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[Weekender] World travel -- living the dream

May 17, 2019 - 10:31 By Lee Sun-young
Shin Seon-a at the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in Bolivia. She has traveled 47 countries in this rugged 4x4 off-load vehicle with her husband Yoon Jin-young for nearly three years. (Photo provided by Shin)

A trip around the world may sound like an unrealistic dream.

Especially so for South Koreans, for whom a two-week vacation from work is a rarity and taking years off work can risk a career altogether, unless one has special skills that are in unusually high demand.

Yet there seem to be more people -- predominantly in their 20s and 30s and gaining traction on social media -- taking this seemingly unrealistic dream and turning it into reality.

Jung Yun-ho is among them.

According to the 39-year-old, who spent three years and two months visiting over 80 countries, a trip around the world is a challenge, but not as big a challenge as it would have been previously. Thanks to the internet and social media, information is readily available to make it easier, he said.

“These days many (world travelers) use social media and some earn money through sponsorships or ads,” said Jung, who recently published a book about his trip. Writing a book is a typical way of recouping travel expenses.

For people who embark on cycling tours, there is a wonderful global hospitality network called the Warm Showers Community that makes peddling around the world a lot easier. Just like Airbnb, it links people who need a bed to those who have an extra bed -- but better, it involves no money transactions at all.

“We met incredible people while cycling around the world. That is the best part of our trip,” said Park Su-yeon and Ha Ji-hoon.

A Korean passport happens to be one of the world’s most advantageous, allowing its holder to enter 189 countries without the hassle of applying for a visa in advance.

Shin Seon-a and Yoon Jin-young recently wrapped up a 47-country trip in an off-load SUV. Throughout their journey, which lasted nearly three years, visas were an issue for only one country -- Bolivia.

On the subject of travel finances, the married couple stressed that long-term travel can be less costly than most people think. For them, the monthly costs ranged between 1.5 million won ($1,262) and 2.5 million won and the total cost of the trip was around 85 million won.

“It was not much compared to what we saw and experienced. We would have spent that much money in Korea anyway, if we hadn’t gone abroad.”

While traveling, the pair had turned their home in Korea into a rental property, generating a stable monthly income of 1.5 million won, Shin added.

Bikers Park and Ha traveled on an even tighter budget of under a 15 million won a year, thanks to the Warm Showers Community.

Last but not least, there is the question of the dream journey’s impact on a traveler’s career. Worries about the post-travel life are one of the biggest hindrances for even the most enthusiastic travel aficionados.

The secret, according to Jung, Shin and other world travelers contacted by The Korea Herald, is either a special skill set or a different mindset.

“My preparation process included acquisition of job-related certificates,” said Shin, an insurance claims review nurse. Less than a month after returning to Korea, she has already landed a job in her field.

Jung said his once-in-a-lifetime journey has given him a broader perspective on life.

“Life itself is like a long travel. Taking a break for three years is not going to put a damper on my life in the long term,” he said.

By Lee Sun-young