Cristin’s Live Big® Trip
Cristin recently returned from her three week Live Big® trip to Korea and has many unique stories and pictures from her adventure. Naturally, we wanted to hear everything about the trip upon her return!
Why was this trip on your Live Big® list?
- Firstly, I have a deep love of travel and learning about different cultures so the opportunity to explore an Asian country was very exciting. Also, my family moved to the Republic of Korea last year and visiting them was a high priority for me.
What did you learn about the Korean culture?
- The Korean culture is vastly different from American culture. The Korean culture is centered on the concept of respect. For example, any type of exchange, like money, is done with two hands. It is considered proper practice to look away from an elder when drinking. Korean culture is also very romantic. The current trend is for couples to match outfits from head-to-toe when they’re out together. And, most of the printed materials and art I saw had a theme of love. Koreans love love! Lastly, the Koreans are both very in tune with nature and fitness – almost every public space has workout stations if you have the urge to work on your fitness while enjoying the outdoors.
What areas/attractions did you visit while you were in Korea?
- I was able to see a lot in three weeks! The quintessential part of the Korean visit in today’s world is seeing the DMZ, or the Demilitarized Zone at the 38th parallel. I got the opportunity to get an incredible tour of Camp Bonifas, Dorasan station, allowed to walk in one of the infiltration tunnels, view the bridge of no return and Propaganda Village, and finally tour the Panmunjom Joint Security Area (JSA) where we were allowed to tour the meeting room getting a unique opportunity to officially be in South Korea and North Korea in one room. Another fascinating place we visited was Nami Island. What makes Nami Island special is that it is considered an eco-island – all of the art and sculptures on the island are made from recycled or man-made materials, and there are almost no cars on the island and biking is a joy. We rode the sky bike when we were there, a bike path in the sky to view the beautiful scenery at Nami Island. Most of my visit centered in Seoul, where I saw several temples, palaces, Seoul tower, and biked along the Han River. My favorite neighborhoods in Seoul, in descending order were: Namdemun, Myeongdong, Insadong and Itaewon. Additionally, for the hard core shoppers, I visited Dongdaemun – a neighborhood with more than 26 shopping malls and 30,000 specialty shops. One street is filled with nothing but shoes, the next street socks, the next toys, etc. Within Dongdaemun I visited Purse Heaven, which is three floors of nothing but purses as far as the eye can see.
And, what about food?! What were some of your favorite meals while you were in Korea?
- Korea’s national dish is kimchi – fermented vegetables with a variety of seasonings typically fermented underground in jars for months. The most typical variety is cabbage, and you often receive several varieties of kimchi with each meal that you have. However, of all of the meals (and we had a few!) my favorites were when we ate in tents outside on the street. The tents have metal tables with a hole in the middle and the food is prepared in front of you. When you have Korean BBQ they deliver an array of sides (including kimchi), fresh garlic, soybean paste and both kaenip (a large green leafed herb similar to mint) and red lettuce leaves. You wrap it all up and it is absolutely delicious. Outside of traditional Korean BBQ, bulgogi, bibimbap and topokki meals that I had, the other notable delicious meals I had were all in Itaewon. If you’re ever in Itaewon, I would highly recommend checking out: Braai Republic, for some of the best South African lamb chops; Vatos Urban Tacos for some Mexican Korean fusion, where the kimchi carnitas fries are incredible; and a brand new restaurant called The Glamping, a glamping themed Korean BBQ for a unique dining experience. Incidentally, Koreans love the outdoors, often hiking, biking, and climbing in their free time. If you’re not familiar with glamping, it is glamorous camping or luxury camping – which can get quite elaborate. In Korea, much like parts of the U.S., glamping has become quite the statement and fashionable thing to do.
Overall, what was your favorite part of the trip?
- Korea was spectacular. I learned and explored a lot, but nothing beats spending time with family. The world is an absolutely amazing place but it is who you spend all that time with that turns sights, food and experiences into cherished memories. Nothing is better than family. I am so incredibly thankful that I got to spend time with them, and I have special appreciation for my Yeske Buie family who supported me in making this Live Big® goal a reality.