A big fan of both travel and culture, Linda wants to see the world and experience it one summer at a time.
Why did you choose this program?
Travel for Teens (TFT) was a program I came across when looking to plan my senior trip. I knew I wanted to go to Korea, and out of all the research I had done, the trip offered by TFT had the best combination of affordability, culture, travel, and service.
As soon as I took a look at the itinerary, I knew TFT offered the perfect South Korea trip for me!
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Travel for Teens was amazing about keeping in touch with travelers before they go on their journey. We were connected right away with our trip leader, Simon, and with each other. He sent us tips and tricks, reminders, and made sure we were all as excited as he was for our journey!
TFT also offered group flights, which was amazing because we didn't have to scramble through foreign airports by ourselves to try to make our flights. We were well cared for and our parents never had to worry about where we were -- our group leader kept them in the loop.
I did have to organize my initial flights by myself and estimate how much local currency I would need. The biggest task I took on myself was figuring out how to dress to blend in with the culture! But no matter what, the trip leaders and group members were always available to help.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
It is a little hard to describe an average day on this trip to South Korea because we never did the same thing twice! However, we did have a rhythm in place.
We always had breakfast together in the mornings and we'd get ready for the day ahead. The activities we did varied daily from hiking to sightseeing to just strolling through the cities we visited.
Some days, we participated in service projects that brought us closer to the community we were in, like working with orphans or pulling weeds. Other days we visited landmarks or museums. We would end up at a local lunch spot to try some amazing food and watch people go about their days, and after the meal we'd continue our exploration of the area until dinner.
It's a vague explanation of our days, but trying to force our trip into a daily mold is a challenge becuase we tried our hardest to see everything we could!
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
Going into my TFT experience, I was terrified I wouldn't be able to function because I didn't speak the language and I didn't know what was socially acceptable. I didn't want to be looked at like a gaudy tourist. I was afraid to go off by myself for fear I'd stick out like a sore thumb. Of course, I did constantly look out of place, but one of the days I forced myself to go out to a market and break off from my friends.
I was standing alone. I was terrified, but as I stood there I noticed that no one was really watching. As different as I looked, I wasn't doing any harm or changing the way people went about their day. Though I solicited some curious looks, I had become a part of the bustle of a Busan street market.
Throughout the trip I started to see that, different as I am from the locals, they didn't mind having me around. They were just as curious about me as I was about them, and just as nervous to interact with me. It completely changed my view on how I travel.
When it came to the end of the trip, I didn't want to go back home. I felt at home in South Korea, like I had caught a glimpse of the daily life and I wanted a bit more. I hadn't really felt like that before, especially somewhere I didn't speak the native language, but it was an amazing revelation to know you can be a traveler, not just a tourist, anywhere.
What is your favorite experience from this trip?
During our stay in South Korea, we stayed overnight at a temple in Golgulsa. The monks there practiced Sunmundo zen martial arts, which is as awesome as it sounds. We ate, dressed, and lived like the monks for two days and a night, and it was one of the best parts of the trip.
We meditated, practiced arts, and even helped weed their lands. It was rewarding to interact with the monks, many of whom spoke English, and hear their stories and the lessons they taught us.
For the morning prayer (my personal favorite), we woke at 4:30 am to the sound of chanting. You were not allowed to be late, or you'd have to do so many bows your knees would stop working.
To get to the temple, we had to climb ten minutes up a huge hill. During my trek in the dark, I knew something changed for me. A feeling I can't describe came over me as I walked with the monks to prayer, surrounded by the sound of chanting and darkness, but I carry it with me to this day.
Every trip brings new bits of who you are to the forefront of your mind. I found that out firsthand. The best way for you to start your journey is to go on a trip like this one to South Korea!