I’ve been obsessed with books my whole life and with bookstores for almost as long. When I was looking for things to do in Seoul, I knew the legendary Kyobo Bookstore in Gwanghwamun was at the top of my list; I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the pictures online!
It was also special to me because it was the first time after moving into my dorm at Yonsei that I traveled alone. I had only been in Seoul for about a week when I went. The public transportation is great, but being unfamiliar with it meant I was nervous about getting lost. Thankfully, I spoke enough Korean to comfortably ask locals for directions, but, just like a dad in any travel movie, it takes a lot for me to admit I’m lost.
The bus was easy enough and I got off at the right stop. However, the streets were a different story. The thing about the Kyobo Bookstore is that it’s practically hidden from view; you have to walk down huge steps to get to the entrance, and, if you’re not paying attention, you could overlook it completely because of all the big buildings and monuments around it. Unfortunately, my nerves got the best of me and I spent at least 30 minutes walking in circles around the same streets and crossing back and forth on the same crosswalk. I even began to rehearse how I would ask someone for directions in my head. I hated to admit it but I was lost.
Even though I thought there was no hope for me, there was a light at the end of the tunnel (or, more accurately, street). In my nervous haze, I had been crossing the street on the opposite side of the bookstore the whole time! Once I figured that out, it took me a whopping two minutes to find the bookstore. The entrance shined like the gates of heaven as I walked down the steps. When I stepped inside, I was overwhelmed by the expanse of the books and all the excited people milling about. It was wonderful! From the beautiful stationery store to the English section with great options and all the Korean books around me, I was so glad I had not given up the search and made it to the paradise of books!
Getting lost was nervewracking, but, once I took a minute to get my bearings, I was able to find my way. That gave me a boost of confidence in my travel skills and independence. Without that happening, I would not have been able to enjoy the time I spent living in a studio apartment in Sinchon, nor would I have had the courage to take a spontaneous trip to Tokyo by myself! It’s okay to get lost; sometimes it’s even great.
So just know that no matter where you are in the world, you can find your way, and it’s always worth it in the end! Plus you get bonus points if you don’t have to ask people for directions!