Meet Karen, a New York Hotel Consultant and Culinary Genius who has ambitious 2018 travel goals. She’s travelled stateside and abroad combining her passions and spontaneity to explore new places! Karen travels solo as well as with friends and family, she’s travel GOALS for sure.
Follow Karen as she travels the world and bakes AMAZING things in 2018. Her México City blog post has some amazing recs!
Karen’s Blog: www.karenpaik.com
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where have you been and where are you headed?
I was born in Seoul, South Korea but moved to New York when I was 1 years old so I think I can call myself a New Yorker. I went to Cornell University as a Hospitality Major and also got a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America. Currently, I am working as a Hotel Consultant so I am able to combine my passions for food and travel with my work! I tend to flex my weekends quite a bit and make a lot of weekend trips. (My craziest one was definitely a weekend trip to Hong Kong).
I have been to 25 countries so far and 25 states (Not naming all the states): France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Cambodia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, UAE, Vietnam, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Tanzania!
I haven’t planned anything for my next travels but my goal for 2018 is to travel to a new city and/or country I have not been to yet every month. And I am quite the spontaneous flight purchaser so… who knows where I will be in February!
Tell me how you began traveling. What fears? What major challenges? How did you overcome?
I didn’t really travel a lot growing up but started in high school and after I graduated high school my sister and I went on a mini Asia trip to Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea and I loved it! Throughout college, I became obsessed with the idea of working as an expat so I did my internships in hotels in Korea and Thailand which were both really different and fun experiences (Getting a job out there was a bit harder than getting an internship so I’m still in NY haha). In Korea, I was obviously quite comfortable because I have a lot of family and friends there, but when I worked in Thailand for the summer, it was my first time by myself in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. I guess my fears were getting completely lost (I’m directionally challenged) or taken advantage of because I didn’t speak the language. For directions nowadays thank God for Google maps. And I guess I’m not very shy about going places or just figuring it out as I go. I actually love just wandering around in a new country and getting a feel for the city.
Talk a little about why you think travel is important or what travel has sparked in you.
I love traveling because I love experiencing different cultures, especially through the local cuisine. I just get so excited thinking about going somewhere because each city and country has so much history and culture to experience. In recent travels, I have always met amazing people along the way who made my experience in that country much more memorable. I think it’s so important to get out there because you discover so much that you didn’t know. No matter how big NYC is, sometimes I feel like I live in a bubble. I feel like sometimes you have to step out and see the world for all the good and bad. It puts things in perspective.
What type of travel do you do? Describe your travel style. (Solo Travel, Travel with Friends? Family?)
I love all different types of travel! I am a huge advocate of solo travel because I think you learn a lot about yourself: what you’re comfortable with, what you like and dislike, it takes you out of your comfort zone, etc etc. I’ve met a lot of amazing people who I definitely wouldn’t have met or tried to talk to if I was not a solo traveler! I also love traveling with friends and family but again it’s a completely different experience. Usually if I’m traveling with my family I will stay at nicer hotels, take cabs around, have a relatively “easier” day in terms of activities but when I travel by myself I will walk the entire city (usually walk close to 8-10 miles a day when I am visiting a new city), stay at hostels or an Airbnb, and wake up to see the sunrise then start the day from there.
What advice would you give millennial WOC who want to travel more, move abroad for work, etc.?
My advice is to always look up deals! There are lots of awesome flight deals these days that make it worth it to fly somewhere close for the weekend. Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights which has a good list of deals for the coming months. I also check Google Flights daily when I get my coffee so I always know how much it is to go to any of my bucket list destinations. Also, don’t wait to convince other people to go with you. Deals are quick and sometimes you just have to go for it! I promise solo travel is fun so don’t be scared to buy a round-trip ticket to the other side of the world by yourself!
As for moving abroad, there’s a ton of work you can do remotely and live anywhere. Other than that, teaching abroad, working in hospitality, tech; there are so many jobs you can find abroad without necessarily knowing the native language.
In your perspective what are some pros and cons of travel particularly as a woman of color?
Pros to traveling; I feel like the list can go on and on. I’ve met new people, learned about a new culture/city/country, saw and experienced things that I just can’t capture in words.
Cons to traveling; You constantly have to be aware of your situation and surroundings and that can be very exhausting. I completely understand why some women find it scary to travel by themselves, especially if you stick out, people usually catcall me or constantly come up to me to sell me stuff knowing I am not a local. Whether or not you are traveling domestically or internationally, being in a new city, with different standards and unfamiliar roads, you have got to be on your toes. Sometimes I get back and feel like I need a vacation from my vacation, but obviously, the pros outweigh the cons because I still want to travel all the time.
Tell us a little about what is to come. What can we expect from you moving forward and how can we be of support?
Truthfully, I don’t know yet. I want to travel full-time sometime in the future and really focus on learning different cuisines throughout my travels.
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Hopefully, I inspire other people to just go for it. I’m not some super rich girl who has an endless supply of money to travel and only enjoy the world’s best luxuries, but I still make it work. Obviously, you have to sacrifice some things in your everyday life so yeah, I usually only buy my clothes on sale and don’t go out often but it’s worth the tradeoff for me.
I would love to hear a little more about your weekend in Mexico City!
Just came back from Mexico City and I loved it! I guess I just didn’t know much about the city, but it was so charming and there were so many things to do. A few people were worried about my safety going by myself to Mexico City, but I felt completely safe walking around even in the evening (I was staying in Roma Norte is a neighborhood which has tons of restaurants & bars and cute boutique shops.) There are a million museums, amazing food, such cool architecture, and there are so many nearby towns/historical sites that you can take day trips to.
Another thing I didn’t know about Mexico City was how high in elevation it was, so don’t be too shocked if you are super tired for the first day or two. It took me a little time to adjust as well but once you do, explore away!
My favorite restaurant aside from all the street tacos: Pujol.
My favorite museum: Palacio de Bella Artes
Day Trip Recommendation: Teotihuacan
Just for Kicks:
Favorite place I’ve Been to: My favorite country is probably Japan. I love the food and culture. The cities are all so beautiful and different. Overall just had an amazing time there and it’s a great place to travel solo!
Place I am dying to go: Turkey. I’ve had that on my bucket list since high school. From Istanbul to Cappadocia I can’t wait to explore those cities.
Favorite flight booking software: Google Flights and Momondo!
You can wander with Karen on Instagram via @karen_paik.