Potentially controversial statement. Sometimes, travelling is not that much fun. And to be clear, I’m not talking about the obvious reasons why. Flight delays and missed connections. Lost luggage. Bad weather. Overcrowded tourist sites. All of these can certainly put a damper on your travel plans. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Sometimes, even when everything goes according to plan, travelling can still be a challenge. You’re in a new place every couple of days. You’re constantly disoriented and/or lost. You have to figure out a whole new transit system for every new city. And often, you have to do all of this in a foreign language. It’s all part of the great adventure that is travelling, and it can be exhilarating. But it can also be exhausting. So what makes it all worth it? For me, it’s those special moments of travel magic.
If you love to travel, you may already know what I’m talking about. It’s those moments when you arrive somewhere or see something that quite literally takes your breath away. When you find a place so special, you know you’re going to remember that moment of discovery for the rest of your life. Somewhere so beautiful, a picture will never be able to fully capture it. These are the moments I like to call travel magic, and they often happen when you least expect them. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced many moments of travel magic in my life. But one of my favourites happened very recently during a trip to Yeosu, South Korea.
Never heard of Yeosu? Don’t worry. I hadn’t either until I started researching travel itineraries for my trip. And it wasn’t a featured destination on any of the sample itineraries I found online. However, I happened upon a description of it in an article that described Yeosu as the place to go island hopping. Colour me intrigued. Yeosu also hosted a World Expo in 2012, so it clearly wasn’t a small town. For all of these reasons and many more, I decided to add Yeosu to my itinerary and spend a couple of days in this city by the sea.
This turned out to be a fantastic decision, because Yeosu is a beautiful destination. I spent my first day exploring the former Expo grounds, the island of Odongdo, and the city’s waterfront. My second day involved a ride on Yeosu’s famous cable car, exploring Dolsan Park, and visiting the city’s main market. I had read about a temple that was worth visiting, but it was located on the far side of Dolsan Island, and therefore I had ruled out a visit, thinking I didn’t have enough time. However, exploring Dolsan Park didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, and when I realized I still had hours before I was due at the market, I decided on a whim to hop on a bus and go see Geomosan Hyangiram Temple after all.
Now, there is one thing you need to know about buses in Korea. Every single driver I had during the three and a half weeks I spent in that country drove like a Formula One driver who was very disgruntled at having to stop from time to time to let people on and off. This Yeosu driver was no different, and we careened through the countryside of Dolsan Island for over an hour, passing by several intriguing destinations along the way. I’m still curious about just what exactly the sign saying “Venice Yeosu” was advertising.
Eventually, we made it to the final stop, and those of us who were left dutifully piled off. A quick look at the map next to the bus stop showed that the temple was less than a kilometre away, so I set off down the road in search of the entrance. What the map had failed to express was how the path to the temple was straight up a mountain. I wasn’t wearing the right clothes for a hike like that, but I had come so far and I had survived that bus journey. I wasn’t about to turn around without seeing Hyangiram. So I took a deep breath, steeling myself for the climb ahead, and started up the stairs.
It actually wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be. I have certainly climbed up far worse in the past. It just wasn’t what I was expecting when I decided to hop on that bus. Nevertheless, I slowly plodded my way up the hill, delighting in how the path wound its way through the rocks of the mountain, and wondering if the view would be worth the climb. The answer, I’m happy to report, is a resounding yes. In fact, the moment I reached the first terrace of this temple, I knew I had found somewhere special. It wasn’t just the view that took my breath away. It was everything. The temple buildings. Their location. The mountain behind me and the ocean before me. It was one of those moments of travel magic, and I will never get tired of that rush.
I spent almost two hours fully exploring the temple grounds, as well as just sitting on a bench taking it all in. I didn’t particularly want to leave, but eventually, I decided that my time was up and it was time to make my way back into town. But as my bus once again careened its way across the island, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had just experienced. It was something I know I will never forget, and it was definitely a highlight of my time in Korea.
So yes, sometimes travelling can be a challenge. It can be frustrating, disorientating, and exhausting. But it is also a wonderful way to learn about the world, get outside your comfort zone, and experience cultures different from your own. And if you’re really lucky, you just might happen upon one of those incredible moments of travel magic. Who knows? Maybe your moment of travel magic is waiting for you in Paris.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.