Within a month of my husband’s deployment to Camp Stanley, South Korea, I had already booked my plane ticket to visit for the Christmas holiday. When we first received the news that the unit would be doing a 9-month rotation to Korea, visiting never even crossed my mind, but with encouragement from other spouses in the unit, I planned my trip.
It’s very rare in this military life when the stars align and you can visit your spouse while they are fulfilling their duty abroad. You get to see a different side of your spouse away from the ‘normal life,’ and you are able to break up that long deployment period with a visit in between. I spent the first few months in excited anticipation of my trip, and after the visit, I have the memories from the trip to get me through the last few months of the deployment.
Thinking of visiting your spouse abroad? Here’s how I planned:
My first recommendation would be to avoid the holidays. I went during the holiday season (due to time constraints) and it was expensive. If your schedule permits, Space A is a great option! I have friends who visited their spouses in Europe and Japan using Space A flights. I always had friends visit during the spring time during the off-peak season. My second recommendation is to research military-owned hotels at your destination. I stayed at Dragon Hill Lodge in the Yongsan district of Seoul, South Korea. This hotel is Department of Defense owned, and nightly rates are determined by rank. Another perk: the hotel is only accessible with military ID. My third recommendation is to reach out to friends and family and let them know you’re planning a trip. Ask if they’ll help with funds for the trip. Our families are always looking for ways to support us and to show us their understanding of military life.
When everything was bought and planned, I finally made my way across the globe to see my spouse. The experience was amazing. Seoul is so beautiful and clean. There is so much to do, and there are many historic landmarks to take in. As always with military life, despite my best efforts in planning, my husband still had to work the week I visited. My hotel was an hour south by train from Camp Stanley, where he was stationed, so he would come after work and we would get dinner and sight see.
One day, I made the trip to Camp Stanley by myself (!!!). I got to see his room, the base, and his favorite places to eat. It was great to finally visualize all the sights, sounds, and smells he had described to me. On the days he had to work, I planned a tour through the hotel, and on another day, I had a pamper day and went to the salon in the hotel and read a book while enjoying the view of the city. On his days off, or the few hours off he had, my husband and I would explore different parts of the city, and go to museums, malls, and markets. We ate Alabama-style BBQ and Mexican-style tacos in Itaewon, had drinks and appetizers in Gangnam, and had bulgolgi in Uijeoungbu. It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything!
When I arrived back in Texas, I was exhausted, but so happy I went on the trip. Our conversations from then on took on a new meaning for me because I could recall the places we visited while I was there. It also helped to break up the long time apart with a new countdown to when he would come home!
I absolutely recommend visiting your spouse abroad if you have means and opportunity. It’s an experience that you both will cherish for a lifetime.
Have you ever planned a trip like this? What tips would you share?
Posted by Lesley Boatright, NMFA volunteer, Fort Benning, GA, Army spouse