On Monday I began my journey. My parents first drove me to see a good friend and her newborn bubbly baby boy, I spent an hour here drinking tea and nattering before my carriage returned and I was sped to Bristol.
That night I enjoyed a topical meal at a Korean restaurant with close friends, who will all be sorely missed. I’ve found that the worst part about embarking on a new life abroad is saying goodbye to all the people you love. A few weeks prior to this my friend Jamie and I endured a drunken half hour goodbye whilst the girls we were with (who had recently fallen out) glared at each other, nagging us to leave whilst awkwardly avoiding each others gaze. It was emotional what could I say.
I was driven to see my brother in London by friends before dropping me off at Heathrow at 4am, I managed an hour and a half’s sleep before being thrust rudely back into reality by my phones petulant alarm. After a few fumbles at the self-service ticket machines, I checked my bag and headed for security. I’d worn my heaviest bulkiest shoes (a pair of beige Superdry combat boots) this proved to be a mistake as removing them upon reaching security was nothing short of embarrassing, standing on one foot trying to balance and remove the boot, looking somewhat like a gangly pasty British flamingo.
My first step onto the aircraft was uncannily similar to every movie scene where the protagonist boards a bus whilst travelling like minus the chickens falling out of the overhead luggage compartments. I chose to fly with Air India, it was the cheapest flight available at £230 and had a 4-hour layover in Delhi where I could eat and have a beer in comfort at one of the many restaurants. The entire flight was comfortable if a bit bewildering, and the food was excellent, I received free whisky and they occasionally chucked a bag of peanuts my way as a snack between meals.
My flight from Delhi to Seoul was a stark constant to the previous, instead of loud bolshy people I was surrounded by petite polite people. The whole flight on Asiana air brimmed with sophistication, the food was lovely and the cabin crew smiley, pleasant and polite. I believed I’d lucked out when the seats to my left were free and had planned to stretch across them and sleep. I said planned as, as soon as the seat belts lights were off, a small old woman appeared next to me, head almost in my lap and there she lay for the duration of the flight.
I landed in Seoul and had a faff with passport control as the cabin crew had omitted from giving me several documents to fill in and after queuing for 20 minutes, I was sent to the back to fill them out and return. My bag had seemingly chosen to go stag and was the only one left on the conveyor upon my arrival. Navigating to the train station in Incheon airport was amazingly simple, I bought a ticket and boarded to Gimpo airport with relative ease.
I scoffed down copious amounts of ramen in the departures lounge at Gimpo as I waited to board my flight to Busan; where I had ample legroom and a seat next to the window that I didn’t get to enjoy as I promptly fell asleep and didn’t awake again until tires hit the runway the other side.
Upon reaching Busan, collecting my bag and briskly trudging on through Gimhae airport towards the exit I decided to hail a taxi rather than endure any more public transport (mate I even googled it, an aeroplane is public transport) this as it turns out was a mistake. The middle-aged Korean man was seemingly polite and pleasant as he took my bags from me and struggled to lift n load them into his car. As soon as the cabby was behind the wheel he quickly and very vocally became frustrated with the traffic. He rectified and vented his rage by promptly starting to violently swerve in front of cars whilst swearing (at least gesture and shout at people a lot idk I no speak Korean).
With my left hand, I clung onto the handle above my window and vowed to God that if I made it out alive I’d become a church-going man and celebrate Christ’s birthday on Christmas instead of demanding food and presents from the people I hold dear. “Haha, Schmuck” I giggled to myself as it seemed I’d made it through the worst. “I’ll never go to church” and as if by magic (or Korean Jesus), the taxi driver then lost all ability to navigate to my hotel, instead he seemed to add another 5000w to my fare by circling the same block trying to find the place. I was offered no discount for his mistake after I pointed out the hotel, I felt there was no point in arguing and I was just happy to be shot of him. I’d booked in at CC Business Hotel in Busan for £25 a night, ideal, the rooms were lovely.
Smelly, dirty and ungraciously I’d arrived in my hotel room in Busan, Korea. After waiting for over a year I had finally reached my goal. Remembering all the bewildering moments up until this point, I sat on my hard hotel mattress, admired the sliding bathroom door and laughed and laughed. I’d made it, at last, I was tired, stinking and stiff but ready to start the next chapter of my story.