Spending much of our formative adult years in Seoul, South Korea makes it feel like a second home—even now—when it's already been over three years since we left. Thankfully, having family there makes it feasible to visit for long stretches, like we did this past fall. We spent a total of four weeks there with a quick jaunt in Tokyo. Our time was split between the giant metropolis Seoul (where Mark and I lived), the major seaport and fishing town of Pohang (where my mom, stepdad, and siblings currently live), and the beautiful coastal city of Busan (where my dad lives).

In addition to visiting our first apartment as newlyweds, we explored all the new coffee shops, marveled at how quickly a neighborhood could change in just a few years, and relished in the fact that we now had a two-year-old to tout around our old stomping grounds. We didn't spend a ton of time in Seoul, but we still got to meet up with friends, visit our old church, and stuff our faces with the incredible cuisine the city has to offer. We wanted to stay in the neighborhood that we lived in, so we rented an AirBnB, which was perfect in location and for our needs.
[Left: our old apartment. Right: just because that sign is everything.]
[Next two photos courtesy of Hannah Love Yoon.]
[Meeting up with dear friends and, of course, matching accidentally.]

But don't let my selective memory fool you. As magical as it sounds to take your two-year-old to your old stomping grounds, where you once walked for hours hand-in-hand with your new husband, let the operative word here be once. If there's anything to wake you up from your fantasy of reliving that moment, it's having a two-year-old. A comparable experience to being led by the bossiest tour guide who doesn't know what she wants, where she wants to go, but just knows it isn't here. But even with that, she's guiding you, not the other way around. 

The flip side to that, however, is the other world we discovered as parents. Seoul—and the rest of Korea, for that matter—is incredibly family-friendly. You wouldn't think so for a city that somehow holds over 10 million people. But just behind that overcrowded sidewalk, where cigarette smoke sits permanently in the air, is a doorway that leads to the most magical kid cafe. Yes, that's right, a cafe specifically designed for kids, filled with the most incredible imaginative indoor play space that serves coffee and food, to boot! And don't even get me started on the department stores. Sure, the consumer mentality in Korea is something worth pausing about, but they sure know how to treat their shoppers, especially shoppers with kids. You can rent strollers and change your child's diaper in a very clean, very comfortable changing room outfitted with microwaves, wipes, sanitizer, and whatever else you might need. Not to mention the likelihood of a play space located inside the department store, where you can let said toddler burn off some consumerism steam. And perhaps my favorite part of this entire experience is the food court, which isn't anything like America's mall food courts. No sir. Here, you can expect some restaurants to serve their food in beautiful brassware. You have your selection of anything from traditional Korean food to western finger foods, all at incredible prices, no matter how unaffordable the rest of the department store is. 

So there you have it. Traveling with a toddler is almost a guarantee that you won't have the trip you imagined...but it also guarantees an entirely new experience, perhaps one that will make you fall more in love with a city you thought you already knew. As one of my favorite bloggers, Erin Boyle, writes: "It must be known that a two-year-old is an intrepid traveler: all gut checks and self-care and general enthusiasm for the new and unexplored."

Our time in both of these cities had less to do with exploring and more with just hanging out with family. As the first granddaughter for both of my parents, there was a lot of catching up to be done. Still, in both of these places, we continued to be amazed by the kid-friendliness of almost every establishment (oh, you want an indoor playground for kids at a Korean BBQ restaurant so adults could eat while children stay entertained? Easy!). 
[Destroying Settling into our AirBnB in Busan.]
[When dad's having more fun on the playground...]
[At the Busan Aquarium.]
[One of the many awesome kids' cafes.]
[Busan Museum of Art.]
[Walking through Pohang's largest fish market. Colette snagging some seaweed from a vendor.]

I don't know when we'll have another chance to spend a month in Korea. While some parts felt exhausting (remember that part about the two-year-old?), most of it was full of cherished moments with family, falling in love with new characteristics of a country we once called home, accomplishing the feat of adventuring overseas with a toddler in tow, and discovering that future adventures would include another little human soon...
[Sorry, pee on any sort of stick would generally be gross, so 
I hesitate posting a photo of one for the sake of spreading good cheer. But alas...]

Until next time...

1 comment :

hannah love said...

HAHAHHA sneaky way to announce the new one.
so happy for you.
and this was such a lovely post about travelling... especially since it must have been so new and different with Coco

love that you've revived the blog lys <3