Completely Personal Jeju #2 A Month on the Island
It must be one of wildest dreams of many to live in places where people travel. Jeju is one of those dreamy places. It created a new way of living like "a month in Jeju" or working at guest houses for those who dreams of living in Jeju. This unusual trend to other places has become a regular lifestyle for this island. In other words, this island has a lot of temporary residents.
A popular TV show, Hyori's Bed and Breakfast featuring a lifestyle of a top singer and a performer, Lee, Hyori leading a peaceful suburban life with her husband and rescue animals in Jeju, centers not only around the B&B's owners but also around IU, a singer and a songwriter who works as a staff member at this B&B. And this show resonates much with the younger generation, especially to college students who wanted to travel and experience something radically different under budget.
Like the Airbnb's old slogan, "Live like a local" and its new one, "Belong anywhere," anyone can truly live and belong Jeju regardless of the reasons that brought them here. The 22-year-old, Gil, Jisun had led a busy life and realized she needed to take a break. Gil initially came to rest, but found who she really is on this island.
What made to spend a month in Jeju?
There were several reasons. Back on the mainland, I would be the middle of things that were beyond what I can handle, especially in the recent years after I got into college. And it suddenly dawned on me that I needed to take a break, and a time to take some rest. That's how I got here.
From my last trip to Jeju last year with my friend, I learned I could live and work at guesthouses. I took the advantage of an opportunity and challenged myself.
You said you were in the middle of the things beyond you. What were some of those things?
Well, the college students are under a lot of pressure to find a job after graduation. I had extracurricular activities, other operation work and taught a few students as a tutor. When all these things combined, I was completely worn out. Maybe others could have handled it better, but I just couldn't. So I wrapped everything up and left.
I used to think, "They are all things I need to do. I should be busy. No, I should be busier." But then I thought, "Can I leave everything. Wouldn't that be ok?" So I did.
Tell me a little bit about your daily routine as a staff member at a guesthouse.
I am a bit of a lazybones (laughs), and wake up around 11. But if I'm in the mood for some stroll, I wake up around 7. I wake up, get to the beach port and walk along the ocean. Summer in Jeju is extremely hot, but that is the only time when the sun is least scorching.
After my morning stroll, I begin to clean the rooms, like the housekeeping work. I make the beds; clean the sheets and vacuum until 1 pm. Then I have my meal and that's followed by my free time until 4 pm. I sometimes take a siesta, play the guitar or read books. And when it's check-in time at 4 pm, I'll assist the guests to their beds. And from 7 pm, we host parties.
Are parties all week long?
No. We host 4 days and rest for 3 days.
Did you always play the guitar?
I wanted to learn during my 9th grade, so I bought one and started teaching myself how to play the chords a little. But now it's all gone. When I first got here, I saw the owner of this place knew how to play it. Now I'm trying to get back on track.
You must have a lot in common with the owner.
Yes, that's right. When I first got a call from the owner, I knew I’d get along well with the owner since I love music. I heard from other staff members at other guesthouses who were overworked and left just in two days. Had it been my case, I don't think it would have worked either. I am a total lazybones and love being a bum. In spite of my characters, the owner, manager and other staff members were so kind to me. I'm getting along very well here.
It's curious to know what it feels like to live as a staff member at a guesthouse.
I began to think, "nothing is permanent or no one stays permanently." And I began to relieve the obsessive pressure to go or do things when I'm visiting new places. When you're traveling you would try to squeeze as many things to do. But with a month available to me, I was never in a hurry. Should I go here today or later? I could do this, but I'll go here to nearby place today! Living in a travel destination, I'm not anxious. I feel like I'm in control of this travel experience.
Right. When you live in the place, you don't get to travel around much. But do you ever think that this may be a little less productive?
I came to Jeju to get some rest, so I don't mind that. I'm not interested in going around famous landmarks either. I'm leaning to write songs so I'm taking this opportunity as a way to be inspired. If I need to see the ocean, I go see the ocean. If I need to go to an art gallery, I go to an art gallery.
Isn't Jeju an inconvenient place to live without a car?
Yes. I usually take the bus and hitchhiked a few times in the past. If I don't have a specific plan, I usually take a ride with other guests. With the parties, I get to be closer with the guests and that helps.
How many times have you hitchhiked?
I tried at least countlessly but succeeded only two times. Both were about the age of my father and they would both say that hitchhiking is so dangerous and I should never do it again (laughs). They were locals so it was fun to hear their stories.
Do you miss some of the guests or feel at a loss when they leave?
One of the guests I know was here since my trip to Jeju is still here. This guest has been living in Jeju longer than I have so I don't know if I miss any of them (laughs). I guess this place is a special case. And we have a lot of returning guests. As we get to see them again, I font think I get to miss them. Like I said, "nothing is permanent."
So the owner's motto is, "let us be cool and let them go." The owner is in the business of people constantly coming and going. So it must bother at some level. I try to do the same as well.
You're approaching the full month here in Jeju soon. A month seemed a bit short, right?
Yes. It was shorter than I had expected. So I'm considering taking some time off from school but there are things I hasn't finished on the mainland (laughs). But a month was definitely a bit too short. Even two months would feel like the time flying here, I think.
How do you feel as you're approaching the end of the experience?
It still feels unreal to me. I'd like to say for another 6 months, but with other things, I'm planning to come back in the future. I wouldn't want to like to think that this is the end. I made a promise with other guests and staff members. If we have time, we'll see each other here again.
When you go back to Seoul and think back of tryout time here, how would you remember this place by?
I know this sounds a bit lame, but I think this has been the time to discover myself. Back in. Seoul, there are things after things to get done. There was no time for rest. I got time to look back at myself and really get to know what I like and what I don't like.
When I get to be back in Seoul, I would probably think that this has been time to know what Gil, Jisun likes and doesn't like. The time to know who really Gil, Jisun is.