The Heart Of A Nomad

I lace up my shoes and I step outside into the (unseasonably) warm late October air. The air still feels a bit humid and the leaves are definitely changing colors into various shades of gold, red, and orange. I begin my run just as the sun is setting behind the mountains that line the ocean near our apartment. I run straight for the ocean as I always do. Seeing the ocean brings me an immediate sense of calm. I’ve never lived this close to the ocean AND the mountains & I truly mean it when I say the sight of them both never tires.

I pass the few local fishermen coming in from a day at the sea. Docking their boat at the makeshift harbor along the sea-walk. I pass the old ladies out on their evening walk, and I glance at the little shanty floating on the water. It’s the same shanty that not long ago two very old and very tiny Koreans sat cross legged as they shelled the clams they had caught out at sea. As I passed them on a run a few weeks ago they both looked up at me and gave me the biggest wide toothed smiled I had ever seen in my life. I waved at them and tears immediately filled my eyes. It was that day that it truly hit me-Korea has become more than just a temporary home for us. It’s the place we have come to fall in love with over and over again. Tonight though, as I pass the shanty on the water floating alone, I see a little old man out on the rocks sitting on his chair fishing. The waves slowly crash ashore as he sits and he waits. I stop running and I step back off the path to watch him. It strikes me that even if I wanted to I probably could only communicate a few words in broken Korean to him- yet I feel so connected. Fishing reminds me of our yearly lake visits as a kid, fishing reminds me of Tom’s dad and his grandfather, fishing reminds me in so many ways of my own dad and my home in Minnesota. I let my mind wander before I snap out of it and jog home. I think back over the week at work hugging a little girl who silently sobbed and spoke in Korean to me when I asked what was wrong. I couldn’t understand a word, but as I sat hugging her I felt SO connected. Connected, without words. If Korea feels so much like home why would we ever leave? Will we ever truly settle? Where will we live next? Will we live abroad when we have kids? Where will they call “home?”

These are all questions that circulate as I make my way home from my jog. I really don’t know the answers. What I do know is that the world is so big. There is so much to see and that both of our hearts are truly those of a nomad. Without doubt there have been struggles during our journey of living abroad, but it’s been during these times that we have not only grown immensely individually, but also in our relationship as a married couple. The heart of a nomad. Planning trips, dreaming of destinations, and imagining endless possibilities. While we have loved Korea and everything that it’s brought us the past 19 months we know that Korea isn’t our forever home. We’ve just about hiked this entire country, we’ve driven around the beautiful countryside, visited countless stunning temples, and ventured out to many of Korea’s islands and beaches. No mater how long we stay there would have always been more to see, more to climb, and more ways to fall in love with Korea. So as the time draws near where our renewal contracts arrive in just two short months we both know that the heart of a nomad can’t be contained and that more adventuring & traveling await us.

 

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How we paid off our DEBT!

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Can you believe October is almost upon us?! I love summer, but fall in Korea is pretty darn spectacular as well. Are you a fan of fall? We’ve been spending as much time as we can outdoors hiking, camping, and most recently biking. As some of you know the beginning of September was a very exciting time for Tom and I. After 18 months we reached a BIG BIG BIG goal of ours.  We became 100% DEBT FREE!!! Lots of our friends messaged us wondering how we did it? What was our secret? Could they do it too? I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. Debating how I wanted to write it exactly. Our goal is not to tell you how you should do it, but rather how/why we did  it ourselves! We understand that the way we did it doesn’t work for everyone. You have to find what works for YOU. I truly believe that anyone can do it & our hope is that if you’re feeling trapped or burdened by financial debt that this gives you HOPE and inspiration to reach your financial goals- whatever those goals may be.

In, May 2012 I graduated with my teaching degree after five years of school. Newly engaged, looking for a job, and soon-to-be married  …money was tight. Tom was working on paying off his car. Rent, bills, gas, groceries. You know the drill. It got to be a lot. We had six months before the school loans required payment (although accruing interest during this time) and a wedding in the Dominican Republic left us with a credit card bill waiting for payment. WHEW! It wasn’t long before we looked a bit closer and realized that I had $42,000 of college debt to be paid.  We decided some changes needed to be made & adventure was calling. We packed our bags and flew across the world to work as teachers in Korea. Living in Korea helped us incredibly to start working on our debt. Our rent was paid, our tickets to Korea were paid for, and bills were low. We make good money here, but our salary is still the same as what a teacher in the states would make per year after taxes are taken out. So while Korea helped jump start on our debt, it isn’t the reason our debt is gone.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Live simply, beneath your means. It is very easy to spend what you have & expand your lifestyle in tandem with expanding your salaries or promotions. It is on the other hand, very difficult to spend significantly less than what you make, even if it means achieving a financial goal like paying off debt. Living beneath our means, to us, meant avoiding traditional materialistic spending habits. Before just about every single purchasing decision whether it was $1.00 or $100 we would think of the product’s use, future, and the purchase’s impact on our lives. We asked ourselves often “Did we NEED it?” or “Did we just WANT it? Did we need to go out for coffee OR could we make it at home a little bit more to cut unnecessary costs?” Living beneath our means to us meant-living simply with less.

2. Make debt a priority. Tom and I always did our budget for the month after first paying our debt. We agreed upon a certain amount (which was as much as we could) to pay debt each month while still having money to do life! We had a set amount that  we paid each month right off the bat. It came out of our paychecks immediately. We made debt our first priority. Doing this still allowed us to travel extensively while paying off debt. It didn’t mean we stopped living or exploring. I truly believe that because we didn’t spend our money first and THEN pay our debt, we were able to stick to making the debt a priority. It was at the top of our list because we knew if we only paid the minimum amount due that interest would continue accruing and we would have never made progress on eliminating the debt! It’s a slippery slope if you don’t make debt your priority.

3. Make a PLAN! We set goals, made a plan, and put it into action. Sounds simple, right? Not always! We really had to change our entire spending mentality. By making a plan together and writing it down we knew we could start achieving. Each time we hit a small goal it felt like a tiny victory! Having someone to hold you accountable for your goals was extremely helpful for us. We didn’t want to let each other down. We were a team working together towards hitting that goal. Adding up our debt and seeing our grand total brought a big knot to my stomach. It was this big knot in my stomach that made me think about every purchase decision. The better you stick to the plan, the debt knots will disappear more quickly.  With each goal we hit (no matter how small) we were further motivated to push for the next goal on our plan.

–One last thing to note is that just because our debt is gone we are both truly committed to continuing ALL of the above that I mentioned. Continuing to live below our means to now SAVE. Making saving a priority for our future. Always having a plan in place to continue hitting goals set by us to SAVE! It truly is a lifestyle choice & we plan to continue traveling & saving along the way!

Have you paid off debt? What are YOUR TIPS?! What works for you?

Our Top 10 Favorite Korean Beaches!

If you know Tom and I…you probably know we absolutely LOVE hiking and we LOVE beaches. I wrote about my love for beaches here and we always try to scope out the best places to set up camp after a long day spent in the mountains. We find ourselves drawn to both mountains and the ocean quite frequently & our time spent in Korea has amplified our love for both. Here’s a complied list of our favorite beaches in Korea SO far.

10. Jangdueng Beach, Yeosu, Jeollanamdo Province. 

This beach is one of our favorites for the main reason that it’s secluded. It’s out in the middle of this teeny TINY Korean village. We love packing food/drinks & camping beneath the trees. To get to this beach you have to go down a large hill and the view from the walk down  is quite stunning. There are quite a few nice beaches in our city of Yeosu, but this one remains quiet and secluded. I also love view of the islands out in the distance from this beach.

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9.Jeongdongjin Beach, Gangnueng, Gangwondo Province.

This one is pretty unique in that the beach holds the world record for ” the closest train station to the sea.” It also has a cruise ship resort high up on the hill that you can see pretty clearly from this beach. Even though we visited it on a dreary day it still makes the list since I know it would be stunning on a sunny day.

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 8.The many beaches of Goheung, Jeollanamdo Province. 

We loved the beaches of Goheung because when we visited they were deserted! I’ve heard in the dog days of summer these places do attract people…but for good reason. Goheung is the next penninsula to the west of us in Yeosu. Tom and I enjoyed exploring this area one very warm winter day in December. Not quite warm enough to swim at 50 degrees, but was fun to explore the area! For sure make a stop at Narodo beach!

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7. Gosapo Beach, Byeonsanbando National Park, Buan, Jeollabukdo Province.

Stunning weather, long white sandy beach, and AMAZING camping made this beach easily place on our list of favorite Korean beaches. The shaded area in the woods made for amazing camping and provided lots of heat from the sun. It’s location was perfect for a long hike the next day in gorgeous Byeonsanbando National Park.

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6. Hwasun Beach, Jeju Island.

What I love most about this beach is the feel of it’s surroundings. We stayed at the cutest hostel on the beach that had such a laid back feel to it. No rush or hustle and bustle. A stop along the biking route brought lots of bikers to this area on Jeju’s southern coast. I love the view of Sangbangsan Mountain in the background.

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5. Gyeongpo Beach, Gangnueng, Gwangwando Province.

This beach is on Korea’s East Coast & was a fun place to relax for a bit. It’s a popular beach so expect LOTS of people. This beach is the longest beach on Korea’s East Coast. We loved the soft white sand and the nice shaded area of pine trees behind it. It’s got a nice location with places to eat and right across from Gyeongpo Lake!

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4. Sangju beach, Namhae, Gyeonsangnamdo Province.

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3. Sinyang Beach- Jeju island’s east coast (just south of Sunrise Peak!)

Sometimes the best discoveries are hidden treasures. This beach was empty…and we weren’t sure if it was even on the map! Beautiful horses just hangin’ at this beach made it extra picturesque!

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2. Biguemdo Island’s Heart Shaped Beach (Hanuneom Beach), Shinan islands, Jeollanamdo Province.

This island can be reached via Mokpo ferry terminal. A car is most definitely needed as no buses run on this island. A heart shaped island in a beautiful hidden cove. Need I say more?

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Bijindo Island Beach, Gyeonsangnamdo Province.

A real slice of paradise. If I had to choose ONE favorite in the whole of Korea from what we’ve seen. This would be it. Bijindo island can be reached by ferry from the coastal city of Tongyeong. The view from the hike on the island is spectacular. It’s remoteness and it’s beautiful, soft, white sand give it the #1 spot for beautiful beaches to relax on in Korea!

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