Year 1 After Korea: Things That Make Me Feel Normal Again

Woman, Airport, Travel, Expat, Lost, Traveler, Toronto Seoulcialite, Korea, Canada

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since I bid farewell to Seoul-si, spent 2 weeks in Bali, and flew back to Toronto. As anticipated, the year has certainly had its ups and downs. Finding employment wasn’t easy, but I was open to anything and everything. I even spent a day working in a butcher shop, of all places! I always say that you can only ever have 2-3 of each the following: social (family, friends, relationship), employment (income, team [management included], level of interest) housing (comfortable, affordable within your means, good location), and fitness (diet, exercise, aesthetic) under control at any given time. I’ve managed to keep 2 of the 3 categories strong, but it’s always such a balancing act.

Coming back to Canada and consuming food and using products here has given me a number of challenges. My body, skin, and hair have changed in a manner I don’t particularly enjoy, but I’m making changes to get back to where I want/ need to be. When you return home after 3 years of wild adventure, love, and learning, it’s not easy finding your footing. The sense of discomfort is palpable daily, even just walking down streets I’ve walked for years. Here are some products, services, and sentiments that make me feel like myself again after the roller-coaster I was riding coming back from Korea.

Secret Flying/ Google Flights/ Skyscanner

Now that I’ve left Korea and am back in Canada, my wanderlust is at its peak. Last year I explored more of Korea, Kota Kinabalu and Bali before returning to Toronto. Since being back, I’ve been to Orlando, Reykjavik, New York City and have booked an adventure trip to Cebu and El Nido (Palawan) for $575 round-trip/ tax in! None of these would have been possible without apps like Skyscanner, sites like Google Flights, and daily e-mails from Secret Flying.

Being on a Diet Program

I adore food, and Toronto is nothing if not a foodie city. When I came back from Korea, I was catching up with old friends at fantastic restaurants with delicious, luxurious, and always high-calorie meals. I was wasting a lot of money and a lot of hard work really enjoying Toronto’s bustling culinary scene. It took me a while to find an apartment, a gym, and a sense of responsibility when it comes to food. I typically keep on a pretty rigid program logging everything into MyFitnessPal. I make sure to get enough protein by keeping protein powder (my favourite is Cellucor Peanut Butter Marshmallow) at my desk. That way, if I get a craving at work I have no excuses to head to the vending machines or down to Mean Bao (yes – they have one right near my office and it’s amazing and dangerous).

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Donginbi Red Ginseng Moisture & Balancing Emulsion/ Softener set

For some reason I figured the K-Beauty craze extended beyond the Land of Morning Calm and into North America. I swear North American instagram lied to me. I returned home to way overpriced products which sadly just could not deliver. Thankfully, sets like this Donginbi Red Ginseng line can be found online. This one in particular can be purchased on the KGC (Korean Ginseng Corporation) website at . You can use this promo code 2018NewDIB20 for 20% off. As I’ve mentioned about a gazillion times on ThatGirlCartier, I’m not interested in having to think much about my skincare. This product from Korea spreads easily and doesn’t require a massive amount for great effects. The claim is simple: these products moisturize and help skin shine.  Use as follows:

  1. Softner
  2. Essence
  3. Emulsion
  4. Eye Serum Cream

My skin is soft to the touch and visibly radiant. The eye cream is my favourite – buttery smooth and soft. The products were gifted to me by the Korean Tourism Organization of Toronto November 14, 2019. They are still going strong today (February 24) so they’re well worth the mildly daunting pricetag. Buy quality from Korea – it lasts!

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COSRX Products

COSRX is one of the hottest trending brands in the skincare game, and it’s from Korea (duh!) Their pimple patches are a cult trend with a number of North American magazines including Cosmopolitan. I don’t often get spots, but I do have hyperpigmentation and dry patches as well as sensitive skin. They do have natural scents from ingredients like tea tree oil and witch hazel, etc. If you’re sensitive to smell then give a tester a whiff before trying. I’ve never been disappointed with their products. I have some favourites I keep on hand as much as possible now that I’m back in Canada:

  1. COSRX – AC Collection Calming Foam Cleanser “Designed for acne-prone skin, this hypoallergenic foam cleanser gently removes dead skin cells, excess sebum and impurities, leaving skin soothed, clearer and plumper.” Nobody makes a better cleanser than COSRX. I love Clean-it Zero (Banila Co.) for removing make-up, but always follow up with this foaming cleanser. My skin feels tight in a nice way, and is consistently soft and glowing. Their “Good Morning Cleanser” is a winner, as well!
  2. COSRX – One Step Original Clear Pad “Soft, quilted pads are steeped in betain salicylate, another form of beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that’s also oil-soluble, that helps to combat breakouts and gently exfoliates to prevent sebum build-up. Apply on cleansed skin.” I use these as part of my nightly routine after cleansing. After a night out on the town this little pad is my skin’s saviour!

  3. COSRX – AC Collection Calming Liquid Mild “Designed for sensitive and acne-prone skin, this hypoallergenic calming liquid is formulated with 85% green tea water, PHA, BHA and cica extracts to soothe skin and gently remove dead skin cells and excess sebum.”
  4. COSRX – Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 “This sunscreen combines hydration and sun protection with SPF50 PA+++ and aloe leaf extract to keep skin moisturized even on the hottest days.” 2 weeks in the burning sun in Bali and not one burn.  ‘Nuff said!

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Kiehl’s Ginger Leaf & Hibiscus Firming Mask

Slather this bad boy on after cleansing, toning, and moisturizing. You’ll get all the benefits of your pre-snooze routine when you wash the mask off in the morning. This is the only overnight “mask” I’ve used which has given me big results after one use. “Formulated with Hibiscus, whose flower is known to close during the night to preserve its nectar, our overnight formula delivers smoother-looking skin instantly. With continued use, our hydrating formula with Ginger Leaf works to soften the look of fine lines for a younger-looking complexion.” I use it once or twice, but you can use it up to 5x each week. 100% would repurchase.

Chantecaille Rose de Mai Eye Lift

It’s no secret that I was a fan of getting Botox while in Korea. Now that I’m back in Canada, however, I just don’t feel totally comfortable having someone other than a board-certified Plastic Surgeon waving a syringe around ready to inject botulism near my eyes. Call me crazy, but I’ve seen “Botched” and am just not ready to take that chance.

Image result for chantecailleEnter Rose de Mai Eye Lift by Chantecaille. Their pricepoint is, again, terrifying for most of their products. They stack up against Korean ultra-luxe brands really well. I haven’t had Botox in over a year and most people guess I’m around 25 years old (I’ll be 32 in August, for the record), so the take-away here is take care of your skin!

The innovative silky eye gel is made up of a billion imperceptible microcapsules of oil gently dispersed in Rose de Mai water that blend without the need of skin-stripping surfactants (perfect for the ever so delicate eye area). Infused with botanicals to reduce the look of every visible sign of eye aging: puffiness, dark circles, fine lines, wrinkles, and lack of firmness. The unique pen applicator features a cooling ceramic tip that enhances freshness in application. Contains 89.4% Naturals Including a Base of  Rosewater Regular price$97.00″ 

SOS Primer

Clarins SOS primer

As I mentioned, I haven’t had botox in over a year, so sometimes my lines are a little more noticeable than others! Clarins SOS primer was included in a grand prize gift from the wonderful Dave Lackie, beauty expert and Cityline expert. If you don’t follow him on Twitter then you’re missing out on some exceptional DAILY giveaways!

Back to the primer – I’m really impressed with the effect. A couple of pumps is all you need for full coverage. It honestly looks a little gross on your hands at first, but my skin soaks it right up for a lovely, smooth look. Isn’t that why we use primers?

“With this color-correcting primer that’s great for every skin tone, boost your complexion’s natural radiance. The fresh-feeling, flawless-effect formula contains High Lumitech complex to instantly correct, revive and illuminate the complexion. SOS Primer is made with organic sea lily extract to hydrate and prime the skin for make-up, for a 24-hour flawless complexion. The fine, weightless texture lets skin breathe and is formulated with the Clarins anti-pollution complex to protect the skin from environmental damage. Ideal for holding make-up in place, this complexion corrector protects the skin and locks in foundation longer with its hydrating action that reveals your complexion’s natural beauty!”

Studio 67 Hair Salon Toronto

I’ve been every colour of the rainbow when it comes to my hair. It’s resilient and a good representation of my inner leo. My mane is a talisman, and in Korea I was incredibly light blonde. It was fun and I loved it once I got used to it! Some stylist at a salon at Yonge and Eglinton feared my fierce locks and decided to tame them with this horrible, ash which turned yellow right quick. It dimmed my sparkle and left me feeling dowdy. Even worse, he made me feel HORRIBLE when I hated it.

Enter Studio 67. Michelle was able to pull off some amazing highlights bringing me back to beachy blonde. The last time I went I wasn’t 100% thrilled with the outcome (the service, however, is always phenomenal and reasonably priced). I went in and the owner herself brought me back to the brightness without a question (and with 4 hours with me in the chair – no charge). Thank you Chanel for treating your clients like VIP guests. I felt like my concerns were completely valid and walked out feeling fresh and fly!


If you haven’t yet noticed, I don’t exactly look like your average “Fitness Blogger”. That said, I’ve always been athletic and played a lot of sports growing up. I get a little nervous playing team sports now because when I was at my heaviest (just before going to Korea), my boss and his friends would make fun of my weight. I joined a volleyball league and a softball league and didn’t have my old competitive edge because of a good 50 lbs on me.

While I was in peak physical condition in Korea, I’ve gained weight since being back in Canada and working at a desk all day. All of a sudden, I’m nervous again in sweaty situations. The coaches at F45 St. Clair West Village took a chance on me and encouraged me to join the F45 Challenge. So far, I’ve dropped about 10 lbs and can feel and see a difference. I get the same encouraging feeling as playing on a team with none of the fear of failing my teammates (or being made fun of). They’re popping up like Starbucks all around Toronto. If you’re looking to change up your fitness routine check it out. The first week is free. No two workouts are the same, so you won’t get bored and bail!

Big Hit Kickboxing Studios

I’ve got to give big props to Big Hit Studios for getting me back into dedicated classes. I made sure I was attending 3 or 4 classes a week, and not only did my sense of loneliness/ helplessness/ fear of failure get fueled into kicking Bob’s @$$, my confidence started to return. I took some time off because the commute was really digging into my “sanity time”, but now that I’m moving within walking distance of their Queen West studio I’ll be back in action!

Studio 67

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I know it’s cheesy, but I actually miss walking by Olleh or any other cell phone store and hearing K-Pop on blast. I rarely listened to K-Pop when I lived in Korea, but now “K-Pop Daebak” is the soundtrack to my gym trips. Not only am I picking up more vocabulary, the beats really match my stride length. Korean pop music right now is heavily influenced by pop and hip hop from the late 80’s through mid 90’s and I am here. for. it.

True Blue Friends

Coming home from Korea, I was afraid that after 3 years many of my friends would have moved on. In reality, most of them had! Most of them made great strides in their personal lives moving in with significant others, getting married, getting pregnant. Others finished post-graduate degrees and became ultimate professionals committing themselves to their careers. I’m so impressed by all of the things that these people have accomplished. These things, however, have created a distance between us in ways I definitely feared when leaving Korea. This left two categories of friends: true blues and lost with the blues.

When I came back from Korea, a lot of people wanted to get together to celebrate my homecoming. Others were happy I was happy, but the distance and growth for both of us was too much – totally okay. My true blue friends have been keeping up (thank-you social media – I know we hate on Zuckerberg, but I’d be lost without Facebook). We’ve managed to pickup right where we left off, with distance honestly making hearts grow fonder.

What was that term I coined above? “Lost blues”: those clinging to a former friend because they’ve alienated everyone else. I met a lot of these when I came back from Vancouver, but coming back from Korea I feel like I’ve been a lot more selective in the friendships into which I’ve made big investments. To be candid, there have been 3 women and 1 man who have broken my heart by being users and abusers. They took advantage of my generosity of self and of my (limited) finances. I haven’t been back quite a year. I’m so glad they made themselves known as lost souls desperate to cling to something new and shiny early on enough.

This year I get to be a bridesmaid in my best friend‘s wedding. I get to stand with her and her family as she says “I will” to a man who adores her and is good to her. They’ve built a life together and I’m so glad that she has made room for me now that I’m back. People are busy, but when you’re important they make time. Not to say we’ve never had a rough patch – we had a mega falling out once upon a time, but we made sure to patch things up before I left for Korea, thank goodness.

Other friends wished me well and kept an eye on the blog and the social media from afar. When we reconnected it was as though no time had passed. The important people understand your need to press the reset button. With a 14 hour time difference it’s near impossible to keep in touch properly. I’m so thankful to have these amazing women in my life who have made room for me in theirs.

Skincare Review: Leegeehaam has quick-drying formulae which I love when I'm in a rush.  My skin feels soft and there's never any hint of shine.

Some (not all!) products/ services mentioned in this article were given in partnership and in exchange for an honest review. only features products or services I genuinely adore and would repurchase again and again.

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