Consequences of Not Having Your Shit Together

The three and a half hours before my flight back from studying abroad in Korea found me scrambling around my emptied dorm with the aplomb of a newly headless chicken. Mom’s incredulous voice, on speaker, ascended from waves of blankets.

Mom: You’re still packing?

Me: No, I already have all the stuff in the big suitcase and just need to transfer some of it to the smaller one.

So, sans editorialization, I was still packing. I’d bought a small suitcase for my second carry-on the night before, having realized there is, in fact, a limit to how many snacks you can fit in your luggage—for some reason I was under the impression that gifts for other people don’t count toward your packing total on a sort of karmic basis—and justified spending $80 on extra space for honey butter almonds I could probably just Amazon to the States.

My packing attempt: LITERALLY not having my shit together

In my defense, I’d bought the suitcase spur-of-the-moment around 11PM while in Dongdaemun Plaza (that’s what happens in Seoul—you just find yourself in malls sometimes.) And I’d been running on less than five hours of sleep, my norm for the past month as I would explore the city until practically midnight every day and then wake up 5-6 AM for no apparent reason. I needed a vacation from the vacation.

Anyway, I’d been told by locals not to arrive at the busy Incheon Airport later than 2:30 for my 5PM flight, which explained why at 1:30 I hadn’t even stepped foot out the door. As Mom kindly explained to my increasingly stressed self, I should’ve already left the building.

Through affirmations and other positive reinforcement techniques, I eventually yanked both my bursting suitcases closed and stumbled down the halls, about four arms short of what I needed to also return the dorm blankets and sheets. I made down the elevator and spilled into the lobby, chucking what I could into the donation box and dashing toward the lobby front desk.

Me: Could you please call me a taxi? To Sungrye.

Sungrye Elementary School is the station for the “airport limo,” the bus that takes you to Incheon Airport. However, Korea University only provided a shuttle to the Sungrye stop during regular check-out, Saturday and Sunday, and I was leaving early so I’d need to make it there myself. Naver Maps estimated a 15-minute walk from my dorm to Sungrye, but I wasn’t about to walk with two suitcases under the unforgiving Korean sun.

Front desk lady: I think the distance might be too short for taxis to take you. But I could try.

We proceeded to stare at each other for a minute while she made no move to look anything up.

Me: Um. So… I’ll walk?

FDL: You probably can’t. I walked that route last night and it was too much sweat. You could taxi to a farther bus stop and walk to Sungrye from there. Easier.

I’m particularly attuned to recipes for disaster because my entire life is The America’s Test Kitchen’s Do-it-yourself Cookbook. I don’t speak Korean, so straying from directions sounded like a terrible idea. I mean, so did walking from campus to Sungrye, of course, but there wasn’t a better option and the passage of time remained a concept, so I left with suitcases in tow.

What ensued was one of the worst character-building experiences of my life. It was over 100 degrees. The first stretch, and for all I knew, the whole stretch, was at an incline of at least 30 degrees. One suitcase was 22.5 kg, which is heavy if you’re weak.


I realized my mistake within the first minute, but at that point I couldn’t turn back. Or, I guess I could’ve just walked back inside since I’d only made it out the lobby, but I already felt committed to my idiocy. So I carried on huffing miserably up the hill. I passed numerous concerned passersby, whom I assumed were staring at me drowning in my own sweat. Later I realized they might’ve been staring because my suitcase wheels had jammed and were accumulating all the fallen leaves on the ground like a boxy rake.

Fielding Mom’s text blasts with words of assurance, I attempted to find the actual stop around the map destination. The collective advice of wise strangers down my aimless path eventually guided me to the stop, where I underwent the scare of my bus zooming past my stop (it ended up looping back around.) And another scare when Mom texted that, according to Korea University’s website, the shuttle might take 25 minutes longer than budgeted. (She tends to inform me of bad news exclusively when there’s nothing I can do about it.)

The bus made it to Terminal 1 in exactly 80 minutes. I walked in at 3:30 to find the terminal not nearly as busy as I’d expected. My suitcase weighed in right under the 23 kg limit—fortunate because I hadn’t had time to check in the morning. Things were going, unexpectedly, smoothly.

I took my sweet time checking in. Exchanged Korean won to US dollars. Aired out the back of my shirt, still sweaty from my trek. Walked toward Gate 31 at 4:15 for my flight at 5:25.

On my way, I passed what looked like a small Korean culture exhibit. I’d planned to just walk through, and then I saw the words “Free cultural experience: Najeon soban making,” specifically the “free” part.


So I sat down like I had all the time in the world and dimly imagined Mom’s long-distance conniption at me picking at the mother-of-pearl flakes and arranging them with artful care.


I packed up 4:55. Went to the bathroom. Filled up my water bottle. Ambled into the gate, where a lady appeared. I smiled politely. She opened her mouth, probably for a pleasantry.


As though jolted awake, I realized I could’ve bought an unnecessary suitcase, braved a soul-crushing trek, and sat on a tense shuttle ride coaching Mom through an impending nervous breakdown only for me to actually miss my flight because of spontaneous arts and crafts.

So I booked it. Korea had been fun and all, but buckling myself into the return flight, I couldn’t wait to go home so I could never leave the house again.

Did I really post only three times about my six-week trip abroad, one being before I left and one after I returned? Yes.

Please consider following this blog via email and/or liking its Facebook page, where I post occasional life updates and quality excuses for the lack of said life updates. Oh, and find me on Instagram, too.

Last post: Crossing the Language Barrier the Stupid Way


139 thoughts on “Consequences of Not Having Your Shit Together

  1. Running around like a chicken without a head was my Mom’s favorite saying. I guess she knew what she was talking about since they used to get the axe in her uncles yard. Hope your Korea experience was enjoyable and lots less stressful than your last day there!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. A lot happened to me in Korea, but I can at least say I never got the axe in your mother’s uncle’s yard, a testament to how things really can always get worse. Jokes aside, though, it was an incredible time! Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My nephew lived there for a number of years and taught English. He married a S. Korean woman and had a child and they now live in the US. He shared with me after he returned to the states that He felt much safer, for himself and his family, there in S.K. than in the US. Sad.
        I’m glad you had a good time. It sounds very exciting!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I still remember casually getting off my airport shuttle bus from the parking facility — and despite warnings from the shuttle driver…discovered I was at the wrong terminal! Now Phoenix Sky Harbor, like all of Phoenix, is quite spread out and though I was only carrying a brief case, it was a typical Phoenix summer day and I wasn’t about to jog a mile from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4, especially since I was in business dress for the short trip to Long Beach, Cal. I should mention that this was before 9/11 so there was no security clearances to worry about — just getting from Terminal 3 to 4, in about 15 minutes. I could have given up and in fact I was rehearsing excuses….none of them any good. And then I remembered how my friends and I got around in high school. So i stuck out my thumb and hitchhiked. I got to the gate with about 1 minute to spare and had to endure the cross looks of the other passengers as my hot and sweaty blue-blazered self marched down the aisle. But no matter: getting there is all that matters sometimes.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I completed a study abroad program earlier in the year and my last day was surprisingly like yours. Well I booked a cab ride straight to the airport because I was not going to be lugging a 21 kg suitcase up and down London’s subway stations. But I took my sweet time shopping around in the departure area only to realize my gate was closing in 5 minutes. I had planned my departure so well in advance but ultimately came close to missing my flight because I was trying to buy makeup at the duty free store. Goes to show that you can never truly plan for anything. Also, new follower here! Your posts are hilariously relatable.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, even down to the luggage weight. Kindred spirits! Wouldn’t even have known what to do if my luggage turned out overweight, though, because obviously I forgot to be smart about that, too. We were so lucky. Thank you so much! You’re a lovely photographer, by the way.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is sooo great! I’m so glad this stuff doesn’t only happen to me!
    My dumbest reason to miss a flight: grabbing Starbucks. Though I have to blame the airport a bit.. plus I was coming back from Europe.. so you know just a little bit tired.
    I reach my gate with a bit of time to I go grab a coffee. Hear some muttered French accent announcing something that sounds kinda like my name but not close enough to worry about it. Come back to my gate and chill for a bit. Hmm planes not here yet, it must be delayed! Wait some more… decided to check the screen at the gate which now says Philadelphia instead of Vancouver. WHAT NOW! Last minute gate change.
    This leads to horror stories of standing in line for hours, having to witness a babies diaper being changed right beside me on a seat at the gate (not sure why they didn’t use the bathroom that was right there, maybe they were afraid of missing their flight as well) and several short flights to get me across Canada instead of the nice direct one I had booked. No one has ever been so excited to see their hotel bed and room service.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for taking me on that journey, wow. One of the best parts of publicizing my mess of a life is commiserating with readers who have also, in eerily similar ways, also messed up their lives. Glad you still made your way home(:

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Great story! I love how your mom helps (even when it’s too late). I feel like she’s your “computer tech” person for every action hero giving you updates that are on the computer. I can’t wait to go there myself!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Lol. I was on a trip with friends I haven’t seen in months. I work abroad so I don’t see them a lot. It was at the airport. We were eating breaky and I had 30 mins left ‘til boarding and my friends were like “we can see the check in counter, you can still make it in 15.” Decided to stay a bit to chat and started checking in 15 mins before boarding time. Lol.

        The gates were super far but I made it on time only to find out they changed gates so I had to sprint to the other end of the airport. Didn’t even bother wearing my shoes after xray and just ran like crazy.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. There is no problem. I have had comments get caught in the pending folder before and be months old before I see or answer them. I understand.


    1. I didn’t know they were going to use it as the featured picture, or I might’ve tried harder to make myself seem like a better artist. But maybe that’s the point. Thanks so much! Not sure, but I don’t really have an excuse not to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so cool!
    How was the language barrier? I was thinking of studying abroad in Korea, but I’m really hesitant because of that! By what I’ve read, people seem to understand the basics of English, but are there lots of opportunities where you still feel “welcomed” as an outsider?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny, I actually wrote a post about the language barrier! I managed to, over the course of six weeks, learn about six functional phrases and I was fine haha–it was just so much easier to let Korean friends do the talking! You should definitely consider it–it really depends where you are, but the experience is worth it even with a few hiccups along the way.


  7. This was hilarious. I’m so sorry, because it must have been stressful, but thank God for blessing us with this piece! I’ve had similar traveling escapades, so I know how daunting they can be, but they always, ALWAYS make for great stories!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. When my friend and I were traveling in Paris, we asked the lady in the lobby what time we should leave to catch our train back to Oxford. But I misunderstood her, so we ended up literally running through the streets, hopping in and out of taxis, and we made it to the terminal when the bus was hollering for last call. So stressful! But I look back and laugh now. Haha.

        Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s