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Travel with me!
Climb and get fit with I Guide Korea 본문
Climb and get fit with I Guide KoreaAlla0909 2017.10.18 09:30
“Since 2007, iGuideKorea (IGK) has guided adventure seekers from all over the world.” IGK is on a mission to promote a healthy and active lifestyle, while enjoying Korea’s beautiful outdoors and thrilling adventures. Headed by Eddy Park, who is an expat, living and working in Daejeon, South Korea, IGK provides exciting guiding services and courses for rock climbing,ice climbing, and mountain biking throughout the South Korean peninsula.
Alla Ponomareva: Were you always physically active and physically fit?
Eddy Park : I had an unhealthy large phase when I was in my early teens, but that’s what happens when your parents own a convenience store and you get to eat whatever junk food your little heart desires because you work there after school.
AP: Why do you think fitness is important?
EP: Fitness is important because having good fitness let’s you have more fun. You can do more physical things, have more experiences. Good physical fitness also translates to good mental fitness. The mind and body are interlaced. I know that when I’m in good shape, feeling healthy, eating well, and sleeping well, I’m way more stoked about life. I get this “I can do anything” feeling.
Alongside rock climbing, I also take part in ice climbing, mountain biking, road biking, hiking, camping, dragon boat racing, and jiujitsu.
AP: What motivated you to start I Guide Korea?
EP: Friends that got stuck in the rut of working and drinking. Many of my expat friends would complain that there was nothing to do in Korea but drink and got burnt out. I, on the other hand, was having an awesome time camping and climbing every weekend. And I knew that if my expat friends were back in their home countries, they would probably be doing way more camping and hanging out in the woods than they do in Korea. A lot of people get caught up in the myth that Korea is urbanized and has no nature. It’s probably because most people who come to Korea for the first time think Korea is going to be like Seoul. Also when people get stuck in the work life (pay student loans, save up) they forget how to have fun, and forget that they came to Korea to have an adventure while they worked.
So I guess my motivation is to help people discover the adventures and good times that Korea holds. The geography of this country is really beautiful and unique, and it’s a great place to climb, bike and play. I want to show people this side of the country.
AP: What were the challenges/ advantages of starting off?
EP: The advantage was that we were the first tour company of our kind in South Korea. So the start was pretty easy for us. The challenge was our limited network.
The nuts and bolts
AP: What is climbing anyway and why is it so popular?
EP: When I say climbing I mean climbing vertically usually with the use of ropes and other gear to protect yourself from a fall. It’s popular in Korea because there is so much rock climbing to be had here with so much variety of rock and climbing styles. With the ease of access and the affordability of courses and gear, it’s easy to see why it’s popular.
AP: Who are the Guides?
EP: Me; Chiyoung An is my rock climbing and ice climbing guide; Mike Moses is my mountain bike guide; and I have other affiliate guides.
AP: How do you recruit your guides?
EP: I have to know them or they have to come with very high recommendations. I don’t let my clients with anyone. I usually will ride or climb with a new affiliate guide to see how they work. I’ve made some bad judgements early on and especially when I was injured, but I’ve learned from my mistakes
AP: What is the one thing that unites them all?
EP: People skills, and common sense for safety.
AP: Who are IGK participants in a nutshell?
EP: They are people who like to be active, and have lots of fun. Being active for them is fun.
“But when they step out of their routines and experience the thrills of rock climbing, mountain biking or hiking, awesome transformations happen. They become healthier, they look forward to the weekend, they meet new people, they travel all over the country to climb or bike or hike; they become adventure-seekers again.”
AP: Do you have to be extremely fit to participate?
EP: Nope. It helps, but you’ll probably become more fit when you start hanging out with our little tribe.
AP: Do you have any courses for ultimate beginners?
EP: Actually my popular courses are all beginner courses. I also love watching people learn, and overcome challenges. You see this way more often in beginners.
AP: How many trips/tours have you had so far?
EP: Lots. We started in 2007. So I’ve been running tours and courses for 10 years.
AP: Any of them truly stand out?
EP: Some do…like a shelter that we reserved burned down 2 days before we showed up and we weren’t informed, or when a sudden warm spell melted all the ice climbs and so I turned into a shopping guide. That’s one quality you have to have as a guide; you need to be a problem solver. Things happen in the outdoors that you have no control over, so you better have a plan A, B and C.
AP: What about safety/insurance?
EP: Very safe. Besides cuts, and scrapes nothing major has happened to our clients in over 10yrs. We have an insurance provider if clients want to take out insurance.
AP: Can non English speakers join as well?
EP: Yes. My ESL teaching experience has been real helpful when I have clients that can’t speak English well. I know how to communicate in simple English and body language. I also can speak enough Korean and French.
“iGuideKorea's mission is not only to offer premium quality tours, but to also globally promote the country's eco-tourism and outdoors sports development.”
AP: What is Team IGK?
EP: TEAM IGK is a team I sponsor on various levels. I have a mountain biking team and a dragon boat team, and I sponsor one climber.
AP: What do team members get from being a part of Team IGK?
EP: Free stuff, entry fees, jerseys, food, parties, etc.
AP: Are all the team members super competitive?
EP: Yes, I don’t know why…but they are…I’m probably the least competitive, and I still don’t like to lose.
AP: Speaking of competition, how did TEAM IGK do at this year’s Daejeon’s Dragon Boat race as well as last weekend’s Incheon race?
EP: We did real well at the last two races of the season. At the Daejeon race our women's team got 3rd and our mixed team got second. We lost by 0.08 seconds. It was so close. At the Incheon race our mixed team got 5th and our men's team came first! It was a very successful end to the season. I'm very proud that the team was able to pull off great results when it counted.
AP: How important is winning to you?
EP: Honestly, having fun and appreciating the team is more important. Of course at the moment I want to win, but I don’t lose sleep over it. And also winning is important because the whole team wins. Winnings are spread throughout the teams. It’s good for everyone.
AP: Are there any upcoming events in the IGK schedule?
EP: I have a Day of Discovery (DOD), where people get to learn about a new area to climb or bike. That’s on October 28, 2017. But I mainly focus on customized tours. I’m not interested in doing large groups tours all the time. I like the more personal relationships that develop in smaller groups. Also for the type of activities I do, it’s safer to be smaller. The Team IGK activities and the DOD are the only big group events I usually do.
AP: How can people sign up or participate?
My Personal Experience
In order to provide a more in depth and an inside perspective about Eddy’s tours, I was able to participate in one of his Days of Discovery a few weeks ago at KAIST’s Munji Campus climbing wall facility. We had a small group of 7 other climbers, some with experience, others - without. As an inexperienced climber myself (having climbed twice in my life with the latest being about 9 years ago), I was eager to learn the ropes, the knots and how to rappel correctly and most importantly - safely.
Eddy was very helpful and informative in his teachings and explanations. We took some time learning how to tie different rope knots, how to get into a harness and how to belay someone as they climb up the wall. Prior to the course, we were sent an information PDF to know what to expect. And after the course, we got to keep a piece of a rope to practice our new skills on.
It was a tiring afternoon but full of new friendships, new skills and of course - great exercise, as we ascended numerous climbing paths.
Why don't you give IGK a try, the next event is coming up on October 28! More information on I Guide Korea website.
Photographs courtesy of I Guide Korea and Alla Ponomareva.