My Journey Seoul Searching

Part 1

                                                                               The view from my room  

                                                                               The view from my room  

Why am I here?

When I decided to end my college education in Korea (Hanyang University International Summer School) and then ship off to travel the rest of the world, I was looking to take a “sabbatical”, to take time to travel the world and bring creativity back into my life. Prior to leaving the States just a few days ago, I felt stunted of the creativity and genuine fluidity of thoughts and ideas that had come across my mind daily. I didn’t realize it until a couple of months in and after recently talking to a fellow entrepreneur and friend about it.

Being completely unplugged from work and detached from work can have great gains in the long-term and I hadn’t realized it until I landed in Seoul a couple of days ago. I’m already feeling myself fall back into the things I had neglected to do for so long. For three mornings straight, I went on runs, running about 9 km (although I had to stop a lot). Yesterday, I decided to keep running and before I knew it, I was about 10 km away from my initial starting location and still had to go back about 9 km. After those 19 km my body was on fire, my face was probably 3 shades darker, and my toes burnt.

What am I doing?

I’ll be studying at Hanyang International Summer School, which is a one-month program in Seoul. Since we’re pushing a semester into one month, the days are pretty long. I have 3 classes from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Monday through Thursday and am taking an online class.

After the month is over, I’ll be backpacking around Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and other countries in Southeast Asia. After my time traveling, I’ll be headed to India to work on developing an India-based team for Aahana, an organization I founded a few years ago.

This blog will be my platform to talk about my travels, lessons learned as a traveler/entrepreneur, and to tell stories about the people I encounter.  

What have I been up to?

It’s been about a week in Seoul, but I’m already back to that familiar feeling I had while I was away traveling and studying in Europe for 4 months.

The first day I was here, I was incredibly jet lagged and tired- My parents and I left at 1 AM for Newark for my 6 AM flight to San Francisco. My flight from San Francisco was about 5 hours with a 2 hour layover there. The second to last journey to Seoul was 13 hours and we finally reached my housing area after a 3 hour bus ride in traffic.

After being here for a week I’ve learned that it is hard being vegetarian in Korea. I don’t eat eggs, seafood, or any other type of meat, so finding food here has been fairly hard (especially when eating out). Even when you do find vegetarian soups or meals, it almost always has a meat or seafood base. My roommate and I went grocery shopping yesterday and I found some basic vegetarian foods (well, it looked vegetarian). I can’t read Korean food labels so I have no idea of truly knowing whether or not it has a meat base. Here are some options for vegetarians coming to Korea:

  • Tapooki: rice cakes in spicy red sauce
  • Kimchi: side dish made of pickled cabbage
  • Bibimbap: it’s a bowl of white rice filled with different vegetables and sauce on top. It can come with meat, but you can get options without
  • Vegetable Kimbap: It looks like sushi, but is filled with pickled cabbage and other sauced vegetables. Even if you do ask for the vegetable version there’s a chance they’ll still some sort of meat in it, so I would double check once you get it.
 Foreground: The Tapooki I had for lunch with cheese on top; Background: Some type of meat (I think chicken) with melted cheese on the side

 Foreground: The Tapooki I had for lunch with cheese on top; Background: Some type of meat (I think chicken) with melted cheese on the side

                               Green Tea Bingsu (shaved ice)

The diet and amount of exercise Koreans do is the reason why most of them are so fit. There are outdoor gyms that look like mini playgrounds where many of the elderly exercise. I’ve probably seen more 60 year olds on bikes here than I have ever seen in my life.

Yesterday, we climbed the highest peak, Baekundae Peak in Bukhansan National Park. On our way up, it was incredibly steep and I often found myself crawling up rocks on all fours. I saw mostly middle aged or elderly people getting ahead quicker than I could. We climbed for about 2.5 hours until reaching the top and it was so worth it. The view was unbelievable and I would definitely recommend it if you’re visiting Seoul.

This man was doing head stands and jumping rock to rock on the edge of these rocks!

This man was doing head stands and jumping rock to rock on the edge of these rocks!

                                                                                          At the peak- 836 meters up

                                                                                          At the peak- 836 meters up

"You don't know what you don't know"  is a phrase I use when talking about everything, especially traveling. There's never a better feeling than doing something that makes you uncomfortable and pushes you to greater heights.