Bri Robertson checked her Instagram to see a message from her best friend from elementary school:
“You’re coming to Korea??”
Bri froze, dropping her neatly folded shirt on the way to her suitcase, realizing that this would be the first time that her and her best friend would be on the same continent in seven years.
“Yes! Where do you live?”
Four weeks later, nearing the month mark of living in Seoul, Bri boarded a high-speed train to Gangneung, a picturesque town on the East Sea. After two hours, over hills and through valleys, Bri emerged at the last stop: Gangneung. Immediately, she felt the breeze from the sea, and all around her existed a view that could only be captured as if it were a mixtape produced by Florida and Colorado. Mountains to her back and sandy beaches ahead, she surveyed the area until two arms folded around her. “Bri!” … “Cathy!”
The following weekend was an accelerated recap of the previous seven years, almost as if the two best friends restarted at age thirteen and updated the lost time over the course of 48 hours, discussing topics about parents, new siblings, former pre-teen crushes, and high school. Their adventures that were halted in the States resumed in Korea, first travelling to a beach famous for the blue waters and… coffee! Ironically, when Bri first met Cathy in kindergarten, she misunderstood the teacher when Mrs. Edmundson introduced Cathy as Korean; Bri thought that Cathy’s Korean name was Coffee, so the Coffee Beach was a perfect reunion for the two now twenty-year-old’s!
From the cold East Sea waters, through a pine forest walk, past a beer festival, and into a Korean dynasty-styled village, the pair embraced Gangneung, celebrating Cathy’s hometown as they once celebrated Bri’s hometown. After ending the day in a Korean spa, Bri went to Cathy’s home, where Cathy’s family excitedly greeted her. “Bri, you look the same!” exclaimed Cathy’s mom, with a huge smile crossing her face.
Prior to leaving Gangneung the following day, Bri and Cathy drove out to Daewallyeong, deciding to spend the morning hiking the ancient Seoul Pass. Hundreds of years earlier, prior to the invention of the automobile, Koreans would hike Daewallyeong to cross the mountains on the way to Seoul. From that era, a beer pub, which would have been a popular stop for travelers, marked the midway point of the hike. However, Bri was most surprised to see a fire-bellied toad, known for its fiery belly pattern, hop across her path!
At the end of the weekend, Cathy’s family drove Bri to the train station, exchanging hugs and promises of visiting again in the future. As the train exited the station, Bri smiled, understanding “forever” in “best friends forever.”