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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Teacher Talk #2

Hi friends!

Even though this blog is on a little bit of a hiatus, you can still catch some of my posts over on the Korean Cultural Centre of Canada Blog.

Check out the May edition of my column "Teacher Talk" here, where I discuss teaching in rural Korea!


- Laura

Monday, 3 April 2017

2017: Updates with L2K

Oh hey there, friends! Long time no talk.

It's been a while since my last post and quite a bit has changed according to my previous posts. From coming home to Canada early and not making it to New Zealand, I guess you could say I've gotten used to things not going according to plan.

Well, so I thought. Ever since I returned home in December, I kept on trying to come up with ideas of things I wanted to do next (post-Korea).

"Teaching in Vietnam? Teaching in Singapore? Working holiday in NZ? Move to England and take advantage of British Citizenship before all the Brexit nonsense falls into place? Volunteer at a refugee camp in Greece? Move to Northern Canada?"*

Photo via Flickr. Yes, I did actually look online for jobs in Yellowknife. Maybe one day.

Cue stress. All thoughts and ideas that ran through my head. And not a fully comprehensive list.*

Although these are all things I would potentially love to do in the future, there wasn't one that particularly stuck out to me. No, "I have to do that" feeling, like I had with teaching in Korea.

Meanwhile, as all those thoughts listed above are running through my head, a bunch of cool, interesting and totally random opportunities start falling into my lap appearing since being home.

Blogging with the Korean Cultural Centre in Ottawa, developing & facilitating a workshop in Almonte, being a movie extra, working with the Korea Tourism Organization at the Ottawa Travel Show.

Also really cool things! But all things I was hesitant to commit to because of potential future plans (as per above)."What if I'm not here in 3 months? I can't commit to a blogging contract or a workshop!" What if.  What if's can be deadly when used the wrong way.

Why search for the next "big adventure", when there is one right in front of my face? I am here now. These opportunities are here. Seize them. Take advantage of them. Embrace the moment instead of being caught up in potential future plans that may or may not be better than your current state. 

So, here I am. Almost four full months of being home. I'm blogging, workshop-ing, travel show-ing, background acting, and back at my old part time job at Golf Town in the mean time. 


Seizing opportunities as they reach out to me, instead of turning away in fear due to the uncertainty of what's next. Sure, the feet get a little itchy sometimes, but this will also give me time to really think about what I want for the next chapter of my life. And maybe I'll find the "I have to do that" feeling again. As for this chapter, I'm home and embracing it. 

Plus, I'll also be road-tripping out to Newfoundland in June with my Dad, which I am thrilled about! Maybe we'll blog on the road like we did back in 2014 with our West Coast road trip? If anyone has any suggestions for "must see's" or "must do's", we would love to hear them!

Photo via Flickr


Still thinking of the future of L2K. I really really want to get around to making my own general blog. I was wishing I had some sort of business card to hand out at the travel show, but maybe next year ;)

As for now, you can stay updated on my posts here on L2K (when I do post, that is...), as well as the Korean Cultural Centre Blog. You can check out the first post for my "Teacher Talk" column here and my Travel Show recap post here.

Thanks to those who still follow these posts long after my Korea journey has come to an end. Although with the recent opportunities here in Ottawa, it feels like it's still in progress :)

Much love,

-L2O*


*Laura2Ottawa......

.................for now.

:)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

What Living Abroad For 2 Years Taught Me About Minimalism

Some may have said I overpacked for my year in Korea. Heck, I even said it myself. Two overweight/oversized suitcases, one carry-on backpack, (and one steamer later....) I was ready for my year abroad.

You would think after that much luggage in size and weight, (I'm surprised the zippers didn't break) that my room back home in Canada would be looking pretty bare. But, no. It was disturbing how much stuff was still there. Someone could have easily still lived in there.

I did overpack, but in comparison to everything I left in my room, I was only taking a fraction of my belongings with me.

And guess what? I survived!

In fact, I thrived. It's only through looking back now that I can identify the feeling. I didn't know it at the time, but upon arriving in Korea and moving into my new apartment, I felt different. Not because I was in a foreign country, or out of my parents house... But I felt different in relation to my belongings. Lighter. Which I can only attribute to the fact that I was living with less.

Living with less, but each item having MORE meaning, more intent, more purpose (ok except for my portable steamer...). I actually WORE all my clothes. Why is that so amazing?! That should be a normal thing to do! And not only did I WEAR all of my clothes, but I liked them all too! Trying to find an outfit in the morning was never a problem, and I could actually start to SEE the back of my closet when laundry time was near. I used all my clothes, I liked all my clothes, and they served their purpose.

Fast forward two years.

Upon returning home after my time in Korea, I was flabbergasted by the amount of STUFF still in my room. And I don't use the word flabbergasted lightly (in fact I don't think I have ever used that word). The magnitude of things I owned made me feel sick to my stomach. I hadn't used any of this stuff in two years. I had forgotten about most of it, and been just fine without it. Happier, without it. Heavier, with it.

The very next day after my 26 hour flight itinerary from Sydney to Ottawa,  all I did was discard (aka donate, recycle, etc). A word I am now very familiar with after reading Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". I could have chosen to do a great deal of other things on my first day back on Canadian soil, but alas. I discarded. It brought me joy and relief to get rid of these things I hadn't used or thought about in two years. They are just things.

One month and approximately 6+ garbage bags worth of items later (if anything that is an underestimation), and I am still discarding. I am trying to develop and maintain a lifestyle where I live a simpler life with less, and find more intentional uses in my belongings. I can't give Korea all the credit to opening me up to this lifestyle. Perhaps some people may be familiar with the term "minimalism", which has kind of blown up the internet (and real life) recently, with tons of books, YouTube channels, and podcasts devoted to this concept. "The Minimalists" website defines minimalism as, " a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfilment and freedom." Although the concept has probably been around for ages without a name, discovering the concept of minimalism and learning about this lifestyle has been inspirational and instrumental. It gave a name to the feeling I had, when I felt lighter with less.

Some of my favourite resources for minimalism so far include:
I have a long way to go in the decluttering department but I am looking forward to this life long minimalism journey. Thank you Korea, and the sources above to opening me up to this concept. It has changed me so far, and this is only the beginning. 

If anyone has any other minimalist resources they love and would like to share, I would love to hear them!

Until next time,

-LBFK

(Laura Back From Korea)

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2016 Recap: Highlights

In a vague attempt to maintain some sort of consistency with this blog, I have decided to make a 2016 recap post, just like I did last year for 2015. However I recently came to the sad realization that I posted significantly less this year; 11 posts compared to 17 in 2015. My goal of writing more consistent blog posts was definitely a minor flop! With that said, most of my highlights from 2016 may be things I have never posted before on this blog, but perhaps will inspire an in depth blog post down the road.

2016 may not have ended how I expected and it was not without it's challenges, but it was a darn good year. Time to reflect on the moments that made 2016 the year it was. In chronological order, let's go.

1. Spending 3 weeks at home after 14 months abroad, January 17th 



Reconnecting and spending time with family and friends who I love and missed very much. From Ottawa, Toronto, to my old university stomping grounds in Peterborough.

2. My Dad visiting Korea, February 8th



Showing the life I created for myself and the quirks of the country I fell in love with was incredibly special. The food, my neighbourhood, favourite coffee shops, my friends. I know he fell in love with it all, too.

3. Visiting Japan and Falling in Love with Kyoto, February 22nd




I had been told that I was going to love Osaka from my friends who had visited Japan. But it was Kyoto that stole my heart. Biking along it's canals and old streets covered in willow trees, vising it's ancient shrines, feasting on sushi and ramen, singing kareoke until the AM, geisha sightings, shisha bars galore. 

4. Jindo Sea Parting Festival, April 9th



Great friends, the magical/mysterious/hilarious legend of the sea parting, delicious international food fair (shawarma, hello), thigh-high rubber boots, watching Korean's dig in the middle of the sea parting searching for sea creatures to take home and eat.

5. Yeongam Cherry Blossom Festival, April 10th




An unexpected adventure, finding our own private creek away from the actual festival, having a silly photoshoot, watching "Dudung Sound"- a music group of 5 middle school aged boys perform live.

6. Seoul Pride, June 12th 


An inspiring and emotional day filled with love despite the many protests and police surrounding the event. Participating in the actual parade and witnessing all the support from the outside: the people in the 2nd floor cafe above street level holding signs of love and peace in the window, the girls on the sidelines making heart shapes with their hands. Witnessing how still very taboo and sensitive this topic is in Korea.


7. Boryeong Mud Festival, July 23



A long bus ride with great company from Gwangju to Boryeong. Lathering up in the mud, having mud baths, wading in mud pools, watching mud wrestling, swimming in the ocean in an attempt to remove all the mud. Music, concert, good vibes (and soju).

8. Participating in the Jeollanamdo Provincial English Camp, August 4th




6 days 5 nights of living in university dorms, eating cafeteria food, and teaching 8 classes a day. Creating new friendships and deepening existing ones, my amazing class of 10 students for the week (The Crazy Watermelons, they so named themselves), the end of the week Talent Show- performing Happy by Pharrell. 

9. Finally visiting Jeju Island, September 12th



Biking around U-do, climbing Sanbang mountain, carefully trekking along the wet rocks on Yongmeori coast, getting lost on the Olle trails, feasting on Black Pork BBQ (a Jeju specialty), watching the mermaids of Jeju dive for food, swimming in Donnaeko watering hole, making new friends. 

8. The streets and food of Hanoi, Vietnam, November 2nd




The lively energy of the streets, delicious street food and the questionable alleyways leading to them. The hole in the wall restaurants, egg coffee, bun cha, and the quaint restaurant where we spent two nights in a row on the patio; overlooking the big rustic church in the Old Quarter square. The insane amount of motorbikes which required us to play real life Frogger while crossing the street, a skill mastered by the end of our time in Hanoi. 

9. Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, November 5th 




2 days, 13 kilometres, 12 initial strangers that left as friends: 5 Dutch, 4 Canadian, 2 French, 1 Brazilian. Staying with a Vietnamese family in their home at the base of the mountains, eating a home cooked dinner which included buffalo stomach, taking shots of homemade alcohol that was served to us from a plastic Nestle water bottle, learning Vietnamese cheers, homemade pancakes and instant coffee for breakfast. 

10. 18 Hours in Kuala Lumpur, November 12th



Taking public transit from the airport into the city, treating myself to the swanky Aloft Hotel which included a rooftop bar and infinity pool, eating Nasi Lamak (a traditional Malaysian dish) twice in 6 hours, taking the LightRail to the Petronas Towers, and of course a selfie with those bold twin beauties.

11. Hanging out in Manly, Australia, November 13th 




Tearing up at the sight of the Opera House and Syndey Harbour Bridge from the plane in the night sky, embracing the local vibe of foodie and health culture, green juices and smoothies on every corner, acai bowls galore, reconnecting with a friend I haven't seen in over two years, trivia night at the New Brighton Hotel, $3 tacos, Manly to Spit walk, renting bikes to North Head.


12. Spending Christmas and the Holiday Season at Home, December 13th



And just like that, we've come full circle. Happy to be spending the holiday season with family and friends for the first time in two years. 

2016 was quite the year, and as I continue to reflect upon it, I realize that there is still so much more I want to write about. Some of the funniest moments, most embarrassing moments, worst travel moments (aka losing my wallet in Japan), and personal highlights. 

What 2017 will bring is still a mystery, but maybe as I reflect on 2016 it will bring me closer to what I want to achieve in 2017.

Until next time,

-L2K



Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Letting Go Of Your First Love Abroad

November was the month that marked the end of my two year relationship with South Korea. A loving, caring, supportive and secure relationship. Yes, a real relationship. Oh, if you were expecting this to be about a person, I am sorry to disappoint but I will not be divulging the details of my love life at this time (or probably at any future time). However, I am here to tell you that you can easily be as heartbroken over a place as a person; and that the two really don't feel that much different.  

The weeks prior to leaving you were probably the hardest. The anticipation of it all was enough to stir up feelings I didn't know were possible when it came to a place. How could I feel so deeply for somewhere that was so foreign to me two years ago? How could one place generate so much emotion? When I should have been tirelessly packing, all I could muster was simply laying in bed, paralyzed in my own sadness. It was my own decision to leave you. But from the wise words of a friend, "that doesn’t make it any easier".  Every day was a challenge. Waking up with puffy eyes, wondering what the trigger would be that day to leave me in tears. I always knew it would be hard to leave you, but I never imagined something like this. The days eventually passed, much too quickly, but probably for the best. We said our farewells: goodbye dinners, goodbye coffees, goodbye parties. November 2nd, we said our real and final farewell at the airport. I spent the next 10 days after that in Vietnam- a hectic and exhilarating ten days. My mind was occupied, I was surrounded by two close friends. I was happy. "Maybe I'll be fine after all". It wasn't until I arrived in Australia November 13th, when I started to feel the sadness creep back. I was out of Asia. I left you. This is real. (And reverse culture shock; also real). I was travelling in Vietnam. On "holiday". But Australia was different. I had no set end date and was planning on working there or New Zealand. I was adjusting back to Western life, my life outside of you. There I was in Australia, surrounded by the most gorgeous beaches and beautiful scenery, yet I felt numb; unable to appreciate the present moment or any of my surroundings. Things that would normally make me feel alive and energized lost their effect. The people around me seemed so fulfilled and content, why couldn't I feel what they were feeling? You were always in the back of my mind; you still are. I compare everything to you, for better or worse. Your flaws, your quirks, your antics. I feel like I know you like the back of my hand, yet that there is still so much to learn and uncover.

Here I am now, back in Canada, exactly a month and a half after I left you. I decided to come home for Christmas this year. Something you and I know a thing or two about; celebrating Christmas. I needed you those two Christmases, and you were there. Your support, festive decorations, the friends-turned-family you gave me, and your semi-understanding of how special this time of year is. I'm not there this year, I'm in my other home. My first home. Life without you is still strange, but I know I'll be ok. I'm learning to thank you for all that you gave me; the opportunities, friends, independence, culture, and understanding. I'm learning to grow from you, to take what you gave me and turn it into something bigger. It was love, it will still always be love, but it wasn't forever. You were a key chapter in this book we call life, and I can never repay you for the joy and knowledge you imprinted into my pages. I'll look back on our time together with such fondness, and relive our memories through the pictures and journal entries you inspired into me; simply because. It may hurt sometimes, but doesn't the deepest and greatest kind of love hurt the most?

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard" - Winnie the Pooh

-L2K*


*Must think of new name



Sunday, 2 October 2016

One Month- What's Next?

Officially one month, until I depart Korea and set off for my next adventure. Feels absolutely surreal to say it. I will be heartbroken to leave this place I've called home for the past two years, but I feel the timing is right to move on to what's next.

So, what is what's next you ask?!

November 2

November 2nd, I will fly out to Hanoi, Vietnam. I will spend 10 days exploring northern Vietnam and all it's beauty, with one of my closest friends here in Korea!

What I'm looking forward to most: trekking in Sapa, Halong Bay, and Vietnamese cuisine (egg coffee, Vietnamese iced coffee, Banh mi, all of the Pho). The rest is up in the air! Any suggestions are welcome :)

Rice terraces of Sapa

Egg coffee (think: meringue)

November 13

November 13th I will fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of a layover on my way to Australia. I purposefully chose an extra long layover so I could have enough time to make it worth it to leave the airport and check out KL! 

What I'm looking forward to most: treating myself to a fancyshmancy hotel with a rooftop infinity pool, the Petronus Towers at night, and of course, food. 


November 14

18 hours later, I will head back to the airport and start my flight to Australia! I'll be flying into Sydney, and spending a few days there. Then, I will head to MELBOURNE, where one of my closest friend's is currently living. 




What I'm looking forward to most: being in an English speaking/Westernized country again, coastal walks, spontaneity, and being fully immersed in what is apparently the coolest city on the planet- Melbourne. 

My plans for Australia and how long I'll be there are pretty up in the air, and depend on certain factors. While I'm there, I will be applying for my working holiday visa for NEW ZEALAND, and getting my medical check/chest x-ray completed for that. 

Beyond

As I mentioned above, if all goes as planned, I'll be heading to New Zealand on a working holiday visa around December. I am SO excited for this.



What I'm most excited for, and potential plans: participating in HelpX, gorgeous scenery that reminds me of west coast Canada, Kiwi Kindness, Wellington, ski towns, hiking, renting a campervan. 

I have so many ideas of what I want to do running through my head, but we shall see what happens! 

Future of Laura2Korea

Short answer- yet to be determined? I have been wracking my brain for months deciding on a general travel blog name, a place where I can continue to share my travels. Until I decide on one, I'll keep updating through this blog. 


I hope everyone back home is doing well. I think about you all the time and miss you all! Sending hugs.

Lots of love, and stay tuned for what's next.

-L2K