Skin Rashes, Cheap Pizza: Around the World in 750 Days

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Skin Rashes, Cheap Pizza: Around the World in 750 Days

Bae Young-jin and her husband Yeo Se-ho were hoping not to swim, but whenever they hopped on a ferry boat during their voyage overseas, they always wrapped their laptop in several plastic bags. The consequences of getting it wet and putting it out of order would have been disastrous.

For this young couple, who toured the world for 750 days, documenting their trip was not only a means of communicating with the world but also helped to pay for it. Shortly after returning from the trip, the couple published their writings in book form.

"Traveling the World With a Flighty Couple" is a condensed version of the journal entries the couple posted on their Internet home page as they traveled. The site had 600 regular visitors, some of whom left "fan letters" to the couple in its guestbook, until it closed down last month. Divided into three volumes corresponding to world regions, the book is a collection of lively anecdotes from their trip. Unlike other travel manuals published in Korea, most space in this book is devoted to lunch menus, descriptions of street culture, passages of dialogue from the couple's quarrels and plenty of travel tips on eccentric places to visit. Frequent anecdotes related to food will bring a smile of recognition to the face of many Korean readers who have traveled overseas. There was a $17 bowl of bad jjambong (a very low-priced Chinese-style dish in Korea) at a Korean restaurant in Singapore, in contrast to a slice of remarkably inexpensive - to Koreans - pizza in the United States.

"We minimized writing about museums and historic sites in the book," Ms. Bae said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition. Even in preparing for a new country, the couple relied more on personalized sources such as personal accounts on travel Web sites and word of mouth than on travel guidebooks.

Despite lengthy preparation for the trip, however, life on the road had an inevitable number of difficulties. In the hot Cambodian summer, Mr. Yeo contracted a severe skin infection on his shoulder from carrying around the old, heavy laptop computer that weighed about the same as a 2-year-old infant. On a Trans-Siberian train, the electricity to their compartment was cut. In many of the cheap hotel rooms in which they stayed, there were no electrical outlets, which precluded using the computer. The couple were so desperate about these conditions that they often "stared at a palm tree on the streets wishing there was a stream of electricity flowing in it."

They were both 29 when they left Korea and 31 when they got back.

"It wasn't really about the money but about having the courage to leave," Ms. Bae said, referring to the bad reactions they got when they first announced they were going on a trip. They were condemned for "recklessly giving up their jobs," selling much of their property and for "wasting foreign currency" on a trip when the country had not fully recovered from the economic crisis.

"They probably thought that we were going to lead an easy life," Ms. Bae added, but said the trip proved a challenging experiment. A primary concern was their limited funds. In preparation for the trip, they sold their car and put their apartment up for rent. They had 50 million won in their hands just before leaving the country - now worth $38,460, but then worth a lot less due to the Asian economic crisis. And although the trip was partly sponsored by the Hitel portal Web site where their homepage was located, that 50 million won supported the bulk of their budget - except when they won a few dollars in Las Vegas. "People think travelogues are about your experiences outside of home," Ms. Bae said. "But when you come back and read the stories you've written again, you'll be surprised at how much they reflect on home."

The couple want to travel again in the near future, but this time without the computer.

by Park Soo-mee

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