Chelsea: Lost in Travels
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to South Korea, etc.
Hi everyone! I’m Chelsea and I blog over at Lost in Travels, a blog to spark the adventure in your own life. After getting hitched to my man three years ago, we both started getting cold sweats at the thought of ‘settling down’ in our hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ya know, mini me's, mortgages, full time jobs. We wanted something different, something exciting, something adventurous. So we did the only logical thing; sold all of our belongings and moved half way around the world to teach English in South Korea. I write about our daily life as expats (where charades is our form of exercise), our world adventures, tips on traveling, and how to not break the bank while taking those dream trips. Stop by and follow along on our world travel adventures as we try to figure out newlywed expat life in the land of kimchi and rice.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started this blog when Jeremy and I discovered that we were both terrified of the idea of ‘settling down’ after getting married (you know, house, car, and little things running around in diapers). So what did we do? Packed our bags and moved half way around the world to the tiny island of Geoje, South Korea to teach English. Makes sense right? I wrote as a way to stay in touch with friends and family, and more importantly, to keep those skype dates under control by already clueing them in on what was happening in our lives. Since then, it has turned into a place where I not only share pieces of our everyday lives as expats in the land of kimchi, but also where I document our world adventures and travel tips. I hope this can be a place where you can collect inspiration and advice for your next adventure.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have many, such as:
- Philippine Budget
- How to Travel without Killing Each Other
- Whale Sharks, the Big Friendly Giants
- 48 Hours in Bangkok, and, finally:
- What´s in a Name.
Tell us about the ways your new life in South Korea differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Our life in Korea is much more slow paced, and much more simplistic than living back home which we have really enjoyed. When we first arrived, however, we went through a few weeks of the typical culture shock. This may sound a little rough but my first impression of our city was how dirty it looked. We first pulled into our city late at night when every surface of the buildings was lit up like a Christmas trees with flashing neon lights. It also didn’t help that we had to stay in a love motel for the first two weeks of living in Korea. For those of you who aren’t familiar with love motels, they are motels that can be rented by the hour or by the night (first red flag right there). Depending on the one you stay at, they can be very nice and clean and always have large TV’s and nice showers. And while they are the main place that we stay when we travel around the country because of their low cost and prime location, they are not great for a first impression of a country. Once we moved into our permanent apartment, however, we were surprised at how quickly all of the odd and strange things became quite normal in our day to day lives.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in South Korea? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Looking back on it, we were as prepared as I feel we could be at the time. We were very blessed that we knew previous teachers and were therefore ushered right into their old positions. And they were also able to prepare us on what to expect, what the standard of life would be and what to expect from the culture. The hardest part of the preparation was probably packing. We weren’t sure how long we would be gone or when we would be back to visit so it was a challenge to gauge what all we would need.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Living in Korea has given me a book’s worth of awkward moments and funny interaction with the kids that I teach. Other than a lot of them having weird names (I’ve had a Wolf, Chocolate and Cloud just to name a few) I would say one of my favorite stories involves a six year old named John. Well, one day in my class we were playing a simple game of ‘find that shape’. I was yelling out triangle, square, rectangle and they were all doing really well at finding that particular shape in the room. When it came time for ‘circle’ one little boy, John ran up to me and grabbed my boobs. Later when a Korean teacher asked him why he would do that his answer was simple. ‘They’re bigger than my mom’s.’
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Korea?
- Adapt and be flexible. Living overseas has taught me to be extremely flexible. Obviously every culture is extremely different and has different quirks about it. Things that may make you laugh or drive you crazy. As an extreme planner, I like to know ahead of time what I’m going to be doing or where I will be at in the week. Working in Korea, that’s not always possible, plans and schedules can change in a blink of an eye. I have learned to put my personality traits aside and go more with the flow, which makes my work life a whole lot more pleasant.
- Get involved. Part of living overseas is the people that you experience it with. There are so many different groups and activities to get involved with, pick one you love and join. I know personally, us getting involved in one of the local foreign churches has made all the difference. We have built a tight community over here that we know we can turn to and rely on and it’s made living overseas so much easier and enjoyable.
- You have to be able to laugh at yourself. There will be times when the cultural differences will seem like too much to handle. But if you develop a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh it off, it will be much more enjoyable.
How is the expat community in South Korea? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community has made all the difference in living overseas. Thankfully there is a large community in the town where we live and we have met people from all around the world that have become like a second family over here.
How would you summarize your expat life in South Korea in a single, catchy sentence?
Living a life in the unknown to make incredible lifelong experiences.