When you're a broke university student with severe dreams of conquering the world, leaving your footprints at the very least on every continent, they cause you more harm than good. Because there's nothing else like wanting something from a position where it's impossible. It is therefore, a fantasy of most people from our generation to carry nothing more than a pack upon our backs, a floor in a stranger's house anywhere in the world where the destination is to keep nomadic. They probably don't realise this but this is where men possess an unknowing carefree stance, as a woman, there is a degree of self awareness that can make this fantasy become a nightmare. Enter, Airbnb. Yes you can book whole apartments to yourself but as a broke student, we would lean more towards the private/shared accommodation and once you do, you may never opt to hog an apartment all to yourself ever again (exception if its a castle).
As I was travelling alone, homesickness was a factor. I don't need constant interaction, hearing someone rummage away, call out to someone from their bedroom, laugh unrestrainedly at a show they're watching in the next room.. just hearing someone live, go about their daily routine is enough to make you feel warm, hence where the private room comes in. Essentially, you have your own bedroom in a local's living space and why is this most apt? The adage of backpacking across the world, has never been more doable and why the hell you should do it. Not only is it a lot cheaper than a hotel room, the experiences you gain, the environment you surround yourself in, the people you meet, friends you make, yes, yes, it's the makings of a hideous cliché, but one you will be thrilled to embody.
This quiet neighbourhood in Kobe was a gift to walk through every morning to get to the train station. Sure it was mainly uphill and downhill, but it almost has the 'tucked within a forest' aesthetic.
In contrast to Kobe, the neighbourhood in Hatsudai was much more bustling, as it was crammed with tiny eateries, uncle-like figures selling vegetables at loud voices (one with a seriously fast calculative mind for prices), a supermarket, convenience stores (of course) and even a few bakeries. You can't even try to starve on this street, everywhere you turn, you're tempted with an array of delectable food.
A tranquil temple near the apartment I stayed at in Seoul. Whether it be from placebo, you can't deny the serenity that is associated with a temple. To my parents, it's because you're under the eye of the Enlightened so from there, you would be given guidance.
So why else should you opt for a private room? Intentionally or not, your living space is an indicator of who you are as a person. Your tastes, your tiny flourishes that hides in the nooks and crannies are all indicative of your nature, and what constitutes as how you can unwind, and lower your guard. It's something rather intimate, for strangers to open their door for you, so in that sense, you behave in such a way that even Hera would eye you approvingly. Besides, owning your own space is the ultimate dream, and seeing someone else's space acts as something of a display home blueprint set in place for your future own.
If you take your hot beverage tea, coffee and everything else in between.
Kept memorabilia from guests that come from all over the world.
Ahh yes, kitchens are my weakness.
The place where all the magic happens. As it turns out, language barriers are anything but a hindrance for humour.
The ladies I stayed with in Seoul furnished their apartment in the most charming manner. Every surface rests a figurine, books .. every art form imaginable. It would match the prowess of a pop up book, a punch of colour and impact at every corner you feast your eyes on.
A seat, open air and a steaming cup of tea.. toss in a newspaper for that antiquated charm or more realistically a phone or tablet and it's the image of a morning.
I can just imagine the characters that have stayed within their walls. In Busan, they once told me that they had ten people staying with them at once! Can you imagine that? I do wonder if they do feel as though each guest is an extended member of their family, their kindness made me feel as though I was.
Living like a local
This one speaks for itself. But nothing gives you the sense of being a local until you buy your own groceries in a supermarket and get excited about seeing avocados for sale.
Another thing is that living with a local allows them to share their pearls of wisdom with you. Like which bus route is the quickest, if you should take the bus at all, which train station can get you to Tokyo quick without hassle, which train station should you get off to get to Gamcheon Culture Village, what else lies near the Gyeongbokgung Palace that isn't in the tourist brouchues, what their favourite cafes are, yes you should definitely book your KTX train ticket online .. all these things just make the travelling experience so much easier. Yes something like getting lost is all part of the package deal but the difference is perspective. And although natural, could serve to sour the time.
Unexpected Parties and Presents
Goodlord, I was prepared a samgyupsal party on my last day in Busan. I may have cried. Either because the meat was that delicious and I would never encounter it in Sydney or from the thoughtfulness.. or a combination of both.
The ladies from Seoul, Minjeong and Kyungmin .. okay, they and their friends are blessed with every artistic skill from the deities above. To match the hanbok I wore, they gave me a handmade hair accessory. Oh I'm sorry.. the hairpin may have stabbed me in the eye..
.. And they hold cooking classes...
A cake for the day I was supposed to leave...
For Kyungmin's birthday.. who is actually turning 40.. what.. she could've been my younger sister! I met some unforgettable people on that day, including a very precocious kid .. who I may have shouldn't have enjoyed in beating in chess. I jest, I jest. And in addition to providing us an impressive dance solo to EXID's Up and Down, he said that he was blessed to have met everyone .. aww kids. The rare few that have melted this ice heart. We ate and drank to our heart's content before sleeping it off. It made me hopeful for my future, perhaps when my life and my friends' lives settles we can have this; random, spontaneous visits in each other's apartments and definitely overstaying our welcome.
The official party for my leave. A cake made by a visiting former guest turned friend. A rum cake. So much rum that not going to lie, one slice and we may have all gotten a bit tipsy. Mindy was a joy to meet, very energetic and the longest conversation in English that I had for awhile. She's definitely a character!
Ahh yess... the famous cream stew.. I'LL HAVE SEVEN.
Noodles for the New Year I think.
Kimbap, nothing is more appealing than simple food.
Korean Croquettes which differ from Korokke that they use a bread dough instead of just a coating of panko. 3 fillings of pumpkin, sweet potato, potato/cheese. Delicious.
To an art museum..
To an outlet centre where we all demonstrate our clinginess to our wallets.
To a cafe to finally experience the cafe culture!
To attending a make up class on how to look younger! Err.. despite the fact that most of it flew over my head it was a very interesting learning experience and yes, even my mug can be transformed with makeup, weird.
Having far too much fun with props. Okay, wait for it. All those items you see around me, yes including the clouds behind me are made from a sort of felt? By Kyungmin herself... Please take me as your disciple and teach me your ways!
The People Themselves
I feel like I've bonded with the people I stayed with in an impossibly short amount of time. Is it the magic of staying in a foreign country or being allowed to crash in one's sanctum sanctorum? In Kobe, Anna, the person I booked from was away, embarking on her own travels and we only met from my last night to my last morning. And yet, perhaps it was our personalities, but we just got along like a house on fire. We had talked all of 5 minutes and I felt like she was at the very least a person who I'd sit next to all semester in a class only exchanging a few words before becoming tentative friends. She detailed me about how she missed the last bus and had to stay in an anime cafe where it was about $100 a night..but at least they provided extremely good Shiseido shampoo! Her boyfriend is the sole reason behind my obsession for recreating the apple jam the first breakfast he cooked for me. Blast. And to serenade with bad guitar playing of course.
I shared such insightful talks with Miki who despite her busy schedule, in between studying for an important upcoming exam, still made time to make sure I was comfortable. And who makes the most fantastic loaves of bread.
Eun Young and her husband who despite not knowing a lot of English, still managed to be warm and inviting. Although it was the shortest of my stay, it was certainly fun. And surprisingly, one that involved a lot of living haha. From watching actual Korean dramas together where someone or other had cancer which thus forced their hand into a promise, discussions about whether I should dye my hair and perhaps curl for more dazzle to even wearing a face mask for the night. All part of the Korean experience of course. And even experiencing the instantaneous bond that arises through dividing loyalties of sports. The World Cup where Australia triumphed over South Korea haha. It was great, being there, living at the beach which isn't ideal in winter but it was unforgettable.
To finally, staying with Kyungmin and Minjeong who put up with me despite my messiness and for taking me in when I missed my flight for an extra week. And watching comedies together because humour can be universal to fangirling over an actor who's renown for his serious cooking abilities, if salt could be made from scratch, you bet he would be 100m below the earth scavenging for it thus making him every women's dreamboat.
I've experienced home 4 times over in countries I've never been to until a few months ago and it wasn't because of four walls, but because of the hosts themselves. They've all made my travel so wonderful, for not damaging the dream I've had since I was in high school. They helped preserved my desire to travel, and I'm not resting until I've left footprints everywhere. So to my fellow broke students out there, forget the whole apartments, push your comfort zones and choose the private room. Not only will it be cheaper so you can stay longer but your experience will be richer.