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Hand Luggage Only – Packing like a Pro!

27 Jul

Tomorrow I set off on my longest solo backpacking trip thus far in my life – a 3 months trip that will take me from South Korea, to South East Asia to Australia and then back home to Ireland via London at the end of October. I have been looking forward to and planning this trip for months, but in typical Janet fashion…I always end of packing my bag last-minute. It’s currently 7pm here in Korea, and I’m heading out for one last Korean BBQ dinner with some close friends in an hour. That means I have minimal time to get my bags packed and get started with the epic task of cleaning and clearing out my apartment before getting on my one way flight to Bangkok tomorrow morning.

I’m not too worried to be honest. All my friends here know that I’m a pretty quick and light packer – just give me 10 minutes to throw some stuff in my sturdy little backpack and I’m ready to go! Usually for weekend trips, I only bring one small rucksack and for longer trips overseas I bring my 10-year-old 60-70 liter backpack which has been to over 30 countries with me! This time, however, I have set myself a challenge. I am attempting to pack everything I could possibly need for my 3 month trip into my tiny weekend rucksack and I’m going to document this challenge right here, in this blog post!

Okay so the first thing I did was to empty my wardrobe. I realized, despite shipping home 15kg of clothes and shoes, I still had WAY too many bits and pieces left behind. I had to be very firm with myself and anything that there is even a SLIGHT chance of me not wearing was not allowed to come along on the adventure. ESSENTIALS ONLY JANET!! I really wanted to bring my curling iron but NO that got put in the ‘stuff to be sent home’ box. ALong with my old laptop, 4 very pretty dresses, 2 extra ‘just in case’ pairs of shoes, a huge make-up bag, a GIANT beach towel (nobody’s got room for that!) and many other things that simply do not need to come with me. After all, I really don’t need very much when backpacking through South East Asia, especially considering the temperature is rarely going to drop below 30’c for the entire trip!

Anyway, here is everything that was left on my bed, post wardrobe cull! As you can see from the picture, there’s still quite a lot left.

packing like a pro

 

Here is a list of exactly what I plan to pack – the next challenge is fitting it all into 1 small bag!!

  • 12 t-shirts.
  • 4 summer dresses
  • 2 jumpers
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 3 bikinis
  • 12 pairs of underwear
  • 4 bras
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • A headband
  • A wash bag with shampoo, conditioner, face wash, cleanser, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Face Wipes
  • Face Moisturizer
  • 1 small Body Shop perfume oil – sweet scent lasts all day
  • A few basic make-up items such as Mac and Bare Minerals Powder, 1 mascara and 1 lipstick.
  • 1 hair brush
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 pair of flips flops
  • 1 pair of Vans shoes for walking/sightseeing whatever else
  • 1 documents folder with all my flight info/visa applications/hostel bookings etc
  • 1 book (Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer – one of my favorites!)
  • 1 small box of photos given to me by my best buddy here in Korea…to make me smile!
  • Passport, wallet and other essentials!

STEP 1: Lay everything very flat in the back section (usually designed to carry a laptop!)

2014-07-27 18.36.40Step 2: All of my make-up and any smaller items can be squashed into the small front pocket!

2014-07-27 18.39.50Step 3: Neatly pack everything else into the bag – it’s a tight squeeze but hopefully it will all fit!!

 

2014-07-27 18.40.04Step 4: Put all my most important and valuable items into my handbag (passport, wallet, book etc!)

 

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And…I’m all set for my 3 month backpacking adventure!2014-07-27 18.42.49

 

The Importance of Travel Insurance

13 Jun

Have you ever gone on a trip overeas and forgotten to buy travel insurance? Or, as in many cases, have you ever gone on a trip overseas and failed to buy travel insurance on purpose just so you could save a few pennies?

Have you any idea the risk you are taking, the possible burden you are putting on your family and how a small accident could ruin your entire trip, your future plans and any financial stability you might have had?! Not having travel insurance could literally ruin your life.

The-importance-of-travel-insurance

Personally, thanks to my Dad drilling in the impotance of travel and health insurance from a very young age, I have never left my home country without insurance. Sure, sometimes I’ve left it to the day I’m traveling which has lead to near-on panic attacks , and once I even ran around Seoul Incheon airport in a panic looking for the Travel Insurance booth to insure I would be covered on a short weekend trip to Japan. I was fairly confident that looking around temples and stalking geishas was hardly going to land me in trouble but as cliched as it sounds…better safe than sorry!

If you add up the amount of money I have spent on travel insurance over the last decade, the figure might scare you. It certainly scares me and sometimes it can be hard not to look at it as ‘money down the drain’. That said whenever I feel unsure, I stop myself from thinking in this way and recall all the horror stories recounted to me by family members, close friends and fellow backpackers. Tales that would make your blood curl. Stories about near death experiences in Colombia, mororbike accidents in Vietnam, food poisoning in remote Nepal and leg injuries encountered in the Canadian Rockies. Storied of months spent in hospitals in Kathmandu and Bogota, being airlifted off mountains or even being transported by flatbed in an air ambulance from one country to another.
air ambulance

As awful as all of these experiences must have been, the people who had travel insurance had a lucky escape with some travel insurance companies having to foot a bill of almost a quarter of a million dollars. Other people were not so lucky. Lack of insurance can mean poor treatment in ill-equipped hospitals in developing countries or can mean footing a bill personally fo 20,000 dollars for that time you needed to be airlifted off a mountain in Switzerland just because you slipped on ice and broke your leg while hiking or having to foot a month long hospital bill in Cambodia after you contracted Malaria or a severe case of Typhoid on a 3 week backpacking trip of South East Asia.

Failing to buy travel insurance, means failing to prepare for the worst. While I understand nodoby wants to prepare for the worst, and nobody really wants to consider that they may end up in a hospital, or they may miss their connecting flight or that the airline might lose all their cherished possesions en route to their first vacation in 5 years… but these are all things you NEED to consider. Failing to do so, and should Murphy’s Law come into action as it usually does, your holiday, your bank balance and even your entire life as you know it can be ruined in seconds.

So, what are the benefits of forking out a few extra dollars for travel insurance before heading off on your next trip? Well there are many, which include but are not limited to, coverage for the following;

-Trip Cancellation
-Trip Interruption
-Lost Luggage
-Repeating University exams
-Emergency Medical Assistance
-Medical Evacuation
-Lost or Stolen personal items
-Missed Flights
-Personal Accident or Injury
-A Family Bereavement

When purchasing insurance make sure you read the small print so you know what is included and what isn’t. Many companies will charge a higher premium if you plan to do certain adventure sports such as snowboarding, rafting, mountain climbing etc. Make sure you pick the right package for your particular trip.

One last tip I would give is that if you think you will be making many small trips within the year, you are better off paying a larger lump sum and getting a 1 year package from a company in your home country than paying regular, small installments to some online travel insurance broker. It works out cheaper in the long run and is a lot less hassle.

If you have any questions or any advice on best companies to use, please leave a comment.

Happy Travels! :-)

 

Spring has Sprung

8 Apr

A small taste of the photographs I took last weekend at the Gyeong-Ju Cherry Blossom Festival. No words can fully describe how beautiful spring is in South Korea…even if it only lasts a few weeks!

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St Patrick’s Day Festival Seoul in Photos

18 Mar

Sadly I was too busy on the day to take lots of photos like I usually do, but I thought I would share the few I did take anyway. For a full review of the day, check out THIS POST.

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Pharrell Williams – Seoul is also HAPPY!

9 Mar

PharrellWilliams_Happy

With the help of my amazing friends, and quite a few total strangers, I just finished filming, editing and uploading a Seoul remake of the Pharrell Williams HAPPY music video. Considering all filming was done on smart phones and the entire video was edited in a few hours, I think we did a pretty good job. Let me know what you think! :)

Top 10 Reasons To Celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Seoul

24 Feb

intrepidtraveller:

I just wrote a post on the Irish Association of Korea website about the Top 10 reasons to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Seoul. Check it out here:

Originally posted on Irish Association of Korea 한국아일랜드협회:

10. Practice makes perfect

Did you know that the Irish Association of Korea has organized the annual St Patrick’s Day Festival in Seoul for over a decade? In fact, this year will be its 14th consecutive event. As the saying goes, “Practice makes Perfect”, and this year’s festival is sure to be bigger and better than before.

spd

9. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day

With over 1,000 Irish expats now living in South Korea, and many more people with a smidgen of Irish blood in them, this year’s festival promises to be as authentic  as can be.

St. Patricks Day Festival In Seoul

8. A ready-made lesson for Monday morning!

Come along to the festival  on March 15th, then on Monday (which is actually St Patrick’s Day) all you teachers will have some great ideas to discuss with your students. Take a break from spelling and grammar, and get your kids to decorate your classroom…

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Ankgor Wat Sunrise ~ Cambodia

14 Jan

Watching the sunrise over the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is something that sits firmly at the top of many seasoned travelers bucket lists.

I am lucky enough to be able to say that the first sunrise I saw in 2014, that big glowing ball of fire, slowly rising into the sky, was at Angkor Wat and it was one of the most incredible moments.

Sure I had to fight off a few 100 other people to get that ‘perfect picture’ and within moments of arriving at the temple grounds was pestered by coffee shop owners who go by the name of Harry Potter and Rambo(!!) to come to their cafe for breakfast “whenever Im ready” but nothing could take away the beauty and serenity of that perfect sunrise.

I will write later, in detail, about the best sights, smells and sticky situations we got ourselves into while traveling around Cambodia, but for now I leave you with these photos of a very special morning in Siem Reap.

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YongPyong Resort – A Winter Wonderland

23 Dec

Last weekend my friend Sonja and I headed to Phoenix Park and Yongpyong resort for a mini vacation. It was so good to get away for a few days and the scenery up in the mountains was spectacular.

We spent all day saturday hitting the slopes in Phoenix Park ski resort which has a great variety of slopes to suit all levels. Everything was so easily accesible even the laziest skier in the world could not complain!

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You could literally ski straight down any slope and into a Dunkin Donuts, Coffee shop or Apres Ski bar. The ski rental place was less than 5 minutes walk from the chair lifts and there is even a youth hostel overlooking the slopes.

As we went as part of a WinK tour group, we got amazing discounts on both ski rental and lift passes. The full day including skis, jacket and pants and lift pass was only 50,000 won (about 30 euro) which you really can’t beat. Even though it was very busy and there were groups of school kids and students everywhere, the queues remained pretty short throughout the day which I was very impressed by.

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After a long days skiing on only about 2-3 hours sleep we were absolutely shattered come 6pm. Luckily all we had to do was sit on a bus and relax as we headed to our hostel which is part of the YongPyong ski resort. Following quick showers and naps, a big group of us all headed out for a delicious pork BBQ dinner.

Another relatively late night of bowling, arcade games, socializing and making new friends meant come 8am Sunday morning nothing (not even giant chocolate muffins and hot tea) were getting me out of bed. Maybe it was a waste, maybe it could be considered laziness, but in a move to help my aching muscles and tired body recover, I opted out of skiing at YongPyong and decided the spa and waterpark was more to my liking.

Again thanks to WinK we got an amazing discount price, and only ended up paying 10,000 won to enter. What we discovered inside…and more specifically outside…meant we knew within seconds we had made the right decision!
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Outside the waterpark, was an assortment of hot tubs full of various colored, scented and therapeutic water. Oh, and thanks to the fact that it’s winter, all surrounded in snow!

Sitting in rose scented jacuzzi with the sun shining brightly while taking in the breathtaking, snow covered surroundings was an incredible experience. We literally sat outside, dashing through the snow from pool to pool, for about 2 hours. In fact we were enjoying ourselves so much we failed to realise how sunburned our faces were becoming. Small price to pay for a little taste of paradise in the mountains!

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SantaCon Seoul 2013

9 Dec

Last weekend myself and about 8 friends from Paju attended SantaCon in Seoul, which is a gathering of 100’s of people all dressed as Santa Claus, his elves and everything in between parading around Seoul’s nightlife district singing Christmas Carols and simply being merry.

I ordered 3 elf costumes off ebay and was delighted when they arrived just in time. I also got creative with some fairy lights, colored paper and a giant piece of black foam and made myself a YouTube video / photo booth which I must say I was fairly proud of!

Sadly I didnt take as many pictures as I would have liked  (cause I was having too much fun!) but here is a quick glimpse of the shenanigans had on the night.

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Top 10 Reasons to Join a Korean Gym

22 Nov

I am really enjoying working out at the moment and am well on my way to succeeding in my 9 week challenge to get my bikini body back in time for my trip to Cambodia. Apart from cutting out all junk food, eating healthier meals, and attempting to drink less alcohol at weekends, my local gym has been my biggest friend over the last month. As Korean gyms are really different to your run-of-the-mill gym back home in Ireland, I thought I would write a quick blog post about the Top 10 Reasons to Join a Korean Gym! If you have any other suggestions, be sure to leave a comment.

10. Storage lockers for your toiletries

This is a little random, I know, but Korean gyms really are totally different to gyms back home.  Everyone gets a big locker for their gym bag and you can also get a small locker (if you choose) to store your toiletries in. Everyone at my gym has a cute little basket to store all their stuff in so after a good work out they stroll into the changing room, strip naked (this is also pretty different to home!!), take their toiletries basket with them into the open plan shower area (again, different from gyms back home) and continue to wash, shave, scrub, moisturize and every other cosmetic related activity you can think of. Some of these girls have more bottles of lotions in their gym basket than I have in my entire house! It’s a nice idea though, and save you having to haul your toiletries to the gym each day. Never agin will you get “the fear” that you have indeed forgotten your deodorant!

toiletries-storage

9. Unique group exercise classes like KPOP Dance

I recently signed up for GX classes in my gym thinking GX stood for Aerobics. Turns out GX stands for Group Exercise (DUH!) and one of the many GX classes (ABT, Zumba, Hot Yoga, Pilates, Aerobics etc) on offer is K-Pop Dance. My friend Tammy and I just signed up to this and are actually pretty excited for the classes to start next week. We are going to be the envy of every (teenage) girl in every Korean nightclub in no time! BAR BAR BAR Jumping, Jumping! :D

kpop

8. Catch up with your favorite TV shows

No longer can you say, “Oh I can’t go to the gym tonight, My favourite TV show is on at 8pm”. I think most gyms all over the world have TV’s attached to treadmills at this stage but in case your gym doesn’t, let me tell you all Korean gyms do! And they have up to 10 channels in ENGLISH including 3 movie channels. Granted you are probably not working out as hard as you should be if you strolling along ona treadmill watching NCIS or Mission Impossible 4, but it’s a good motivator to go to the gym when the TV on your treadmill is larger than the TV in your apartment! :D

ncis english tc show

7. They have machines like this….

I actually don’t know what this is. Put as I see every one else sitting on a bench on putting their legs on it after a long run on the treadmill, I have started doing the same. It’s seems to be a leg massager/leg fat jiggling machine. I have never seen one before so if anyone can inform me of what this machine ACTUALLY does, please leave a comment!

legs fat jiggling machine

6. They have FAT JIGGLING machines!

I think these bizarre machines disappeared from Western gyms in the 60’s or 70’s, when people realised that a machine that wiggles and giggles your fatty bits is, in fact, not helping you to lose weight. I’m not sure what Koreans use this machine for, but I think it’s more of a massager to loosen up your muscles than anything else. If you’re gym doesn’t have one of these ‘magic machines’ you’re going to the wrong gym!!

old fat figgling machine

5. Huge saunas where you can sleep

Korean saunas are not really like western saunas. First off, you not sit in a burning hot wooden cabin butt naked. Korean saunas are in fact much more relaxing and convenient. You go in wearing the matching gym clothes (provided by the gym) and lie on a clay floor covered in mats. The room is hot, but not so hot that’s it’s unbearable. Many people come in here after a hard work out and just fall asleep for half an hour. You could even bring a book in if you wanted, but for me its the perfect time to block out the world close my eyes and simply relax away from all sorts of technology. It’s more like a ‘relaxation room’ than a sauna but I absolutely love it.

sleeping suana gym

4. No more smelly gym clothes!

This could well be the BEST thing about Korean gyms. Say farewell to carrying home a gym bag full of sweaty, smelly clothes each day. Say farewell to those worries about not having anything to wear to the gym. Say farewell to spending money on clothes you would only ever wear while working out! Korean gyms provide gym clothes and towels for you every day and do all the washing and cleaning. Sure orange might not be your colour, and you may feel silly looking like EVERYONE else, but boy does it make life easy. All you need to do is bring your trainers/runners and a pair of clean socks and you are good to go. For me, this makes going to the gym 100 times less stressful as I never have to worry about having clean gym clothes!

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3. You can play screen golf!

This one is a bit random, I know. But never in my life have I seen a gym where you can go for a workout, chill in a  sauna and THEN practice your swing! Many gyms in Korea have a screen golf facility where members can practices their swing in a small, enclosed and heated environment. I have not tried this yet, and probably never will if I’m honest, but it’s a bonus for all you golfers out there!

screen golf korea

2. Koreans come in ALL shapes and sizes

Yup, it’s TRUE! Not all Koreans are the small, skinny beauties you imagined. Over the last month I have discovered that Korean women really do come in ALL shapes and sizes. This can be a real confidence boost for us foreigners who often feel like giant sumo wrestlers next to cute Korean girls. There is so much negative media regarding cosmetic surgery and the constant aim for perfection..which in their eyes involves calf reductions, butt lifts and leg extensions. It is so uplifting to see Koreans who love their bodeis and working hard to look and feel good the “old fashioned way”. In my gym, Strong is the new skinny and I like it a lot!

shapes and sizes

1. Friendly Trainers 

In my (somewhat limited) experience the trainers in Korean gyms are super friendly and motivating. While they may not speak much English they know the basics, and are always willing to help you figure out how to use those awkward weight lifting machines, encourage you to run faster on the treadmill or just chat with you about why you are in Korea, if you are liking life here and if you know anyone else who might want to join their lovely gym!

personal trainer

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