The plan was to travel from Seoul to Jeonju via bus — just under a 3-hour drive.
One thing you should know is that, in my family, I’m infamous for getting lost. Once, I was trying to meet up with friends at Dunkin Donuts because I wanted to show off my newly-obtained driver’s license, but ended up getting confused, having to call my mom for directions, and showing up 15-minutes late. Oh, and the Dunkin Donuts is 6 blocks from my house.
The problem with traveling — especially in a foreign country — is that it’s much harder to call your mommy for directions.
Taking the Seoul Metro to the Express Bus Terminal was not a problem. Once there, I was quick to notice that, although not yet outside of Seoul, the English was much more sparse.
I approached the ticket booth. “Jeonju?” I asked uncertain of the pronunciation. The saleslady look confused for a second. “Ahhh,” she responded, and handed me a ticket which cost 3200 won, approximately $32. I walked away…3200 won seemed too expensive. I checked the ticket: TO GYEONG JU.
Probably just an alternate spelling, I thought. I knew that many Asian words don’t fit directly into the English alphabet. But it’s always better to check. So I took my ticket back to the counter, approaching a different clerk. This time I wrote down “Jeonju” and showed her my ticket. She shook her head “No,” and quickly printed out a new ticket for me and returned some of my fare. This new ticket read: TO JINJU.
I grinned to myself for figuring out the mistake. “Hah, take that, family! I’m not as bad at directions as you all think!” Of course that makes sense: Jinju is a much more likely alternate spelling than Gyeong Ju.
“The problem with traveling — especially in a foreign country — is that it’s much harder to call your mommy for directions.”
The bus ride was mostly uneventful. Although the closer I got, the more excited I got. My eyes were glued to the window, watching mountain after beautiful mountain. I glanced at my phone; this ride was turning out to be longer than 3 hours. I felt a pang of unease, but shrugged it off. “When it comes to travel, time estimations are hardly ever right,” I said to myself.
Finally we arrived. We had left at 12:10; it was almost 4 now. I bounded off the bus, grabbed my stowed backpack, and smiled. I had reached my home province despite my narrowly avoiding Gyeong Ju. I ran to the nearest taxi.
I handed the cab driver my phone with the confirmation email I had for my hostel in Jeonju which listed their address in Korean. The driver glanced at it and returned to his phone call. He glanced at it again. Then he hung up his phone, handed mine back, and looked at me.
He turned on his car’s GPS. He pointed to the southeast corner of Korea. “Jinju.” Then he slid his finger up and completely to the other side of the map. “Jeonju.”
To be continued…
Words and Photos: Elliot Vernon