Korea to DC: Surprising Mom For Christmas

By in Asia, China, christmas, maryland, South Korea, USA, video, vlog on December 18, 2016
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I’ve lived abroad for the vast majority of my adult life, and one thing I’ve always wanted to do was surprise my mom for Christmas one year. Well, this year was the year! After conspiring for months with my sister and getting our mom’s boyfriend in on the scheme, I managed to sneak home from Korea completely undetected.

Korea to DC: Surprising Mom for Christmas - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

The journey started with my heading to Incheon airport around 8PM. My flight was early in the morning and with no direct bus to the airport from where I live in the city, I would either need to take a taxi to where a bus was or walk there at god forsaken o’clock. So I decided to head to the airport the night before and just sleep on one of the many benches with all the other early morning travelers.

No one was on the train to the airport, so naturally I had one of those “I’m the only person on the traaaaaaaaaaain” moments. As someone who is used to chronicling all their travel in blogs and on social media, it was torturous not posting where I was or what I was doing. But I behaved, simply texting with my sister as I poked around the departure hall for food and snacks.


Sleeping at the airport is something I’m pretty used to. Someย are far more comfortable than others. Incheon actually has a jjiljimbang in the basement that has private rooms and lounge chairs, but I just opted to pick a bench, plug in, and attempt some shut eye. I got a few hours remarkably, and around 5AM I awoke to the airport bustling. It was time to go.

As with any cheap flight around the world, there’s layovers, and big ones at that. I spent eight hours wandering Beijing’s airport… one I have spent FAR more time in than I want to admit in the past number of years. There’s not a whole lot to do there to be honest. Unless you want to shop duty free. Because I had such a long layover (AND I have a ten year visa for China), I very easily could have gone into Beijing for a few hours.


In hindsight, I really should have. However I didn’t know if my cards would work in China and I was rather tired, so I just wandered around like a crazy person. Eventually I found a lounge area (by gates E19 in the International terminal) and fell asleep for four hours. Like you do. Soon after it was time to board for the long haul flight. Thankfully it was pretty empty and with no one next to me, I managed to have a pretty nice flight all things considered.


At the end of journey, my sister was waiting for me at Dulles Airport. It had been seven months since I left home. Seven very crazy months. I quit my job in Korea, for starters, and things had been kinda bizarre ever since. It was amazing to see her, and it was so exciting to know that we may very well pull off this surprise.

Korea to DC: Surprising Mom for Christmas - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

After vegan pizza, all the fruit, and lots of hugs, I fell asleep hardcore. The next day was going to be busy as hell. We had a mom to surprise.

The plan was to go buy a big ass box for me to fit in, which I would pop out of when mom returned home from her dinner date with her boyfriend. If he couldn’t get mom out of the house, he was going to order Korean fried chicken, and I was going to be the delivery girl. We had plans… just which one was going to work? After grabbing the box and heading to our hometown, Seester and I hung around for a few hours… quite a few hours actually.

Korea to DC: Surprising Mom for Christmas - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

Like total creepers. We staked out Mom’s house from various angles, waiting to see when they would live. Eventually they did, heading off to dinner, and that’s when we swooped in. First things first, I had puppies to cuddle. Once that was out of the wait, we frantically assembled and wrapped the box, figured out how I’d get in and out of it… and then waited.

And waited.

I waited in that box for awhile. Mom’s boyfriend was supposed to text my sister when they were leaving dinner, but he wasn’t able to. Soooo thankfully I was IN the box, and my sister lightning fast taped it shut and then ran away.

Korea to DC: Surprising Mom for Christmas - The Nerdventurists - www.nerdventurists.com

Alas, Mom saw her. She completely bypassed THE GIANT BOX to ask her youngest daughter why she was here, who then was like “Did you open the box?!” Cue me in the box trying not to laugh and ย get ready to jump out. She actually said if I was in there she was going to freak out, but never did she imagine I actually was.


Least to say, Mom was very shocked and happy. There were tears and hugs and lots of curse words, haha. It was amazing though. She was so thrilled and said it was the best present she could have asked for. It made all the travel more than worth it.

I’m now enjoying two weeks covered in puppies and lots of home cooking. I think this surprise worked out for everyone.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Have any of you ever surprised your family for a holiday? How’d it go?!

Kristina is an ardent traveler and has been to over 48 countries and has no plans to stop. She taught English in a small fishing city in Japan for a year, volunteered on an archaeological dig on an Iron Age site in Israel, drove 10,000 miles in a 1994 Corsa from London to Ulaanbataar for charity, and accidentally fell in love with K-pop in Seoul. Itโ€™s been a wild ride.
  1. Aww that is so sweet of you! What a lovely surprise for her ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Reply

    Oh my gosh, I absolutely love this story! I can’t believe you even jumped out of a lifesized, christmas wrapped box! What an amazing treat for your mom! I bet it meant the world to her! Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  3. Reply

    What a sweet story and what a perfect gift for your Mom! As they say, the best gift you can give someone is the gift of time. Merry Christmas to you all!!

    • The Roaming Renegades.com
    • December 18, 2016

    This was so nice to watch, loved seeing your mums reaction , actually made me a bit sad because it will be our first Christmas away from home and family. But we are hoping to plan something similar for next Christmas to surprise them, as they aren’t expecting us back for another 18 months!
    P.S. I love your 2 dogs they’re so cute!

  4. Reply

    I love these kind of surprises specially during festive season. Felt so good for your mom. Good luck and happy x-mas.

    • Lisa (Simple Sojourner)
    • December 18, 2016

    Nice story! Nothing like going home and being with family. So good that you surprised her and made it even more special.

  5. Reply

    Kristina! This was so lovely! I hope you have so much fun with your family~ <3
    Merry Christmas, dear!

  6. Aha such a cute idea! I once got the train back from college to see my mum for Mother Day. My sister had pretended she had to collect tickets from the train station as an excuse to drive there. As soon as she pulled up, I hopped in the car. My mum looking slightly surprised and said ‘if you want to get back to college, get a train cause I’m not driving you’…. Oh well!

  7. Reply

    What a wonderful surprise! Your mom will think about that for many years to come.

    • nlaguilera
    • December 19, 2016

    That’s so awesome you were able to surprise her! I just saw my mom for the first time since I started my trip– it had been two and a half years! So, although it wasn’t a surprise it was still memorable!

  8. That is an awesome story. I am sure your family was delighted to be back together again. Being a mother, that would totally make my holiday. Very nice of you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Reply

    Thats too sweet, and sounds like so much fun! Pulling off great surprises like this always makes me feel like a super ninja!

  10. Reply

    What a nice surprise for your mom! It’s awesome you were able to pull it all off undetected. Merry Christmas!

    • Jem
    • December 20, 2016

    Oh that’s so sweet! I love the reaction. I wish I could do the same but my mum has been anticipating for my flight home. Oh wait, I did actually surprise her once, many moons ago. I just showed up in front of the house. It was cool!

    • helena232323
    • December 20, 2016

    I absolutely love this! I did something similar and surprised my parents after three months of travelling and it was magical!

  11. Reply

    This is so so awesome! I would love to do this one year! The giant box is hilarious! I think the delivery would have worked just as well also. Enjoy your holidays!

  12. Reply

    This has to be the best gift a mom could ever get! That was precious reading how it all came about. She will never forget this Christmas!

  13. Reply

    Christmas surprises are the best!! Hope you have a great time together ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Reply

    I think that’s the best gift anyone could ask for! Glad you could pull it off seamlessly! Hope the jet lag wears off though!

  15. Reply

    The photos made me laugh so hard! This is awesome I loved how funny it is! Merry Christmas to you guys ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Reply

    Aww that was such a wonderful surprise! I can imagine her happiness and understand her tears. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nadine Smith
    • December 22, 2016

    This is such a cute story, and I’m sure your family was very, very happy! I can’t get over the fact that you were in a box! So funny!

  17. Reply

    Loved the story…it was so nice of you…and on a side note, you are blessed to be able to sleep on airport, i am not able to sleep anywhere other than bed

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