Jason Demant and Sharon Duckworth (Life After Cubes) quit their Silicon Valley jobs last year to travel throughout Asia. Initially planning on a 1-year career break, they quickly realized that wasn’t going to cut it. So while traveling, they’re also trying to build an online business to keep their travel dreams going. Please enjoy a week-in-the-life of Jason and Sharon of Life After Cubes in Japan and Korea.
This post was originally published in 2010. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Day 1 – Thursday
7:00AM – Sharon and I wake up in our 4-bed dorm room in Kyoto, Japan. We’re here for a week of tourism and a Visa run from South Korea. We have a new dorm mate that must have come in late last night. She is sniffling and mouth breathing. This is one of the downsides about being in a dorm – sick dorm mates.
We eat our standard breakfast of bananas and toast. When we’re on the road, we try to eat a healthy and cheap breakfast. Lunch and dinner are usually at restaurants.
For the past few days we’ve been traveling with two friends from home who are in Japan for a wedding. It’s been great to have friends again (sounds kind of weird, but true). Sharon and I have each other, but other than that we usually make friends with other travelers for just one or two nights.
8:45AM – Arrive in Osaka with our friends after a 15-minute ride. Thank you Japanese Bullet Train. Everyone should travel at 200mph!
10:30AM – The fun of finding our hotel never gets old. After two train transfers we get off and start looking for it. It takes us a while, but we finally realize we’ve gotten off at the wrong station. We got off at Imamiya Station when we wanted Shin-Imamiya Station. Doh!
11:15AM – Finally find our hotel, then head towards our friend’s hotel –the Grande Vista Osaka (ahh, the luxuries of having an income). We go out to find a restaurant recommended by the hotel. Of course we get lost. Thankfully, the Japanese are unbelievably helpful and a random man decides to walk us to the front door of the restaurant.
1:30PM – We decide on a day trip to Hikone Castle. After four train transfers, we arrive. We enjoy the views and walk around town.
8:15PM – Another bullet train back home. We head to our hotel to check-in. The room is a nice 6-person dorm but it looks like it’s just the four of us. We have our own (CLEAN) bathroom in the room as well…score!
9:00PM – Dinner and drinks with our friends.
11:30PM – Sharon’s not feeling great, so we head back to the hotel. On the way we see a noodle stand where you literally stand at the counter and eat. We’re suckers for street food, and Sharon is a sucker for ramen, so we decide to join all of the businessmen for a bowl.
Day 2 – Friday
9:00AM – Sharon’s still sick. We eat breakfast while catching up on emails. It’s exciting waking up every morning and having a full inbox. Wow, I sound like a huge nerd.
10:00AM – I ask the hotel where I can buy some medicine for Sharon. Of course, I get lost. I look for a big street and it ends up being in an “arcade” – a walking-only covered alley.
The conversation with the pharmacist is mostly gestures. I touch my throat and head and give a grimace look. Then she coughs and I shake my head “no”. She gives me what I hope to be cold medicine and it ends up being 1500Yen (~$16)! This insane price makes me reminisce of Southeast Asia, where buying similar medicine is around $1 or $2. Regardless, I buy it.
12:00PM – Sharon decides to hang back and get some rest while I meet our friends. They’ve planned the day again which I absolutely love. It’s been wonderful not having to plan for once and just follow.
2:00PM – We head over to Osaka Castle. We decide against paying to go inside (hooray!) and just walk the grounds.
5:00PM – Back to the hotel to check on Sharon. I find out our 6-bed dorm is now empty! Sharon’s feeling better so we meet our friends and spend the night walking around the popular nightlife district with convenience store beers, trying to comprehend Japanese fashion. It’s mind-boggling and none of our logical questions about Japanese hair fashions are answered!
1:00AM – We call it a night and end up having to take a five minute taxi-ride back to the hotel… for $13!! I like Japan, but it’s killing our budget.
Day 3 – Saturday
7:00AM – Not much sleep. The good news though is Sharon is feeling better. We pack and eat our breakfast while checking email. Long day ahead: we’re headed from Osaka to Fukuoka, to a ferry back to Korea, and finally a second overnight ferry to Jeju Island.
12:00PM – Arrive in Hakata/Fukuoka after four train transfers. We get to the ferry building just after one has left (of course). Next one leaves at 3PM.
There are two restaurants in the ferry building. One looks like it belongs in the Ritz-Carlton, the other an old, tiny coffee shop where the workers eat. Guess which we chose? The food was good, and only about $5 each.
2:15PM – Boarding begins for the ferry, but we still don’t have a ticket. We realize that there have been some communication issues with the ticket lady. We thought you buy tickets as you board, but you actually need to buy them from the counter. I also wrongly assumed that they took credit card. Thankfully we have enough Korean Won, which I unfortunately need to exchange at a terrible exchange rate to get enough Japanese Yen to buy the ticket. After literally running all over the ferry building, while stressing each other out, we eventually get things in order and board.
Back to work on the ferry- organizing the hundreds of pictures we took the last week.
6:00PM – Arrive in Busan, South Korea. We can read the language again! It’s good to be back.
We literally run to the domestic ferry building to catch the overnight ferry to Jeju Island – a popular honeymoon location for Koreans. Thankfully we didn’t get lost and they weren’t sold out. We had a few choices of tickets and after debating, went for the cheapest tickets. We chose a room that fits 212 people, but it was only $35 each. After Japan, saving a little money seems like a good idea.
7:00PM – We find our room on the ferry. It doesn’t even provide sleeping pads. We’ll literally be sleeping on the floor. Thankfully, there are only about 60 people in the room.
9:00PM – With now nearly 130 people in the room (where did they come from?!?), we try to sleep. People are being extremely loud even through my industrial strength earplugs. The most obnoxious snorer finds his way next to Sharon. Early in the morning (I’m going to guess around 3am) Sharon says, “There is one person snoring in the entire room and he ended up next to me.” We switch places.
Day 4 – Sunday
4:30AM – A lot of people are already up and not being quiet. I can again hear them through my earplugs.
5:00AM – The bright fluorescent lights in the room go on and they violently wake me up.
6:00AM – We arrive on Jeju Island. Sharon’s parents arrive at 3:30PM, so until then we’re planning on finding a coffee shop and catching up on work. The town is essentially dead and nothing is open. We finally find a Dunkin’ Donuts (yes, they have lots of Dunkin’ Donuts in South Korea). Whip out the laptops and get to work.
12:00PM – We’re sharing a room with Sharon’s visiting parents tonight at the hotel and arrange for an early check-in. We talk to the Dunkin’ Donuts lady to find out which bus we have to take to get there. Board the bus and after about 20 minutes we realize we’re going the wrong way. We end up riding the bus all the way to the end of the line, get off, and then get right back on the same bus as the bus driver laughs at us. This is not the first, second or even third time this has happened to us. We like public transportation, but it’s not the easiest thing to figure out.
1:00PM – We eventually find the hotel. We’re in a Korean style room (no beds), but at least we’re sleeping on a pad on the floor, it’s almost as comfortable as a bed and not nearly as terrible as the carpet the night before.
1:30PM – At lunch we run into a couple who we briefly met on our overnight ferry. We make plans to go out for drinks later that night.
4:00PM – Sharon’s parents arrive at the hotel.
8:30PM – We meet up with the Korean couple from earlier in the day. We learn that it’s their one-year anniversary. We drop by a restaurant, pick-up some food, Makali (rice wine) and beer. We head back to their very fancy, French hotel on to the roof to enjoy our drinks.
11:30PM – We discuss the NBA, Korean & Japanese history, whether or not North & South Korea will be reunited in our lifetime, and how Korean “hook-up” clubs work — before calling it a night.
Day 5 – Monday
7:30AM – Rise and shine. Little bit of email and standard breakfast.
8:30AM – Sharon’s parents have rented a van for the day. There are seven of us. Sharon and I are the only ones who don’t speak Korean – this is going to be an interesting day.
On our ridiculously packed day tour, we see a waterfall, two volcanoes, an old Korean village, famous lady seafood divers (called “Haenyo”- they are some hardcore grandma divers who catch most of the seafood on the island), a museum, and a lava cave.
9:00PM – Dinner, then drinks in the room with Sharon’s parents. We teach them how to play Jacks and Fives and let them relive their early twenties.
Day 6 – Tuesday
8:00AM – Wake up sans alarm clock, eat breakfast, and catch up on some work.
11:00AM – Early lunch. The island of Jeju is very famous for its pig, so we have a spicy pig stew. It’s delicious. Then we head out to walk around the coast.
Below one of the cliffs, we see a big tent. It’s a little seafood restaurant! Three grandmas prepare the fresh (still alive when they slice it) food. It’s so close to the water that if a big wave comes, we would get wet.
3:00PM – Sharon and I head back to the hotel to get some work done before dinner. We also begin searching for apartments in Busan since we’ll be living there for two months. It’s a beach town, so we’re very excited about it.
9:30PM – A little alcohol, a little work, and it’s time to pass out.
Day 7 – Wednesday
8:00AM – Wake up with a sore throat. Why does a simple sore throat make you feel so crappy?
8:30AM – Sharon’s parents are flying back home to the US. We’ve spent nearly four weeks with them in Korea, so it’s a sad goodbye. (Doubly sad because we’ll no longer have a Korean translator with us wherever we travel.)
11:30AM – After using the morning to catch up on work and promote my new site, we hit the road to Seogwipo. It’s on the opposite side of the island. We catch a local bus to the long-distance bus station. Within five minutes of walking into the bus station, we’re on the bus. It’s easy to brush these things off, but it’s really nice when things are easy and we just get to where we’re going.
2:00PM – We arrive in Seogwipo. We’re staying with the couple whom we had drinks with the other night. They have a suite and have offered one of their rooms to us. They pick us up in their car. (It’s strange being in a car, we really only travel by bus, train or boat).
6:00PM – Head out to dinner with our new friends and enjoy some specialty Korean dishes of Jeju Island. Then we pick up some rice wine (makali) and an-joo (snacks you eat when you drink) and head back to our suite.
We drink and eat into the night.
Jason and Sharon will be in Asia through September, primarily living in South Korea and learning the language. Are you interested in earning extra money while you travel? You can write and then sell travel itineraries on UnAnchor.com. You can also catch-up on Jason & Sharon’s travels at LifeAfterCubes.com or on Twitter @ Life After Cubes.