Our night in a Buddhist Temple

While spending three weeks hopping around South Korea we had the incredible opportunity to stay in a traditional Buddhist Temple about 3-hours outside of Seoul, tucked away in a valley of the Sobaek Mountains.

South Korea has many different temples that offer a temple stay program. The programs are meant to help people center themselves spiritually while learning more about the Buddha’s teachings. We ended up doing our temple stay at Guinsa Temple which practices Cheontae Buddhism, a sect of Korean Buddhism derived from a form of Chinese Buddhism called Tiantai. We were eager and excited to learn more about this form of Buddhism as well as clearing our minds and centering ourselves. We hope you enjoy this journey with us.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a massive amount of beautiful lanterns. We later found out this was because the Buddha’s birthday was in a few days. We were thrilled to have the colorful lanterns playing off the brightly painted temple buildings.

First thing on the agenda after checking in was a little arts and crafts. We made paper lotus lanterns and prayer beads. The lotus flower is very important to Buddhists, symbolizing purity of the body, speech, and mind, while the prayer beads are sometimes used to count the number of mantras recited, much like a rosary in the Catholic faith counts the number of Hail Marys repeated. 

After arts and crafts, we were taken on an official tour of the Guinsa Temple complex. We saw the buildings where we would share meals, where the monks lived, where evening and morning prayer would occur, and the Great Teacher Hall, a three-tiered pagoda at the top of the complex. The Great Teachers Hall and surrounding grounds were decorated with larger-than-life paper lantern figures in celebration of the Buddha’s birthday. 

Up at the top, we were challenged to calm our minds and take in the beauty around us. The valley was so beautiful as the various building dotted the landscape. We were already transported into a world so different from ours. 

At the sound of the bell, we knew it was time for evening prayers. Our group gathered with the monks and other practicers of Cheontae Buddhism and began chanting and praying inside of the prayer hall. The praying was very hard at first. It consists of repeatedly standing, then falling into a kneeling position, followed by bending over and placing our hands and forehead to the floor, after which raising back to the kneeling position, then coming onto our toes as we stood, hands in the praying position with our palms together at chest height, and finally ending back in the standing position. We did this for what felt like 100 times in 60 minutes. Fortunately, it became less difficult each time since we were falling into the groove and the moves became more natural. 

Next on the agenda was dinner. The Guinsa Temple serves hundreds of simple vegetarian meals three times a day for free. We joined in to eat with everyone else regardless of religion or ethnicity. One cool things we learned was that all of the food, from the vegetable to the kimchi, were cultivated and made by the monks. 

Following our meal, we had a little free time before meeting back up with our monk to learn the art of meditation. Meditation is more than sitting in silence, it is a means of transforming the mind into being mindful. It helped teach us concentration, clarity, and positivity. It also helped us ask questions about ourselves and begin to become aware of those things that may be causing us hurt. 

One of the ways were were taught to meditate was to sit in the full lotus position. We were instructed to sit with our legs crossed with both feet resting on top of the opposite knee, just like you see the Buddha doing in statues. This was difficult for us, so we adopted the half-lotus position, where only one foot rests on the opposite knee while the other was on the floor, much easier for a novice. The monk then when around straightening our backs to the proper posture. This definitely showed us we are in serious need of working on having better posture. Another form of meditation we learned was loud chanting. This was not our favorite because we were focusing on saying the words properly, rather than being mindful. After meditation, we played a few trust games to bring the night to an end.

Now that night as fallen, we headed out to see the temple gloriously illuminated. All of the lanterns were magical. We hiked our way from our dormitory through the complex in awe at all of is lights and we had it all to ourselves!

One of our favorite lanterns was the dragon outside of the prayer temple that provided us a light show. It dazzled us as it constantly changed colors from a crisp bright white to a fabulous rainbow array. It a real treat to explore the temple complex at night.

The next morning we had 3am prayer in the temple. This time Brad slept in and Kevin went alone to repeat the chantings and kneeling ceremony. It was way easier this time around. After morning prayer, it was back to the room for an additional few hours of sleep before waking up for another simple vegetarian meal. 

After breakfast, we joined back up with our monk and took a nearly 2-hour meditation walk through the mountains. It was a cleansing time where we pushed away all thoughts that came to our mind and just took in the silence and surroundings. It was so relaxing and cathartic. Note: all of the picture were taken on our walk back to the temple. We were not meditating at this time. 

At the top of the mountain, we were encouraged to meditate anyway that made us comfortable. We both laid down flat on our backs with the morning sun beating down on us and fell into a calming state of meditation. This was much more comfortable than straining to sit upright. 😉 

The last thing we did during our temple stay enjoy a tea ceremony with our monk. This was our favorite part of our journey. We learned the importance of the ceremony while being able to ask the monk any question we wanted. This was the most educational part of our stay. We learned so much more than just the tea ceremony and about Cheontae Buddhism, we were able to look inside of ourselves and learn more about us. 

We are two en route to enlightenment 

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The Faces of Holi

Holi is a vibrant festival of colour celebrating the victory of good over evil. It is a time to lift up love and mend broken relationships. This Hindu religious festival is celebrated all over the world but no location is known better than India for observing the colorful festivities. Attending Holi was on our must-do list when we left home to experience the world and when we arrived in New Delhi we could not have been more excited!  

We had been looking forward to Holi for months and hit the jackpot with our Airbnb host. He was hosting a Holi party on his rooftop where a group of his friends and their guests came over for a good time. As soon as his friends started to show up, the color came out and we began to play Holi by rubbing color on each other’s hair and face saying “Happy Holi.”

After about an hour, Brad and I decided to leave the safety of our rooftop and venture out into the neighborhood. It immediately felt like we were in the movie Purge Anarchy. We were constantly looking over our shoulders for people who were throwing water balloons at us and shooting super soakers full of colored water. It got our blood pumping. After only two blocks we already had so much more color on us.

We continued to explore the neighborhood, quickly becoming the target of everyone. It turns out that the locals love to bombard foreigners even more then each other. It is definitely a game for them, but we didn’t mind because it meant more color. At one point one guy basically attached Kevin’s face with green color, turning him into the jolly green giant.

When we got back to the roof, the dyes were still flying and everyone was drinking bhang, an intoxicating drink consumed during Holi. Everyone was in a good mood and it was, full-on, Holi magic.

Our next stop was at our host’s brother’s home. As we arrived, more Holi was played, adding shades of pink to the mix of other color. It was great to have some much-needed snacks and moments of uncontrollable laughter.

Our final stop of the day was to the Holi Moo (formally Holi Cow) festival. The festival is where locals and foreigners alike get together for food, song, dance, and playing Holi. With four music stages, we were would not get bored.

Kevin jumped head first into the crowd of dancers, feeling the music, and had a great time. The energy of the festival was rich and full of life. Everyone got involved and no one was left out. It was awesome to see a man in a wheel chair getting the opportunity to crowd surf!

After a few hours of up-beat, heart-pounding music, we decided to find the stage with the jazz and funk music and chill out. 

As the sun started to go down, we left the festival and headed home for the night. Looking back through our photos, it’s so fun to see how our faces changed throughout the day like the horse of many colors from The Wizard of Oz. 

Getting in touch with Indian culture was fantastic and we will never forget our Holi experience.

We are two en route for a more colorful life.

Our Copenhagen Pride featured on Brazilian Blog!

We are so honored to share our experience at Copenhagen Pride with Brazil’s number one gay travel blog, Viaja Bi! Click here to read all about our fun time! 

Here is a link to the English google translated version for those of you, like us, who can’t speak Portuguese. 

 

How We Balance Down Time and Tourism

Have you ever felt more tired after a vacation? We sure have!

Being on the road we are constantly in new places with new sights to see and it is easy to fall into the habit of constantly go-go-going. We have found that it is important to balance the continual urge to see it all with the need for down time. Much like being at home, we sometimes need breaks during the day, relaxing evening, a good night sleep, and “weekends” to unwind from a week of doing.  

 Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016
Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016

We have learned how significant regular breaks during the day can be. Not only do we get to rest our feet, but we get to rest our minds. An easy way for us to do this is to find a café, have a cup of coffee, and people watch. Sitting in silence and letting our mind slow down gives us a second wind for more sight-seeing. 

 Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016
Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016

Every night cannot be a night on the town.  Sometimes the best remedy for a long day is a relaxing evening. Dive into a good book, relax in a park, binge watch a tv show, or even nodding off into an early sleep. 

 Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016
Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016

Another way we have learned to balance our downtime with our tourism is by allowing ourselves to not set wakeup alarms and simply sleeping in. Before traveling the world, we always heard how not getting enough sleep can effect many aspects of your life and it is very true. A good night’s sleep is essential for a good day of sight-seeing.

 Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016
Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016

Too many consecutive days of being on the go can lead to getting burnt out. After a few weeks of not having a day off from traveling and sight seeing it was time for us to take a weekend. Two consecutive days of hanging around with nothing planned was pure bliss. It reinvigorated us. From that point on we decided that allowing ourselves to have weekends was one of the most important ways of balancing downtime with our tourism. 

 Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark
Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark

We had to let go of being on a schedule to see everything, rather, experience the place we are visiting. A good way to do this is to balance being a tourist with simple being someone living on the move.     

We are two en route for balanced travel.

Brown Cheese…Quintessentially Norway

We love to try new and different foods that are unique to the places we are traveling. Norwegians have their own unique food item and that is Brown Cheese. Why is it called brown cheese? Well… It’s brown in color. 

 Brown Cheese on Toast, Norway, 2016
Brown Cheese on Toast, Norway, 2016

After some internet research we learned that the best way to eat brown cheese is to simply toast some bread, put two slices on, and enjoy! We are sure you are wondering what it tastes like. To both of us brown cheese had a medium firmness, tasted a little sweet and finished with a heavily preserved fish saltiness. It may sound strange however, it tasted good. It was not the best cheese we’ve ever had but recommended for a try if you are in Norway. 

 Brad trying Brown Cheese, Norway, 2016
Brad trying Brown Cheese, Norway, 2016

After buying the smallest package we could find, because we did not know if we would like it, we still had some cheese left over. The following day we made brown cheese and ham sandwiches; delicious. 

We are two en route with brown cheese in our belly.

Sleeping in Airports

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One goal we set for our RTW trip is to make our money go as far as possible and to live within a new means. This meant making compromises along the way and even being uncomfortable at times. We started our trip by testing how far we could test our limits, asked ourselves if these limits were unrealistic, and even hoped that the edge we would walk up to might somehow continue to be pushed further and further out making what would have seemed uncomfortable not so bad. Our journey to the starting point did just that.

We are no strangers to public transit, so dropping our car off at my dad’s work, putting on our backpacks, and navigating DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) to the airport was a breeze. Once we arrived at the airport it was like second nature to us going through security and making it to the gate hours early in anticipation of heading out.

 Goodbye Dallas from the DART, 2016 
Goodbye Dallas from the DART, 2016 

Storms started to roll in just as we were supposed to board the plane. This was not a big deal; we had left plenty of time for our layover in Boston. We finally make it on the plane, which had been delayed nearly an hour, only to find out that the pilots and some crew had not made it because of delays on their end. After another 20 minutes, the crew was there and we pulled away from the gate. Off we go to start our adventure!

 On the Plane, DAL > BOS, 2016
On the Plane, DAL > BOS, 2016

It was past midnight by the time we landed in Boston and by this point we were tired. Not knowing what Boston’s policies are, Kevin asked an employee if Boston was a 24-hour airport. Turns out it is, however, you cannot sleep inside the security area after they close security lines around 2am. We quickly got online to look for sleeping accommodations and found out that getting a “quick hotel” would eat up way more of our daily budget than we were comfortable. Kevin strolled back to the employee and asked, “are their places to sleep outside of security checkpoint that are still inside the airport lobby?” to which the man replied, “yes, but all of the cots have been passed out.”

As we made it out of the airport secured area, sure enough, we noticed a lot of people sleeping on a number of things, cots being one of them. We decided to leave the current terminal (Terminal A) and walk to the international terminal (Terminal E). Along the .5 mile walk, each terminal had its own slew of sleeping patrons. When we walked through Terminal D’s baggage claim, we say a pile of cots on the wall not yet claimed. We found our beds for the night!

 Our Cots for the Night, BOS Airport, 2016
Our Cots for the Night, BOS Airport, 2016

Settling in at Terminal E for the night was a new experience for us since neither of us had even stayed overnight in an airport. Time to test out pushing our limits. We knew we would not be getting much sleep because there was a large tag on the cots saying they would be picked up at 5am and by the time we locked our bags up and settled in it was nearly 1am. Between the stiff cots and the lady on the PA system announcing the next flight to Hong Kong, it was a rough night trying to grasp a few hours of sleep. At 5am, we woke up, tried to compose ourselves to the best of our ability, and wandered like zombies trying to figure out what we wanted to do for the next 14 hours. Figuring out next steps out was quick, we both wanted to find a bench to nap on, so we did. Airport lobby bench seats are much more comfortable than those cots, but only if you are lucky enough to find a bench without fixed armrests. Lesson learned.

 Brad Sleeping, BOS Airport, 2016
Brad Sleeping, BOS Airport, 2016

After a few hours of sleep, we feel refreshed! Testing our limits is a baby-step process. First sleeping in airports in Boston, next we will be sleeping in our rental car in Iceland, and then maybe on the floor of a train station. Not every limitation we test will be worth it in terms of our comfort, but every tested limitation will be a worthwhile lesson learned about ourselves.

We are two en route to mastering airport sleeping.