All that is to say that in some ways, I feel like as one gets older, travel is less about checking landmarks off a bucket list and more about imprinting yourself on a city and letting it do the same to you. When you return from any trip you bring back memories of excitement, joy, disaster, disappointment, the works, and all that catalyses the way you grow through each trip. It is by a long shot not the only way to develop as a person, but it is surely one of the ways. And I dont think I’m exaggerating by saying that I think this is the way it is for many travellers as well, and a big contributing factor to what people mean when they say they’ve been bitten by the travel bug.
When American Tourister approached me some time back to collaborate on their new Curio collection, which is accompanied by the tagline: bring back more, the first thing I thought of was how many ways this rung true. A luggage’s primary function is obviously to be a vessel for your travel essentials and lets face it – shopping, but it’s also a sturdy companion that’s pretty much a silent witness accompanying you through the world. I don’t know about you guys, but I travel so often that my luggage is very personal to me – I keep an entire set of skincare, a separate hair curler, and my preferred toiletries as well as back up essntials in a compartment of my suitcase that I never take out. I only swap out the clothes portion of my suitcase when I travel – everything else has become an invariable staple. I had been using my old cloth luggage for about two years before American Tourister launched the Curio, and my old luggage was by this point insanely banged up by being perpetually tossed around by baggage handlers. Not that I mind that – I like that every tear and scuff is a map of my personal travel history, but it had reached such an extreme point that I was in a market for a new one.
1. Banana Milk Keychain and Lipbalm
I was quite a late adopter to the Banana milk craze, only trying it for the first time during my third or forth trip to Seoul. I didn’t understand why I would want to have banana in my milk – which is silly in retrospect because I actually have the habit of cutting up bananas to put into my breakfast cereal, which obviously, I have with milk. But anyway. I had the famous banana milk which you can apparently only get in Korea, and it was like drinking my cereal. Now I have it all the time whenever I visit Korea, and sipping at it makes me feel, ridiculously, like I’m a character in a korean drama. I can’t buy back an actual banana milk packet because I dont know how long it keeps and i dont want the giveaway winner getting sick, but I got a banana milk keychain instead after seeing a whole line of banana milk inspired products in a store. How cute is this?!
2. Mise en scene Hair Oil
I was in Seoul in 2013 at the same time my girlfriend Elissa was doing a summer school programme there. She was training to be a pharmacist then, and being an idiot, I asked her if that meant she would be doling out drugs at Watsons. In my defence, I was 20 and knew nothing. She smacked me over the head and introduced me to what is now one of my favorite hair oils to prove a point, the point being that Watsons is awesome. The said hair oil was from mise en scene, which stocks all over the country’s drugstores, including Watsons. Now we are fast approaching twenty six and Elissa is saving lives everyday in a hospital, and here I am, still raving about the wonders of how I can feel my hair literally drinking up the hair oil upon application. So much has changed but two things remain the same: the sarcastic sturdiness of our 13 year friendship, and the wonders of this hair oil.
3. Skinfood Brown Sugar Scrub
My boyfriend went to Korea a couple of years back and bought this for me, and I fell in love with it instantly. It’s a sugar scrub that leaves your face feeling baby smooth, it smells amazing, and the best part? It’s half the price in Korea as compared to Singapore. This product for me signifies not only my love for good skincare, it also represents the thrill I get whenever I land a bargain. Score!
4. Set of 10 face masks
Of course I had to get face masks. It’s not even that I use sheet masks that often, what with all the new fangled masking styles, but sheet masks are such an essential part of shopping in Korea that it felt sacrilgeous not to include it. The first time I was in Korea I was stunned by how affordable the masks were compared to their retail prices in Singapore, and went a bit crazy buying masks. I have since then learnt to mediate my mask-buying habits, but I made an exception for this trip. Here you have an Acai Berry flavored mask, because I love acai bowls, and a bamboo mask.
5. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Jumping from skincare to culture, I’m just going to say that this giveaway covers pretty broad ground. I’m a value-added kinda girl, y’all. Anyway. I read Pachinko last year and could not stop recommending it to everyone I knew. It’s easily one of the best books I read last year, and that’s saying a lot given how many books I read. The story is an intergenerational epic, and beyond being an emotional narrative following the thread and repercussions of foolish young love set against traditional Asian values, it serves as a humanizing snapshot of post-war Korea, commenting on the second generation korean community living in Japan. I dont know how to classify the book – it is an epic, a family story, a romance, a historical novel, a slice of culture, a lesson in empathy. But under all that, it is just damned good. I did not pick this up in Korea, I actually got it from a bookstore in Bali, but I think it is a great read that brings new dimension to the country and culture, a dimension you may not necessarily get from simply visiting Korea. I got a new copy of this for the giveaway because everyone should read it, and because it now has been indeliably inked into my relationship with the place.
6. Krave Beauty skincare duo – the Kale-lu-yAHA and Matcha Hemp cleanser.
I met Liah in New York a couple of years ago, and honestly thought I would never see her again because our meeting was so random and we had met in a continent neither of us lived in while being based in two completely separate continents ourselves. But as it happens, I had a 24 hour stopover in Seoul on the way back, and Liah materialised at the foot of my airbnb to bring me around, triggering my personal shift from being bored of the city to loving it anew. The rest, as they say, is history. Liah is one of the most hardworking and dedicated people I know, so insanely passionate about skincare, and when she launched her own skincare brand last year after years of research, I knew off the bat that it was going to be amazing. Krave beauty doesn’t ship to Singapore, only to America and Korea, so I bought it when i was in LA last year, and loved it immediately. I purchased another set this time when in Korea, and am putting it in the Curio for a new person to love!
7. Honey Butter Chips
There’s not much story to this, only that it’s one of the guilty pleasures that I indulge in when I’m in Seoul. It’s got the savory crisp of chips blended with the sweetness of honey, and the result is a confusing yet pleasurable mix of emotions packed into each chip. Try it and let me know what you think.
8. O’sulloc Matcha and Roasted Tea Spread
I used to hate green tea, and O’sulloc changed that for me. The second time I was in Korea with a girlfriend of mine, we got caught in a heavy rain and ended up seeking refuge in an O’sulloc tea house which was apparently famous. We couldn’t stay there without buying anything, and anyway, o’sulloc was supposed to be a famous teashop, so we each got a matcha tea and a green tea roll to share. AMAZING. I suddenly realised that my life thus far had been a hack, and I’d been consuming overly sugared versions of green tea that were but a shadow of what it was meant to be. Since that trip so many years ago, O’sulloc has expanded itself and now there are chains in most major neighborhoods in Seoul. I can’t bring back the green tea rolls that I love, but their matcha spreads are an unreasonably yummy form of portable magic. They just launched their roasted tea spreads, so I got both the classic matcha and the new roasted tea spreads from the outlet at the Myeong Dong Lotte dutyfree store for this giveaway.
9. Korean seaweed multipack
Everyone knows that airport prices are at least double city prices when it comes to souvenirs and the such, but I learnt this lesson the hard way. My first trip to Korea, friend had asked me to get her korean seaweed and I promised. I saw it many times during the trip but put off buying it, thinking that it couldnt be that much more expensive in the airport. WRONG. It was at least thrice the price. I still got it anyway because a promise is a promise, but boy, I kicked myself real hard over that one. Now I get it in the city center like everyone else, and I got this one from an e-mart in Seoul. Think of that when you’re crunching away on the seaweed, dear winner. It travelled miles and came with a built-in lesson too!
I cannot go to Seoul without obsessively buying socks. You must understand: I live in a house of women, I share a sock cupboard with two sisters. Irritatingly, the three of us have the same shoe size, which means that often I have shoes and socks go missing, and the socks somehow never reappear again. I needed a way to procure socks by the masses, and at a cheap price, and Seoul is essentially SOCK HEAVEN. You can find stores selling these novelty socks everywhere along the streets, and they normally go for 1,000won each with some kind of discount if you get more than ten. I got ten designs from a street vendor in Myeong Dong for the giveaway, and I think they’re all pretty damned cute! Maybe no one sees them but you, but still, pulling a Princess Bubblegum sock over your feet in the morning is bound to put a smile on your face.
And there you have it, ten anecdotes from my relationship with Korea, manifested in physical goods and packed away and sent off in a Curio for someone’s brand new adventures. Everything mentioned above I personally purchased throughout my trip, and American Tourister and I are giving it away along with a cabin sized Curio in the super pretty Golden Yellow. The luggages aren’t just functional (TSA approved lock, amazing wheel-spinning action), they’re gorgeous too. I love the fact that all the colors in the range are so unique and pretty, because I feel it makes them stand out in a sea of dark colored luggages without being too oestantateous! I got the blue one for myself because I already have another luggage (a super past-season American tourister actually, haha) in yellow, but I do really like the cheery sunshine-y vibe that yellow luggages have, and I’m sure the winner will too 🙂
All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment in this post listing an item you associate with a city, and what your story is. Look – I even gave you ten examples above. I’ll have American Tourister pick a winner by Monday 16th April, so happy reminiscing and I look forward to reading all your entries!
Go make new memories, y’all. Till next time.
Giveaway closed – winner has been contacted by American Tourister! Thanks for entering everyone xx