Few people we’ve met in our travels have the absolute joy for life that we’ve seen in Tom and Elicia Shepard. Instrumental in helping us find our way to jobs and lives in Yeosu, these two were some of our first friends outside of Seoul and continue to inspire us with their adventures. Check out their websites (Life’s A Journee and Klimbing Korean Mountains) and their ever-updated Instagram accounts @lifesajournee_liveit and @klimbingkoreanmountains. We really enjoy these two and following their lives online now that they’ve left Korea. Check out this interview and be sure to check out their websites as well!
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELVES.
I am Elicia and I am married to a crazy awesome man named Tom. Together we are the Shepard’s! We married in August of 2012 in the Dominican Republic and began our life of adventure together. We love all things lake life, outdoors, hiking adventures, and exploring new people/places. Tom is the logic to my spontaneous and I think we balance each other out pretty well.
HOW DID YOUR TRAVELING LIFESTYLE BEGIN?
Originally from the Midwest, USA but seeking much more than just the “American Dream” we started to explore options to an alternative lifestyle. What was important to us was spending quality time together making memories rather than spending money on material things. We felt suffocated by school debt, rent payment, and bills. I lived abroad as a kid (thanks Air Force!!) and then studied abroad in Fiji during college– which only fueled the fire and desire to see the world. Tom had begun traveling parts of Europe for his job & was intrigued by new cultures, places, and food! It was always in the back of our mind to move abroad, but it did seem like a big leap. Leaving jobs, security, and comfort of the USA for the unknown was a bit unnerving- but adventure was calling. I had seen photos on Facebook of a college friend who had taught in Korea and was loving the teaching lifestyle, time to travel, and close proximity to places in Asia. We applied, interviewed, and were accepted to teach in Korea on October 31st, 2012– just two short months after we married!!!
WHAT ARE YOUR OVERALL THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR TIME IN KOREA?
Korea was such a blessing to us in so many ways! The low stress of our jobs allowed us plenty of time together to do the things we love. We were able to do tons of hiking, camping, island hopping, and road trips around Korea to explore the country! Our rent free accommodations allowed for great savings which in turn led us to NO MORE DEBT!! We were even able to save money after paying our debt which is something we had never ever been able to do before- especially in such a short time. We were pushed far outside of our comfort zones in terms of being thrown into a new culture, but we were able to learn and grow as individuals (and as a couple) in ways that I never knew were possible. I feel Korea made us more patient, sensitive to other cultures, and even more flexible with things that life may throw at you! We were able to travel all over Asia to countries I never thought I would see in my lifetime- because thank you 6 weeks paid vacation!!!! All of this AND we met like-minded expats who wanted the same things out of life as us which really made our time in Korea so special.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW IT WAS TIME TO EMBARK ON YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE AND LEAVE KOREA?
We felt like it was time to go when staying another year meant another year away from our families and friends back in Wisconsin/Minnesota! We made it back once in the two years abroad, but it was only for a very short five days. We wanted a summer back in the Midwest to be on the lake to be fishing, boating, having campfires, canoeing, staying up late watching the stars, and taking road trips to spend time with our family. I personally missed teaching in my own classroom since I went to school to be a teacher I was itching to get back into a traditional classroom setting!
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE BACK HOME AFTER TWO YEARS ABROAD?
I think for us being back is going to be different for others since we are getting ready to embark again on another adventure in just a few short weeks. They say that reverse culture shock hits six to eight weeks after being back when life returns to “normal” and when jobs resume again. We are enjoying funtirement the past couple months so we have been pretty care free. Our summer has been jam packed visiting family and friends, road trips, exploring California and soon Colorado, and camping… so we haven’t (and we won’t) really settle back into normal life before we leave again! Being back has been wonderful- so much more than we even thought it would be! We really love a Midwest summer and have been enjoying it to the fullest. Some things have stood out to both of us that we so dearly missed–things like clean CRISP AIR, stunning blue skies, so much open space and vast amounts of GRASS!!!! We have also been indulging on crazy amounts of cheese and delicious Wisconsin craft beer that we so dearly missed.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BEST / MOST MEMORABLE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE.
One moment that stands out to both Tom and I is our trip to Sabah, Malaysia. We accomplished summiting the beautiful and extremely challenging hike up Mt. Kinabalu in a day! Neither Tom nor I were big hikers before moving to Korea and our experience doing so was quite limited. We had to summit before 2pm and most people tackle it in a two day segment. Getting to the top was an incredible feat for us and one I will never forget! It was really something special summiting it together and knowing that when we set our minds to something we really can do it.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU TWO?
In August we are headed to Casablanca, Morocco to teach! We will be teaching at the American Academy of Casablanca where I will teach 1st grade and Tom will be teaching middle school science and math. We are excited to take on a new adventure together on a new continent! Living in Northern Africa will open up doors for us to travel Europe and Africa somewhat accessibly and also for us to try our hand in teaching kiddos with an American curriculum. We are also very excited to be on the American school calendar that will allow for a hefty summer break to travel and see family again. We are ready to work hard and play hard!
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR “SETTLING DOWN” IN THE FUTURE, AND IF SO, WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?
We aren’t quite sure what the future will look like for us at the moment. We love the west coast USA and would really love to settle some roots down there in a few years. We see kiddos in our future, but really loving our time together and our freedom to do as we please. Right now we are just taking it year by year. Morocco will be a whole new adventure for us and once we are there we will better be able to grasp what the next couple years will look like for us. For now, we plan to keep this expat lifestyle rolling and continue the adventure abroad!