When I told my (Korean) friends that I’d be visiting Jeju again, this being my third trip, I received a lot of jealous and envious feedback. I guess it’s true that you don’t travel much in your home country because despite being a 1 hour plane ride away some of my friends have never been. I actually felt kinda bad because I wasn’t all that excited about my trip, in fact as I waited to board the plane part of me wished I were on a bus to my friends apartment in Mokpo. I get carried away sometimes and it usually involved buying airplane tickets, but then when the day comes I begin to think “Who signed me up for this?” sounds weird, I know. Nevertheless I was on my way to Jeju, first to meet a friend and then hang out and explore on my own for an unknown period of time.
It’s kind of strange, although this was my third visit to Jeju I felt like I hadn’t yet properly experienced the island. My first visit was with the second year High School students when I was teaching in Gumi, so it’s understandable I didn't’ get much out of that trip, most of the time I was either on a bus or in front of a camera lens. Then last summer, my second visit flew by on the back of my friends motorbike, I was in the mood for a real vacation and easily played follow the leader. It was because of these two experiences that I began to believe Jeju was hand to explore on your own, so this visit was all about changing that perception.
I was lucky to find a friendly Couchsurfing host near Samyang Beach, only a 30 minute bus ride from the heart of Jeju city and thoroughly enjoyed having a place to call home for a few days. I spent my first full day playing follow the leader again, spent too much time with other foreigners and still didn't’ feel like I was in Jeju. It wasn’t until I got out on my own to explore that I found the beauty tucked within this Island, and once I discovered it I fell hard and fast. The real reason I came to love it here was that I did it my way. I spent three days on my own, taking buses, searching for local restaurants and walking the Olle Trails.
Jeju is a magical place and I quickly came to realize it really is an ideal place for me. I’ve always said I wanted to live in the mountains with a view of the sea and that’s 110% possible here. It’s the perfect balance of Korea and foreigners (tourists), I realized as I rode buses, ate in restaurants and walked through stores that white people speaking Korean is still a specialty here, but the locals don’t seem annoyed with [us] as they do in Seoul. The number of times I heard “한국말 잘하네!” (You speak Korean well) was many and it brought a smile to my face every time. The weather here is pretty awesome too, my second requirement for a home was a place that palm trees can grow; if they can grow, I can grow and Jeju-do fits the bill.
For now I’m headed back to the mainland, visiting my friends, spending a few months working and (hopefully) a semester studying Korea. But after that’s all done there is a very high chance that I’ll be browsing job boards for this perfect little island. I’m surprised it took me three visits, but I’m glad I finally took the time to discover the beauty here, I’m sure I’ll be back for visit four real soon.
Where to start. After living in this country for three years I have memories, experiences and stories galore. I'll now always be a bit partial to the Land of the Morning Calm. Filled with delicious foods, beautiful nature and friendly people, I'm always happy to return.