Surprisingly enough, it has already been 2 weeks since I’ve come back from a whirlwind of a holiday. Is approximately 72 hours, really a holiday? If you ask me anything about the last two weeks I doubt I would have a clear answer. At work, we launched the Fall campaign (go check it out on Calvin Klein’s Instagram page) and thus everything in the last 15 days is jumbled up in my head.
But going back to the trip… To be clear, this isn’t really my solo solo trip. I have been fortunate enough to travel between India and Japan alone since I was 12 and I have been privileged to travel across the world to New York at the age of 17 for a leadership conference. This was a new kind of solo trip for me because the purpose of the trip wasn’t to meet family neither was it to attend a conference. It was a trip to explore and relax.
Here are 8 things I learned.
First and foremost, I think I’m starting to like Korean Starbucks better than the ones in Japan. I was very overwhelmed and lost the day I landed and the baristas at Starbucks were so helpful. And the Fizzio drinks, why can’t we have those in Japan?? The pink grapefruit one was so good, I need to figure out how to make it myself!!
Keep a few locations in mind but the rest leave it up to unplanned discoveries if you’re going to a metropolitan city. Before leaving for Seoul, I had gone over the Lonely Planet’s Pocket book on Seoul and had marked at least 10 places I wanted to see, or shop at. But the reality was that I made it to approximately half of what I had planned beforehand. I visited Myeongdong, Gangnam, Dongdaemun, Hanok villageand Cheonggyecheon stream (Side note: I have to go through my Instagram stories to remember what all I did… this isn’t a great show of my memory.) I had planned to go to Shinsegae and the Lotte Mall, but I ended up finishing so much of my shopping in Myeongdong and Gangnam that I didn’t need to go anywhere else. Actually my suitcase was already full and that put a halt to my potential Shinsegae adventures.
Just a carry on was a joke for me. This is probably the first time in my life, where I was just going in a carry on size suitcase. Although I did have to check in this as well as it was two kg over the carry on limit. In that moment, I really felt like I should have had a bigger suitcase, because I had to check in my luggage any way. But I have now realized in no universe am I a carry-on only girl. I have to have multiple looks and shoes, plus my laptop and essentials took up space too. I literally went to Seoul with an already fully packed suitcase, and barely had extra room. I had five outfits and I still felt like I should have packed at least two more.
Make sure to have extra outfits for both day and night looks. Yes, I just said that I had five outfits, but hear my argument out. Seoul was unexpectedly hot, much more than Tokyo in the summer, so my plan to repeat items was thrown out the window on my first day there. So I really should have packed at the very least two t-shirts extra just in case. I had linen blend tank tops from H&M as a spare, but in my experience, they can really be a risky thing at airports and in flights because I have faced close call wardrobe malfunctions with those. So I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be full outfits, but I should have carried a few no-fail options. That may have eliminated my stress of “I don’t have a casual outfit to go grab a bite in.”
Taking time to just relax. I think the biggest highlight for me after all the skincare deals that were there in Myeongdong, was the fact that for three nights I had space to myself. It was just nice to relax, there was a nice big bath at Fraser Place Namdaemun (It was a great hotel, in the middle of the city and they were helpful with changing the menu to vegetarian options.) So yes, it was great to take long baths, I took the glitter gold bath bomb from LUSH and I had time to catch up on Season 14 of Grey’s Anatomy which was available on Netflix in Korea. It made me realize how much I need just a couple of hours outside of work and being at home with my family, to get back into a set mind frame and being disconnected with everyone around me to connect with myself.
It was a good idea to find a local photographer. Shoutout to Nicole Mehta, who suggested that I should find a photographer on Airbnb Experience. I was worried about how I would get pictures and how I would be able to create some content over the trip, and Airbnb Experience really helped out on that front, and now I’m planning to work with local photographers in Tokyo as well. Simultaneously, it was a great way to go through a lot of Seoul and see things that were really true to the content I wanted to create. I was lucky to be able to collaborate and not only get images but also some video content as well. The trip made me realize that there are more things I need to work on to create better. On a positive note, working with a new photographer, Tiago Azinheira, in a new city also helped me become much more confident in just stopping in the middle of the street to take a picture, and work with someone new as well.
Learn some basic phrases, or make sure to download the local language on Google Translate. Seoul, in a way was jarring. There was so much Japanese everywhere that in some moments it felt that I was still in Tokyo. But in cabs, it was a challenge. Unlike in Japan, there weren’t any point and go kind of system. I tried using Google Translate, but I don’t think the cab drivers I faced understood the Google Translations. A good tip is to download the local language, just in case you run out of battery on your pocket wifi or don’t have a local data plan. It was useful when shopping too, as I was buying skincare specific to my skin.
Plan ahead about the airport especially if it is a busy season or there is bad weather. Korea, technically is just three hours away, but on my flight home because of the weather and how busy the airport is going to be I ended up going to airport a couple of hours earlier even before the check in counter was open, but that gave me enough time to wait in line and get tax refunds sorted, and shuffle around more things in my suitcase to make sure everything was under the weight limit. Plus, the security was a nightmare. There were so many people, and I know this seems like a first world problem, but at this day and age, why are people still struggling to go through airport security. There are three simple rules, no tech in the suitcases, no liquids over 100ml and take your jacket and boots off. It really isn’t complex science. So airport security in a busy season, should be taken into account especially if it is a big airport like Incheon.
So I guess, these are the eight things I learned from this trip and I really hope I am able to take out a few days again soon to take a break again, or otherwise my next trip is India in November. I wouldn’t say holiday because it’s a wedding week and I doubt I am going to have a minute to breathe.