Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

A human who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

Monday, August 1, 2016


A personal journal entry I wrote before officially deciding to visit North Korea:

I've gone back and forth on this idea since before even coming to Korea, nearly two years ago. Something deep in my loins is telling me to go. Just go. But, is it more than just wanting to be able to say, "I'VE BEEN TO NORTH KOREA"? Obviously, that factor definitely plays a role in my desire to go... but that's not all that entices me. It's a mysterious damn place, and at this moment only a handful of people can say that they've been there. I'm really freaking curious to "see" what's going on up there, especially after living in Korea for so long. The secretive North has been a common topic, considering it's not so far away from home. How much has the separation of the peninsula affected the culture? Do they speak with a different accent? Is the food the same? How much has it changed the general demeanor and vibes of the people? Would getting a glimpse into the North create a better understanding of the Korea that I've come to know and love? I always question how many authentic interactions I would have on the other side. I know that the whole trip isn't an elaborate set up. But, how many chances to mingle with locals will I get during a 5 day scheduled "to a T" trip? There will definitely be opportunities to get to know the guides. It's a small piece of the population... but it has to have some effect on opening up the minds of a suppressed population, even if it's just a tiny bit. The country, to some extent, seems to have been progressing it's mindset. I have a chance to keep it open, and maybe widen the view a few people have of the world that exists outside. I can help this motion to continue forward. If the people on the inside become more tuned into what's going on behind their walls, that's a good place for change to start. It's not like I would ignore the fact that there are horrible things happening there at the hands of the government, but does refusing to visit change anything? Wouldn't sharing a fraction of my money with the community, exchange interactions (even as minimal as a smile or bow) and the possibility of conversations make more of an impact in the right direction? I've read several accounts with tourists claiming that they, in fact, did have the chance to have authentic interactions. It's possible.

The biggest thing that kept me teeter-tottering between going and not going was the idea of putting my big ole' wad of money straight into the hands of Kim Jong Un.  After fiddling around countless blogs and researching, I concluded that whatever fraction of my money does go "straight" to the hands of the regime is minimal in comparison to the big picture. It's my understanding that the majority of the money will be used to fund the tourism department, which will in turn create more jobs for the population and thus, more opportunities to open the country up a bit more. I even read somewhere that they have opened up a college for tourism.

I've included links to some of the blogs I read that helped me make my decision. If visiting the DPRK is something you are considering, remember that the choice is ultimately yours. Do some research. Read about other people's experiences and their opinions. Make a pros and cons list. 

Sometimes, when making big decisions, I even like to imagine that I've decided one way or another, and then live a few days as if the decision has really been made. How do you feel about it after a few days? Pretend you've booked your tour, start researching what to pack, and imagine yourself carrying out an itinerary in the country. Or, pretend you have officially decided not to go. If pretending isn't your game, just leave whatever it is you need to figure out alone.  Let it marinate for a few days, or a week, before revisiting the topic. Your subconscious is a powerful thing on its own, and being able to return to something can usually offer up some fresh perspectives.

If you're curious about how it's even possible and what it means to travel to North Korea, this is a good overview.

I chose to go with Young Pioneer Tours, and would definitely recommend it. 
*Although not the most popular/highest "rated" company, this package was cheaper for essentially the same thing as other, more expensive tours.

Everywhere Once's stance on traveling - 
And their subsequent post to NOT go to North Korea.

Wandering Earl's opinions on travel and human rights - 
**Both mentioned on Everywhere Once's blog

This blog asks opinions from several people. 

Once I've written a blog about my experience in the DPRK, I will add a link here. 

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