Whilst living in South Korea, my mind often drifted to Beaverlac – my favourite campsite situated in the Kouebokkeveld Mountains near the Cedarberg in the Western Cape. Upon my return to South Africa in November, camping in the Kouebokkeveld (meaning cold buck fields in Afrikaans) was on the top of my list of things to do.
Totem poles rock pool. Can you blame me for fantasizing about this place when I’m away? Photo by Laura Caetano – edited.
At the suggestion that we pack up in the middle of the week and head 3-hours into the countryside for one night under star-pricked skies, my friends Laura and Tali obliged. And only a few hours after set up and one cold Savannha down, one night quickly turned into two.
Thank heavens for these girls and an empty work week. 😀
We’d tried to pack the bare minimum but enough to survive comfortably, and I’d argue we did so very well. With a grill, tongs, kettle and some foil we succeeded in providing ourselves with 2x satisfying veggie dinners (my first time camping meat-free!). Continue reading
A few days ago I turned 25. That’s a whole quarter century. To celebrate I reflected back on 25 awesome things I’ve done this year. Here’s what I came up with in no particular order.
1. Lived and worked in a foreign country,
and got to do so with my best friend.
2. Joined Ayurveda Yoga Academy.
Did 6 months of physical, mental and emotional training. And finally, became a certified yoga teacher. 🙂
3. Took a trip by myself.
Met some incredible people. And had a short but sweet love affair with Taipei.
This overnight food tour to Gimhae with the yoga studio came at the peak of a recent phase of my life that can only best be description as ‘food obsession’.
Below gaze upon all the food I put in my belly. I’ll try my best to name and describe each, but as a basic rule just take for granted each (besides for one) was delicious.
Breakfast Round 1: Grandma Noodles
The sign reads “halmae guksu” ~ Grandma Noodles.
This modest little abode is actually a restaurant that has been making noodles for 60 years! On the menu: 할매국수 (halmae guksu
~ Grandma noodles) a type of Korean noodle dish in an anchovy broth with fresh spicy sauce. It looked good, and tasted even better. Not fishy like I feared it might be, but with a deep and delicious taste. Continue reading
We took the slow train from Daegu to Busan last weekend. It was lovely. Just four girls with questionable coffee addictions, zero set plans, numerous cherry blossom trees and one night in Korea’s second city.
What were we to do? Eat, shop, and be shameless tourists at one of the major tourist hot spots in Busan: Gamcheon Culture Village. Here’s the photographic evidence (get ready, it’s about to rain selfies):
Cherry blossom season in Gamcheon Village.
These ‘human-pigeons’ balance perfectly on the border of things just weird enough for me to love.
Just a few of the many art installations within the village. These people-pigeons balance perfectly on the edge of things just weird enough for me to love.
This blog could also be renamed ‘How baboons joined mosquitoes on the list of things I hate’. Scroll to the end for advice on baboon encounters of the terrifying kind.
Following the success of our camping adventure at Beaverlac the week before, my girlfriends and I made plans to hike up to a wildly popular spot in the Steenbras Nature Reserve known as Crystal Pools.
What could be better than a day out in nature, hiking with my girls?
This spot is so popular in fact that they only allow a certain number of people in per day on presentation of a permit applied for in advance (the permit costs R60 per person and can be applied for online following these instructions).
We left Cape Town at 5am. None of us had slept more than 2 and a half hours the night before but it didn’t matter. We were in high spirits driving down the N2 towards Sir Lowry’s Pass, witness to an incredible early morning sky that gave no hint at the strange and scary and incredible day we had ahead of us.
Sunrise greets us on the N2. How could this day be anything less than perfect?
A thing only the the mother of a project can truly appreciate; The final draft. The front cover of my senior research project WorldWalker Magazine.
“Why did you call it WorldWalker Magazine?” a friend asked me recently. And then it occurred to me – I’d left out a fundamental detail in the narrative of this project.
There are a few ways in which I could answer:
- WorldWalker Magazine was the name of my senior research project for print journalism. We had to make a magazine – a real one. It consumed me during my final year.
- World walker sounded a bit to me like white walker – creatures of winter in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones – another something that consumed me.
- At the time of creation (of this blog that is) I wholeheartedly believed my future was in magazines. This site was meant to be my portfolio.
- I believed that ‘travelling the world’ was the most extraordinary thing I could do with my life. Walking the world referred to my desire to do it slowly and mindfully.
As is life, my motivations have since changed. I’ve ticked major boxes on the bucket list I compiled along side WorldWalker Magazine at university, and discovered some personal truths in the process. With each achievement things moved forward. With each disappointment things still moved forward. So many things have changed, including my initial intentions behind this blog (as mentioned above) and its ‘travel-y’ ‘magazine-y’ name. For example:
- I now understand that the enjoyment I got creating WorldWalker Magazine stemmed more from my enjoyment of creative projects that are my own, more than it did from working on a magazine.
- I read the full Game of Thrones series and grew old and weary waiting for the next book. Well, not really. I’m still waiting patiently.
- While no-one can know what the future holds, for the moment my interests (and professional ambitions) do not lay in magazines.
- I have a better understanding now that the hype and idealism of the ‘travel dream’ (and sometimes travel itself) can be misplaced. That mindfulness in everyday matters are of more importance to me, and that embracing the ordinary is the most extraordinary thing one can do.
On the final leg of my long flight home from Hong Kong, I wrote a list of the things I was grateful for.
It all started with one thought really; how grateful I was for my experience over the last year and a half. Sitting on that plane, it was difficult to believe that experience was coming to an end. And it still feels near impossible for me to summarize or neatly define the massive impact getting on that plane bound for South Korea 15 months ago has had on me.
Just being grateful seemed like a good place to start. This list was birthed out of that simultaneous awe and confusion:
- I’m grateful for the privilege of being able to travel ~ because even being on the tightest of budgets, just the fact that I could afford to get onto a plane puts me in a position of privilege.
- I’m grateful for my health and physically able body.
- I’m grateful to have people whom I love on two opposite sides of the world ~ the kind that make it hard to be away from either place.
- I’m grateful that I got to share this experience with my best friend ~ who fed me on those frozen winter days when I’d just refuse to get out of bed. Who remained my home-away-from-home where ever we were.
- I’m grateful to be in a position of choice regarding my future.
- I’m grateful for my family, who offer me the safety net that allows me to fly free for a while.
- I’m grateful for yoga, and how it continues to enhance my mind, body and life.
- I’m grateful to friends who stick around, even while I’m in a different time zone.
- I’m grateful for fresh air and drinkable tap water.
- I’m grateful for the chance to work with children ~ they gave me a space in which to act the fool, discover and develop my leadership skills, practice patience, teach and learn.
- I’m grateful for all the things that can be learnt from interacting with people from different walks of life.
- I’m grateful for airplanes.
Yesterday – in a frantic rage and pouring rain – we threw the last of our belonging into our backpacks or out onto the street, handed over the keys to our apartments and caught our one-way KTX to Seoul. The time had come, way too soon, to leave our home-city of Daegu and in one sleep, to leave South Korea altogether.
The event was marked by trails, tears, and tantrums. Getting rid of all my personal possessions proved difficult. Saying goodbye to friends – unimaginable. Sleep – unattainable, and excitement for the future a far thought from the trauma (yes, trauma) of the present.
At first the prospect of packing up the flat I’ve nested in over the past year appealed to me. I love organizing, and have found moving to be a great motivator for cleaning out one’s closet (in both senses of the phrase).
Plus, this move signified the end of my year working abroad – something I’d always wanted to do – and the start of our 4 month backpacking trip – another something I’ve alway wanted to do.
Impressed with myself, I publish this:
“Time to take photos out of frames and pictures off the wall. Time to box up the few treasures collected from another year, and give away that which is no longer needed.”
So why was I so miserable? This picture might be a good place to start:
The biggest size box I thought I could ship (size 6 on the left – already fully packed). The biggest size box I can actually ship (size 4 on the right – awaiting a flood of my tears).
In 10 days I leave South Korea for the longest, most under-organized trip I’ve ever gone on. On the list of things to do before I ship my few belongings home and strap on my backpack; upload and organize my documents to that magical cloud in the sky.
That’s where I found a little something I wrote back in my first year of varsity about my first solo road trip. Okay, so it wasn’t really much of a road trip. I just drove from Cape Town to the seaside town of Hermanus to stay with a friend. It was only a two hour drive, though I prolonged it by stopping at a little farm stall on the way, and taking some photos of the countryside when I fancied.
It’s an easy trip that I’ve done multiple times since then, but for me at that time – freshly independent and a new license-holder – it was the first trip over the Hottentots-Holland mountains I would do in my car, by myself.
Small in comparison to the solo road trips I’ve done since, but big in the confidence it inspired. It was liberating.
Still to this day, driving is my favourite way to get to where I’m going. And like on that first trip, there still remains the bitter-sweet feeling upon arrival at my destination. A feeling of curiosity that makes me want to push on, and excitement to do another trip – next time even further into the horizon.
Here’s a few istagrams I took on our road trip from Durban to Cape Town last winter. They span from the time the sun rose coming out of Matatiele – the border between KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape, and the last town before the southern Lesotho border – through the former Transkei, into the deep Karoo leading into the Klein Karoo to the Western Cape.
A photo walk through Durban, South Africa – Africa’s biggest and busiest port city. Durban’s city center is dotted with a significant collection of Art-Deco architecture. Colourful Apartheid Era Apartments stand shedding their skin next to lavish Art-Deco curves, old colonial buildings and the hard lines of developing-city blocks. This made the city an architectural dream to photograph.
The Gainsborough residential flats – a lovely example of Durban’s many art deco buildings.
Street crossing in Downtown Durban. In the background stands the Southern Life Building – KwaZulu Natal’s highest.
A bill board advertising for The Sun – South Africa’s most popular tabloid paper.
Guest post by Matthew Campbell // Edited by Michellé D’Almeida
Snoop Dogg & Psy – drinking ‘Condition’ – Korea’s magical hangover cure – in the music video for the song ‘Hangover’.
Korea has an epic drinking culture. With epic drinking comes the inevitable epic hangover. Luckily Korea has discovered a way to bottle the sweet nectar of the gods into one compact little drink that is the answer to all your hangover pains. I am of course talking about 컨디션. 컨디션 (or keon-di-syeon ~ Konglish for “Condition“) is a hangover cure that’s been around since the 90s. And it is what the name implies – a little bottle to improve your condition after a heavy night out drinking in Korea. One’s ‘condition’ = one’s general health and well-being (Often used by Koreans in sentences like: “How’s your condition?” “You don’t look in good condition.” “My condition is bad, I should take a rest”, etc.) Continue reading
One of my most recent assignment for my Yoga Teaching Certificate was to read a summarize a book on Philosophy of Yoga, Mediation or otherwise. I chose to study Osho‘s The Man Who Loved Seagulls: Essential Life Lessons from the World’s Greatest Wisdom Traditions. Here are my notes from each topic he discusses in the book.
On finding balance
One never achieves balance forever, one has to achieve it again and again and again.
Meditation is not a static thing. It is a balance. You will have to attain it again and again and again. You will become more and more capable of attaining it, but it is not going to remain forever, like a possession in your hands. It has to be claimed each moment – only then is it yours. (Page 4)
Keep continuously alert that you don’t lose the balance, and then everything will take care of itself. (Page 28) Continue reading
© Michellé D’Almeida
This post documents the month I left South Africa for South Korea. We were a part of the EPIK August 2014 intake, scheduled to arrive in Korea on August 17th. As such much of the month was spent building up to this event (which I don’t even have a picture of ㅠㅠ).
** If you’ve applied to EPIK and are wondering what to expect on arrival, then this post might help to give you a little insight.
As promised, here’s a post detailing our long weekend trip to Ulleungdo over ‘spring vacation’. This post includes information on how to get to Ulleungdo and where to stay.
You can also check out our ‘selfie summary’ of the trip for the concise version of what we got up to.
View of Jeodong Port from Ulleungdo Lighthouse. © Michellé D’Almeida
We decided to go to Ulleungdo the day before leaving on a train bound for Pohang, and in our frantic search to find out more about the island stumbled upon only a few very outdated story posts.
Hopefully this post can serve to fill the gap because Ulleungdo – though far less known than Jejudo, and more out-of-the-way – is so worth the trip. For that reason this will be more guide, less story. So let’s jump right in. Continue reading
Guest Post by Matthew Campbell // Edited by Michellé D’Almeida
If you have visited or lived in South Korea and you did not frequent a Jjimjilbang then congratulations… you missed out! This would be like going to South Africa and not seeing a single animal. Going to Ireland and only drinking Budweiser. Visiting Amsterdam and not sampling… their delicious Appel koek! My point being, it falls into the category of things you simply have to experience while in Korea.
The DMOE (Daegu Department of Education) has made it official: only a handful of schools with ‘special English needs’ will be offering positions to Native English Teachers come August 2015.
Native teachers who do stay to fill these positions with EPIK (English Program in Korea) will also have to take a pay cut, and sign for 18 months instead of the original 12. This is in accordance to EPIK’s wishes to do away with the August intake altogether, and to eventually have only one main intake in February.
By Wednesday before the long weekend all we knew was that we had to go somewhere. On Thursday I found Ulleungdo ‘mystery island’ on a map. Friday we were on a train to Pohang to try and buy tickets for the ferry over. We had no accommadation and no idea what to expect, except adventure.
Obviously this story deserves a full post – and it will get one – but until then; here’s a ‘selfie summary’ of our up/down misadventure to Korea’s ‘Mystery Island‘.
Photo quality dependant on what photographic device had battery at the time.
Friday: Arrive in Pohang
The ‘arrived in Pohang, we’re adventurers ~~ so far success!’ selfie
- Book into sexy love motel – CHECK!
- Tickets on tomorrow’s ferry to Ulleungdo ‘mystery island’ – CHECK!
- Beer on the beach – CHECK!
The energy inside the temples in Taipei during Lunar New Year (known as the Chinese New Year to some) is impossible to capture in photographs. You miss out on the sound of chanting and praying and drumming. You can’t smell the incense burning, nor see the candles flickering.
Ciyou Temple in Taipei, Taiwan (Lunar New Year 2015)