe I can inspire others to see the world. Maybe (probably, really) I'm only updating my family and some close friends about what I'm up to but even if my blog reaches no one, I'd still be content in writing it. I've realized, It's as much for me as it is for you.

When I first started writing on Destination Exploration, I wanted to be a professional travel blogger. I wanted to write professional but fun pieces that everyone would love and share with their friends and travel buddies. I wanted to be a travel writer and write pieces that whisk people away and create a sense of awe and wonder, while at the same time letting people know that travel is easier than they originally thought. I wanted to be location independent and constantly on the road and exploring.

What could be better? I love travel so I should make it my career, right? People always say, "do what you love and you'll never work another day in your life." I started working hard to blend my love for travel with a career. 

You might have noticed that since the year started, I've been posting a lot. I've even made a couple of posts not concerned with our travels or thoughts about South Korea (where we are now). I wanted a variety. I wanted as many people to see the blog as possible. I was working on getting as much writing experience as I could and I think I made some pretty good progress but then something happened--it became work.

That's when it occurred to me that I don't want to make travel writing my job. I don't want my job to revolve around constantly traveling. I want my life to be one big trip after the next but I discovered that what I really want is to be an perpetual expat. I want to live in lots of countries and regions throughout the world. I want to travel around to nearby places while I'm in each place but I want to do it on my own terms.

I want to be able to decide to stay somewhere forever if I fall in love with it. I want to be able to plan my life without worrying about scheduling enough press trips or writing enough articles to be able to pay my student loan payment. I need something a little more stable and something a little more free.

Plus, I don't want to have to spend days of travel looking at hotel rooms and gathering brochures for tours I'll never go on. I don't want to work when I'm meant to be having fun. For me, that is what is so great about travel--it's fun and I don't want that travel spark to be extinguished.

I know of a lot of bloggers who don't lose their spark, even after years of traveling and living abroad but I honestly think if I made my work about travel, travel would lose it's appeal. I wouldn't look forward to trips anymore because it would be work. There would be things I would have to do and there would always be other things that I would want to do. The more I realize about myself, the more I know what I want and don't want. I'm still growing and learning about myself and one thing I definitely know is that I want travel to remain an escape: a sense of complete freedom, exploration, and discovery.

I still want to be here on Destination Exploration as an inspiration for those who want to live an alternative lifestyle, like the one my husband and I have chosen. I want to share our story with the world and show people that anything is possible if you want it enough.

You can explore and live and grow and love and move to as many countries as you want. You may not ever be a millionaire or own property or spend every Christmas at home with your extended family but you will have a lifetime of exploration and growth....or maybe just a year or a few years. It doesn't have to be a lifetime decision. That's the great part about this lifestyle. It's free. You can choose to change your life at any moment. You just have to actually do it.

I want to be here to help others and open their hearts and minds to the possibilities the world has to offer.

That is my goal. I don't want to be a travel blogger. I don't want to go on press trips or write endless articles. I want to live the life of my dreams and share it with the world.

With this said, please excuse me if I don't post perfectly regularly or if my posts are boring or too "dear diary" or whatever. I'm using this space as a way to share our journey through this world. It may not be pretty at times, but I'm hoping it will always be honest. I hope to keep it interesting and inspiring as much as I can but sometimes I'm boring. I admit it. I'm not always fun and exciting. Sometimes, I'm conceited and self centered. Sometimes, I'm lazy and depressed. Sometimes, I'm so full of energy I feel like my body will just explode with excitement and love for my life and travels. Expect anything and everything.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hampyeong Butterfly Festival

Last weekend we took a day trip to the tiny town of Hampyeong for their annual Butterfly Festival. With the town being so small, you'd think the festival would follow suit, but no. The festival was huge!

There were giant greenhouses absolutely bursting with plants. There was one filled with flowers for the butterflies and there were smaller greenhouses inside it filled with even more butterflies. You could walk in some of them and see them all swirling around you.

Can you see the flower shaped lights? So cute!
mini greenhouse entrance on the left
inside the mini greenhouse
There was one filled with desert landscapes with signs warning of the dangers of cacti and there was one filled with tropical plants with misters to mimic the rainforest complete with waterfall and coy pond (think rainforest/Korean fusion here, people).

There was a pumpkin arch. Yes, an arch (!) with all different kinds of pumpkins growing over it with the vegetables hanging down. I was surprised and awed by how well the plants grew that way.

Then there were the endless outdoor activities. There was a big stage set up and while we walked in a lady in a hanbok was singing while an old lady in the front danced by herself. She was loving life in that moment!

There were two huge mushroom shaped structures completely covered with flowers. They must have been three stories high! I can only image how long it must have took to get all those flowers on there! It was gorgeous and doubled as a good shady spot for people to sit in.

stage and spectacular flower mushrooms

There were tents selling food, tents selling goods, and tents with arts and crafts activities for the kiddos. Korea is very family oriented and the festival was filled with families out enjoying the sunny day.

There were huge bugs everywhere, too.

There was a little museum with lots of butterfly displays. This one was my favorite: butterflies from around the world! The one on Australia is so big!

The street lights were even decked out! How cute is that little caterpillar?

Then there was the massive field of yellow mustard flowers where painted cow statues stood. The whole field was alive with the buzzing of bees and I was thankful I didn't wear any colorful clothing that might attract them.


There was a little area showcasing the way Koreans used to farm with old tools, a mini farm display, and a cow. Check out that gnarly nose ring!

Did I mention the gorgeous landscaping, yet? 

There were some very funny characters out and about--some statues...

...and some dangerous looking stilt walkers!

If you can believe it, there was even one building that we were about to go in but then we saw the people on stilts and forgot to go in. There was so much to do and see!

P.S. Hey Mom, look! I'm wearing the dress you sent me! :) Thank you!