Wandering Wednesday: LivingIF discovers North Korea

Wandering Wednesday: LivingIF discovers North Korea

For our Wandering Wednesday guest posts we ask a fellow travel blogger to highlight one place (city or entire country) that has been one of the most memorable for them. It can be a fond type of memorable, or “my hair caught on fire, I contracted rabies, and my luggage was stolen”- type of memorable. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re taking it all.

For today’s Wandering Wednesday, we’re featuring LivingIF with their motto of doing today what might not be possible tomorrow.  Matt and Erica of LivingIF decided it is better to know what is, than forever wonder what if, so they quit their jobs and set off on an unplanned 24-36 trip around the world.  With a loose idea of the places they wanted to go they left for Vietnam in December 2010 with no itinerary or onward flights booked.  So far they’ve visited 15 countries and are relishing the daily opportunity to learn about other people and cultures as well as their selves  and their relationship.  They write to help others travel, providing information about cities, sights and events in the places we go.

Picture from their 2009 wedding atop Mount Kilimanjaro. How awesome is that?!

Where to find : LivingIF


Twitter: @LivingIF

Facebook: LivingIF on Facebook

First things first, Why do you travel?

We travel to broaden our horizons, to see new and different things, follow where the wind blows and seize opportunities as they arise.

What brought you to North Korea?

We went to North Korea because it’s a place where the government and media completely shapes our view.  There is little information or photos about it because few outsiders actually set foot in the country.

The tourist book stores in North Korea are filled with books either about or by their leaders.

What was your most memorable experience (good or bad) from your time in North Korea?

The Kumsusan Memorial Palace.  I still don’t know how to explain or what to think of the “palace”, which is really a place of worship for Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea and father of recently deceased leader Kim Jong-Il.  Imagine if the Simpson’s creators were called upon to create the most stereotypically communist, long-winded demonstration of a leader’s greatness.  The reality is so strange that it is hard to believe without seeing it.  Sadly photos are forbidden, visitors are patted down and sent through a metal detector to ensure photos of the main halls are not taken.  I sincerely hope that if North Korea falls this palace is protected and maintained, seeing is the only way to believe that Kim Il-sung was not just a leader, but really a God to the North Koreans.

The Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Filled with displays that you need to see to believe.

Any advice for travelers headed to North Korea?

The only way to visit North Korea is on a tour.  There are several tour operators, but once in the country everyone is on the same state guided tour.  Therefore, the best advice we can provide is to save your money and go with Young Pioneer Tours, the most affordable operator.

How did your experiences in North Korea change you as a person and how you feel about travel?

It made me realize how relative reality is.  North Koreans have no contact with the outside world, therefore their worldly knowledge is what they are told.  They are taught that the US is occupying South Korea and keeping it impoverished.  It makes you understand that you need to travel, connect with other cultures and learn for yourself instead of taking “knowledge” as you are told it or news as it is spoon fed to you.  The North Korea experience makes us value our opportunity to learn about the world first-hand.

A scene from the world's largest musical, the Arirang Games. Performed by 100,000 people, including the 20,000 schoolchildren flipping cards to create the picture in the background.

Okay, last question. Where are you headed next and why?

India and Nepal.  We love hiking and mountains, hence visiting Nepal with plans to hike to Everest, the Annapurna Circuit and possibly other areas.  India is about seeing the culture, learning the history and eating the food.

Do you or someone you know have a memorable experience from your travels? Want to be featured on one of our Wandering Wednesday posts? Send an e-mail to

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