Teach Abroad - South Korea, Teach Abroad Programs

Chasing the Sun Halfway Around the World to Korea

by Lauren Bauer, Greenheart Travel Program Manager for Teach Abroad in Korea

The flight to Korea is a whopping 14 hours long. With that many hours on a plane, combined with the time difference, I will arrive in South Korea a mind-bending FULL DAY AND FOUR HOURS LATER than when I left Chicago. Flying West also means that we are flying in the opposite direction of the earth’s rotation, meaning that although I am on this plane for a full “night,” it is glaringly bright outside for the entire flight.

Many people dread the idea of flying. Whether it be the fear of heights, the fear of flying, or just the general agitation that security and airports so often provide, many people just loathe the entire experience. Not me. I actually love to fly. I love (almost) everything about it.

Flight status on Korean Air

Here are the reasons why flying and airports are awesome(!):

  • The people watching! I could spend hours in airports just watching people come and go. Of course, you don’t get as many of those tear-jerking greetings we used to observe when friends and family were actually allowed to wait inside the terminal at the gate (can you BELIEVE that used to be allowed?) It’s so fun to guess why people are going to where they are going. You see young men dressed in full Army garb. You see the inevitable family walking through O’Hare airport in the middle-of-winter, hair-braided, flip flops on, fried red everywhere but their blaring white bathing suit straps and where their sunglasses used to be. You see the 50-year-old woman still smiling cheek-to-cheek, wearing Mickey Mouse everything, and carrying a giant, almost life-sized stuffed Minnie Mouse (do they need to buy an extra ticket for those things?) Maybe that woman had always dreamed of going to Disney World, and she finally made it!!
  • The stores! Filled with glossy beautiful magazines, all of the latest and hippest books, all those little travel gadgets you never knew you needed, those last minute souvenirs of wherever you just were. Forgot to buy that Gatlinburg shot glass for your Aunt’s sister-in-law’s collection? No problem! It’s all here in this little gift shop! Ok, sure, most of the shops are the same. And yes, okay, they are totally over-priced. Of course, you could have bought all of these things in Walgreen’s or with your 40% off Borders coupon. That’s not the point! There is nothing better than having a little extra time before your flight, and browsing through the latest gossip or news magazines. Even if I already have two books in my bag for my trip, it is always hard for me to resist the temptation.
  • Sure, security can be awful. But, if you know what you’re doing, and you prepare your little baggie of 3.4 oz liquids, remember to take out your laptop, remember to take off your stinky shoes, it can be a pretty easy experience. Even if the line is long, just check out that dude three people up that is slowly growing more and more agitated by the minute. Watch it build. It can be pretty entertaining. (As a side note, I actually got put through one of those full body X-ray scans today at the airport. Yes, the ones that have been all over the news and debated about for months (years?) Without warning, I was suddenly between two tall walls with my hands on my head, feeling totally exposed. Sigh.) And guess what? If you’re nice to the TSA security staff, they will be nice to you! Go figure!
  • What is it about airports that suddenly makes fast food and chain restaurants appealing? For some reason I get great pleasure out of eating in airports. I might be alone on this one.
  • Layovers. Again, others may not agree, but I really enjoy layovers. Being in airports is cool! Sometimes they have shops. Sometimes I’ll walk around scoping out all of the fine dining options. Sometimes I will just park my butt near my gate and people watch, eat, absently stare at CNN on the flat screens, or catch up on emails.
  • You know what’s really awesome about flying? You can’t do ANYTHING. That might frustrate some people. But for me, it is a welcome excuse to sit and do nothing.
  • You can take naps. Whenever. You. Want. You can’t do that at work! If you’re on a date or in class, and you are really tired, it is NOT okay to fall asleep. That’s not true on a plane. Because no one is expecting anything of you, in fact, they’d prefer if you’d sleep! It is perfectly okay to pass out in the middle of a movie, or after you read the same paragraph in your book five times. Feel like sleeping? You go right ahead. And I always encourage drooling on your neighbor.
  • On the opposite side of the spectrum, the plane can be that place where you can actually focus 100%. Whether you need to write that paper, type up that report for work, catch up on your blog writing (ahem), or cram in the last 100 pages of this month’s book club book, you can do it here. There is no Facebook, TV, texting, or phone calls.
  • You can see amazing aerial views. Have you ever flown into New York, Chicago, or Miami at an angle where you can see straight down onto the whole city? It’s so cool! You can see the desert, mountains, ice caps from a view only possible from a plane. Just make sure you get the window seat.
  • You often have random conversations with complete strangers. You can get some interesting stories from that old guy sitting next to you. Now, this is not to be confused with the chatty Cathy that initiated conversation and will not shut up. You know those naps and doing nothing I mentioned before? These people can totally interfere with that. Some of them will not stop talking until you land. I find that the best time to cut these conversations off is when the plane takes off.
  • You know that movie you wanted to see a month ago in the theaters, but you just never made it? And now it’s in that awkward void between the theater and DVD/Netflix release? It’s here! This is where it went! You know that movie you were too embarrassed to admit that you wanted to see? It’s a foot in front of your face. Do not worry, you can watch shamelessly in the comfort of your very uncomfortable coach seat. I won’t tell. (What?? There were no other options!)
  • You get waited on hand and foot! THEY bring the food and drinks to YOU. They don’t WANT you to get up! This is the perfect opportunity to embrace your laziness EVEN MORE.
  • International flight bonus: Multiple free meals, free wine, free slippers, moist towelettes, endless movies to choose from in your own private entertainment system.

Some perks specific to today’s flight:

My bibimbop goodness.

I’m flying Korean Air, and it has been a totally pleasant experience so far. With most US based airlines cutting out any frills to survive (I have to pay for peanuts now, seriously? And you are going to charge me to check a bag?? No blankets?? I digress.) being on a nice airline is a positive change.

I finally got to watch Sex and The City 2 (this is one of those movies mentioned above). A delightfully mindless and girly choice for a long flight.

They give you a choice of a western or Korean meal. Of COURSE I chose Korean! This is Korean Air! And I’m flying to Korea! And what did they serve, but one of my favorite Korean dishes – bibimbop. It is a bowl of vegetables that you mix with rice, red pepper paste, and sesame oil. It came with an instruction card in how to prepare it. So fun! It also came with seaweed soup and kimchi (of course).

Bird's eye view of the North Pole.

I have also been pretty productive this flight. I have done some work, written this blog, started my book, and read almost the entire Korea Lonely Planet.

We are flying above the North Pole! Right now! Maybe it’s not technically the North Pole (I didn’t see Santa, so it obviously wasn’t), but if you look out, it is white ice as far as the eye can see. I have never seen that before! Very exciting.

Alright, time for one of those naps.

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Chasing the Sun Halfway Around the World to Korea

  1. Lauren,

    My wife and I had a very similar experience with Korean Air flying out of Atlanta. We flew out on a Sunday with 747-400 service. It was a relatively full flight. The flight attendants were very professional. Also, their food was the next I have ever had on a flight – period. We landed at 4:00 pm the next day in Incheon and then we went on to Manila.

    There are several things that I like about the Incheon airport. First, the airport is immaculate. The terminal still looks brand new and the floors are always shiny.

    Second, I like the 4th floor where the showers and lounge are located. For $6, you can get a towel, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. When you come off the plane after a 14 hour flight, knowing that the shower is available is a great feeling. You feel better after.

    Third, there is a transit hotel about 50 feet from the lounge and shower. If I had a long layover in Korea, I know very well that I would stay in the hotel to relax.

    I like not having to fly through L.A. or San Francisco going to Asia. Korean Air makes this possible with a one-hop connection to a premier Asia hub.

    Posted by James | October 22, 2010, 12:16 pm
  2. Thanks for providing good information about the Korea.

    Posted by Radha | September 16, 2010, 1:07 pm

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