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Our Volunteer Tourism Trip to Korea: Bringing Back Rescue Beagles

Our recent trip to Korea was driven by a unique and heartfelt mission: bringing back rescue beagles. This experience, known as volunteer tourism, involved us acting as couriers for these adorable pups, flying them from Korea to Seattle. We covered our own travel expenses, while the volunteer organization took care of the dogs’ paperwork and flights.

Arrival in Seoul

Traveling with kids for a short trip meant flying Business class to maintain our (my) sanity. We arrived in Seoul well-rested after a smooth flight. Jerry, our driver (friend), was there to greet us. After picking up our pocket Wi-Fi and Seoul Passes, he drove us to Myeong-dong street, where we tried a variety of foods like fried scallops, egg bites, and blue lemonade. My oldest found a blue rainbow friend doll that became an instant favorite.

We even discovered a cat café and spent an enjoyable hour there before heading to our hotel, The Grand Hyatt Seoul, which was stunning. The hotel is located just below Namsam Tower, and we were welcomed with a bottle of wine in our spacious one-bedroom room.

Day 1: Adventures and Mishaps

I started the day early at the gym, where I had a mishap with a shake weight machine, resulting in a painful injury (a bruised butt--I flipped out of the machine and was stabbed by the corner of the machine). Despite the setback, we proceeded with our plans to visit Ganghwa Seaside Resort, home to the longest luge track in Asia. Jerry bought our tickets, and my oldest was honest about his age (Jerry was trying to get him to pass as a 10 year old to ride alone)--so I was required to go down the hill about 10 times (which was the most painful experiences ever) taking turns with each kid--Jerry meantime entertained the other kid at the bottom of the hill (a good 10 minute ride down). We managed to have a great time. The luge track was a hit, feeling like real-life Mario Kart. A cable car brought us back to the top after each ride.

For lunch, we tried BHC Chicken, a staple for Korean Fried Chicken, although I stuck to beer as a pescatarian. Next, we visited Zoolung, an indoor zoo that entertained the kids. The highlight was the quirky Ddong Café, themed around poop, with urinal-shaped ice cream bowls and poop emoji decor (this was the secondary reason for the trip). Back at the hotel, I enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine, and we all went for a swim in the indoor pool.

Day 2: Exploring Seoul

Our day began with a visit to the Gangnam Style statue, where we danced to the famous song. The Coex Aquarium was next, offering interactive exhibits that kept the kids engaged for hours. They particularly enjoyed the fish that nibble dead skin off your hands (I have used this before in Turkey under the name Dr. Feet).

Lunch was at Jungsik, a two-star Michelin restaurant. The private room allowed us to enjoy the meal without me worrying about the kids, who loved the abalone while I savored the caviar. I had the tasting menu.

Later, we headed to Lotte World, a theme park similar to Disneyland, and managed to get on several rides despite the crowds.

Day 3: Everland and Puppy Love

We spent the day at Everland, another theme park, taking advantage of the early hours to get on many rides. The heat was intense, so we took breaks for milkshakes and other refreshments.

On our way back, we visited a dog café, which was a hit with the kids. In the evening, we explored Namsan Tower, added our lock to the fence, and enjoyed the views. Instead of waiting for the bus, we walked back through Namsan Gardens, turning the return into a memorable adventure in the dark.

Day 4: Cultural Immersion and Goodbyes

Our last day began with a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace in rented hanboks. My kids insisted on renting swords, adding to the fun. After taking pictures, we returned to the hotel for one last swim.

At the airport, we met the fosters of the beagles, who had brought gifts for my kids and our new pup. It was an emotional farewell as the fosters said goodbye to the dogs they had cared for. The flight back was less restful with my youngest wanting to snuggle in my seat, but arriving in Seattle to a warm welcome from Seattle Beagle Rescue and the foster to adopt families made it all worth it.

This trip was a whirlwind of activities, cultural experiences, and meaningful moments centered around rescuing beagles. It’s an adventure we’ll always cherish.

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