Candidly Kate: My instagram vacation was faked

I faked my instagram vacation.  The day before my Chuseok holiday began I was feeling pretty stressed out.  I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that something was wrong.

I had planned on getting up a little later than normal and heading to the gym.  After that, I’d go to the bank to get my Korean won changed over into Chinese and Taiwanese currency.  I didn’t make it to the gym.  The bank was closed due to the holiday (where was my brain, again).  Ultimately, I didn’t even make it out of Korea.  I had pretty much planned on doing this Taipei guide from Live Travel Teach to a T.  This is the story of how I faked my instagram vacation on Jeju Island.

Typhoon Malakas was headed toward Taiwan, and my Mother wasn’t exactly excited for my journey into the storm.  There were typhoons last year which effected Korea, so I wasn’t too worried, and it sounded like my travel-mates weren’t either.  When I got to the airport and got my ticket, the attendant told me (in typical Korean fashion) that my connection from Nanjing, China to Taipei, Taiwan might get cancelled.  When a Korean says “maybe” or “might be” they mean “definitely”.  I was crushed.  Bye, bye dumplings.  Bye, bye architecture.  See ya later, temples.  I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy my time in China because I was planning on taking advantage of the 24 hour tourist visa.  I had a carry-on bag packed, so I went on Skyscanner to check out my options.  I knew everything would be pricy because of the holiday, but I didn’t expect airfares to be quite so high.

I hadn’t really eaten yet, so I bought a sandwich and began frantically searching through the carrier who I knew flew out of Incheon.  I then had the bright idea to check out the travel agency in the basement of the airport.  They wanted over $700 Canadian for a flight to Tokyo, Japan.  I walked right out of there, got onto the subway, and headed over to Gimpo to try my luck at Jeju Air.  They immediately told me that there were no flights available.  After a slight pout and an explanation in broken Korean about how my trip had been cancelled and I’d come all the way from the other airport, I was on a $98 one-way trip to Jeju Island: The Hawaii of Korea.

When I arrived at Jeju Airport it was dark and the rain had started.  I would have to wait 23 minutes for a bus to Hamdeok Beach where my friends had a hostel.  Since I had no idea how far away it was, I decided to take a taxi.  Jeju Island is a lot bigger than I had assumed.  We were on the North coast of the island.  It was far from everything.  Our first night my dinner was a late night sausage on a stick and a beer by the sea.  I thought that maybe the morning would be different, but we awoke to an overcast day.  My back hurt and I was already bruised.  We were sleeping on the floor “ondol” style.  This is normal for many Koreans.  I’m generally okay with it for one or two nights, but four was a little much.  Still, I took a photo from our balcony and used every editing feature instagram offers to contrast, brighten, highlight, low-light, colour, and over-saturate the crap out of the image to make it look like a picture perfect vacation.

Here’s the original:

Jeu Island Hamdeok Beach

It’s nice, but it’s definitely not the blissed-out blue beach vibes people want to see in your instagram feed.

After the brilliant sun in Thailand, my skin adapted back to tanning pretty easily.  My alabaster skin is certainly not this dark.  This came from, again, over-saturating the image, adding some orange colour, and making the image warmer.  I look like I have a pretty healthy glow, don’t I?  Except that I don’t really, and the wind was so strong that my left eye looks super lazy:

Jeju Island Hamdeok Beach Bikini

The waters were nowhere near as stunning as I had seen in photos.  A typhoon would mean we’d have to return home a day early.  People were stranded at the airport.

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Here's lookin' at you, #Jeju! #Korea #JejuIsland

A post shared by Kate Carter Hickey (@thatgirlcartier) on

We were able to see some cool things in Jeju even though our hostel was incredibly far from Jeju City and the more popular beach.

We saw some cool lava caves which you can read about here.  I hadn’t done any research (I thought I’d be in China and Taiwan) so we were really lucky to have friends on a tour staying in a nearby hostel.

We didn’t check out the statue park I wanted to see, but we saw some cool little gremlin guys around town at cafes and outside hotels.

We made it to Loveland: a sex-themed statue park which sounded ridiculous and fun, but ended up just kind of being uncomfortable.  We imbibed a bit as Jeju is famous for Peanut Makgeolli (flavoured rice wine).  Ultimately, unless you’re really into graphic, sexual statues I might skip this one.  Koreans love penis parks though.  I don’t really get it!

Monkey Beach Bar was another highlight because I got to see a whole bunch of friends from Busan!  There was a ball pit, some stages with stripper poles, and lots of games and dance contests on the main stage.  With the cheap buckets they sold, a climbing wall, a slide, and darts this place was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

I was on standby for a flight home.  I eventually got a place on the ferry and then had a 7 hour bus ride home.  It wasn’t so bad as I got to chat with a friend or sleep most of the way.  It was tiring though, too.  A flight would have been preferable.

People seem to either love Jeju Island or hate it.  There are many great parts of the island like Hallasan (the big mountain crater) and there’s even a hidden beach nearby (check out the blog + vlog combo from Television of Nomads for details, and check out all their Jeju posts here). I still love you, Korea, but next time…let me leave!

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Fake it with instagram
How I “faked” my Jeju Island, South Korea vacation. Pinterest.


18 Comments Add yours

  1. Laura says:

    I really appreciate your honesty in this post! Sort of wild how easy it is so alter your life on social media, eh?

    It’s shit that everything didn’t go as planned but it seems like you made the best of your situation, which is certainly admirable. I really hate life lessons – especially the expensive ones. The upside is you got to see Jeju and friends. I’m sure your next trip will be awesome and hopefully better weather!

    1. Kate says:

      Yeah! Definitely tried to be flexible, but ultimately it was just not an altogether fabulous trip. I have a staycation in Seoul coming up and I can’t wait. Thanks for your kind words!

  2. Mona says:

    Kate, this was a breath of fresh air – wish more people would be this honest! You deserve a well rested staycation.!

  3. Linda says:

    Dang I would’ve probably gone straight back home and pout. At least you made SOMETHING out of your vacation girl!

  4. Sandra says:

    I like the honesty as well, it’s nice to see before and after shots with photo editing, but you didn’t really fake your trip. You went, you did things, those are your real pictures– you just enhanced them. It’s faked if you don’t actually go or use someone else’s pictures to pretend you were there.
    Anyway, no shame! Photo editing can help you remember it better, and if you wait enough years and destroy all evidence of your deception perhaps you could even completely change your recollection of the weather there! The human mind is funny.

  5. Anne says:

    So sorry your plans went awry. So have been there as I was at the airport checked in for a flight to st Lucia to go to Bodysport when a hurricane battered the island. Terrible for them, disappointing for me but better to be safe. Jeju looks like a cool alternative

  6. I really like your honesty and way of writing. You definitely made the best out of your trip! Hopefully next trip it will all go a little better for you :-).

  7. Vyjay says:

    I loved this post, it is so innovative and candid. The weather really does turn into a spoilsport. Last year we were scheduled to travel on a helicopter that would take us to our destination, but alas the weather turned so bad, the flight did not take off!

  8. Janna says:

    Love this candid post about your vacation. Although it didnt go as planned, I like that you made the most out of it. Great post!

  9. Wendy says:

    You’re a brave spirit to be hopping on to the next airport. A few months or years from now, this experience will give you an even better post than this one. Because you will be looking back to this vacay proud of your adventurous spirit.

  10. Gypsycouple says:

    Its crazy how easy it is to do this and frankly love how honest you were about it in the post! It was a lovely read, thanks for sharing!

  11. Lindsay says:

    Wow! You are a very talented Instagrammer ^^ I’m still learning the ropes with the in-app editing, but you have inspired me 🙂 Glad you made the most of your rotten luck and still seemed to have a good time!

  12. Star Lengas says:

    But you still had some fun right?! Right! I think it was super fortuitous that you made it to Jeju! 🙂 I think we filter our lives for the sake of social media, others opinions, and pride. C’est la vie! But you look great alabaster or tan 🙂

  13. Very nicely done – typhoon avoided, mother satisfied, beach -enjoyed and Jeju – visited!

  14. Izzy says:

    Sometimes I feel like being a public personality with a blog makes me feel a bit ingenuine as to how good something is. But I love that you gave an in-depth pictured, not pictured summary. I think its important to give some clarity to your readers that every trip isn’t sunshine and daisies. And watch the Vice Korean Love Industry! Those penis parks were erected (pardon the pun) as a way to “inspire” couples to reproduce because of the dwindling birthrates. It was actually built by the government!

  15. Don says:

    The title was a little different from what I thought was implied, lol. It totally sucks that your original trip got canceled, but count your blessings you got another one, to Jeju, on a HOLIDAY, that EVERYONE tries to book, Last Minute! For only 98$! (even if it is one-way)
    Seems you did make the most of the situation! 😀

  16. Jumpy says:

    I don’t think you understand what the word “fake” means.

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