week 06 by Shelby Robinson

It's hard to believe that week six was spent in Bali. And it was pure bliss, let me tell you. I am so inspired by the slow and nourishing way of life we had there and the fresh fish and fresh fruit on the beach and the simplicity of the days. But I'll get more into that in my next post ~ I have way too much to share.

On our second day, Lindsey and Jackie and I wandered the Bingin Beach next to our hut to take a few beachy, mermaid-inspired photos. We collected shells and kelp and found the prettiest pools during low tide. I broke the rules a bit this week ~ these shots aren't technically self-portraits as they were shot by my lovely friends, but hey, rigidity is boring. Bendin' the rules a bit.

And yes, I know... I missed week five. I promised myself I'd tack on an extra week at at the end of the 52 weeks (just this once).

My Korean Bathroom by Shelby Robinson

When I first got to my apartment in Korea, I was pretty shocked to see no tub and no shower in my bathroom. Shocked to see just a hose attached to my sink.

Mornings were a little awkward as I tried to navigate the new experience (showering without getting my towel wet or figuring out how to have warm water was next to impossible) and like most things, I missed my "normal" shower back home.

But I've seriously grown to love the space. I have so much room! And it makes cleaning my bathroom incredibly simple ~ I can scrub and rinse my sink, floor, walls, and toilet in one fell swoop. It's an awesome thing. The greens are a nice touch too. My mornings are spacious and simple and lovely.

Learning not to judge and criticize things I'm not familiar with. Learning to keep my mind and heart open. Always learning.

week 04 by Shelby Robinson

"So, I close my eyes to old ends and open my heart to new beginnings."  //  Nick Frederickson

Morning hair and morning coffee and PJs. This week marks a full month of being here in South Korea (yesterday was my one-month mark of teaching!) and it's been a whirlwind. It's been full of ups and downs and anger and frustration, but also blissful, calm moments... Last night, I was walking to meet friends for dinner and felt loads happier. Calm. Peaceful. With each step I took, each student I saw running home after a long day filled with schoolwork, with each building I passed (that I recognized!), I felt more at ease. I think I am slowly being able to call Korea home. Slowly getting into a routine. Slowly loving this big, crazy country.

And huge, huge thanks for all the awesome comments on the post I shared yesterday. It's not always easy to share something so personal, but I can't tell you how much your words of encouragement means to me. Thank you for making my transition here just a little bit lighter.

How I've dealt with the loneliness of living abroad so far by Shelby Robinson

Loneliness can mean so many different things. It can be a desire for closeness, for intimacy. An achy feeling for familiarity. A desire for company. Maybe we're dealing with something that we really don't want to face, or maybe we just miss a person or a place a whole lot. Maybe we're living in the past. Maybe we're surrounded by people and still feel alone.

In the mere month of being here, I can't tell you how lonely I've felt. (Mom, family, I promise I'm fine!). Most of my days consist of going to school to teach students who speak basic, basic English, then to the supermarket for groceries or a cafe for tea, and then back to my apartment. Back to a timezone that is totally different from everyone and everything I'm used to. To a place that is still so new and so foreign to me. And more often than not, I'm alone. A lot.

Now don't get me wrong, I've always been one to really enjoy solitude, to need it. But my alone time back home consisted of an hour-and-a-half yoga class or an hour in a coffee shop every day. And then the rest of my days were filled with my big family and my awesome friends and my social job. Here, I don't have that. Here, I have scarce late night Skype sessions and brief Kakao conversations and 3-second Snapchats. Here, I have once-a-week meetups with other foreigners in Korea. Here, I have my big apartment and taped up pictures of late nights and morning coffee and snuggles with my pets back home. Here, I have myself. And it scares the hell out of me.

Before moving to Korea, I knew there were going to be heaps and loads of adjustments. Loads. I knew all of this and honestly... I wanted this. I just didn't know what those adjustments were, or how to prepare, or what to expect. ~ But I suppose that's life. You can plan and plan and prepare and worry and still, it will never go the way you expect. Everything is in a constant state of motion: the things around us, the Earth, our bodies, our minds. You can't predict what will happen five minutes from now, one day from now, one month from now. You just have no way of knowing. Everything is always changing. And yea.... there's beauty in that.

So I've been trying. Trying to explore the feeling of loneliness and getting to know it rather than avoiding it or trying to mask it. And here's what has helped me deal with the loneliness so far:

Journaling

I can't tell you how important this has become to me: a daily (often twice daily) affair with my journal. It gets my thoughts and feelings on paper, calms my mind, puts me in a relaxed state. It's so great to see the progress I've made and the realizations I've reached and the patterns I've noticed, too. And I love how raw and real and honest every word is. It's even allowed me to become more honest with myself. Plus, it's so flippin fun to go back and read old entries.

Reading

Before I left, I went to the used section in Schuler's Books and loaded up on good reads. Books to get lost in, to make me think, to bide my time. (Special thanks to Lindsey for the recommendation to read This Is How You Lose Her, I am in love.)

Embracing It

This has to be the hardest, most important lesson of all for me. To realize that being lonely goes hand in hand with being uncomfortable.... something that I'm not used to. But in the discomfort, comes growth. How are we going to learn and grow if we stay in the same place, doing the same thing, seeing the same things? I've learned to welcome loneliness with non-judgment. To notice it, accept it, and to allow space for it. Even though it's a bit uncomfortable, it must be felt. It's all part of the process. And things always get better.

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Amidst the scariness and the loneliness and the homesickness and hurt, I have grown. I have learned to take things one day at a time, confide in friends and fam back home, and mostly to trust myself. To trust the process. Trust my journey. Because there is meaning and purpose in all things. And I'm still struggling and learning and growing. Always. But allowing and accepting all of my feelings makes me feel just a little bit lighter.

bukhansan national park by Shelby Robinson

Yesterday Jackie and I met in Seoul and made out way to Bukhansan National Park where we planned to hike this beauty. One of my favorite Saturdays yet in Korea.

The walk up was pretty tiring and a bit icy, so it took us around two and a half hours. The final climb to the peak was honestly hilarious - I can't tell you how many times I slipped. The only thing we had to hold onto was a freezing metal bar with icy rocks beneath our feet. But all was well because we were surrounded by other hikers who were super kind and helpful, lending us hands and telling us the best strategies.

Once we made it to the top of the peak, the slipping and cold was all worth it. That view! So, so beautiful. It was the perfect day. We enjoyed gimbap and makgeolli (a rice wine) with some new friends. Also, Korean hikers are so hilarious with their brightly colored hiking gear and pants and matching jackets and hats and the like. We got a good laugh.

Many thanks to the lovely Jackie for being such an excellent guide and for taking me to my first Korean mountain. The first of many!

week 03 by Shelby Robinson

"Be gentle. Fill yourself up with love instead of hate. Fill yourself up with art, books, knowledge, experiences. Surround yourself with people who have nothing but love to give. These things, they are important. They will help you learn how to love." // A.Y.

Today was cold and rainy, which really ruined my plans to shoot for week three. Instead of wallowing, I decided to take matters into my own hands and get a little creative.... inside my apartment. Even though I am super limited in props and good lighting, I can say with a smile that I am pleased with the way these little pieces turned out.

An inner reflection of the beauty of time spent alone, the beauty of missing folks you love deeply, the beauty of always nurturing your soul, the beauty of constantly learning how to love and listen to yourself. Today is good. Week three in South Korea is good.

(Friends and fam back home: I miss you loads.)

week 02 by Shelby Robinson

So windy. So chilly. It snowed for the first time since I've been in Korea today. The trail on the river by my house past the subway and the roads and all the homes - away from the hustle and bustle of the city - was the perfect early afternoon getaway before class.

I've committed to taking a self-portrait a week for a year which is going to be insane (I'm already late and it's only the second week), but I'm certain it will challenge me and force me to grow and learn a whole hell of a lot about capturing.

I'm curious... anyone else doing a daily or weekly photo project this year? I'd love to follow along.

first week in south korea by Shelby Robinson

It's been a whirlwind.

It's hard to think that a week ago I was still on the plane coming from the states to Seoul. So nuts.

This week has been filled with adjusting to a new time zone, a new work schedule, a new eating pattern, a new sleeping pattern, etc. Communicating with my students who speak little English has been a challenge. Ordering food has been a challenge (I ordered three chicken burgers instead of one the other night). Navigating the subway system has been a challenge. Every day has been a challenge. And it's okay. More than okay! It's been wonderful.

Friday night I met up with other foreign teachers in the area for a few drinks at a bar called the Pink Mong (this place is full of cheesy Christmas decor and bad American music, BUT they serve in English), which was so refreshing because (no joke) I hadn't seen anyone but Koreans since stepping off the plane. It was so refreshing to be able to have full conversations in English and meet people from all over the world. These folks are the coolest.

Saturday I was able to meet up with the lovely Kate and her friend Alex in Seoul, specifically in Insadong, for eats and shopping. We got some Korean food (bibimbap, seafood pancake, some sort of meatball, and a whole bunch of sides) and wandered through the district. We ended our day with these yummy almond biscuits and drinks.

Sunday was spent editing some of these here photos, cleaning my apartment, and meeting with a new friend for a walk around Munsan. The walk just so happened to be a trail filled with all of these old military bunkers and sandbags, which was so insane to see. I'm assuming that if North Korea ever attacks, this is where the soldiers will head to (don't worry, it is very safe here). The last photo above is inside of one of the bunkers.

It's been a wonderful week of new and exciting things. I am missing home a whole lot, but it's so nice to know that all my favorite people are just a Kakao message or Skype session away. Thank you friends and family for being so lovely and supportive. I couldn't do this big move without your unconditional love and support (for real). Lots of love from South Korea!

self-portrait project: week 01 by Shelby Robinson

Currrently // Learning that it's okay to be sensitive and vulnerable and nostalgic. And that it's okay to be overjoyed and full and content. And that it's all part of the process and there is light and meaning in all things.

Previously // Learned what fire and passion and peace I find when I put pen to paper and my feet on my mat and my camera in my hands.

Hello, 2015. I'm ready to bring my new-found epiphanies and knowledge and peace. And I'm ready to learn so much more.

silver lake sand dunes by Shelby Robinson

A few friends and I took a day-trip to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes State Park to adventure and hike back in early October. We were greeted by the Sun and the warm rolling hills and soft wind.

It's hard to believe that there are so many places right here in Michigan that must be explored. Sort of overwhelming, really.

We started at the pedestrian entrance and worked our way (slowly but surely) to Lake Michigan. The trek consisted of sandy hills and a treeline that meets an endless shore. So damn beautiful. At the end of the day my body hurt from walking and climbing and jumping, but it was so worth it.