My Chuseok bike holiday from Seoul to Daegu

It’s now November 9th but my mind is still riding a bike in mid-October along Korea’s dedicated bike path from Seoul to our home in Gyeongsan. Since Korea’s Harvest Holiday, Chuseok, fell in such a way that the entire county got a 10 day holiday, we decided to take a bus up to Seoul and take a week to ride down with our kids and gear in tow to our front stoop. To put it simply, it was magical.

We joyously rode our bikes through rice fields and forgotten towns, played games and laughed until tears came, and ate kimchi and rice like Chosun kings. A month out, I am beginning to worry that no family trip I will take with my wife and kids will top those 8 days of simplicity.

Family travel in South Korea

We are going to revisit those days with a video (Coming soon!) and some informational blog posts. Until then, enjoy some of our B side photos I’ve been scrolling through on my phone today. And since this isn’t our first rodeo (but it is our longest). I’m embedding our last Chuseok trip at the bottom of this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling in South Korea

A gorgeous day greeted us after a grey and wet ride the day before.

 

Family cycling in South Korea

Small hotels dot the Korean countryside.

Rain forced us into staying in a hotel with the smallest rooms in Korea, but they came with the nicest proprietors in the country.

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The first few miles of our longest ride on the trip. 65 miles.

 

Sleeping in Gumi, South Korea

The kids crashed after a big day in Gumi.

Camping in South Korea

Camping in Korea is incredibly easy, safe, and accessible. Especially along the bike paths.

 

Explore Korea by bike… with KIDS!

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By Lindsay Nash

Thanksgiving usually means sitting around a table and stuffing yourself with turkey and all the fixings. In Korea, on their Thanksgiving known as Chuseok, most Koreans are doing the same. Well, if you substitute the turkey for songpyeon and the dry red wine for clear strong soju.

But we’re expats here in South Korea, and the same doesn’t necessarily apply to us. We don’t have any extended family obligations and have nothing on the agenda except a glorious long weekend begging for a family adventure. Sign us up.

We decided we could finally gamble with bringing along our almost-1-year-old on a biking/camping family adventure, along with our well-traveled and cycled 4-year-old. We got some friends and their families on board and we hopped on our bicycles and rode from our home in Gyeongsan to the traditional folk village in Andong, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Daegu to Andong bike paths

Cycling in Korea is picking up in popularity, especially with all the wonderful new dedicated bike paths criss-crossing the entire country as part of the Four Rivers Project. And, as you can see from Whit’s many blogs about it, we’ve jumped on the boat bike too.

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Interested in your own family bicycle adventure in Korea with kids? Here are a few tips:

    • Do your research. For starters, download this brochure about the paths and learn where you can access them. We’re lucky because we can leave our house and reach the bike paths in Daegu in less than an hour (cycling through some farmland and along rivers before we hop on the official path).
    • Get the gear. Your bike trip will only be as fun as your gear is reliable. In 2013, I biked from Daegu to Busan on a rather cheap 7-speed bike and I lagged behind the group most of the trip, though I worked nearly twice as hard. I recommend at least a 21-speed bike. Mountain bikes, touring bikes, and road bikes are all great for this trip. I personally ride a hybrid bike and it’s just perfect. It’s also important to have good gear like panniers to hold all your supplies that you’ll need.

 

  • Think about your young ones. What gear and supplies will they need? We typically use one trailer and one seat on the back of a bike and let our two kids switch between these two options, though they typically love to ride in the trailer most, where they can play with toys, read books, take naps, and easily munch on snacks.

    Camping with kids is our favorite. Nothing beats a childhood sunset.

    Camping with kids is our favorite. Nothing beats a childhood sunset.

  • Plan your overnights. Will you camp or stay in motels along the route? We typically camp, since it’s much easier to camp wherever you feel like stopping along the route. The bike paths follow the rivers and it’s easy to pop up a tent wherever you please. We’ve had some pretty amazing spots. There are no rules about where to camp (unless you’re in a national park) so it’s free game. Hotels are nice too, but let’s be honest, in these small towns there won’t be many options other than love hotels. These are fine, but just be prepared to answer questions like, “Mommy, why is there a mirror on the ceiling?” and “Wow, look at that cool red night light!
  • Be flexible. Traveling with children in any setting requires a large amount of flexibility. Remember to go slow, stop often, and embrace your inner child. We stop at any playground we see, let the kids roll in rain puddles, let them have unusual amounts of lollipops and snacks, and stop to take pictures and hold any type of bug we find along the path.

 

 

Stop and catch a bug or two. But, then, release it. :)

Stop and catch a bug or two. But, then, release it. 🙂

  • Capture the moments. Bring your camera and snap up some shots of your adventure. These bike paths in Korea are the perfect backdrop to what will be some of your kid’s fondest memories of childhood.

Questions? Planning your own family trip? E-mail us. We’re happy to help.

7 Reasons why your family should travel in Asia

By Lindsay Nash

1. It’s kid-friendly! From its restaurants to shops to sacred temples and luxurious hotels, Asia wants to visit with your children. The it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child tenet reigns superior across the continent and your child will immediately be welcomed with open (and often outreached) arms. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at my young son and thought, ‘he’s going to get in trouble for that’ and then someone comes by with a smile, wink, or tussle of his hair.

2. It’s colorful. Kids love a bright and engaging place and Asia is just that. From colorful fruit for sale on street stands to women’s traditional saris in India, bright colors are everywhere, constantly begging for attention.

3. It’s hands-on. For better or worse, there’s not much in Asia that requires you to view from behind a rope or gate. Consider Angkor Wat, the thousands-year-old temple and city complex in Cambodia that is free for clamoring and roaming. It’s truly the ultimate fort for your children to discover (of course, with respect).

4. It’s educational. Why look at the picture of the Great Wall or Taj Mahal in a book? Take your children there and discover the magic of seeing these amazing places in person. Touch the walls, meet the people, and get a real feel for some of these world wonders.

5. It’s horizon-expanding. There is no greater lesson to learn than just how big the world is, and how different we can all live. But at the same time, we’ll all just people. It’s a lesson that’s easy to learn while traveling to a place very different than your own culture. You’ll meet new people who are very different, yet also the same as you.

6. It’s cultural. You can be blessed by elephants in India or attend a funeral parade in Bali. Eat kimchi in Korea or sit with monks in Thailand. Every experience will be a new one, and one that your children and family will remember for a lifetime.IMG_0611

7. It’s affordable. Your dollar will go a long way in most countries in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia. You can eat a tasty bowl of pho in Vietnam for about 20 cents. Or, in Korea, you can have a nice thick piece of grilled pork with tens of side dishes for about 10 bucks. And children often eat, visit or play for free at many hotels, parks, museums and other sites across Asia.

Kids Didn’t Cure the Travel Bug

By Whit Altizer

Yesterday as I went for my daily run during our family vacation in Sanur, Bali. I tried to pinpoint the moment when I turned my life over to travel.

Strangely, I remember it happened during a run in Mexico.

My wife and I spent money we didn’t have to honeymoon in a resort in Puerta Vallarta. I found myself drawn outside the gates of that secluded (and wonderful) resort to try to get as much of an authentic experience as possible.

I wanted to see how people in this town lived, eat what they ate, walk the roads they walked. Just be there.

One morning, my wife and I ran along the uneven cobblestone back roads of that lovely city and then popped into a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant for a Mexican breakfast. As we sat there over huevos divorciados, I think we both quietly made a pact that this wouldn’t be our last trip outside the friendly confines of America.

And it wasn’t. Then there was Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, France and the Phillippines. All while living abroad in Korea.

We loved being somewhere different.

Then we got pregnant. This time we made a verbal pact to make our kid become part of “our team.” Of course we would put our kid first, but he would also not heavily alter our lives as we knew them. We wanted to keep running marathons, have a social life, a work-life and of course, travel whenever we could.

So now our 4-year-old has his US passport stamped by Korea, Ireland, the Philippines(we were pregnant the first time and went back) and Indonesia with more on the way.But we were also heavily committed to being present parents. Our kid would come with us. Almost everywhere. But before 8PM. We aren’t sadists.

Then we got pregnant again.

So we booked a trip with our 4-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter to Indonesia as an act of defiance to those who think that traveling with kids is crazy.

Um, it is.

But it is also crazy fun. We’ve learned a lot traveling with kids and we are continuing to learn. We’ve made plenty of mistakes and we’ve also done things that make us feel like parenting geniuses.

Our hope is to pass along any wisdom we have about the traveling process and the places we’ve gone. We love extravagance, but also value frugality. We like to do when we get there, but we also like to just be.

We think we embody all sorts of travelers and if we don’t we hope to find people that fill our void.

The idea is to make you feel like going far away with your kids isn’t so crazy, but a wonderful act of defiance. And really a lot easier then you could have imagined.

Travel on!

Don’t drop your iPhone in the ocean and other lessons learned in Bali

By Lindsay Nash

For a quick update, we still live in Korea. But now we are four, as my son Finn likes to say. There’s me, Whit, Finn (age 4), and now, 3-month-old Poppy.

It was when I was about 6 months pregnant (translated: crazy) that I decided to book us all a trip to Bali for the winter holidays from Korea. Oh, we’ll winter in Bali, dear! And the flights are on sale! Lucky for me he tends to go along with my adventures as long as it’s not too too outlandish (which he deems is my idea of eating sushi in Mexico or my habits of cleaning the bathroom naked so I don’t accidentally bleach my favorite pair of brown pants that he despises).

So, 6 months later, I write this on my back veranda in Sanur, Bali, as the two little resident chicks peck the ground in search of crumbs from Finn’s breakfast and sweet little Poppy naps in our suitcase in the other room. The giant green palms occasionally wave to me and the aroma of incense burns three times a day in offerings to the gods. I do believe I might be in heaven. But I did bring a 3-month along, so the term “heaven” is, of course, relative.

I learned some valuable lessons on the flight over alone. Whit and I consider ourselves to be a bit expertish when it comes to traveling with youngsters. When Finn was 7 months old, we flew with him from Korea to Canada, and then to the United States for a month to visit and meet all his family. Then, we flew to Ireland so I could run a marathon (bye bye baby weight!) and then back to Korea. We have created a gypsy child, one that now speaks Korean near fluently and one that calls airplane turbulence “just a little bouncing!”

We’d never flown with a tiny baby before, but how difficult could it be, we asked ourselves. Well, we did get lucky in that department. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t quiet. Every time she needed to nap (every 3 hours), she screamed like the airplane was free-falling from the sky, plunging into the ocean. She needs that, apparently, to get to sleep and all. But, our ticket to success was having a bald, big-blue-eyed baby on an airplane full of baby-loving Koreans. They learned her name in the first 30 minutes of our first 7-hour flight. So every time she woke up, or cried, a chorus of “Poppy!!!!” and duck clucks (why the clucks? No idea!) rang out from every row behind us on the plane. Men in sweater vests and women in track suits carried Poppy up and down the aisles, taking her photo and clucking every time she made a noise. She could do no wrong! (Picture that, America!)

Please take a quick haitus from reading this blog to see Louis C.K.’s bit about flying with a baby. It’s so inappropriately hilarious and, to me, there is nothing funnier than inappropriate humor.

Finn is always easy. I don’t know how we got so lucky with this gypsy child but he’s a wonderful traveling companion. I traveled alone with him last year from the States to Korea and he couldn’t have been more pleasant of a partner. We ate sushi at the airport, watched movies on our personal screens, and just generally had a great time. I couldn’t help but laugh when people told me, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you having to travel so far alone with a toddler!!”

So Poppy was parading the aisles and Finn was watching his regular favorite, “Lightning McQueen.” We ordered him some Malaysian seaweed popcorn. Finn loves dried seaweed in Korea so we know this would be a hit. We took a picture of him with the green-tinted popcorn. Oh, this will be a hilarious Instagram post for all our American friends. Seaweed popcorn!!

Well. Pride cometh before the fall. The fall of seaweed tinted vomit out of the mouth of Finn that is after two hours of airplane “bouncing.” All in that handy little sick bag the airline provided and then another. And then down the aisle as I chased him toward the bathroom as the plane taxied on the runway toward the terminal. Then it started coming out his other end. But I’ll spare you details.

At our stopover in Malaysia before our last 3-hour leg to Bali, Whit allowed me a short wine break. Bless him. I sat like a normal adult and drank that glass of red wine, watching couples enjoy their quiet drinks and young people kicking a hacky sack as they waited calmly for their flights. I couldn’t help but smile and think that one day, we’d be traveling alone again and dreaming of the days of green barf and hugging toddlers while sitting on the gross airplane bathroom floor. This is our life and I love it.

Two weeks later, we’ve hit our family stride in Bali here along the quiet beaches of Sanur (perfect for families and small children since the waters are calm on these shores!). We’ve discovered the beauty of AirBnB, where we rented a traditional Balinese house (“joglo”) for $39 per night. Whit and I take turns taking Finn to the beach or pool each morning, while the other stays at home and chills with Poppy. In the evenings, we venture out for dinner, walks on the beach, and quick frolics in the sea. Frolicking. Yes, that was what I was doing when my dear iPhone 5 popped out of my bag and landed in the ocean. It’s currently buried in a sack of rice now, and I’ve lit some incense in typical Balinese fashion to plead with the gods to save it.

But, for now, I’ll enjoy the peace and chorus of the chickens pecking and the roosters crowing while the palms wave me back to their world.

With love from Bali,
Lindsay

Mokpo

By Whit Altizer

We spent the first week in August traveling around our old home province, Jeollanamdo. This is the first of several blogs about our second “Korea Without a Care” trip.

The Mokpo that I know well is a very small part of the city. But it must be the most potent pocket of this funky little town. It is at times, my favorite little corner of Korea and at others, the most frustrating.

It’s the small corner in between the base of Yudal Mountain and the International Ferry Terminal. Every time I go to Mokpo, it’s to head out to the islands, but I usually spend a night there just to get a little bit of the city in my system. Once, my wife and I went to Mokpo just to hang out around this area and had a great time. It’s dirty, loud and generally unkind. It’s the kind of place where you might see an old lady punching a young man to run him off or get yelled at by a drunk passer-by.

But I still think of Mokpo with lots of nostalgia. Even when my waitress, visibly annoyed with my presence, brings me a side dish of pickled garlic with the longest, blackest hair laid across it; or when the ferry terminal ticket saleswomen has no interest in selling me a ticket, I still wonder when I’ll be able to return to that magical place.

It’s a city in Korea that just doesn’t give a damn, and that forces you to have some kind of reaction. Sometimes it’s love, sometimes it’s distaste. But it’s never indifference.

Still interested? Check out this page about Mokpo for things to do!