I recently got the chance to interview Laura Nalin from Willful and Wildhearted and learned a bit about her expat experience as she currently teaches English abroad in Korea! Read below for some interesting anecdotes of her past travel experiences, including a wild day of mishaps as she and her boyfriend James visited the Great Wall of China.
Have you ever lived abroad/ do you plan to live abroad in the future?
I am currently living in Seoul, Korea. I moved here in 2013 and it’s been an adventure ever since. When I initially came here to work as an English teacher, I had the intention of staying just one year. I fell in love (with the country and a man) and decided to take a risk and stay another year. I’m happy I followed my gut – my boyfriend and I will be leaving Korea in March 2016 to backpack South East Asia for a few months before relocating to Australia!
What is the most important traveling tip you have for anyone wanting to travel?
For me, it’s important to keep an open mind and have patience. There are times when things are going to backfire and not work out in your favor, but that’s okay! In these situations, just try to laugh it off and chalk it up to the old phrase, “shit [or stuff] happens.” Another thing: HANGER IS REAL. Make sure to stay hydrated and eat when you’re hungry otherwise you may say things you’ll regret later!
What has been your worst experience while traveling? What did you learn from it?
While my boyfriend and I were visiting Beijing for the 2015 Chinese New Year celebrations, the smog was so thick we could barely see anything. As if that wasn’t enough, an unexpected snow storm hit about halfway through our bus ride to The Great Wall of China, which, mixed with the smog, created a massive white out.
Although we were upset, James and I remained calm and tried to be as hopeful as possible. However, once we got off the bus, we immediately discovered that he had been pick-pocketed. I bent down to pick up a note pad he dropped on the ground, and doing so the zipper on my coat completely broke, making it unable to close (a minor issue, but boy was it cold!) We comforted one another on the cab ride to the Wall, trying to look on the bright side. However, once we reached the point in the queue to purchase tickets, we were told the option to buy tickets to toboggan down the Mutianyu section was closed due to the storms. They also suggested we take a ski lift up to the top due to the conditions of the wall. Our original plan was to hike up the wall and take a toboggan down, so it was a major let down. Needless to say, once we reached the top of the wall and couldn’t see beyond 9 or so feet in front of us, we felt extremely defeated.
To bring some comical relief to the situation I kept referring to it as “The Decent Bridge of China” and we chose to slide down the icy stairs on our butts rather than risk slipping.
While it seemed like absolutely nothing went right that day, it’s certainly one of my most memorable experiences. James and I are able to laugh about it now, which is great. We make a great team.
What was your first traveling experience?
I went to Lima, Peru in 2010 to participate in a travel writing program, which was a life changing experience. This opportunity opened my eyes and mind to the idea of long-term travel. I will never forget how I felt when I watched the clouds drift away from Machu Picchu and I was able to see all the intricate details of the ancient ruins. As soon as I returned back home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I just needed to see more of the world.
What is your favourite travel memory?
This is a difficult question! It’s hard to choose. Can I have two? One of my favorite travel memories of all time is a road trip I took with my friends. We drove my car from Chicago to Colorado to attend a three-night concert event at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Once the concerts were finished, we drove throughout the state, staying at some of the most beautiful national parks on the planet each night. It definitely made me appreciate the beauty that is within my own country.
Another favorite memory I have is when I witnessed the fog dissipate at the summit of Machu Picchu. Once all of the clouds drifted away, I was literally speechless. I couldn’t believe the intricate community that was built so long ago. Our planet is truly a fascinating place!
How did you learn about the wonderful world of blogging?
I have my Bachelor in Arts in journalism and have always had an interest in writing. I started blogging about my experience living in Korea when I moved here, but I was not very diligent as far as keeping it up to date. I realized I could spin my experiences and not only write about my life here in Korea and beyond, but offer tips and tricks as well for anyone else who is interested in the same lifestyle as me. I joined a blogging group with some fellow expats here in Korea and have been trying to immerse myself in the blogging world ever since!
What is your goal with blogging?
My main goal is to build up a good portfolio and to use it as a platform to help me become a freelance travel writer in the future. However, I’ve also gained interest in potentially making my blog a business once I gain some traction. I am always striving to help others in my life, so I really like the idea of being able to provide information that can help someone who is seeking advice for long-term travel or – in my current situation – teaching English in Korea.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a world traveler?
Before I moved to Korea I was working as a writer at a content marketing agency. During the few breaks I had throughout the day, I found myself on Pinterest and airline sites day dreaming about “What if?” vacations. With that said, I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Favourite Airline: Cathay Pacific
Favourite Country: Vietnam
Favourite City: Cusco, Peru and Chicago, IL
Favourite Food: I love a good Indian curry (the spicier the better!)
Favourite Language: Italian
Favourite Transportation: I really like trains
Where can we follow you?