Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gyeongju, Encore - The pros and con of traveling solo

Three posts in five days. This hardly happens.

"Someone get me some butter, 'cuz I'm on a roll!" - The Illustrious Spencer Whitlock

Way back on Tuesday, I mentioned that I went to Gyeongju solo, and that it was good in some ways and not so great in others. Now that I think of it...I can only really think of one negative of traveling solo this trip, so I'll start with that and move onto the pros:
  • Traveling and seeing places, when you have no one to share the experience with, can be lonely at times. 
For me, the negatives end there.

Onto the pros:
  • Said lonely moments were balanced out a bit by the fact that I could make whatever plans I wanted to with no fear of being an inconvenience. When I wanted to go somewhere, I went. If I wanted to change my plans, I didn't have to explain that to anyone. When I wanted to rest, I rested. Now, this would all be pretty hollow, and still lonely, if it weren't for the big pro of traveling solo...
  • The trip gave me many opportunities to meet some kind and fascinating people. For example:
    • On the train to Gyeongju, the man I sat by helped me to find the bus pickup location once we arrived at Sinyeongju. He was headed in a different direction than I was, but he still took the time to make sure I knew where I was going, and I really appreciated that.
    • When the bus dropped me off, and I needed to take a taxi to get closer to the guesthouse, another man hailed a taxi, explained to the driver where I needed to go, and motioned for me to get in. It was pretty late, and the man could have taken that taxi himself, but he helped a stranger instead. Champ.
    • On my walk from Bulguksa to Seokguram (about 3 km), I started talking to an older Korean man. He taught me some Korean and he told me about his trip to the US during the 1994 World Cup. Though there was a bit of a language barrier, it was a really pleasant experience.
    • When I visited the Culture Expo, an older man approached me and, in spite of his limited English, told me about the history of Gyeongju. He seemed so proud of his city.

    • Upon returning to the guesthouse, I met a cyclist who was on his second trip across South Korea. His name was Noh. We talked, and he invited me to join him in sightseeing. We then went to a cafe and talked for another hour or so. He had to leave early the next day, so we memorialized the meeting.

    • Later that night, I met a man named Baek who invited me to join him in sightseeing the next morning. Again, there was a bit of a language barrier, and my basic Korean skills were pushed to their limits (thank goodness for my Korean-English dictionary app), but it meant a lot to me that he was willing to have me along.

    • When I came back to the guesthouse, I met two new roommates: Steve, from Singapore, who was visiting Korea for a few weeks; and Julien, from France, who was backpacking through Asia on an extended trip. After walking in the rain, it was nice to meet these two and shoot the breeze.

    • We then joined up with a few other people and talked till the wee hours of the morning.

    • Steve and I joined one of the ladies from the group, Erin, and checked out Cheomseongdae and Gyerim Forest the next morning.

While traveling alone is probably not something I'd want to do for the rest of my life, for now, it's an experience that allows me to easily make connections with other travelers, and I'm happy about that.

Till next time!

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