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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

What Living Abroad For 2 Years Taught Me About Minimalism

Some may have said I overpacked for my year in Korea. Heck, I even said it myself. Two overweight/oversized suitcases, one carry-on backpack, (and one steamer later....) I was ready for my year abroad.

You would think after that much luggage in size and weight, (I'm surprised the zippers didn't break) that my room back home in Canada would be looking pretty bare. But, no. It was disturbing how much stuff was still there. Someone could have easily still lived in there.

I did overpack, but in comparison to everything I left in my room, I was only taking a fraction of my belongings with me.

And guess what? I survived!

In fact, I thrived. It's only through looking back now that I can identify the feeling. I didn't know it at the time, but upon arriving in Korea and moving into my new apartment, I felt different. Not because I was in a foreign country, or out of my parents house... But I felt different in relation to my belongings. Lighter. Which I can only attribute to the fact that I was living with less.

Living with less, but each item having MORE meaning, more intent, more purpose (ok except for my portable steamer...). I actually WORE all my clothes. Why is that so amazing?! That should be a normal thing to do! And not only did I WEAR all of my clothes, but I liked them all too! Trying to find an outfit in the morning was never a problem, and I could actually start to SEE the back of my closet when laundry time was near. I used all my clothes, I liked all my clothes, and they served their purpose.

Fast forward two years.

Upon returning home after my time in Korea, I was flabbergasted by the amount of STUFF still in my room. And I don't use the word flabbergasted lightly (in fact I don't think I have ever used that word). The magnitude of things I owned made me feel sick to my stomach. I hadn't used any of this stuff in two years. I had forgotten about most of it, and been just fine without it. Happier, without it. Heavier, with it.

The very next day after my 26 hour flight itinerary from Sydney to Ottawa,  all I did was discard (aka donate, recycle, etc). A word I am now very familiar with after reading Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". I could have chosen to do a great deal of other things on my first day back on Canadian soil, but alas. I discarded. It brought me joy and relief to get rid of these things I hadn't used or thought about in two years. They are just things.

One month and approximately 6+ garbage bags worth of items later (if anything that is an underestimation), and I am still discarding. I am trying to develop and maintain a lifestyle where I live a simpler life with less, and find more intentional uses in my belongings. I can't give Korea all the credit to opening me up to this lifestyle. Perhaps some people may be familiar with the term "minimalism", which has kind of blown up the internet (and real life) recently, with tons of books, YouTube channels, and podcasts devoted to this concept. "The Minimalists" website defines minimalism as, " a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfilment and freedom." Although the concept has probably been around for ages without a name, discovering the concept of minimalism and learning about this lifestyle has been inspirational and instrumental. It gave a name to the feeling I had, when I felt lighter with less.

Some of my favourite resources for minimalism so far include:
I have a long way to go in the decluttering department but I am looking forward to this life long minimalism journey. Thank you Korea, and the sources above to opening me up to this concept. It has changed me so far, and this is only the beginning. 

If anyone has any other minimalist resources they love and would like to share, I would love to hear them!

Until next time,

-LBFK

(Laura Back From Korea)

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2016 Recap: Highlights

In a vague attempt to maintain some sort of consistency with this blog, I have decided to make a 2016 recap post, just like I did last year for 2015. However I recently came to the sad realization that I posted significantly less this year; 11 posts compared to 17 in 2015. My goal of writing more consistent blog posts was definitely a minor flop! With that said, most of my highlights from 2016 may be things I have never posted before on this blog, but perhaps will inspire an in depth blog post down the road.

2016 may not have ended how I expected and it was not without it's challenges, but it was a darn good year. Time to reflect on the moments that made 2016 the year it was. In chronological order, let's go.

1. Spending 3 weeks at home after 14 months abroad, January 17th 



Reconnecting and spending time with family and friends who I love and missed very much. From Ottawa, Toronto, to my old university stomping grounds in Peterborough.

2. My Dad visiting Korea, February 8th



Showing the life I created for myself and the quirks of the country I fell in love with was incredibly special. The food, my neighbourhood, favourite coffee shops, my friends. I know he fell in love with it all, too.

3. Visiting Japan and Falling in Love with Kyoto, February 22nd




I had been told that I was going to love Osaka from my friends who had visited Japan. But it was Kyoto that stole my heart. Biking along it's canals and old streets covered in willow trees, vising it's ancient shrines, feasting on sushi and ramen, singing kareoke until the AM, geisha sightings, shisha bars galore. 

4. Jindo Sea Parting Festival, April 9th



Great friends, the magical/mysterious/hilarious legend of the sea parting, delicious international food fair (shawarma, hello), thigh-high rubber boots, watching Korean's dig in the middle of the sea parting searching for sea creatures to take home and eat.

5. Yeongam Cherry Blossom Festival, April 10th




An unexpected adventure, finding our own private creek away from the actual festival, having a silly photoshoot, watching "Dudung Sound"- a music group of 5 middle school aged boys perform live.

6. Seoul Pride, June 12th 


An inspiring and emotional day filled with love despite the many protests and police surrounding the event. Participating in the actual parade and witnessing all the support from the outside: the people in the 2nd floor cafe above street level holding signs of love and peace in the window, the girls on the sidelines making heart shapes with their hands. Witnessing how still very taboo and sensitive this topic is in Korea.


7. Boryeong Mud Festival, July 23



A long bus ride with great company from Gwangju to Boryeong. Lathering up in the mud, having mud baths, wading in mud pools, watching mud wrestling, swimming in the ocean in an attempt to remove all the mud. Music, concert, good vibes (and soju).

8. Participating in the Jeollanamdo Provincial English Camp, August 4th




6 days 5 nights of living in university dorms, eating cafeteria food, and teaching 8 classes a day. Creating new friendships and deepening existing ones, my amazing class of 10 students for the week (The Crazy Watermelons, they so named themselves), the end of the week Talent Show- performing Happy by Pharrell. 

9. Finally visiting Jeju Island, September 12th



Biking around U-do, climbing Sanbang mountain, carefully trekking along the wet rocks on Yongmeori coast, getting lost on the Olle trails, feasting on Black Pork BBQ (a Jeju specialty), watching the mermaids of Jeju dive for food, swimming in Donnaeko watering hole, making new friends. 

8. The streets and food of Hanoi, Vietnam, November 2nd




The lively energy of the streets, delicious street food and the questionable alleyways leading to them. The hole in the wall restaurants, egg coffee, bun cha, and the quaint restaurant where we spent two nights in a row on the patio; overlooking the big rustic church in the Old Quarter square. The insane amount of motorbikes which required us to play real life Frogger while crossing the street, a skill mastered by the end of our time in Hanoi. 

9. Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, November 5th 




2 days, 13 kilometres, 12 initial strangers that left as friends: 5 Dutch, 4 Canadian, 2 French, 1 Brazilian. Staying with a Vietnamese family in their home at the base of the mountains, eating a home cooked dinner which included buffalo stomach, taking shots of homemade alcohol that was served to us from a plastic Nestle water bottle, learning Vietnamese cheers, homemade pancakes and instant coffee for breakfast. 

10. 18 Hours in Kuala Lumpur, November 12th



Taking public transit from the airport into the city, treating myself to the swanky Aloft Hotel which included a rooftop bar and infinity pool, eating Nasi Lamak (a traditional Malaysian dish) twice in 6 hours, taking the LightRail to the Petronas Towers, and of course a selfie with those bold twin beauties.

11. Hanging out in Manly, Australia, November 13th 




Tearing up at the sight of the Opera House and Syndey Harbour Bridge from the plane in the night sky, embracing the local vibe of foodie and health culture, green juices and smoothies on every corner, acai bowls galore, reconnecting with a friend I haven't seen in over two years, trivia night at the New Brighton Hotel, $3 tacos, Manly to Spit walk, renting bikes to North Head.


12. Spending Christmas and the Holiday Season at Home, December 13th



And just like that, we've come full circle. Happy to be spending the holiday season with family and friends for the first time in two years. 

2016 was quite the year, and as I continue to reflect upon it, I realize that there is still so much more I want to write about. Some of the funniest moments, most embarrassing moments, worst travel moments (aka losing my wallet in Japan), and personal highlights. 

What 2017 will bring is still a mystery, but maybe as I reflect on 2016 it will bring me closer to what I want to achieve in 2017.

Until next time,

-L2K