Tag Archives: Korea

Surprises that warm the heart.

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The days keep flying and I just keep wishing I had more time.

More time to read, write, work out, bake delicious food, travel, longer weekends, drink coffee, drink tea. Drink wine with my husband. I keep finding myself wishing for more time.  Our weekends here are precious and valued time that Tom and I spend together traveling Korea and (if we are lucky) sometimes with our friends!

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…and so when Tom and I were presented with the opportunity to volunteer at an International English camp a few weeks back we debated over if we would give up our “precious time” to spend a weekend with kids after working 40 hours with kids. – We all need breaks every now and then 😉 We had heard great things about the camp and decided: “What the heck! Let’s do it.”

So, three weeks ago Tom and I went with 40 other foreign English teachers to volunteer at an International English Camp about 2 hours away from our city of Yeosu. 200 Korean middle school students in grade two (equivalent to our 8th grade in America) lined the pavement holding signs and cheering as the foreign teachers got off the bus upon arrival at camp. This was only the beginning of a fun-filled weekend teaching the kids how to cook food from our native countries, playing games/sports, doing a talent show, having a massive bonfire (fireworks were included!), stargazing, and teaching them a little about the places we originally call home.The best part about this was being able to hang out and have fun with the middle school kiddos in a normal environment! No pressure of studying. Just conversation and having fun. I have talked a bit about the pressures that the kids have in Korea to study, perform, study, perform AND repeat. If you’re interested in learning what these kids go through or just grasp an understanding of our life as teachers in Korea click here for a short 20 minute documentary! The camp was a great opportunity for us to be immersed in the culture of Korea that we so dearly love while getting to know some of the most amazing kids in a fun environment.

It was a heart warming weekend to say the least.

At the end one of the boys gave a wonderful speech that made me cry. He said the camp had given him confidence to use his English in conversation without being scared. Through all the hard days of teaching…feeling like what we are doing isn’t making a difference… that I am not teaching them enough. It’s the moments like this volunteer English camp that reminded me sometimes it’s the little moments in life that make a difference. It’s the smiles, hugs, and love. It’s the company of spending time with kids. Just getting to know them. Having the opportunity at the International camp showed me that what we are doing CAN make an impact!

The weekend we spent with the kiddos was a weekend that warmed my heart. I realized how selfish I was initially to view it as giving up “my time” when the kids had done SO much to warm my heart during our weekend together.

What things have you been doing lately (or have others done for YOU!?!)  that warm your heart?

5 ways to simplify your life. {Inspiration from Rob Greenfield}

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5 ways to simplify your life. {Inspiration from Rob Greenfield}

The way we live our life impacts those around us. Decisions we make not only impact ourselves but our fellow humans as well. I often think about the “butterfly effect” and how one small thing we do can change everything.

I guess it’s been a long time coming. Tom and I have been watching documentaries on eating healthy, living well, and simplicity for over a year now. The more research we did the more we realized how unhealthy we were really living…and I am not just talkin food people. I mean like the way we were thinking, decisions we were making as a consumer, and what we were putting in/ on our precious bodies.

I’d like to start an entire series on the BIG and little changes we have made in our life the past year in an effort to letchya in on some of the ways our lives have drastically improved because of the changes we have made.  Tom is an avid reader of Rob Greenfield’s blog. Tom encouraged me to start reading it and for those of you who don’t know I am kindasorta obsessed with reading, writing, and continually educating myself. His blog is incredible. He is one of those people that you want to be friends with. Inspiring doesn’t really even cut it for how I want to describe him.

This dude has just got it right. I am serious.

Drawing inspiration from documentaries, friends, articles, and now Rob’s blog I’d like to share things we have done to simplify our life. I would love to write more about each topic but for now I will keep it short, simple, and to the point. I am one of those readers who can’t focus for long unless I am extremely intrigued so this one for the souls out there like me. 🙂

1. Eating LOCAL and FRESH food-

If you have been following along you know how much we love our open air markets in Korea. We do 90% of our shopping at our local markets. We try our best to buy locally grown food. The first reason is: that the food is fresh. The fruit and vegetables are grown in gardens either in our city or surrounding cities. I’ve never been a big meat eater and because we are shopping at the markets now we stick mostly to fruit and vegetables.  The second reason is that we are supporting local farmers. Even the smallest of gardens in Korea produce enough to sell at the markets. Tom and I both believe in supporting the locals and would much prefer supporting small businesses than a massive company. We visit the same market stalls depending on what we want to buy. Lastly, we eat what’s in season. It’s been fun being able to experience the changing of food as the seasons change.

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Shopping a local market in Janghueng, South Korea.

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Buying local in Malaysia on our vacation.

2.Buying LESS. 

The American Dream tells you buy more and you’ll be more happy. Buy the newest and greatest because you need it. We have found out that we are happier with less. Less stuff just cluttering up our lives. We have an entire storage unit back in Wisconsin full of STUFF. Tom suggested he would love to make it just disappear… while I partially agree- we did go through our boxes of stuff and donate TONS to Goodwill back home. It was gross how much stuff we had that we literally NEVER used. Ever. So away it went. Car load after car load of stuff. It felt so liberating and freeing to say goodbye to material objects.  To be honest there are material things that I do like. For example, a computer so I can write/ read articles. A new camera is high up on my list of “wants” so I can learn more about photography. Is this stuff I need to survive? Absolutely not. Do I still want it? Yes…and to me that’s okay. It’s the clothes that go unworn, the 100 pairs of shoes, the 4 cars, and the 15 swim suits that I am talking about.

Checking out Central Market.

Tom reminds me daily of this one…buy less. Does it mean I still want all of this cool jewlery from a local market? Yes. It does. Just need the reminders that less is best.

3. Everything in Moderation.

Okay, so if you’re still reading by now you think I am completely nutty. HA! I probably would agree. A rule that we live buy is this: Everything in Moderation. Do we love an awesome glass of wine (or three) and some delicious microbrews ? Yes, we do. Do we deprive ourselves of any and all candy because it’s processed? No! We do try though as best as we can to have it all in moderation. It’s not because we want to loose weight. It’s because when we take it all in moderation we feel better. We are happier. We want to be intentional with how we live our lives and this golden rule helps shape what we eat. I won’t be the mom who denies her kids candy on Halloween because it isn’t healthy. I won’t be devastated if they do decide to eat oreos, candy, and a burger every now and then. Like I said. Everything in moderation.

Taking a break from a 10 hour day spent exploring/hiking the coast of Jeju Island, South Korea.

Taking a break from a 10 hour day spent exploring/hiking the coast of Jeju Island, South Korea.

4. LESS of that stuff we call- Chemicals.

 Well, what the heck does this one mean?!? This is for real: We have been cleaning our apartment with only vinegar and baking soda for over 6 months now. I don’t remember where we got the crazy idea. Probably Pinterest! BUT it works. In Korea we deal quite a bit with mold due to extreme humidity and the ocean being just a couple miles away (I will take combating mold over a long Wisconsin/ Minnesota winter ANY DAY!!!) We heard that vinegar kills mold because it’s acidic. I remember reading articles on how baking soda reacts with the grease in stains to form glycerol, a common cleansing ingredient in soaps. Mixing it with vinegar creates carbonic acid making it great for scrubbing. Also, as a weak alkali, baking soda neutralizes acids to eliminate strong smells. So we have been cleaning with only those 2 things…and water! Our apartment looks fabulous people. I feel better too because it’s simple. Our latest thing is that we are using apple cider vinegar and baking soda as our shampoo/conditioner. Yes, you read correctly. Just vinegar and baking soda!!! Our friend Yvonne over at Daily Deliberations was our initial inspiration over a year ago when she first told me about it. I was hesitant because it sounds…well, pretty scary! I was also worried it would be a hassle while traveling since we live overseas. It’s the greatest thing. My hair and our apartment are reeping the benefits of LESS chemicals! We are hooked on the “no poo method.” The final push came after reading Amanda’s story about her no poo experiences. It’s about time we get back to nature and stop with the processed junk & not just when it comes to our food.

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5. Don’t COMPARE! 

Don’t compare your job or life to others. When we got to Korea our friend Alyssa gave us this tip. I am a FIRM believer in this one. When Tom and I got to Korea we were constantly (not intentionally) comparing our lives to other foreigners living abroad. They have a better job than me. Their apartment is much bigger than ours. They work less. The list goes on and on. We were comparing. My goal is to be present where I am. When you’re comparing your life to other’s you can’t be fully present.  When you aren’t comparing you aren’t cluttering your mind. It become simple: Be exactly where you are. <– click there if you want to read about my latest attempt at being right where I am. Thanks to living in an age with massive amounts of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram we are looking at others lives through their posts. Remember, that these posts are things people are proud of: like their adorable baby, a new engagement ring, brand spankin’ new car, an awesome vacation, etc. The list goes on and on! The point is this: Don’t compare. Your life is great! Plant your seeds and grow them right where you’re at.

These changes didn’t happen overnight and it’s been a process. One that I learn more about each day. There is an incredible amount of information out there and I could drive myself up the wall about all things we want to change.

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Just call me flower child. ;P

Slowly, and surely we will continue to make changes that make our life more simple. Slow and steady wins the race. Here’s to a new adventure in simplicity!

What ways do you live that make life more simple?

Life in Korea. It’s rad.

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I’m not sure when walking past a restaurant with this:

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OR this:

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became normal life to us in Korea.

It’s become our life. Yeosu is a port city. So one thing it’s known for is it’s fresh seafood. Many restaurants have tanks for live fish or other unknown sea creatures that they cook on the spot if you order it.

When did living 3 miles from the beach/ocean become our “normal?”

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When did all of the amazing hiking/camping we have done just become a normal weekend activity?

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This is my second time ever that I am breaking my "no selfie rule" but it's a thing in Korea...so I am rollin with that! Camping in September.

This is my second time ever that I am breaking my “no selfie rule” but it’s a thing in Korea…so I am rollin with that! Camping in September.

Korean hikin' photo bombing!

Korean hikin’ photo bombing. This describes the crazy adventure we are on- so perfectly. If a picture could tell a story 🙂

When did I become so incredibly fascinated with the changing colors of the leaves?

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How was it that God blessed me incredibly with a husband I love more than I ever thought I could love a human?

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So, when does something become normal? What is normal?!

Whatever it is. Please, Korea keep being our normal. I can’t get enough of these amazing adventures we are on.

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Hahwado- a little slice of heaven! (Hahwa island)

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Before our Chuseok weekend ( Korean Thanksgiving) where we had 5 awesome days of camping, hiking, and island life…

We visited two islands by the names of Sado and Hahwado. I documented Sado here if you missed it. With last week being a two day work week I was only able to squeeze in enough time for two blog posts. SO, I will wrap up our island hopping weekend from September 14th before I plunge into posting about our Chuseok adventures. Just like the last post on Sado…some of the pictures are from Cory and Michelle’s camera while the first 4 are from my iphone.

Hahwado was about 45 minutes away from our city of Yeosu by ferry, and marks our third island we have visited off of Yeosu. It was a fabulous island where we did a 5km (easy) hike around the island after first exploring Sado. I loved Hahwado because it had the tiny island feel but also had people out and about, it had a small shop/restaurant that was open, and we met some pretty cool Koreans along the stroll around the island.

“Beautiful cliffs with panoramic views of islands along the horizon” is the best way to sum up Hahwado island in one sentence, but (as always) I will let you see for yourself!

There is something I just ADORE about pictures of Korean fishing boats, the water, and the islands in the background.

There is something I just ADORE about pictures of Korean fishing boats, the water, and the islands in the background.

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A sleepy little town…

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Trekkin’ along the island path.

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What a VIEW!

4 friends. An incredible day of island hopping. What more can I ask for?

I read this the other day from a dear lady and I couldn’t agree with her more:

“Looking back through pictures these last few months I was thinking, dang, I so want to be me! And I get to be me- whoop! And I get to have the coolest life ever……filled with gratitude for everything and everyone in my life. Don’t be jealous, come and visit me so you can have the same.”

There is just ONE thing I would like to add to the above quote…and that is this: it is ALL about perspective. You may look at your life, and think that it doesn’t compare to the adventures that the next person is having. If your “adventure” looks different then mine right now it doesn’t mean that one is better then the other. YOUR adventure could be getting out for a walk around your neighborhood, exploring a nearby city, a trip to the zoo, or making cookies with your kids.

Whatever your life looks like right NOW I hope today you find peace knowing that your adventure is an amazing one. If it isn’t amazing get out there and make stuff happen.. I believe in YOU!

🙂

Enjoy a new journey today! Your journey may mean walking instead of running around, taking the time to appreciate the little things, or sending a message to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile.

Love love love,

e

My favorite moment of our day: This kind Korean family we met along our journey.

My favorite moment of our day: This kind Korean family we met along our journey.

Wait, what? Your back doesn’t look like this after a “massage?”

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I got a BEATING     massage last night.

I mean, what do you think… is this NORMAL?

She called it “traditional Korean massage” and I am pretty sure my back is going to hurt for DAYS. Today it feels exactly how it looks. Terrible!

If I can give you one piece of advice on massages in Korea… just don’t go there.

Lesson learned.

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this is not from a skin reaction. THIS people… is pain!

Make Every Moment Count…

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When I was just about to start my 6th grade year my dad joined the air force, and later told us we were moving to ENGLAND!

I had no idea then how lucky I was.

From seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Mona Lisa at the Louvre in France, skiing the Swiss Alps in both Austria and Switzerland,  climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, hiking the 5 cities that make up the gorgeous Cinque Terre in Italy (my personal favorite in Europe), visiting the Colosseum in Rome, meeting the queen of England, getting blessed by the pope in the Vatican city,  exploring  massive cathedrals in Germany, wandering the streets of Belgium, seeing the famous tulips in the Netherlands, driving through the rolling hills of Scotland, Ireland AND Whales. Not to mention exploring England’s Stonehenge, visiting Parliament, Big Ben, The Crown Jewels, and riding the London Eye. Countless castles, delicious food, and plenty of adventures.

These memories are just ones that come to mind when I think of my experience as a military kid living in Europe. I can positively tell you that I learned more in those three years about culture, food,art, exploration, traveling, history, and the world then I EVER did from a textbook. Even as a teenage girl I will never forget looking up at the work of Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel in Italy, and feeling my stomach do somersaults. I hope some day (God willing) I will be able to provide these same experiences to my own children with my husband.

The world is incredibly big. It was in that moment it hit me how much there is to learn from history…and how big the world really is. That chapel was completed in 1481. INCREDIBLE.

Middle school quickly turned into high school. During middle school I wanted to be in the States.

During high school all I wanted was the freedom that college would bring.

During college all I wanted was freedom from studying AND working. I wanted freedom to be in the “real world.”

Now, I am in the real world.

I can tell you today with a happy heart I am finally learning to appreciate the moment.

Living in this moment. Enjoying the journey (and every step along the way!)

So, I will just be here in my little Korean corner of the world.

Living, enjoying, and loving life.

Making every moment count.

Back in 2000. With my sister :) Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy.

Back in 2000. With my sister 🙂 Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy.

 

Our Secrets to Successful Exploration!

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Our Secrets to Successful Exploration!

Our secrets to successful exploration- in a nutshell. 

 1.     Make a list, but be flexible.

We made a general list of things we wanted to do while in Jeju Island, South Korea.  With a last minute trip to Jeju we didn’t really have time to make a solid “plan” or create an agenda…but because of this spontaneous trip… I am a TRUE believer in not making concrete plans. Ok, so I get it. You are a planner. Sometimes you just need to plan, but there are certainly plenty of opportunities for trips without solid plans or in the very least ways to make your travel plans less “rigid.” The unexpected trips, the unplanned-spontaneous-flybytheseatofyourpants trips are (I believe) the ones that turn out to be the best adventures and let me tell you why:

       You don’t get disappointed- If you don’t have a set plan and agenda how can you miss a train, plane, or a bus? That’s right. You can’t.

       Freedom- Freedom to do as you please and when you please. Your schedule is wide open. If you feel like a relaxing day at the beach then grab your shades n’ sunscreen. If you feel like climbing a mountain…ONWARD! Freedom in your schedule, freedom in your days.

       Flexibility- Rain or Shine baby- Seize that day! ? What’s that? It’s storming? Perfect. It doesn’t matter because you don’t have plans anyway. You are more willing to seize the day regardless of the weather, because disappointment doesn’t exist when you don’t have a set schedule or a place to be.

It's raining...but NOT on this parade! Completely in the moment of windy gusts  and lovely rain! One of my favorite all time pictures.

It’s raining…but NOT on this parade! Completely in the moment of windy gusts and lovely rain! One of my favorite all time pictures.- Jusangjeolli Lava Cliffs.

:)

🙂

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We DID IT!

We DID IT! It’s a mountain climbin’ kinda day!

peak fever

Peak Fever

Puddles- Along Olle trail  Jeju coast.

Puddles- Along Olle trail Jeju coast.

Lava cliffs along the coast

Lava cliffs along the coast-Jusangjeolli Cliffs.

Manjuggal Caves

Manjuggal Caves- Lava Tubes

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2.     Take the road less traveled.

First off… I really dislike big chain resorts. Matter of fact…I really dislike big chain anything. I am a firm believer in supporting locally owned “ma and pa” stores if you will. By taking the less traveled path you have the opportunity to stumble upon the most amazing gems. We have discovered some of the most amazing beaches, guesthouses, and breathtaking sights from wandering off the “path.” I always make it a point to be a traveler…not a tourist. Big difference. Experiencing the culture, meeting new people, and discovery are all things that keep me choosing the road less traveled, and choosing it every single time.

 

Discovered this gem of a guesthouse at Hwasun beach.

Discovered this gem of a guesthouse at Hwasun beach.

Hwasun beach guesthouse. Little slice-a-heaven!

Hwasun beach guesthouse. Little slice-a-heaven!

Hwasun Beach. Secluded. Quiet. PERFECT!

Hwasun Beach. Secluded. Quiet. PERFECT!

Beautiful Shinyang beach- Jeju.

Beautiful Shinyang beach- Jeju.

Along the coast of Jeju. discovering gems along the walk.

Along the coast of Jeju. Discovering gems along the walk.

How can you decide to take a bus when you have miles and miles of gorgeous coastline?

How can you decide to take a bus when you have miles and miles of gorgeous coastline?

Stumbled upon the gorgeous falls.

Stumbled upon the gorgeous falls.

3.     Do something outside of your comfort zone.

Trying new food, hiking a mountain, or a trail for miles and miles knowing full well your know your legs will hurt for days after, wakin up at 4am for a sunrise hike-all things I did with my partner in crime this past weekend where I was outside of the comfort. Without getting outside of my comfort zone I would have never had the incredible weekend that I did. Cliché as it sounds…seriously believe that comfort is not always the place to be. Just when it seems like the road is all uphill…push through. I promise it’s worth it. I’ve got memories to prove it.

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summit of Mt. Halla

Summit of Mt. Halla- beautiful little lake

Olle trail- 20+ miles of walkin the coast of Jeju after the 9 hour day of hiking= SORE legs. Totally worth it? You bet.

Olle trail- 20+ miles of walkin the coast of Jeju after the 9 hour day of hiking= SORE legs. Totally worth it? You bet.

Authentic Korean BBQ-Hwasun guesthouse cooked for us.

Authentic Korean BBQ-Hwasun guesthouse cooked for us.

Just a walkin along the coast

Just a walkin along the coast-One side greens the other side ocean.

Sunrise Peak 4am

Sunrise Peak 4am

–I challenge you to get outside of what makes you comfortable. Take the risk.