When speaking with other expats before our big move to Korea, one of the most common things people told us was that you would make friends for a lifetime. The weeks before we left for Korea were a blur, lots of packing, lots of saying goodbyes, and lots of advice, so this “you’ll make great friends” stuff — if I’m being honest — kind of made me laugh. I kept thinking, I’ve got friends, and I’m sure I will make friends there, why do people keep telling me this??? Well, now I understand. Once you are completely out of your comfort zone, and I mean, COMPLETELY out of your comfort zone, you look to others in a similar situation and you just grab hold and don’t let go! You make friendships that are more like family, because these people are your family away from home. When you live at least 14 hours of plane travel away from your actual family, these are the people that will bring you food when you are sick, water your plants when you go on vacation, and meet the mailman so that they will finally deliver that long lost package from the U.S. They are the people that you see every day. So, when my friend Lara (who has now moved back to Houston, which makes me VERY sad) asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding this past September, I couldn’t say “YES!” fast enough! Granted, I didn’t think through the exact details of getting from Korea to you know, Sun Valley, Idaho until much later, but we got that worked out really quickly, after I convinced my parents to meet me in Utah for a road trip to Yellowstone National Park!
After an easy flight (sarcasm at its highest) over to Salt Lake City, I met my parents at the baggage claim! Side note, to get to Salt Lake I took a cab to the bus stop, took a bus to the train station, took the train to the airport in Seoul, flew to San Francisco (after a delay in taking off), sat on the tarmac in San Fran because another plane was at our jet way, ran through customs (thank you Global Entry), rechecked my bags for Salt Lake where the gate agent told me “oh, you’d better hurry!”, ran through security (thank you TSA Pre Check) and made it to my plane where they held the plane for a Korean family that was on my previous flight. #thanksunited
Ok, back to the story. From baggage claim, we rented an awesome suburban (yayyyyy big cars!) and took off for downtown and our hotel. Unfortunately, I have a big problem with jet lag. I am always open for suggestions of what to do, but what I find works best is sunshine, so we headed out to go walk around the massive mall that was across the street from our hotel. Have I ever mentioned I miss shopping ? They obviously have stores here, but about 97% of the time they don’t fit. I suffer from tall girl problems, so if I want something besides a crop top (no, I’m not that cool), I’m out of luck. I am sure Chris is happy about this, because I definitely save A LOT of money by not having this “luxury”. After shopping, and finding a Chick-fil-a (raise your hand if you knew there would be one in Utah) we headed back to the hotel where I promptly was wide awake and couldn’t sleep.
The next morning we took off (after much complaining about jet lag by me) to the Utah State Capitol. Some might know that I was once a Texas State Capitol tour guide, if you didn’t, well, there you go. On my very last tour, I met two older women who were touring their last state capitol, they disagreed when I told them that I was glad they saved the best for last, but anyways, that started me on my own goal of touring all of the state capitols. Since then, I’ve been to 21, I think. My mom actually bought me a little book to keep track of it, but I currently can’t find it (sorry!). The capitol was cool, but I still have’t found one better than Texas, yes, I am biased.
From the capitol we set off on our actual road trip to Yellowstone! We made several stops along the way, breaking up the driving and seeing some of the local “cool things to see”, which included the Golden Spike National Historic Site where the Union and Pacific Railroads joined their railroads as well as the Idaho Potato Museum where they give taters to Out-of-Staters. We also had to make a stop at the Rainey Creek Country Store for a square ice cream. Although, I should mention that the ice cream wasn’t all that great to me, and all they do is scoop with with this square looking ice cream scoop. I think my expectations were set a little too high.
After a few days in Idaho, or maybe one, they all started blurring together thanks to you’ve guessed it, jet lag, we made it to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming! My family had made a trip to Jackson Hole previously, so it was really great to see familiar sites. We stayed a few days up at the Jackson Lake Lodge in the Tetons, where we went on scenic drives looking for animals (we saw bears, elk, deer, bison, plus ones I can’t remember), took a Jackson Lake Boat cruise to get a closer look at Mount Moran (and we actually got to check out a nesting bald eagle as well!), and my favorite was going horseback riding on some of the trails.
From there we headed to Yellowstone! We really only spent a day there, so we didn’t get anywhere near close to seeing everything. Obviously, we will have to go back. We did however check several things off the list. I was also still having some major knee/leg pain from my soccer injury, so I wasn’t too excited about walking…at all. This left us fairly limited to activities that we could drive to. When we came in through the south entrance we took off for Old Faithful with a little pit stop at Lewis Lake to see the waterfalls. After Old Faithful we went up to see the Grand Prismatic Spring where I got caught in the middle of a giant group of Korean tourists. Of course I told them I live in Korea, which after they understood what I meant, made them very happy. We also went over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and then over to Lamar Valley where we watched a very beautiful sunset before heading out of the north entrance in hopes of finding a hotel in Gardiner for the night. That didn’t happen so we took off for Livingstone where we found a place and rearranged our trip. Originally we had planned to go back into Yellowstone for a second day, but since we were so far away, we decided to reroute and head for the Montana State Capitol instead. It was a good choice, we later heard that it rained all day at the park and then later snowed! Plus, I got another capitol checked off the list!
After the capitol we took off again for Idaho. The first part of my trip was coming closer and closer to ending, which meant saying goodbye to my parents. We had a few more days though, that we filled with driving some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen in a long time. Finally we made it back to Boise, where we toured our last Capitol, ate at chain restaurants that I miss while in Korea, and shopped at grocery stores for treats to take back.
It was hard to say goodbye, but I was looking forward to reuniting with friends from Korea that have moved away, and celebrating #happilyevermurrant! The last of the trip went by very quickly. Weddings tend to make time speed by. All I can say is that my friend put together a beautiful wedding and married a man that loves her very much. Everything was wonderful, and I was so honored to get to be a part of it all.
I also got really sick, and I blame having to go back to Korea on that, the U.S. didn’t want me to leave so it pulled out all the stops. It of course couldn’t have been the fact that I danced almost until dawn and was completely exhausted, not to mention the whole altitude change and my favorite, jet lag!
This was a whirlwind trip, with lots of moving and shaking, but I am so glad that I got to go. I have to admit, I was scared to go without Chris, flying for 10 hours over water freaks me out, but I am glad that I did it. It is a trip that will stay with me forever and is filled with lots of laughter and fun.
Things we are looking forward to this week:
- The New Year — Happy 2016 everyone!
- Our friends coming home! We have been stuck in Korea for the holidays, while all of our friends traveled to various places. I am ready for them to be back and to catch up with everyone!
- Catching up on all of the old blog posts. Yes, this is still on the list. I plan to catch up by the end of January! I’ve got Hong Kong, Vietnam and Cambodia to go!
- Getting to know our newest member of the family! Yes, that is right, Chris and I adopted a cat here in Korea! Tubby has a little brother! We haven’t decided on a name yet, Chris is less than thrilled with all of my awesome suggestions.
Here is to next week’s stories of our adventures in Korea!