Globe-Hopping Nomads Won Over by Busan's Charms

  • By Lee Eun-jung, Beakey Park

    July 27, 2012 08:26

    Many people dream of globe-hopping for a living, but two travelers from the U.S. and Germany in their mid-30s have made this a reality by experimenting with an abbreviated expat lifestyle that involves them living in world cities for three months at a time.

    Since 2010, self-confessed travel junkies Mike Powell and Juergen Horn have been embarking on their so-called "91 days" journeys, which see them live like local residents while working on free-lance jobs as a computer programmer (Powell) and photographer (Horn).

    They chose Korea's southern port city of Busan as their seventh destination after Oviedo, Spain; Savannah, the U.S.; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bolivia; Palermo, Italy, and Sri Lanka.

    Mike Powell (left) and Juergen Horn

    When asked why they opted for Busan instead of Seoul, Powell said, "A Korean friend of ours from Berlin recommended it. She said 'it's really a neat city, and not a lot of people know about it.'" As they were keen to focus on less well-known locations, they eschewed the capital for the city that plays home to Korea's favorite, and most crowded, beach.

    The pair first met in Boston around a decade ago and bonded instantly. They wandered around Europe for several years -- first in Berlin and Ireland, before finally settling in Valencia, Spain, which they now regard as their home.

    When they started to feel "restless" again after three years in the Spanish city, and wondered where they should head next, Horn jokingly suggested they make their life on the road, so to speak, and his travel buddy concurred.

    The two decided to stay at a certain place or city for 91 days for the simple reason that this is usually the length of the time countries permit visitors to stay on easy-to-acquire travel visas. It also gives them the right amount of time to "get a real sense of what the city is about," according to Horn.

    They described Busan as "clean, modern and organized," with a whole spectrum of things to enjoy from food to mountains and beaches, and plenty of fun nightlife options in the form of bars and clubs. They also said they have fallen in love with Korean cuisine, including bibimbap, grilled eel, and soju. They are also fans of Korean-style saunas -- nudity at communal spas is no longer a problem for them.

    They also said they were deeply impressed by Korea's medical services, especially its affordable fees and the kindness of hospital staff. Powell even had a Lasik operation in the city to correct his eyesight, a dream he has harbored for the last two decades.

    "I'm glad that I had it. My friends in America pay four or five times more, and [what they have there] is not as good as the equipment [here], and it's not as good as the clinic," he said.

    Horn accompanied him to the operation and experienced a kind of culture shock as he was able to watch the whole procedure live in the waiting area -- another sign of the country's advanced medical technology.

    Powell records all their experiences on their blog ( using the pictures Horn takes. Their next destination is Idaho, the U.S., where they can enjoy a slower tempo of life after three months in this bustling Asian metropolis.

    Asked when they plan to end their nomadic lifestyles, they said it's difficult to call time on having so much fun. "When we started, we both thought five years would be enough, but now we keep pushing that off. The longer we travel, the more places we discover we want to go," Powell said.

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