Seoul-o Travel for the Unattached and Unafraid
Do you like my witty Seoul-worthy title? I felt like I just had to do it, given… Seoul. The name of the city is just so damn catchy!
Anywho - last weekend I made a trip to Seoul on my own, and I think I epitomized living my best life, in my opinion. With a lot of things, I'm a very "go with the flow" kind of girl, and especially when traveling I say yes to almost anything. At the end of my beautiful life, I want to be able to tell my great-grandchildren all my amazing and unbelievable stories. I want to inspire. I also want to experience the world and have fun while at it.
There were plenty of opportunities to make my way to Seoul with one group or another - it was Halloween weekend, and from the way I see it, one doesn't need an excuse to visit Seoul - but I declined. To be entirely truthful right now, unless I'm 89% or more sure that I'm going to have a blast with the people I'm traveling with, I'm likely not going to situate myself to potentially be stuck with folks for a complete trip. It may sound harsh, but that's my truth and I've learned my lesson from the past. Let's meet up once or twice, go for drinks, meet at a club, visit a site together - but sometimes, you just gotta say "no" to spending every waking (and sleeping) moment with the same people. Well, I do, anyway.
All my alone time left me open to meet a few people from Bumble (the dating app) that I'd been chatting with for some weeks. Not sure why Bumble had my search location set to 87km away from where I live, but you never know what kind of connections you'll make with people who live outside of your region.
When I arrived in Itaewon, foreigner central of Seoul, on Friday night after a long (but comfy!) bus ride, I met up with Brian* who had been waiting for me in Itaewon for a couple hours while I made my way up, much to my evident chagrin. I don't like being rushed in general, and especially when I am making the trip for myself and should be on my own timeline. Nonetheless, I put my annoyance aside and finally met the guy around 12:30 am. It's a great thing most bars and clubs were open past 5 am, haha. We aimlessly chose one Korean restaurant and opted for some soju and beer… and chicken skewers - what a combo! Conversation was nice, and the ambiance was even nicer. Around me were all types of people co-mingling in their respective groups, dressed in festive Halloween garb and making all the noise that reminded me of the big apple. Well, since it wasn't Brian's first time to Itaewon, I was lucky enough to be introduced to salsa night at The Bulldog Pub, which apparently hosts salsa on Friday and Saturday nights. If you're in the area and want to move dem hips, I highly suggest checking it out.
After learning and practicing salsa, bachata, and merengue, I told Brian I wanted to go to sleep, and went back to my hostel (SP@Itaewon, btw. True hostel fashion, but in a stellar area and still quiet enough to catch some zzzzz). Truth is, I didn't want to go to sleep, though I was coming up on nearly 24 hours of being awake by that time. I just wanted to mingle with other people on a Friday night in such a densely populated city. So, on my way back up to my dorm, a handsome young man filling his water at the cooler caught my eye and said "Hey." Entranced by his loquacity, I asked him if he was coming in or going out, despite his sweatpant donned legs and shoe-less feet. "Coming in," he said. So I asked if he wanted to walk around, and without a beat, "Let me go change my clothes." Haha, I just think that is gold. We walked back to Bulldogs and danced among the now-few scattered liquid-hipped people, then made our way through the main part of the town, just to see who and what was around, got Nkem a (way too spicy) halal gyro, and back to the hostel we were. I won't write about the stories these guys told me - what they're doing in Korea, what views they have on the nightlife, on Koreans, on foreigners (because these topics did eventually come up, strangely). That would simply be too much, and as you can tell, I am quite the verbose woman.
I'll just move on to Saturday. Woke up groggy as ever, but still determined to make the most of my day. Brian wanted to meet again, but I had other plans. So I hit up Leonard* and asked him if he wanted to get breakfast. He came out to Itaewon and we hit The Original Pancake House just a few blocks from the hostel. I guess it's well known because there was about a 15 min wait to be seated. Is that long? I don't know. Well, we definitely spent too much on food, but it was so worth it! After being stuffed to the brim, I dragged this poor man into my favorite store on earth, Lush and naturally walked out with some goodies and smelling like I jumped out of a bubble of paradise. Believe it or not, people of the internet, Leonard and I went to an Adult Shop together (cue gasp). I didn’t anticipate learning so much before going in there, but the salesperson following us around really had a lot to share, especially on how much he learns about society through working at a sex shop. I think I'd like his job too.
Following that illuminating experience, we headed over to the Hyundai Card Music Library and listened to some vinyl and CDs and enjoyed coffee for quite some time. There's something about a no-pressure, no-plan meet up that made me feel like I was a resident in Seoul - like I wasn't on this trip alone meeting this person for the first time. It was both revealing and relaxing.
For anyone who doesn't know, Bumble has a BFF option, where you can find friends as well as more than, on the app. That's where I met Tracey*, a beautiful, open soul - a woman after my own heart. Like the other people I met while in Seoul, she and I had been chatting here and there for a few weeks. I told her I'd be in town and wanted to meet up. Luckily for me, she was set to be performing in a burlesque show at a lounge just down the way from my hostel. I somehow found myself there on Saturday night (honestly didn't mean to be in there at 8:30 pm but there I was) and this familiar face walked up to me. After exchanging hugs I sat with her and her co-dancer for some drinks and talks. I felt like I'd been friends with these girls for… at least a year, haha. I love solo-travel and being unattached, but at that moment, it felt so damn good to have some girlfriends for the night. Their performance was captivating and I'm glad I found myself in that situation randomly.
The rest of the night was complete with Long Islands, ChaCha Slide and Cupid Shuffle, nearly dropping my phone off a balcony while trying to capture the Itaewon, Seoul madness, and lots of new friendly faces.
All in a weekend's work.
I'd made a deal with myself before the trip to take everything as it came, and not to think so much. I'm glad I did that because it helped me maximize my first time in Seoul. Now can I say I'm a Seoul Survivor? Too corny? Okay, got it, haha.
*names have been changed