Thursday, 11 May 2017

A Year of Festivals in South Korea

When traveling, one of the best ways to experience the flavor of a foreign country is to partake in one of its festivals. It’s during these cultural celebrations that locals display their brightest colors and passions; it’s when age-old traditions and long-gone art forms once more conquer the streets; and it’s when creativity, self-expression and above all happiness are given their highest priority.

Some countries are more festival-prone than others, of course. India has more public holidays than any other country in the world, and due to its vastness and diversity, holds major festivals practically every week. Spain and Japan are not far behind. But lesser-known (and lesser-visited) South Korea deserves a bigger shout-out if only because too few people are aware of its rich cultural offerings.

With a long history spanning numerous empires, rulers and conflicts, as well as spiritual influences ranging from ancient shamanic traditions to Buddhism and Christianity, this tiny country has accrued a wealth of fascinating festivals. It’s a good thing, too, since these events provide an important commemorative role in a country that has sacrificed so much of its traditional life in favor of rapid technological and industrial growth (the last fifty years have seen Korea change from a war-torn, impoverished wasteland into a prosperous first-world cyber-nation and Asia’s fourth-largest economy).

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Return to Korea: Part 3

Please click here to read Part 1 of this post if you haven't already.

We spent most of our summer vacation on Jeju Island, the popular tropical getaway south of the main peninsula. Honestly, we were kind of skeptical that this place would live up to its reputation as "the Hawaii of Korea," but it actually blew us away with its natural beauty and mellow atmosphere. One of the first places we visited was Jeongbang Waterfall.

The Return to Korea: Part 2

The Return to Korea: Part 1

Korea is the birthplace - or at the very least, the raison d'ĂȘtre - of this blog. It's the country where I met the love of my life, the country where I lived for a year and a half, and the country where I learned about a fascinating culture, and experienced a wealth of sights and festivities, including mud festivals, pink mountains, penis parks, palaces, puppy cafes, and excursions across the North Korean border. It was never our plan to return, but when we realised Korea would be one of the easier places to get my American green card, we started applying for teaching jobs immediately, and before we knew it, our planes were booked and we were all set for another year in this awesome country.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Florida and Georgia: Part 2

Click here to read Part 1 of this post if you haven't already.

After leaving the Coca Cola Museum, we walked through the Centennial Olympic Park.

Florida and Georgia: Part 1

I know I'm far from the first person to acknowledge this, but...long-distance relationships suck! Two months have never felt longer than the two that Angela and I spent apart last December and January. Even using Skype almost every day, nothing made up for the fact that we couldn't hold one another or share the same physical space. It gave us both a huge admiration for all the couples out there who've endured even longer periods apart, especially those in the past who didn't have the luxury of high-speed video chatting.

Thank goodness we both have awesome parents who allowed us to share the month of February with one another before our return-trip to Korea. In late January, my mum paid for my flight to Cape Coral, Florida, where Angela was living with her mum and dad. They let me stay at their beautiful canal-side home, the same place we stayed in last March. During those four weeks, we didn't do as much touristy, sightseeing-type stuff as last year; instead, we spent a lot of time relaxing together, and we also helped Angela's parents decorate the house. We did go for a trip up to Atlanta, Georgia at one point though, since that had the closest embassy where we could finalise our Korean visas.

Reunited at last! Here we are on a street near Angela's parent's house, cycling in the sun. February in Cape Coral has its chilly days, for sure, but there's still more sun than England gets in a year (or at least, that's how it feels). It definitely made this winter a lot easier to get through!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Home, Sweet Home: Part 2

Click here to read Part 1 of this post if you haven't already.

Here's Zombie Doctor James, Skeleton Angela, and Werewolf Scarlett, dressed up for a family Halloween party.

Home, Sweet Home: Part 1

Over two years ago, I started this blog with the intention of documenting my experiences living, working and travelling abroad. Predominately, it would focus on my time teaching in Korea, though I always planned to backpack across Asia afterwards as well. For the longest time, my return to England seemed so far away it was barely worth considering. I was wrapped up in a new life, preoccupied by new friends, new environments, and of course, a new partner. Though I kept in contact with friends and family back home via Skype and Facebook, living abroad often felt like living in another dimension.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


By the end of October, Angela and I had been travelling for eight months straight, rarely stopping in one place for more than a week or two. Asia was far behind us, and we were quickly edging our way back to England via pit-stops in Sweden and France. Our very last stop before crossing the Channel would be Valenciennes, a town in northern France, close to the Belgian border. Angela lived and worked there for nine months back in 2012, not long before coming to Korea, so there were fond memories and lasting friendships drawing her back. In fact, one of her old friends, Libby, still lived in Valenciennes, and when she found out we'd be doing some travelling in France, she invited us to come and stay at her place for two nights.