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Why I Became a Non-Vegetarian after 16 Years

The other day, I was having lunch with a friend who had been a vegetarian before arriving to Korea. Although she had decided to become a non-vegetarian, the thought of eating meat still didn’t sit well with her consciousness. This was understandable.

We all have ideologies and beliefs that provide meaning to us. For many people, being a vegetarian is a huge part of their identity. It was for me. By choice, I was a vegetarian for 16 years of my life.

While I was a vegetarian, I enjoyed it. It was never really difficult for me as I always had easy access to a lot of vegetarian food while living in Canada. Thus, I never really thought about becoming a non-vegetarian. As the years passed, without questioning it, vegetarianism simply became a way of life for me.

But after 16 years, there was a huge shift in my life. My deep passion to explore the world lead me down a path, which would end-up questioning and re-evaluating some of my deepest values. One of them was vegetarianism.

I had left my mundane life in Canada to live in a completely new country and culture. I came to South Korea.

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The Korean cuisine relies heavily on meat for its main dishes. Within a week, I started really feeling the effects of being a vegetarian in Korea. Every time I had a meal at a Korean restaurant with colleagues and friends, I was limited to one or two dishes. Meanwhile, Jason who was not a vegetarian would be trying new and interesting Korean foods. I would sit there feeling like I was missing out. As a vegetarian, I would not allow myself to try the new cuisine. On certain occasions, I actually felt so unsatisfied eating my plain rice and vegetables while others relished together in enjoying Korean food. However, despite the lack of food choices, sadness, and curiosity of trying new foods, I held on to my vegetarian ideals.

It is very difficult to change a belief system that has been with you for more than a decade. I tried to convince myself that I would survive in Korea as a vegetarian. And truthfully I could have but travel changed me!

About 3 months after arriving to Korea, Jason and I went to Japan with 2 friends for a few days. It was again so exciting to be in a completely new country and experience a new culture! Everyone was particularly thrilled to try authentic Japanese ramen. Trying real Japanese food in Japan, what an incredible experience that would be! However, I wouldn’t be able to try it. I was told the ramen contained meat-based broth. At that moment, I told myself it was okay, I would just find a Japanese vegetarian dish. We all spent the next 1.5 hours looking for vegetarian food. I ended up buying some fruit from a convenience store. It was a frustrating and useless ordeal seeking vegetarian food in Fukuoka, Japan.

I felt upset for several reasons. For me, everyone had sacrificed their precious time and energy. I had inconvenienced everyone, even though they politely said they didn’t mind. Moreover, I was in Japan, and was eating store bought fruit instead of unique Japanese food. I was missing out on my chance to eat authentic Japanese cuisine! Traveling to a foreign country, and not trying the dishes just didn’t sit well with me. I mulled all this over and waited patiently, as everyone else enjoyed and shared the new experience of trying real Japanese food.

It was after this particular trip to Japan, that I really started to think about my vegetarianism. I wrote myself a very lengthy essay about why I was a vegetarian. It was a long process, but to make a long story short, I eventually decided I had to give myself the freedom to eat meat. Why? In short, I knew I would regret traveling to exotic countries and denying myself the richness of the cuisines. Also, by becoming a non-vegetarian, I would be able to give myself the freedom to eat anything without being overwhelmingly concerned about whether a dish contained meat. I would avoid a lot of frustration, especially during my travels in countries where language barrier and limited vegetarian food would be an issue.

For me traveling is about having new experiences, and a big part of that is trying new foods. I turned that vegetarianism card over a long time ago and since then I have never looked back. Even today I love having a vegetarian diet, but having the option to try new dishes that contain meat is wonderful too. I have been very happy with my decision. If you are struggling with whether you should remain a vegetarian, really ask yourself why are you a vegetarian. Whatever choice you end up making, the important thing is it should make you happy.

Video: My favorite Korean Food

Trying Something New: Snowboarding in Korea

People who are good at snowboarding always make it look so easy as they gracefully ride down the snowy hills. I really admire their skills.  Although snowboarding is a fairly popular leisure activity in Korea, I have always tried to avoid it.

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Truth be told, I was a bit intimidated by snowboarding. Both feet on one board while sliding down a snowy hill…ummm…No! In the past, I had tried surfing in Indonesia, and had decided riding a board just wasn’t for me. This fearful attitude, had kept me away from riding boards whether in water or on the snow for a long time.

However, here is my conflict. When it comes to adventure, I like to try new things at least once before I make up my mind. That is why I knew I had to give snowboarding a chance.

It just so happened that our next door neighbor and friend, Matt Reinhardt, had been teaching snowboarding for over a decade before he came to Korea. I had always admired his passion for snowboarding and trusted his teaching abilities. So, when he offered to teach us snowboarding, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Despite my fear, I had to try it at least once, right?

Well, I did! This video shows how we felt after snowboarding for the very first time.

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Learning to snowboard is like learning to travel. Traveling also requires skills, practice and courage. When you travel, you need to leave what is familiar and comfortable behind you in order to step into an unknown world. You need to overcome the initial fear and let yourself go.

When you finally begin sliding down the hill without tensing your legs so much, the ride is so much more fun! Eventually, after countless falls, you begin to learn how to control your board. When traveling at first, you will most likely make many mistakes or fall into tourist traps, but eventually you will learn the ways of a traveler.

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So, go ahead try something new! Perhaps, it is trying that weird looking food or learning to play a musical instrument. Try it, and you may just have lots of fun!

South Korea: Our Golden Ticket to Traveling

I had always had a keen desire to travel since I was a teenager. I was curious to know what lay beyond this small circle which I had called my world. I would wonder, what life was like in other countries. I wanted to experience different cultures, meet interesting people, try unique foods, and see the incredible places the world had to offer.

But, I was only a teenager without any money. I told myself that after I completed my undergraduate degree, I would travel the world. However, the next thing I knew I was enrolled in graduate school. It was the next step, right? At least that’s what I thought at the time. I promised myself that some way or another, I had to travel after I completed my graduate work. By the time I graduated with my Masters degree, I had a huge debt to pay the university and of course no job or money! How was I supposed to travel?

I know it will sound ridiculous, considering I had debts and no money, but I ended up getting a loan from the bank just so I could travel. You see, my desire to travel was so strong that getting into more debt was not a problem for me. I just needed to travel. Luckily Jason, my boyfriend at the time, also had a strong urge to travel. And so, together we began our journey into an unknown world–the world of travel.

For our very first trip, Jason and I grabbed our new backpacks and flew to London, England. We ended up spending the next 4 weeks, traveling through France, Italy and Greece.

The trip was incredible! It was more than we ever imagined. We were both in love with traveling.
But sadly, we were back to our ordinary lives again. We continued to work odd jobs to make money for the next two years.

However, my urge to travel never left me. It continued to grow stronger with time. I eventually began applying to jobs in the travel industry just so I could travel. After working as a travel agent, I became a flight attendant. I had the opportunity to visit England and Scotland a few times as a flight attendant. But overall, I remained very unsatisfied.

I was beginning to feel very bored with my life. Really bored. I had heard tales from other lucky travelers about their wonderful travel experiences. I heard a lot of stories about Thailand. Travelers’ eyes would light up as they told me about this exotic country.

For hours sometimes, I would just daydream about traveling to Thailand. Just the mere thought of visiting this country would put a smile on my face. Even though I had heard about traveling in other countries too, it was Thailand that fascinated me. I knew deep down, I had to go there. Why? It didn’t really matter. What mattered was, how? How would I ever get across the world to Thailand? Even after two years, we still had debts and hardly any money saved up for traveling. This dream seemed so absurd to think about, but yet I knew I would make it somehow. How though? That question haunted me for months…

Until finally, Jason and I got that call in May, 2006. We were finally being offered to work as English teachers abroad. Within 2 weeks, we had quit our jobs, packed up our lives in Canada, and were on a plane to a foreign country called South Korea. This whole adventure ignited a spark that would change our lives forever. Little did I know at that time, but South Korea would be our golden ticket to the world of traveling and happiness. Within 2 months of being in South Korea, we had our first vacation. And, you may have guessed it. We were on a flight to Thailand!
(Read about our first trip to Thailand.)

Since then, we have been to Thailand 7 times and traveled to about 30 countries!! Dreams can come true, you only need to believe and then find a way!

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On my way to Thailand for the very first time in my life!

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While in Canada, Jason surprised me with this Thailand guidebook. He gave it to me as a reminder that one day we would travel to Thailand. Smart, man!

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Relaxing at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.

Korea’s Sex Park!

Throughout my travels I have seen numerous parks. However, Korea’s Sex Park definitely tops my chart for its uniqueness. This interesting park, which is also named Jeju Loveland, is home to 140 erotic statues that express the theme of sexuality. It was built in 2004 by students from Seoul’s Hongik University. Now, it has become a very popular attraction for both locals and tourists. Considering that sex is not openly talked about in Korean society, this park is indeed very unique to Korea!

Watch this short video and get a glimpse into this sex park!

What has been the most unique park that you have visited?

Related: Korea’s Penis Park

Why is this Korean Park full of Penises?

In South Korea, sexuality is a topic that is not openly expressed. Thus, it might be quite alarming to learn that Korea has an entire park consisting of about 50 phallic statues. Situated along Korea’s east coast, approxiately 20 km south from Samcheok, lies a Penis Park. This unique park also known as Haesindang Park belongs to a small town called Sinnam.

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According to legend, a fisherman took a maid out to the sea and left her on a rock to harvest some seaweed. He promised he would return later and bring her back to shore. Tragically however, there was a very heavy rainstorm and the woman eventually drowned and died in the sea. After her death, the villagers were unable to catch fish. Many believed this was due to the dead virgin’s ill spirit. To please her spirit, the villagers decided to erect wooden phallic statues and hold a religious ceremony. After that, it was not long before the villagers were catching fish again.

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Interestingly, the religious ceremony for this maid still continues to be held twice a year. In this photo, the rock on which the maid was left can be seen in the far distance.

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The penis sculptures peppered throughout the park were of various sizes and shapes. Most of the penises were carved with facial expressions or unique patterns.

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Some penis statues were fairly simple.

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Others were more creative, like this fish penis.

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I found this phallic statue very interesting due to its facial expression.

Personally, I thought it was worth a trip to the Penis Park. If erect penis statues don’t make you uncomfortable, then this park is a great place to have a few laughs!

Craving Korean Food during our Travels

The first time we ever tasted Korean food was in Seoul. The introduction into this world of spicy Korean food that consisted of red pepper paste and kimchi was a delight for our palates. After two years of thoroughly enjoying Korean dishes, we knew we would miss this savory cuisine during our travels. So, before leaving for our one-year World Trip, we made every effort to get our fill of Korean food. But, it was only four months into our big trip that we began deeply craving Korean food. At that time, it was New Years’ Eve and we were in Cairo, Egypt! We were just wandering around hoping to eat at a decent restaurant since finding a Korean restaurant would be highly unlikely. At least that was what we thought, until we actually spotted a Korean restaurant! We were surprised and thrilled. What were the chances of finding Korean cuisine in Egypt! We ordered kimchi bokkeumbap and it was delicious. What a way to bring in the New Year!

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The next time we had the chance to try Korean food was seven months later in Singapore. Even though it was extremely expensive, we couldn’t resist. We ended up ordering dolsot bibimbap!

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The Beauty of Fall in South Korea

If I had to choose my favorite season, it would definitely be fall. It is a sumptuous time to relish in a plethora of rich and vibrant colors. It is a time to soak-up the very essence of nature.  As I stroll down the cacophonous city streets, I am drawn to the silent, cryptic-looking trees. Their long branches radiate, bursting with lusciously colorful leaves. For me, these attractively hued trees hold a delightful treasure called happiness. The beauty of fall captivates my senses like a lover enraptured by his beloved’s kiss. I happily become lost in the world of reflection and tranquility. Helpless as a newborn, my senses are heightened for my connection with nature becomes irresistibly deep. The mere sight of the brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves instantly arouse memories of my playful childhood.

I begin reminiscing about the days, when I used to absent-mindedly collect the fragile leaves of every color and shape within my reach. Time would stop. Only the rustling sound of falling leaves would bring me back. I would take a deep breath and sigh. Smiling, I would I continue gathering my precious leaves. Sometimes, I would assemble an enormous pile of leaves, and then carelessly leap into it. This simple yet joyous act would leave me feeling refreshed and exhilarated.

Now, bundled in my warm jacket and scarf, my boots make a crunching sound upon touching the withering leaves. I leave the hubbub of the city and briskly head for the pristine mountainside. Hiking among the trails flourishing with ubiquitous trees, is time well spent. Like a breath-taking sunset, the autumn views are strikingly gorgeous. Along the way, I become particularly mesmerized by the gentle multicolored leaves that haphazardly drift with the current in the stream. As the crisp breeze rushes by, I eagerly try to take a snapshot in my mind of all the marvelous beauty this season unveils.

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Bungee Jumping is Scary!

I would have thought that skydiving from 14 000 ft, scuba diving with sharks, or surfing with large waves, might have been one of my scariest adventures. However, it was bungee jumping that I have found the scariest.

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In Inje, South Korea, we decided to do our first ever bungee jump! The jump was only about 60 meters. I am not afraid of heights, so at the time I was just super excited to try this new adventure. I was told to walk off the ledge and just drop on the count of 3. Below me I could see nothing but water. It seemed like a fairly long way down. I told myself not to think about it too much and just do it! And that is exactly, what I did.

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That’s me, doing my first bungee jump!

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Jason keeps spinning upside down, after his first bungee jump!

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We did it!

Now, when I recall my experience, I keep thinking I cannot believe that I actually jumped. The scariest part is voluntarily stepping over the ledge and losing all control. Interestingly, bungee jumping, has been the scariest yet most thrilling adventure for me!

Bungee jumping is really awesome fun and everyone should try it at least once. But now that I have experienced it, it is the one activity that I would honestly hesitate to do again. Why? The thought of jumping over a ledge and ending up upside down in the air is quite terrifying!

Halloween Fun in South Korea!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays! I have always had fun and good memories of it. I really enjoy seeing others and myself dress-up in creative costumes!

Although Halloween is a foreign holiday in Korea, it is becoming more popular over the years. In schools, some children come to class dressed up in costumes on Halloween and enjoy learning about the holiday. In one of Korea’s largest amusement parks, Everland, the entire theme of the park is associated with Halloween during the fall season. In fact, I have never seen a theme park so decorated with such elaborate Halloween decorations.

Besides spending the day enjoying the Halloween atmosphere, we ventured into two haunted houses and took plenty of pictures with zombies walking throughout the park. One of the key events at Everland was a very unique Happy Halloween parade. You can see the video at the bottom of the blog. Overall, I was very impressed with our experience!

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A Halloween tree!

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A strange mirror that makes us look so bizarre!

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So happy, to hang out with the dead!

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Have you ever seen a Happy Halloween parade? Well here’s your chance, click on this video and see for yourself.

I apologize for the shakiness of the video.

Wild Whitewater Rafting in South Korea

The first time Jason and I ever went rafting was in the Naerincheon Stream of Inje, South Korea. Back in Canada, I had always had a strong desire to try my hand at rafting. Unfortunately, the opportunity never arose. When we came to Korea, it was definitely the beginning of a new and adventurous chapter in our lives! The first big adventure we embarked on was rafting. We met some really nice Koreans, who also shared the same enthusiasm for adrenaline-pumping activities like us. Our rafting instructor was an extremely fun, knowledgeable and entertaining guide.

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The Naerincheon Stream has some of the best rapids and surrounding landscapes in South Korea. The quality of rapids are so amazing, that the stream was chosen as the location for the 2007 World Rafting Competition.

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As we rode the waves down this magnificent stream, we enjoyed the white waters as well as the beautiful nature. Our rafting trip could not have been better. It was extremely fun. It was one of the best outdoor activities we had ever done!