Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Blog!!!!

Happy 4th Birthday to you! 

On this day in 2008, my blog was born! How exciting. Ironically, I was sitting at the exact same desk I am sitting at this very moment when I wrote my very first blog entry. Circumstances were slightly different then though. It was the eve of a nice extended trip to Southeast Asia *sigh*. Oh how I wish I had a plane ticket headed for Thailand and dated tomorrow right now! But lots has evolved since then so I can't complain. This blog is a travel blog and I love to travel. I started it to map out my adventures on a 3 month trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. I stopped in England for a few weeks to get the ball rolling and that turned into a common ritual. After living in England back in 2003-2004, I started routing all my worldly trips through London so I could make the necessary visits to friends there. Here is a link to my first blog entry and then it carries on for a few months through Southeast Asia. I remember stopping in internet cafes and it taking FOREVER to upload pics and videos, so my entries tend to be a little wordy and light on the eye candy. But here is entry one from that trip, my first touch down in Asia:


Those entries ran from May until end of August when I came back to reality. My boss and my job was amazing and flexible and I was able to take a summer off and be back in time for end of summer, when our busy time kicked in. I also kept paying rent with my room mate at the time while I was gone, so I had a comfortable home to come back to, which is a great feeling after living the vagrant lifestyle. Life was good.

2009 was a pretty Toronto-centric year so the blog lay dormant, with no buzzing activities. The next big trip was back to Asia, my love affair was in full motion with this continent by now. A part of the world so unexplored to me and so different from home, full of new and fascinating things to see and experience. Unlike my first gallivant through Asia, this time I quit my job and moved out of my house and was free as a bird. February 2010, after a pit stop in England, I found myself alone and in India. The majority of this 6 month trip was spent in India, check out this link for the first entry of my adventures.

India. I Am Here.

I spent a few months covering vast territories in India. I started in Delhi with my sister in law, and we made our way through Rajasthan and then kicked back in Goa. There was also Darjeerling and Hampi, Kolkata, Pondicherry....too many places to name, check out the blog from about February till May in 2010. From India I travelled to Nepal and after enduring a few weeks of political unrest and a country in turmoil I returned to India in the heat of the summer. I was winding down my trip in Varanassi and finally left from Delhi, the same place my Indian adventures began. From India I had good intentions of travelling high and low in Indonesia. Granted scuba diving and general beach bumming was my main goal, I had intentions of seeing as much as I could of the country at large. BIG CHANGE OF PLANS. I arrived in Bali and experienced reverse culture shock. It was teeming with people, all dressed with practically nothing on, a huge contrast from the extreme covered up mentality in most of India. I ooh'ed and ahh'ed for a while and then beelined to a little piece of heaven. The Gilli Islands. The Gilli's ended up being just what the doctor order. After crossing such epic distances in India, and travelling alone in a country where that was not a common practice, nor widely accepted, it was a relief to be able to put my feet up on a minuscule speck of land in the ocean and not worry about anything. A vacation from my vacation if you will. A beautiful way to wind down a great experience.

Next stop: Toronto. With no home and no job, Toronto in the summer of 2010 was just a quick stepping stone. I was there for the wedding of an old and dear friend. I was there to meet the newest member of my family, my nephew Jack. I was there to see friends and family, and see the love of my life (in truth he is what made me stay the longest). I was also there to fill out visa applications, job hunt, interview and get all my papers in order. Next destination KOREA. The Asian Love Affair flourishes.

After hearing nothing but praise for peoples' individual and unique experiences living and working in South Korea, this was how I decided to connect my addiction to travel and the need to work together. After just a few short months my bags were packed, a contract was signed and off I went. Welcome to Korea, check out my fist blog entry in Korea here after arriving in the Land of Morning Calm.

The first few months of blogging in Korea were just to keep my friends and family up to date with my new life. For the first time I was calling Asia home and it felt fantastic. Keeping up my blog was a great way for everyone at home to see pictures and read about what was happening on the opposite side of the world. A few months in, my blog was selected to be featured on THE KOREA BLOG. The Korea Blog is a site run by Korean Culture and Information Services (KOCIS) and features different writers both around the world and based out of Korea and their experiences relating to Korea. Being one of a small handful of these writers based out of Korea I was offered so many amazing opportunities. Our first meeting together was the Welcoming Ceremony, followed by a trip to the Blue House, called Cheung Wa Dae (where the Korean President lives and works).

About 6 months into my partnership blogging with KOCIS, 6 people were chosen from their writers around the world to take a media trip to Jeju-do and Seoul and I was selected to be part of this small group. It was such an amazing honour. We were treated so well and I got to experience even more of Korea than I would have been able to do on my own. Here is a list of posts that covered my weekend with the Worldwide Korea Bloggers:

Jeju - Day One

Jeju - Day Two

Jeju - Lunch Spot - Day Two

Jeju - More of Day Two (apparently Day Two was a busy one!)

Jeju - Day Three

Living in Korea, I was pretty much at the doorstep to the rest of Asia and was able to get out and see a little more. I spent a week in China, mostly in Beijing and travelling to the Great Wall of China (I bow my head in shame to admit I have no blogs about this trip. Chalk it up to undeniable laziness). And once Garry was settled with me in Korea, we managed a few weeks in Paradise, oh, I mean Boracay, in the Philippines. This is one of 4 entries on my trip to BORACAY.

I ended up extending my contract in Korea. I went from living in a small suburb of Seoul called Osan to living in a much more central location called Anyang. Both experiences, for different reasons were unbelievable. From all the travelling I had done through Asia as a whole, there is nothing like living somewhere to really get a handle on the culture. In Korea, I was immersed. At times it was awful and frustrating and made me miss my North American roots till I almost cried (okay, I did cry a lot of those times). But overall, it was one of the best "travel" experiences of my life. You embed yourself in a culture, open a bank account, pay bills, show up to work everyday, learn (attempt) to read and write the language and that is how you get a feel for the place. I worked and played in close contact with so many amazing Korean people which I never would have done had I just passed through the country on a trip.

And that was Korea. Sixteen amazing months of my life. And now I am home. Like home, home. I moved back to Leslieville, one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto, I signed a lease with my boyfriend, I bought a car, and I am back to work. The question now arises on how to continue a travel based blog, while being in Toronto? Which direction does Alex On The Loose turn to?

Luckily, I was asked to continue on blogging for The Korea Blog, for a second term, even now that I have left the country. For now, I am concentrating on Finding Korea in Toronto. I have mad an amazing connection to some people at the Korean Embassy in Toronto and therefore have an in for Korean events going on here. So until I decide which direction to take my writing, or until I whisk myself away on another new adventure, I will just be checking in every once in a while and getting in touch with my Korean connections. I'm sure there will be other random posts like this one to carry me through. This is my favourite post in a long time. It enabled me to look back on the last 4 years of writing entries and checking out the places I have been. It has been a great journey with a nice growth curve to get the blog where it is today and I can't wait to see what's in store around the next corner! So thanks for reading and stay tuned for ... who knows what!


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