“A husband is a man who wishes he had as much fun when he goes on business trips as his wife thinks he does.” – Ann Landers
For years I’ve heard people say the same thing about business trips. Whether it’s people in real life or characters on TV shows, they all say the same thing; “Business trips aren’t that great”.
Everyone who has been on a business trip will tell you they are not as glamorous as they sound. But everyone they tell this to will never believe them. I didn’t! The idea of mixing a job I really like with travel which I love seemed too good to be true.
My Day Job
If you’re a regular reader of my blog or follow me on social media you probably know I don’t blog full time and right now I have no desire to. I love what I do and I’m not ready to give it up.
I’ve worked in the television industry for almost 10 years now and I’ve worked hard to get to a position where I can balance a travel / work lifestyle that suits me. Without bragging, I’m good enough at what I do that I can regularly take a month off to travel and will still get booked on jobs when I’m back. Sometimes as a freelancer you take a risk going away. Out of sight, out of mind!
Back in 2017 I got an email that put a huge smile on my face. An old manager I used to work for asked if I wanted to be part of the team that went to Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. I wanted to reply ‘DUH! ARE YOU KIDDING? WHY WOULDN’T I WANT TO GO?!’ Of course in reality I wrote a much more professional reply so they wouldn’t retract the offer.
For people working in Sports TV, working on the Olympics seems to be the Holy Grail. It’s the job that everyone wants, even just to do it once. They’ll exhaust all their contacts just trying to get on the team and here I was being offered it on a silver plate.
For me though the allure of the job wasn’t the bragging rights of being able to say ‘I’ve worked on the Olympics’. No, I wanted to go because it was in South Korea. This was my first (and at the moment only) job that has taken me abroad and lucky for me it was to a country I’ve been wanting to visit for years.
Why I Wanted to Visit Korea
During my three month backpacking trip around Asia in 2016 I was having a conversation with a friend who had lived and worked in South Korea for a while. She loved it and the more she talked, the more interested I became.
Sadly I didn’t have time that trip to head over to Korea. I was only in Asia for three months and I wasn’t interested in rushing a country just to get to the next one. But I did get taken to a Korean restaurant while I was in Hong Kong to experience a Korean BBQ and afterwards the foodie part of my brain was telling me I needed to get to Korea and soon!
Over the next year I saw more pictures of Korea and became more fascinated with the country. I read blog posts about Korea and couldn’t wait to have those experiences myself. So you can see why I was so keen to be going for work.
Expectations Vs Reality of Business Trips
As I said, I was thrilled to be going to Korea. I couldn’t wait to finally visit Seoul which was only a short train ride from where I was going to be based. I was wondering how many cities and towns I was going to be able to visit during my month in Korea. I’m fascinated by Korean culture and I’ve seen so many beautiful pictures of the country I was so excited to finally be going.
But then reality gave me a cruel hard wake up call. I knew I was going there to work but I had days off to do my own thing. It wasn’t going to be my perfect Korean trip but considering my flights and accommodation were free I was hardly complaining! What I hadn’t expected though was to be told that I would be working the whole time. Every. Single. Day. Not only was I working every day, I was put on the late shift so that mean’t no going out to local restaurants for dinner.
At least being in a ski resort I thought I could get some snowboarding in. Even though I’m not very good at it, I do enjoy going snowboarding. And the colleague I was on late shifts with is also a keen snowboarder so we could hit the slopes in the morning before our shift. But of course the reality is we couldn’t risk it. We were there for a job and if either of us had an accident and broke something that would be the end of the trip. If you injure yourself and can’t work then you have to go home. With the money we were being paid for this job neither of us wanted to take the risk.
The Highlights of My Trip
You’re probably thinking that I hated my first business trip and I know I’ve only really complained up until this point but I have a lot of fond memories from this trip. Despite my expectations being horribly naive about what a business trip actually is, I did actually get a taste of beautiful Korea. Enough to make me know that I need to return on my own one day.
Alpensia Ski Resort
I’ve only ever gone snowboarding in Europe and never even considered Korea as a snow destination before this trip. Now I want to make one of my trips to Korea is a snow one.
The International Broadcast Centre (IBC) was located just outside the Alpensia Ski Resort. For the first week I was put up in an apartment building in town. This meant I was walking distance from the cute resort and it’s restaurants.
Ok, so while I did mention earlier I was on the late shift, that wasn’t true for the whole month. For the first week we were just setting up. That meant all four of us were on a day shift and for that first week I did get a chance to explore the town.
Trying The Local Food
As I mentioned before, there were several restaurants in town to try and I visited most of them. On the first day while we were still jet lagged me and my colleague couldn’t resist heading straight to the Dominos. It was the only Western chain restaurant in the town and it seemed like the perfect jet lagged dinner to enjoy from our accommodation.
But there are also Korean and other Asian cuisine restaurants in town and I enjoyed trying them. I wish I could have dined at them every night but I got to enjoy several of them which satisfied my craving for Korean food. For now anyway!
Visiting a Korean Beach
Towards the end of the month something happened and one of us now needed to be switched to a night shift and I was the lucky one selected. Actually it wasn’t that bad. It was only for the final week and it meant that my sleeping pattern would be going back to a UK time which made the jet lag going home easier.
It was a last minute decision by management and I literally had no time to prepare my body for the switch. After getting up at 8am I was later informed that from the next day I would be on night shifts. This gave me no time to adjust my body clock. Rather than complain, I made the most out of the situation. I stayed awake for as long as I could knowing I would still get up hours before my night shift. I had been told about a Fire Art Festival at Gangneung Gyeongpo Beach that was worth checking out so I decided to head there in the afternoon.
When I had been looking into Korea before I had only really looked at city trips so it was great to see that Korea can also be a great beach destination. With beautiful sandy beaches and the sun on my face I was in my happy place. Just a shame I had only packed winter boots!
I’m so glad I got to check out the festival. The beach had turned into an outdoor museum bringing artwork to life with 23 incredible installations.
Going to An Olympic Game
Unless you’re one of the people located at a particular event, you’ll only get to watch the games through a monitor. Basically making it not much different than watching at home!
But a very kind colleague of mine offered me a ticket to see the Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom. This ticket was worth about £77 so I felt incredibly grateful to get it for free. A great perk of the job!
Even though the event was outside in the cold and I was tired because I had to go straight from my night shift, it was incredible sitting there thinking “I’m actually at an Olympic Game!”
A Day Trip to Seoul
I didn’t lie to you when I said I wasn’t supposed to be getting a day off. After being in Korea for a few days we got told that the next day the building was going to have to evacuate by 10am for security searches to take place. Rather than coming in for a couple of hours, most of us were told not to bother and just take the whole day off. As soon as we knew this a group of us started planning a day trip to Seoul.
We took the train from Gangneung to Seoul which took just over an hour and we got first class return tickets for just £18.50. The first class tickets were great and a fantastic way to treat ourselves without spending too much. In first class we were treated to comfortable seats plus a snack of bottled water, a biscuit and some nuts.
We only had one day in Seoul but we were determined to make the most of it. As we were a group it meant we could only do things that everyone in the group wanted to do. Sadly I couldn’t convince everyone that a visit to Blind Alley, the racoon cafe, was a must stop. Boo!
But during our day we did squeeze in a few sights. We started with a visit to the War Museum of Korea before walking down the streets and alleys of Itaewon to find somewhere for lunch. Luckily we stumbled upon The Booth. A cool, funky pizza pub brewing their own beer.
Most of our gang wanted to eat at a restaurant at the N Seoul Tower but I was still on a mission to find an authentic Korean BBQ. Luckily, three others in the group also had this same desire so the four of us split off and headed to Myeongdong where we found a great restaurant and finally got the delicious Korean BBQ we were craving.
When Will I Return to Korea?
I would love to pack up my bag and head out there tomorrow but unfortunately that isn’t an option. With everything that has been happening around the world I have no idea when I’ll be able to pack my bags again.
It might not be until next year but you can bet South Korea is high on my list of places to go when I start travelling again. Right now I wouldn’t encourage anyone to travel until they are comfortable to do so. There is no right or wrong time to start travelling again. In the meantime we can all dream about the places we want to return to and all the new places we want to discover.
The date of my next Korean adventure may be unknown but the reasons for wanting to go back are simple. I want to explore the cute and quirky cafes of Seoul. To try more amazing Korean food and have many more Korean BBQs. I want to visit incredible Temples and Palaces. I want to go to a ski resort and be allowed on the mountains. And I would love to visit a Korean beach when it’s not winter!
Korea, I will see you again as soon as I can!
This post is part of a paid campaign by Korea Tourism Organization, as part of their #SeeKoreaNext Campaign. However, all views are my own and I have not been instructed what to include.
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