Tea Talk 8: Jane Streicher | English Teacher (Seoul, Korea)

Jane and I have known each other pretty much our whole lives, and I love that we both have a passion for traveling. Something I’ve written about before is how homeschooling opens up your mind to being able to do things like live in other cultures, or travel the world, because it encourages that sense of constant curiosity. Jane and I both had that as kids, growing up, and I love seeing her adventures as she lives and works in Korea. I’m so honored to have such amazing women surrounding my life, and being able to share their stories with you all! Without further adieu, here’s Jane:

1. What started your passion for traveling?

I grew up going on family road trips every summer including camping for a week a few hours away on the coast or cross country trips to visit relatives in the midwest. Because of these trips, I learned to love going places and experiencing new things from a young age.

2. What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?

Stay with locals. One of my favorite things to do is to find an Airbnb or hostel run by locals and get their advice on where to go and what to eat. They will usually have secret spots that I could have never found without their insight.

3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

One simple thing I do subconsciously now after living in Asia for four years, is taking my shoes off whenever I am inside a home. I remember in high school and college, I would wear boots inside all day long but now I feel so unsettled if I have my shoes on for more than a few minutes.

Another thing I have learned to appreciate is gift giving. It’s a simple way to show someone you care about them or respect them after taking a trip or visiting their home. Obviously this is done in the US too but I never truly saw its purpose until living in Asia.

4. What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling?

Don’t over think things. Be open and flexible to what can happen. Make plans and be smart but also have an open mind so if/when things go wrong you can still have fun and enjoy yourself.

5. What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?

Always check times (especially if its military time). When I was leaving Vietnam last winter, I accidentally missed my flight completely by 12 hours because I thought my flight was in the afternoon when it was actually late at night. Luckily I could buy another flight for $100 but I now make sure to triple check all times.

6. What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?

Being alone. When I first moved to Vietnam in 2013, I preferred doing things with other people and felt a little bit intimidated going places alone. Over the years I was there, I learned to navigate going out alone and now I love going to coffee shops alone to read or work. My introverted side as defiantly become much more dominate as I have traveled and lived abroad.

Accepting help. As an American, I think it’s ingrained in me to want to do things without help from other people. Living in Vietnam and South Korea, there have been countless times when I have had to rely on my friends from those places to help me get simple things done like going to the doctor or fixing a flat tire on my motorbike.

7. What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

Plane. There is always such an excitement I feel when taking a flight. I love the whole process and especially enjoy the meals (?! I know most people think they are gross.)

8. What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self?

Money will come and go. So much of the time when traveling and living abroad, money can be a huge worry. I am still learning how to be smart about it but as an expat I think I have to expect times when money is tighter.

9. What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?

Japan! I am hoping to take a trip to see the cherry blossoms there next spring.

10. Let’s talk about your current adventure! What was your inspiration?

I was really curious about South Korean culture and learning the language. I had met lots of Koreans in Vietnam and decided it was time for a new challenge. Instead of wondering what life was like there, I wanted to experience it first hand.

11. What has been the best/toughest part?

One of the best parts is my job teaching English to kindergarteners and elementary students. I spend most of my work day with four and five year olds and they are so precious and curious. They make it fun to come to work!

I have also been loving all the food and places to discover here. There are so many tasty things to try and new coffee shops to go to! A tough thing is starting over and everything that comes with it – making new friends, learning a new language and new city.

12. What’s one thing you’ve learned?

Being uncomfortable is okay, especially when going through change.

I came to Seoul after living in Vietnam for three years. I loved my time in Da Nang and by the time I left last winter, I had a comfortable life with so many special friends and connections. I knew the city so well and everything was fairly easy and simple.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Seoul of all the cities in South Korea was because it scared me a little bit. It sounded so big and intimidating and I loved that idea. I wanted a new challenge of living in a highly developed city and learning a new language but what that meant didn’t fully sink in until I got here.

The last six months have been exciting and fun but also awkward and challenging. I have been able to study Korean with two amazing teachers and have also made friends and have a good job. But there have also been days where things aren’t perfect and feel uncomfortable.

13. What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from this trip?

I truly love to learn. I have always know this but over the last few years, it’s really hit me that I am a life long learner. In Vietnam, I was a part of a Christmas choir and also took a dance class. I had never done those things well but decided if I was interested I could do it.

14. Anything else you’d like to add?!

The experience of traveling and doing new things is always worth it, even if you have to budget or rearrange things!

Tea Talk is a monthly series featuring extraordinary women who travel around the world! If you know someone who should be featured, or would like to be featured yourself, shoot me an email at morehouseemilee@gmail.com or post a message on this blog post! Join me again in November for the next feature! 

Tea Talk 1: Jessica | Travel Blogger, Artist

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Welcome to the very first “Tea Talk”! I’m so excited to introduce you, twice a month, to inspirational women who share my passion for travel. From artists to bloggers to moms to videographers, these posts are meant to highlight the lives of women who dared to strike out and explore the world around them. If you feel inspired, share this post with your friends!

First up: Jessica.

Jessica and I met while working at a childcare center a couple years ago and found common ground around the issues of feminism, social justice and teaching kids the rules of consent. Having worked in childcare for the past 4 years, I’ve always found it interesting how many childcare workers are simultaneously world travelers (whether they know it yet, or not). Last year Jessica set out on a solo adventure around southeast Asia. An epic journey that left her with buckets of stories to tell, and me without her as a roommate (#shameonyou). But now that she’s back, I couldn’t be more proud of her exploits, and adventures. Be sure to check out her blog where you can find stories, travel tips and art!

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What started your passion for traveling?

I have always been a huge book nerd ever since I can remember, and it wasn’t until high school that I really started thinking, “Hey, I could actually visit some of these places one day.” The more I read, the more the wanderlust started to take hold. I began reading more biographies and memoirs and dreaming about place outside of Washington State. I just knew I needed to see as much of the world as I can.

What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?

Give yourself freedom. In that, I mean don’t schedule everything out to a T. Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, and if you budget in a little flexibility, it usually ends up being okay. Or, you may get to a place that you absolutely love and want to stay longer than planned. If you get so wrapped up in the little pieces, you are more likely to be disappointed when things don’t go exactly “right”.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

This is probably less of a cultural habit and more of a “travel habit” but I care a lot less about how I look now. After trekking around in all kinds of weather, meeting strangers you are not likely to see again, it is easy to forget about makeup, smooth hair, and put-together outfits. Now I hardly ever wear makeup at all (my last trip I didn’t bring any with me) and I let my curly hair go free.

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What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about solo traveling?

Trust yourself. I think one of the biggest things holding women back from traveling solo is fear: fear of getting hurt, getting lost, or worse. In reality, those things can happen in any part of the world. What makes the difference is that you are going to a new place, so it’s expected that you will feel less confident and prepared than you usually do back home. If you carry yourself with pride and trust in your own strength and abilities, you won’t have time to be scared and paranoid. Solo travel is such a great experience because this can be a great way for women to realize their strengths and how capable they are.

What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?

When I traveled solo for the first time, I tried to make friends with as many people as I could right away. I think it was my own insecurity about being alone and unprepared. I quickly got a reminder that I am not that person – I am an introvert who likes her “Me Time”. I met great people along the way, but I couldn’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I started feeling burned out from trying to be a socialite party animal fashionista. I decided to stick with a few people I got close to and skip the daily bar crawls.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo?

Best: the freedom to do what you want, where, when, and how you want. I like being my own boss lady.

Worst: Getting tired and/or sick without your mommy or best friend to take care of you L

What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?

On my last trip I tried rock climbing for the first time. I am TERRIFIED of heights. I just sucked it up and did it. Now I love it.

What is your favorite way to travel and why?

I love traveling by boat. I think it is because I grew up on two islands and have always lived closed to the ocean. I love being on the sea. It’s is calming and usually not as crowed at a bus or a plane.

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What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self?

Be patient. Good things will come.

What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?

Morocco

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing?

The next country I am likely going to is Nepal. Otherwise, I hope to go on a longer backpacking trip through South America once I save up enough money. For now, I have a few connections in Nepal and really want to explore more of Asia.

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself?

When I was in high school I planned on taking my first trip to Thailand, but was unable to because my grandma passed away (she was going to pay for the trip). I went on my first trip to Thailand in memory of her.20170127_092943
Want to learn more about Jessica’s adventures? Hop over to her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram!
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Ten things I thought I knew about Bangalore, India

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It’s easy not to know what to expect when you travel internationally. When I went to India I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And, despite my feeble attempts to prepare myself (I listened to a lot of MIA before flying out), culture shock would be a minimal way of saying I was a “deer in headlights” when I got there. There were some things I learned while I was there, though. And, in the end, I left with so much more knowledge and experience than I ever thought I could gather in one place. So here they are, 10 things I thought I knew about India (specifically Bangalore, where I stayed).  7727_1211892690863_2734341_n

1. Language: A majority of people in major cities speak English. I tried to learn Hindi for months before going to India, which was completely unnecessary (although, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy learning it).

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2. Dancing: Bollywood dancing is damn. hard. It looks easy in the  movies, but it will kick the butt of even the most in shape person. I would highly suggest trying to find a class if you travel to India. It was so much fun and a memory I’ll never forget.

3. Sickness: You actually CAN get sick from street food. It’s no joke. Several of my travel buddies got “Bangalore Belly” from eating the street food that looked/smelled so good. I’m not going to go into detail, but we’ll just say… you get sick in EVERY way. Indian street vendors do not hold to the same requirements when preparing their food as most do in the US, and tourist’s immune systems aren’t built to be able to withstand the same things as natives. Be really careful if you decide to try some.

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4.  Music/Hollywood: Kelly Clarkson and Lindsey Lohan were names I heard EVERY TIME someone found out I was American. I really think it’s funny that those are the two people who get associated with the United States. While I’m ok with the Kelly obsession, it mildly broke my heart that our international rep lies on the shoulders of Lindsey Lohan.

5. Social System: The caste system is real, and people abide by it. This really shocked me, because I thought that stories about castes had always been exaggerated. It was such an eye opening experience to actually sit down with people and hear their perspectives about what it means to be Indian and live in whichever caste they were born into.

6. Food: Indians take EXTREME pride in their traditional food. Once I sent back a barely eaten plate of food and the chef himself came out and asked me what was wrong with it. Nothing had been wrong with it, except that my mouth was on fire from how many spices were added. He was so upset. I finished my plate of food from that day out – spicy or not.

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7. Hang out spots: Hookah bars are like Starbuck coffees in Bangalore. When someone first casually asked me to hang out at one I thought, ” Wait. Can’t we just get coffee or something?” Little did I know they hold a completely different meaning and atmosphere than they do in the US. There were so many on every street that I got used to the idea. But, I’m still a fan of coffee shops.

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8. Animals: One of my first thoughts when I got to India was, “Why the hell is there a cow in the street?!” The traffic in Bangalore was pretty on par with a big city in Seattle during rush hour (except more rickshaws) and, yet, there she was. Not caring who was around, there was a cow crossing the street. Dogs were another animal that roamed freely in the streets, belonging to no one in particular. It was kind of fun to make friends with some of the dogs, but there was also always this thought in the back of my mind to call and report a missing animal.

9. Affection: Ok, so this one I HAD been “warned” about. It was fairly common to see men walking holding hands or with their arms around each other. In the US this would probably suggest some kind of romantic relationship, but in India? Just good (good good good) friends.

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10. Our Impact: I couldn’t help feeling like the whole time I was traveling I needed to apologize for the US. We have so much more of an impact than we can imagine in countries like India. People dream about running away to where we live. People know our music, our movies, our tabloids. The US has so much more of a global voice than I ever had realized. What are we doing with it?  I think traveling to India really made me become more aware of how I live and what I support. Just think of it this way – over a billion people are watching.

Do you guys have any good culture shock stories out there!?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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Rickshaw rides AKA rides of constant near death experiences.