Dear Travel Diary,
Just a short one for you today, not much to report.
Following the hike up Bukhansan, I took some time off. Did some shopping, and planned the next stage of my journey. Despite all the amazing stuff I’d done around Seoul – when I was at the hostel, I was still miserable. I couldn’t shake my feeling of apathy. And even though I was in a guesthouse with many other people, many I talked to and hung out with, I had never felt more lonely in my life.
One of the main reasons I had come to South Korea was so I could get down to Jeju Island and do the amazing hikes there. Pictures of Hallasan and the Jeju countryside had been flooding my Instagram feed for months – so basically, the hype was real. I finally resolved to get off my arse and leave my Seoul hostel (the two weeks I had already paid for were finally coming to an end), and make a change. Specifically a sea change. It was time to truly get myself out of the concrete jungle of Seoul, and get back to nature.
As if on cue, the weather started to deteriorate in Seoul as the snows came rolling in. I flung my backpack over my shoulder, and began the hour-long train ride back to the airport. I got on the wrong train at first, as I realised the international airport at Incheon was not where my Jeju flight was departing from. I had to get different train, one that thankfully ran express straight to the domestic airport. It’s a shame I didn’t get on it. Instead my train began to make all 23 stops on the way to the airport before I decided to jump off and grab the next express train.
Off to a good start, then.
I can’t express how very happy I was to leave that hostel. I was beginning to feel resentful. frustrated. An increasing tiredness that had shortened my temper to straw-like thinness. I was ready to snap, basically. I was struggling. The late nights, the (in my mind) annoying patrons in it who seemed to do what they please without any care for anyone else sleeping.
I was starting to unhinge, and I think my poor experiences in the guesthouse at Gangnam was a large reason behind why I wasn’t enjoying Korea so much those first few weeks. It’s a really sad realisation to make. To get to that point in your travels. To turn around and say, “You know what? I am not enjoying this.”
You fight the urge to speak those words. You don’t want to commit to the sentence. It’s a weight. A burden that then follows you around, as you remain dedicated to ignoring the feelings in your heart. I think it grows worse the longer you refuse to admit it. And I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. How could I admit to myself that I was not enjoying myself when I had come so many miles, travelled so many kilometres just to be here?
Leaving Seoul, leaving the guesthouse. I don’t know… it was like breathing for the first time. Or, like feeling the wind on your skin after being locked inside your entire life. Like eating chocolate after a diet. Getting to the airport, boarding, the whole process was one, long exaltation. And when we finally took off, my lungs thanked me for it with the first intake of fresh air in what felt like forever.
I finally felt free of the cage my own mind had built for me. The steel bars around my heart were bending finally. And now, with hindsight, of course I can say that I loved everything I did around Seoul. I just wish I had moved Guesthouses. I wish I hadn’t stayed there as long as I did, and let it poison my journey.
But I had made it to Jeju Island now, and a whole new chapter of my journey was beginning.