It’s seems like it’s been a few innings between drinks, but today on the Nomad Files we are joined by Laura of Eternal Expat, whose gap year started 6 years ago and just keeps on getting longer.
Thanks for joining us today Laura. Tell me, when did you discover that you were a travel fiend and what was the influencing factor?
I did an exchange semester back in college. I spent five months in Switzerland and met people from all over the world. Together we explored Europe, missed trains, stayed up all night dancing, ate completely new-to-me foods and learned about the history of places I’d never even heard of. I think it was the freedom and independence I felt on the move. My time was entirely my own and I felt so confident, so exhilarated.
That sounds very similar to my semester exchange in England, it must be a thing. Do you have a particular song/video/poem/quote that particularly inspires you to travel?
Songs always inspire wanderlust in me, especially ones that recall a past trip. If I had to choose just one I would have to be utterly cliche and say “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. It gets me every time.
Nothing wrong with a bit of Bruce, especially when it’s nostalgic. Laura can you let us in on a secret? What is one discovery you have made through your travels that really felt like ‘the road less travelled’?
When I was living in Korea last year I really fell in love with hiking. Every weekend my boyfriend and I would research a new hike, we’d ask friends for recommendations, we were obsessed with the natural beauty on offer all over the country. My favorite remains this little temple called Seokbulsa. It’s at the top of what felt like hundreds of miles of upward hiking. The signs were all in Korean and we slowly sounded out each one making sure we were on the right path.
The view from the top was spectacular and we had the entire place to ourselves. It was incredibly peaceful, a respite from the crowded cities.
Apart from being a great hike, is Seokbula known for anything else?
There are incredibly detailed and intricate Buddhist carvings that have been etched right into the side of the mountain. They are incredibly large, towering over you as you stand in awe of them. The temple itself used to be in the side of the mountain and you can still walk up a shaky metal ladder and peak inside at the space.
What did you do there and why do I want to visit?
The hike that brought us there was scenic and strenuous. If you like hiking, you’ll really enjoy the path as it winds through thick forest, along craggy streams and takes in views of Busan and the ocean.
The temple is truly a sight to behold. The carvings are truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen, it’s like walking into a history museum, but better. It’s peaceful up there, very often unvisited because of the time and effort it takes to get there.
What took you there and how did you find out about it?
While visiting Busan, I looked up a few different hikes we could do and this was on the list. People talked about what a challenging hiking it was, but promised it would be worth it. We took a cable car up to Geumjeong mountain where the hike begins and followed signs (and stopped to ask for directions a few times, too).
What was the culture like? Did you have much interaction with the locals?
Koreans are avid hikers and I have never hiked a trail where I haven’t met and chatted to at least two or three people along the way. They are so happy when they see visitors exploring their country and they want to help show you the best of what’s around.
Changing lanes a little now, think of your favourite big city. Can you share with us a tip about this city that you would never find in a travel guide book?
Such a tough one! I feel like my favorite city changes with every new one I visit, but I’ll have to go with Seoul, because I miss it so much right now! Seoul is packed full of history, culture and surprisingly delicious craft beer! If there’s one thing I discovered in the year that I lived there, it’s that they have a booming brewing scene that should not be missed! (I have a post about it if you want to include that.
Wow, I did not expect you to say Seoul has such a thriving craft beer scene! Might have to check it out for myself. Can you recommend any of your favourite travel blogs?
Two blogs that I constantly come back to for their tips and storytelling, their wit and humor and their seriously exciting adventures are This Battered Suitcase and Alex in Wanderland. I’ve been reading them for years and they still manage to captivate me constantly.
Last question, where do you live on the internet and social media for us to all come visit?
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