Lifestyle Miscellaneous The Frugal Handbook

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn – June 2023 Update

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

This is a quote that I saw outside a small boutique shop in Seoul during my trip to Korea, and I think it defines my trip experience perfectly.

In life, there will be times when you win.

Everything goes according to your plan, things that are out of your control end up working in your favour, and nothing terrible happens unexpectedly.

But there will also be times when you don’t win, and the converse of all of the above happens.

Things don’t turn out as you expected, things that are out of control end up screwing you over, and bad things somehow seem to happen unexpectedly.

But when these things happen, instead of thinking about them as “losing”, it’s helpful to think of them as learning opportunities.

Reframing the way we view these situations and experiences can help us approach them with a more positive mindset, where we focus on potential growth.

Note: This post will be a semi-rant, talking about my experiences during my trip to Korea. If this isn’t your kinda thing, feel free to skip today’s post. Otherwise, let’s get to it!

Whenever my partner and I travel, we do quite a bit of planning and research.

We book the things that need to be booked and we map out the sights to visit and places to eat in an itinerary on Google My Maps.

Usually, things work out well, and all our trips thus far have been pretty smooth sailing.

Unfortunately, during my trip to Korea in April, we learned a lot more often than we won.

The Weather

The biggest factor that was out of our control was the weather.

On 1 of the 2 days we spent in Busan, there was bad weather.

The unusually strong winds made our visit to the beach uncomfortable and high levels of fine dust shrouded the sunset view along the coast.

On 2 of the 3 days we spent in Jeju Island, it rained.

This forced us to skip some of the coastal sights that we looked forward to and left us with nothing much to do while we waited out the rain.

While there was nothing we could’ve done about it, it still felt bad.

It made me think about the need to plan a wet weather itinerary when we travel in the future, especially if most of the activities are going to be outdoors.

The Accident

On our last day on Jeju Island, we also got into a car accident.

Going through the procedures with the rental car’s insurance company took almost 2 hours, which was precious time being wasted during our vacation.

But there are many things I was thankful for in this incident.

No one got hurt, my rental car was still in good enough condition to continue using it, and the other party involved was a Korean who spoke English which made communicating much easier.

Also, since the accident was no fault of mine but of the other driver, and I had purchased sufficient car insurance anyway, I didn’t have to fork out any payment.

Even though it’s unfortunate that we had to go through it, I think it happened in the best way possible.

Having experienced my first overseas car accident makes me more confident to deal with similar situations again, though I hope there wouldn’t be any.

I also learned that no matter how many precautions we may take, there are times when we’ll inevitably be at the mercy of others, and we should never take things for granted.

The Maps

There were also some things that were within our control, but we didn’t think it was necessary to check things as thoroughly as we perhaps should have.

On multiple occasions, the place we wanted to visit ended up being a different one than the one we had saved in our itinerary.


One time, it was because this cafe had multiple outlets, but one outlet used its English name and the other used its Korean name.

Seeing as there were search results for the English name, we assumed it was the place we wanted to go, and only found out it was the wrong place after we arrived.

Another time, it was because 2 different shops had almost the same name and offered the same services.

From our search results, we picked the top result, and of course, it ended up being the wrong one.

When it comes to visiting sights within the city, we usually rely on the local map app to find our way.

This has worked out on every trip so far, but not when we were trying to visit the Seoul Namsan Tower in Seoul.

We used Korea’s preferred map app – NAVER maps – to find directions to the place, and we followed the instructions for public transport.

But when we exited the subway station, we couldn’t end up finding the path that we were told to follow.

Now, I’d like to think that I’m pretty good with maps seeing as I’ve successfully navigated to almost any place we’ve wanted to visit in the past.

So, I don’t know if the path doesn’t exist or if it’s particularly obscure that it wasn’t obvious.

When we finally decided to search the internet for directions, there were countless websites saying to take a shuttle bus from a different subway station instead.

By then, we had already spent more time than we’d planned to just figure out the directions, so we decided to skip it entirely.

These issues could have been avoided if we had taken extra measures.

For example, using the exact addresses of the shops we wanted to visit rather than the search results based on the shop name, or researching advice for directions to specific places.

But as I mentioned earlier, we didn’t think these were necessary because we haven’t encountered issues on our trips thus far.

Moving forward, we’ll definitely try to be more thorough when it comes to planning the directions for our itineraries.

The Flight

This last point was fully within our control, and the fault is definitely on us.

As we approached the day of our return from Seoul to Singapore, we planned to use up all of our cash so that we wouldn’t have to convert any KRW back to SGD.

We also made sure that our T-money cards (Korea’s ez-link card) had just enough money to get us to the airport.

We left a balance of about 2,000 – 3,000 KRW each in our cards, which is enough for a typical public transport ride.

Then, we realised that the bus we had planned to take to the airport was an airport limousine bus, whose fares were higher – at 10,000 KRW per person.

Also, you could only pay with cash or a T-money card – seeing as we didn’t have any cash left and not enough balance in our T-money card, this was no longer an option for us.

We’d either have to book a cab to the airport or change multiple subway lines to get to the airport.

The cab fare was a standard fare of ~70,000 KRW, or ~70 SGD, and took about the same amount of time to get to the airport as compared to the subway.

We didn’t want to pay 70 SGD for a cab, so we opted to book a cab to a subway station where there was a straight train down to the airport – a mix of both options.

For some reason, we were under the impression that we were going to reach the airport with sufficient time before our flight.

So even though the airport subway train took a while to come (the first train didn’t go all the way to the airport, so we had to wait for the next one), we weren’t in a rush to get to our check-in counter once we had arrived.

We took our time, went to the toilet, and strolled over to our check-in counter.

Along the way, I saw the time, and it suddenly hit me – it was only minutes away from the 1-hour mark before our flight – the time when airlines typically close their check-in counters.

We rushed down to the Scoot check-in counter and arrived 5 minutes past the 1-hour mark, but it was too late.

We were greeted by a Scoot staff who couldn’t care less that we had missed our flight and just told us to call Scoot to ask for the next steps.

At that moment, we were stunned and it felt surreal.

We had never missed a flight before, and it only happened because we weren’t actively keeping track of the time.

Even though we arrived at the airport later than we had planned, we still could’ve made it in time if we had rushed.

We sat down and I tried to call Scoot as advised, which was of no help at all because no customer support staff were available to assist us.

And even though I was only put on hold, I was still charged the regular international call rates by my telco.

We scrambled to look for other flights we could book to return to Singapore on the same day and managed to find one that leaves soon and at a reasonable price.

But try as we did, we weren’t able to make payment to book our tickets online – every single credit and debit card we could think to try couldn’t go through.

Desperate, we decided to go to the counter and try to buy tickets on the spot.

This airline was at a different terminal within Incheon Airport, so we had to take a shuttle bus there which took about 15 minutes.

When we arrived at the counter, the staff informed us that it was not possible to buy tickets over the counter.

I explained to them our predicament and our many failed attempts at buying tickets, and they even tried to help me book tickets on their laptop.

But still, payment couldn’t be processed, and eventually, we ended up missing that flight as well.

By this time, we felt utterly defeated – if we can’t even book a flight on the spot, how were we supposed to return to Singapore?

We took some time to collect ourselves, and then I thought of something.

I figured that the reason our cards were getting rejected might be because we were accessing the Korean website of the airline, and we were trying to make payment with an international card.

We continued looking for flights, and there was only 1 reasonable flight option left – a flight by T’way Air.

To avoid going through the same problem as before, I used the mobile app to book tickets.

Since I had the Singaporean version of the app, I shouldn’t encounter any problems with using a Singaporean credit card.

Finally, we were able to book that flight successfully and were able to return home on the same day.

As traumatising of an experience as this was, there were many things we learned as a result of it.

We’ll never spend all our cash again until we reach the airport – we’ll never know when we’ll need it, and we’ll definitely be able to spend it at the airport anyway.

If we want to reach the airport comfortably, just bite the bullet and book a straight cab there.

Even if the fare might be expensive, it’s better than scrambling on public transport and rushing there, and it’s definitely much cheaper than missing the flight.

Otherwise, plan to leave early with more than enough buffer time if we take public transport.

If we need to make online bookings while we’re overseas, we have to find ways to make payments with a Singaporean credit card.

This could be through the use of Singapore-based apps, trying to use the Singaporean extension of the website, or a VPN to connect to the website via a Singaporean IP address.

Key Takeaway

This has been a long post, but the main takeaway for me from this experience is to view setbacks and challenges as learning opportunities.

By seeing things from a more optimistic perspective, it helps to make things more bearable and it encourages growth within ourselves.

Even though the experience I shared today is in the context of travelling, similar things could happen in my journey of personal finance or life in general.

Things that are both within and beyond our control can suddenly go wrong for whatever reason, and it’s up to us to decide how we approach them and what we takeaway.

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