First, ecstasy. You’ve quit your job. Borrowed a bunch of travel books that you used once – to post a photo of them on Facebook. Got a bunch of shots and pissed off the travel clinic people by being unable to say when or for how long you’ll be in any one place. Went to REI and bought a shiny blue backpack and a water disinfectant pen and some fancy but ill-fitting adjustable waterproof pants/shorts, which you’ll wear exactly one time before leaving them in a hostel room in Brisbane. Made the perfect travel playlist, which coincidentally consists of other people’s backpacking playlists that you found when you searched for “backpacking playlist” on Spotify. Said your goodbyes to friends and family.

On the airplane the excitement continues. You drink Ob, South Korea’s flagship beer, and think about your newfound freedom. No work for 4 months! You can do anything you want. Even wake up at 4am and read or take a 3 hour nap in the afternoon! (Yes, I wrote this in my journal and yes, this says a lot about my BIG DREAMS at this stage of the trip.) You start a list of movies you’ve seen, which is puzzling since you’re planning to spend all but 3 weeks in countries where you don’t speak the language. You sit back and dream of the adventures you’ll have.

Then, reality. After a short flight, a plane change, a 12 hour flight, and what feels like forever standing in line at customs with your now very heavy shiny blue bag on your back, you find yourself in a cab. You might think that Google Maps will be enough to get you to your destination, or that at least the AirBNB address you’ve printed out will work. If so, you’ll be a bit surprised when you’re dropped at an intersection in a sea of identical looking apartment buildings from the 70s. You wonder if this is why your host made sure you were traveling with someone else before accepting your booking, since “I wonder if you are okay because Korea is strange to you”.

Somehow your wife figures out where to go, your marriage stays intact, and you walk another 15 minutes with the bags to a squat, boxy building, where you then walk up 5 flights of stairs. It’s hot in the stairwell, with a distinct smell you can’t quite identify, except as a smell-you’d-rather-not-smell. It’s also hot in the apartment, where the smell starts to come into focus as that of mold mixed with kimchi.

Exhausted and delirious, you decide to take a shower. Only the shower is just a showerhead connected to the sink. You will later learn this is called a wet shower and even see some that work well, where the bathroom has more than a foot between the toilet and the sink. For now you’ll just be very confused. It won’t help when you notice the number of spiders in the bathroom, or the sewage smell that periodically wafts up from the toilet.

Look, travel is great. This trip was the best thing I ever did. But I think anyone who’s ever traveled would agree that it isn’t great every minute of every day. And the unexpected things tend to be far more entertaining than the expected, unless you’d just like to read #blessed over and over and over. So for this blog I’m going to try and balance my excitement with some stories about the funny/weird stuff, with pictures for the beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring places that words don’t do justice to anyway.