Joe and I have been together for almost 6 years now. That’s a lot of time to bum around new places with someone! In just 3 days, we’ll be hitting the road and making our way west toward Yellowstone National Park! While I’m gone, expect some guest posts and photo check-ins, and I’ll be back along the way to chat with you all in the comments section.
For this round of Guilty Pleasures Friday, I started thinking about the things that become travel companions. We’ve all got some, right? That pair of worn in shoes you wore backpacking, that old college alumni sweatshirt that’s got holes in it, a favorite fragrance that makes you feel confident? We may not realize or admit it, but our clothes make us comfortable. And sometimes, there’s a story behind them.
Take Joe’s UW-La Crosse T-Shirt:
And you know there’d be a 2011 photo, except
I’m vain I’m detailed and said he couldn’t keep wearing the same shirt on every vacation we had!
But then, I’m guilty of it too…
Jess’ Adidas Jacket:
And you can be sure there’d be more snaps of this coat too, except I wore it back in 2003 on my trip to Ireland! Those photos were still developed on film!
I had to laugh when we were both packing for our road trip this week because I didn’t want him to bring the t-shirt, and he doesn’t want me to bring the jacket! (Shh – It might be going along anyway!)
I’m also partial to a particular Fossil bag:
See, my handbag and spring jacket have been international passengers with me! They hold a dear place in my heart because maybe sand from the Sokcho, Korea beach is still in my pockets. Or perhaps that warped leather was from the hail storm I got caught in while in New Orleans.
I never would’ve said I was sentimental about my clothes, but I guess I am. Maybe when I get back and post pictures from Yellowstone, we can all play a cyber game of Where’s Waldo – only it’ll be where’s Jess’ Adidas jacket cameo?
What travel items do you have to take with you? Does your partner have one? Do you love it or hate it? What makes it sentimental?
Warranting a blog post all its own was my visit to Sokcho, South Korea for a weekend of hiking and lazing about on the beach in Seoraksan National Park. Just a (roughly) 3 hour bus ride from Seoul, my friend and I, plus 6 of her teaching friends spent the weekend in Sokcho and shared a pension.
Pension: A pension is like a hotel but it’s much cheaper and it includes kitchen items like a sink, silverware, dishes, single stove top burner, fridge. It also has a plethora of floor pads and pillows to sleep on so a whole group of us could stay in one room.
We were able to book one right on the beach and also grill our own barbecue up on the rooftop, which sounds amazing but it was RIDICULOUSLY cold outside so after 8 of us huddled around the grill for warmth we finally cooked all the meat and made the veggies in our room with a fry pan.
Seoraksan means ‘snow-capped mountain’ and it was surreal to hike the trails partially covered in snow and yet walk the beach that same night! I had never been in the mountains before. Cliffsides in Europe, jungles in the Caribbean, bluffs in Wisconsin, but not real mountains. I was in awe!
The trail we took led to Biryong Falls, which means “Flying Dragon” Falls. Legend has it there was a drought that stopped the water flowing in the town. After the village made a sacrifice of a young maiden, the dragons were appeased and allowed the water to flow again. It is said the fall looks like a dragon flying upwards toward the sky.
The trek back down:
Seoraksan also encloses Sinheungsa Buddhist Temple in the park. Outside the temple entrance is a 62 foot Bronze Buddha called Tongil Daebul which signifies the wish of the people for reunification of its divided country.
That was my favorite moment from travel! What were the favorite things you remember from trips you’ve taken or new experiences? If you’ve blogged about it, feel free to share the link!
Happy Hiking Everyone! Aren’t you glad it’s spring now?
Two weeks ago I asked you all what your guilty pleasure travel destinations were. Your call outs included the New England coast, Australia, Alaska and Hawaii, British Columbia, France, Austria, Italy, and in an answer that cracked me up both August McLaughlin and Mark Petruska picked Minnesota! Cheers to the midwest! You both get brownie points from me!
I’ve always loved to travel. I don’t get as homesick as most people I’ve traveled with. It’s not that I didn’t miss my friends and family while overseas, but I get so excited to share with them the experiences I had abroad or buy unique presents to treat them with when I return. Still, if you’d have asked me if I was planning a trip to Asia anytime soon, I’d have said a confident NO. While the countries of the far east fascinate me, I’d never thought myself capable of overcoming the language barrier and finding my way around!
Doesn’t it amaze you that the things that usually scare us always end up being the most wonderful and impactful experiences of our lives? Visiting Seoul, South Korea was like that.
First off, a week in another country is far too little time! I deeply miss the bustle of Seoul’s streets filled with street food vendors, lots of lights, signs I didn’t know how to read and shoe stores everywhere! I even miss the subway announcements! “This stop is Samgakji. Samgakji…This stop is Hapjeong. Hapjeong. You can transfer to Line 4 here.”
I admit I barely touched the surface of this foreign world, but here are the highlights from what I did get to witness.
My first day in Seoul proved to be what Wisconsinites would call a “wintery mix” which means snow that turns into rain and rain that gets caught in the freezing winds and turned into snow again. I think my umbrella flipped inside out at least twice while walking around. In my head I envisioned the thousands of Koreans I encountered laughing to each other going “Who is this ridiculous white woman screaming in the street?!”
Since the weather was crazy that morning, my friend advised a Museum Day! My first stop was the Korean War Memorial, which was incredibly interesting.
I had heard that most Koreans were quite welcoming to Americans, and it made sense after learning more about the Korean War. If it’s possible, I was overcome with a great sense of pride and sorrow and hope while touring this museum. The Korean War lasted for three years, from 1950 to 1953, entailing of Communist forces against anti-Communists. North Korea was backed by China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics while South Korea was backed by the U.S. and United Nations.
One of my favorite things about this museum included the United Nations room. It was empowering to see the documents and film footage and stories of how the UN got involved.
I must say that this museum is very well put together. There are many different ways to learn here from plaques to videos to audio tours to books. And one section made a very strong impact on me. It was called the Ruined City and it depicted what life was like in the Refugee Camps. You actually can walk through a recreated refugee camp and see the houses made of cardboard and cans, the starving families, the members who had to hide in floorboards from the soldiers. No one ever dreams of having to survive something like this, and yet this happened not that long ago; I know it still happens today.
Pronounced Gee-young-buk-goong. One of the largest and most renowned palaces of Korea, Gyeongbokgung means Palace of Shining Happiness. Interestingly enough, all of what we tour today is a reconstruction, as the original 1394 construction was demolished by the Japanese in the 1500’s. But Gyeongbokgung was home to some of Korea’s most treasured and tyrannical kings. With three entrance gates, executive meeting lodgings, king’s quarters, queen’s quarters, a house for the concubines, spiritual pagodas, servant housing, kitchen area, and also a separate house for the king’s mother to live in (Hmm!), the grounds are quite extensive all set with the mountains behind them. Check out the wikipedia site to view all the buildings and their purpose here!
Fascinating side fact for you: Korean tourism is MUCH cheaper than U.S. tourism. Cost to enter the palace: $3,000 won, or $3 US dollars. And there are FREE English walking tours with guides! Most of the museums are completely free with English audio tours available at request.
The palace also encloses the Korean National Folk Museum inside its walls, which is another example of incredibly well done history. It’s another shining example of learning through different mediums. There are recreated scenes from everyday life, hundreds of artifacts from silk screen printings to jewelry to pottery, video footage of various ceremonies, and the special exhibit while I was there had entire walls of earphones to listen to a traditional type of Korean music called Arirang.
With the mortality rate being so high, a child’s first birthday was a grand celebration. The pinnacle of the day was a ceremony to foretell the future of the child wherein several items were placed on a table: money or grain, a book or writing brush, an arrow or bow, and a spool of thread or scissors. Depending what item the child picked up determined their path in life. A millionaire, a scholar, a general, or a seamstress. Foods like rice cake were served which represented long life.
A decorated coffin which would be used by a family to send their departed down river in ceremony. The bright colors and detail would reflect their wealth and good standing upon meeting the gods.
(Note: The current religions of Korea are primarily Christian and Buddhist, however there is rising Muslim faith as well as practicing Folk religions from the early days which you can learn about at the Folk Museum. These ceremonies are often led by a female Shaman and are called a ‘gut.’)
Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
I have few photos to show cause I didn’t want to be the gawking tourist in a temple full of worshipers. I mean it, the place was packed! There was barely a place outside to leave my shoes, but I managed to find a single open mat in the back of the mass of praying peoples. I guess I came close to Buddha’s birthday so many were out saying prayers and leaving offerings. Jogyesa was one of the most beautiful rooms I had ever seen. It is one of the largest single floor temples in Korea and home to three massive golden Buddha statues, the likenesses of Sakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, and Bhaisaiya Buddha (who is the Buddha of Good Health – which those of you who know me, should know I paid particular attention to). The ceiling was covered with paper lanterns adorned with painted peonies and carp. Check out the Travel Adventures website for pictures of the temple inside and during holidays.
N Seoul Tower
It seems almost everywhere I go, there’s some kind of tower you have to check out! LOL But honestly, N Seoul Tower was pretty cool, if only for the fact that I couldn’t get enough of the mountains!
There are the highlights of Seoul, South Korea! I’ll have more to post on my tour of the Demilitarized Zone as well as Korean food in the next week! Sorry I didn’t update you guys regularly, but the overseas wi-fi turned out to be something non-existent from my phone. I’m excited to read through what you all have been up so please drop me a line in the comments section! I’m missed you all!Annyeonghi gyseyo! -Jess
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This book came came out of nowhere. A fascinating cover: a young girl in the woods, slightly grimaced, and upon further inspection, you’ll observe she’s levitating.
The author, Ransom Riggs, grew up in small towns of Maryland and Florida. He equates having nothing to do being the key factor that helped him create stories about other worlds. He has a degree in film making and is currently working on his third book, which consists of photography with writing on it.
Peculiar Children tells the tale of a group of strange orphans, characters Riggs designed from photography archives. Riggs is quite impressive with the way he has pieced together images and plot about a fantastical world of magic children alongside history loops.
The story begins with Jacob Portman, a misfit teen with no friends, and parents who don’t understand him. His childhood was filled with stories from his grandfather, tales about the peculiar children who lived with “the bird” at an orphanage, where Jacob’s grandfather himself was taken after the Nazi attacks. But the monsters in this book aren’t the ones we know from our history lessons. After Jacob’s grandfather’s death, Jacob learns all too quickly that the monsters in grandpa’s stories are real after all, and perhaps Jacob has more in common with the peculiar children than he thinks.
The wonderful thing about this book is its characters. The black and white photos depicting the peculiar children are both entrancing and unnerving. Everything about these mysterious lost kids invites you in, though you remain uneasy. There is the boy with bees inside him. The girl with the backmouth. The child who can bring a heart to life in his hands, and place it in whom he wills. Beginning with their photos, Jacob comes to endear these children.
Another intriguing element to the novel is its use of multiple dialects/accents. The islanders have a different vernacular than the peculiars, and each character is given a distinct voice and persona. Often the interactions Jacob has with them is humorous and adventurous. I laughed several times at the bartender’s bellowing phone pick up “Piss hole!” And there’s the childish rapping of a boy named Worm.
The story of Jacob and the people he meets along his journey is an odd one, but then what would a reader expect with a title like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? The only slight downfall of the tale is the fact that the ending is a bit abrupt. I’m not sure it ended at all. Perhaps Riggs intends to write a sequel, but as the pages become more and more scarce, it’s evident not all the problems of the peculiar children are going to be solved before the last page. I both thoroughly enjoyed this book and am also unsure whether I’m invested enough to await a sequel that shows no signs of being written (at least from what I’ve gaged on the author’s site).
I think the idea of taking a photography collection and making it into a bizarre tale of both fantasy and mystery is awesome! I however, also wanted more. But don’t just take my word for it! Albert Berg recently reviewed Riggs’ book on his Bizarro Book Review post. Or you can always read it for yourself! I hope you do! It will keep you turning the page.
Have you read Peculiar Children? Have you ever loved and been upset by a book before? What was the book? What do you think of Riggs’ method of using photo archives to web together a strange tale?
To the left, is the map of the main trails in Hixon Forest, which surrounds the beautiful bluffs and Mississippi River in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin. The map is color coded. The green trail=easy, yellow=medium, and red=hard. My boyfriend is pointing out the nice yellow trail that follows along the river. The record must state that I said I wanted a bluffside view. So, we took the squiggly red line.
The squiggly red line was called the TNT Trail, and apparently, its for mountain bikers. We hiked it on foot.
If you ignore the foolish expression of fun on my face, you are wise. I however was not so wise. Our journey began safely enough. You can see the trail initially was clear, wide, and for the most part, smooth.
Oh, and that canteen in my hand, it’s full of red wine. Because if you’re going to start hiking up a cliff in the middle of the woods at 7:30 at night, you may as well get a little tipsy doing it.
We even found a cool looking cave thing!
And I climbed part of it! See, still smiling! Hiking is so much fun!
Now we get to the turning point in our adventure. You see, we reached the end of the TNT trail. We made it to the top. Unfortunately folks, this was a bum climax to our hike. The trail end took us to the city limits, we pretty much ended up in a cul de sac. And, no lookout point from the bluffs, we were in a field surrounded by trees. At this point, I I started kicking stuff and screaming “Where’s my rewarding view? I wanted a cliffside view! All I can see is someone’s driveway! What a rip!” So, the currently optimistic boyfriend, and I, started our trek back down the trail. The thing about trails is there’s usually a couple places where you have to choose which trail to stick with. We could go back the way we came. Or we could try an adventure and take a different trail! You’ll notice in the photograph, the trail is becoming much less easy to identify.
We climbed up something that looked like this.
And we got a view that looked like this!
I don’t know if you can tell by how dark the photos are becoming, but the sun was setting. And the record must state that my boyfriend didn’t want to climb up this cliff. I was the one who thought we had plenty of time, and wanted to see the city from the top of the bluff. A bluff, I should define for those who are unfamiliar, is basically a small mountain. On our journey back down another new trail, we came across several hitches.
Are trails supposed to look like this? Hmm, guess the city hasn’t cleared them all since the rain and the flooding and paths being washed out and all. *shrug*
This is where the photography stops, team. From here on out, survival became more important. At one point, my boyfriend said, “It’s a good thing you brought your purse. Now if we get all 127 hours out here, I can cut your arm off for you.” I was not amused.
The trail we were on got REALLY steep. To the point where I was crab walking down the side of it, trying to add a little extra traction. My boyfriend actually fell down the hill and into a tree, scraping his leg badly. It was growing darker and darker.
I really thought we were ok. A little sore, needed to move faster, sure, but I thought we were ok. Then, the trail just stopped. One minute we were on a dirt path, the next it turns into some kind of raveen covered in broken logs and limbs and leaves. And this was all about the same time the sun vanished!
Things were said. Things that came from my boyfriend that sounded a lot like, “I’m not happy.” And “I don’t like this.”
I hoped he would be the leader. Nope. I’d pushed him beyond his limits. It became very clear that I was going to have to figure a way out. With no idea where the car was from where we were, and since we had no flashlight and it was really dark, the plan became to head toward what little light showed through the trees on a far side and get to the highway where we could follow the road back to our car. However, that route led us to a giant rock wall.
The second route we took led to my boyfriend falling for the second time. Only it wasn’t a slide fall, it was a climbing over a tree trunk, grabbing onto a tree branch, and having it snap beneath you so you face plant into the ground covered in debris. When his breath returned, and I finished apologizing, we tried another route.
Finally, after a half hour of deep, meaningful prayer, my boyfriend said, “Is that our car?”
I started clapping and running towards it. We didn’t talk on the drive home. We didn’t talk when I started up a warm shower and got the Neosporin out. We didn’t talk while my boyfriend got a shot glass and a large bottle of gin from the kitchen.
But hey, we’re alive! And I did get us out eventually! Here’s hoping he’ll laugh about it tomorrow.
What’s the most exciting thing that happened to you this weekend?