Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back in South Korea: Zigzag travel in Busan

Trinkets, small figurines, shelves of memorabilia from travel abroad, travel books, pillows, Christmas lights, and small plants adorn a café the size of a two room apartment. These carefully chosen details help to create an inspiringly homey atmosphere.

From the moment I saw the sign with three stacked drawers, I knew this was a café I wanted to visit. Even though the weather hardly permitted patio coffee, two chairs and a small table where artfully arranged on the front porch. On the table were locally created, artsy information booklets about Busan in both English and Korean. Small bits of green, starts of plants, grew in tiny pots on the patio. After two minutes of taking it all in, I consulted my new friend, and we entered the cutest café I have ever seen.

On a small street, a couple blocks from Gwangalli Beach, tucked into a small building sits a café with not many foreign visitors. Off the beaten beach path and lacking an ocean view, the appeal of this café lies not in its view, but in the creativity and passion which has been poured into every detail, every drink, and every chair cushion.

Espresso ice cube coffee

The drinks come out arranged on small wooden platters with animals specific to the beverage. Comment books sit on the table and provide insight about others who have stumbled upon the tiny little oasis.

This café reconfirmed my chosen method of exploration, something Tahir Shah called 'zigzag travel.' “Real adventure can only come about through zigzag travel. One of life’s great sensations is walking along a road without any idea where it leads or what will happen next.” – p.379 In Arabian Nights Tahir Shah

In my time outside my comfort zone, and even in it, I have found that the best way to explore a place is to wander. I usually do this alone and sometimes it means I go without food, without water, without any purpose or aim. I enter places that capture my imagination and shun places which scream at me. I seek out side roads and back doors. I look for the places which most tourists do not ever see. I search for places locals find refuge in and pride myself in scouting out well-kept secrets and keeping them. I share only with fellow wanderers or with those who may never see the places. I have found that an unwalkable city is a place I do not want to be and that wandering is a good exercise in indecisive decision making.

As a solo wanderer, I usually give places space and time. I do not always immediately enter a cute café or intriguing restaurant because I feel, like a good purchase, the idea needs to percolate. The café needs to enter my dreams and tap on my shoulder each time I walk by it.

Every once in a while, I find someone willing to explore with me. It is those times, accompanied by a fellow creative type, that I am more willing to jump in, take even lesser beaten paths, and enter establishments without first vetting them in my dreams.

After my first weekend back in Korea, my decision of Busan has been confirmed as one of the best and most informed decisions I have made in my 28+ years on this Earth thanks to the Gwangan District and this tiny café, which will remain undisclosed.

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