Hey, You: Are you considering taking the leap and moving to South Korea?
Have you heard your friends talk about their experiences living and travelling abroad and maybe you feel hopping the pond to Korea might be for you? Well, I can assure you, this 13-25 hour flight is not for everyone.
Living in another country is challenging and at times overwhelming. Some days, standing in that overstuffed subway cart and after a long day of screeching kindergarteners – you may just wonder, “Why the bleep am I doing this?”.
Good question. In short, moving abroad to South Korea will transform you in ways you had never expected. You’re going to enter the Land of the Morning Calm as one person, but leave as a certified badass – and here’s how:
1. You Start Trading Stuff for Experiences
I had a choice: shoes or sailing trip. Sailing won.
When you live abroad, you may find that initially (and, frankly, for me all throughout the year) you miss certain things like boots that fit your size nine feet, or bras that actually offer your C’s some support. As a guy, your tall legs most likely won’t be fully covered by any of the pants offered.
But in a way, losing the easy access to any material good you could possibly desire becomes part of the experience, and is actually quite freeing. Living abroad teaches you to “let go” of needing to have things.
Instead, when it comes to fulfilling your material needs, you will have to get creative. You’ll find ways to make what you have on hand work. You may begin borrowing cool outfits from friends, go to clothing swaps to find that perfect pair of jeans, and most often, you’ll learn how to alter and tailor Korean clothing to your liking.
It’s this spontaneous, out of the box creativity that is badass in and of itself.
Not only do you acquire less because the selection on hand may not be exactly what you want, but expats tend to prioritize travelling over things. At home, you may have been tempted by that Coach purse for $200, but in Korea, you soon realize that getting to South East Asia with an extra two-week’s worth of spending money and savoring the experience of travel is more important than a purse.
You may choose to sit on floor mats for a year and forgo a couch while living abroad in Korea. Locals do it all the time! Heck, they often forgo beds (as westerners know them) and sleep on floor mats. While living abroad, you tend to drop the need for material items, and you trade this in for experience. Personally, I don’t know anything more badass than that.
2. You Surround Yourself with People Who Challenge You
Did I want to go bungee jumping? Oh hell no! But my friends were pretty darn persuasive.
The spirit of going off the beaten path lies deep in those who choose to drop our comforts and hit the road to Asia. When you are in South Korea, you are going to be surrounded by people you would never have dreamed you would hang out with – but you do, and you learn that they are cool people with great stories.
By the end of my time in South Korea, my mind was happily blown with outlandish perspectives that I had never given a second thought to. I experienced silent discos, art shows, open mic nights, poetry readings, comedy shows, beach camping trips, hiking, surfing, and the list goes on and on.
The people you meet abroad are going to challenge you. It’s not their fault, their energetic and go-getting personalities are what got them to take such an epic leap in the first place. How is that not badass?
3. You Get Bitten (Hard!) by the Travel Bug
Once you land in South Korea, and you begin chatting with the other expats (perhaps at your school or at an Ultimate Frisbee meetup), you will begin to notice something. Your friends will be animatedly talking about their ideas for a Chuseok get-away, their vacation plans, or better yet – their long term travel ideas for when their teaching contract is up.
It may seem overwhelming to think about jet setting yet again, as you have just stepped off the plane, but believe me, give it some time and allow the dust to settle – and by the third month in you’ll be arranging flights to Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing, or Borocay.
To be honest, I’m not really one to go out of my way when it comes to uprooting myself. I can be a homebody. I love a good cup of joe, cozy clothes, my books, and my overly used notebook. But again, hanging out with adventurous people rubs off on you.
My best friend is infamous for cajoling me into travel plans, destinations, and hotspots! I gave into his peer-pressure, and – before I had finished the kimchi on my plate – I found myself on a flight to beautiful Jeju. Thank goodness for his excessive badgering because it wore off on me. All of sudden hopping on flights and choosing where to head next was no longer daunting, but thrilling.
In my time in Korea, I visited China, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand, and honestly – my list pales in comparison to most!
Expats are naturally adventuresome and travel is a perfect outlet for this tenacious spirit. By default, if you head to South Korea you are already becoming a world traveller (aka badass), so just pull up your bootstraps and get ready for some more!
Enjoy the journey and wear your badass badge with pride. You’ve earned it.
About the Author:
Tess Bercan is a freelance writer, admissions director, and above all a traveler of the world. Before relocating to Vancouver, BC, she lived in Seoul and Busan for a total of five years. While in Korea, she took full advantage of the plentiful barbecue dinners, noraebong nights, and all of the outdoor activities that Korea has to offer. Check out more of Tess’s writing at www.tessbercan.com.