Expat Interview With Global Nomads Michael & Karin

Published: 30 Jan at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Ireland
Over 15 years ago Michael & Karin Shepherd sold their home and real estate business near Portland, Oregon, said good bye to family, friends, Rotary Club and all those community connections and flew off to the remote village of Ballydehob, West Cork, Ireland--with a nearly full shipping container to follow. About five years later property problems back home led them to sell their village shop and home above and take a break in the sun of a Greek island. They returned to the island of Paros for a year at a time until 10 years went by and they decided it was time to find someplace permanent. Years later they are still looking while enjoying being global nomads--with no container of household goods and no car, just large suitcases and a few boxes. Micheal blogs at various sites including Paros Paradise (see listing here)

Meet Michael & Karin - US expat in Ireland
Meet Michael & Karin - US expat in Ireland

Here's the interview with Michael...

Where are you originally from?
Aloha, Oregon, USA

In which country and city are you living now?
Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We have been in Ennis for seven months and plan on four more.

Why did you move and what do you do?
We lived in West Cork Ireland years ago and wanted to renew our Ireland connections as a base to continue living in Europe. I publish personalised travel guides based upon our extended stays and travels in several countries. I also market private villa rentals on the Greek island of Paros. I use the term global nomads to describe our current itinerate life style.

Did you bring family with you?
Not as much as I would like! Our children are grown and have families of their own. They have visited us on rare occasion but we try and get back to the US every couple years. So it is just my wife, Karin, and I sharing the world.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
When we first left Oregon for Ireland over 15 years ago our biggest cultural shock was more about urban versus rural than US versus Ireland. Before we had lived in suburbs or inner city. Then we were in a small village and running a local grocery store. Everybody new our every move as we knew theirs. My favourite quote from a local boy returned from Dublin to run the family hotel/pub: "The local busybodies know everything; what they haven't seen or heard they make up."

Parnabinnia:  Karin and Neolithic wedge tomb at Parnabinnia
Parnabinnia: Karin and Neolithic wedge tomb at Parnabinnia
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
This was no problem in a village, now in a larger town like Ennis you have to reach out to people you meet at functions and events. The pub culture is still strong here plus the Irish will start up a conversation any time, any where.

We have found it essential in a rural area to socialize with other expats because the locals are either very conservative farmers or their lives are centered around their families. They are friendly to outsiders but you are not truly one of them until you have married into the family. In urban areas you get to know people with the same interests as you.

Gap of Dunloe:  Gap of Dunloe near Killarney
Gap of Dunloe: Gap of Dunloe near Killarney
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I don't play golf any more so the best thing to do in Ireland is just get out and around. Each local area is distinctive and interesting in its own way. Drive every road; there is beauty around every corner, after corner, after corner.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Showing Ireland off to family and friends when they visit.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
I have found that statistically there is very little difference among the cost of living measurements through out Europe and in comparison with the US. The difference is in the style of life. We try to adapt to the local style and pace and live economically.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The weather! You are never far from the rain even on sunny days. In the winter you need to make every effort to get some sun on your skin--or buy a SAD lamp.

Market:  Our old shop and living quarters in Ballydehob, West Cork
Market: Our old shop and living quarters in Ballydehob, West Cork
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
We have always chosen tourist areas so it is easy for visitors to fall in love with our paradise. We advise them that it is different in the off season and without a vacation attitude. When travelling it is easy to spend money on one-off situations or little luxuries but when living here you have to do the same things day after day after day.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Other than missing family--which is helped by regular video calls--it is putting up with the bureaucracy of large companies and banks, more so than governments, who do not have their automated scripts adaptable to different countries.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Each time we visit Oregon we find it more changed; we fit in less. I especially find the traffic intolerable.

Also lately as we see the news we are increasingly worried about the direction of society; ordinary people appear to live in fear and distrust of their neighbors. Hopefully that is just another mass media distortion.

Fergus:  View from our bedroom window in Ennis
Fergus: View from our bedroom window in Ennis
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Take a trial run.
  2. Attitudes and feelings are more important than budgets.
  3. Just do it. You will regret it, if you don't.
  4. Don't spend too much time and effort trying to be 100% legal, it is vastly over-rated and may be impossible anyway.
  5. Shop local.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I spend most of my time maintaining and marketing web sites including two blogs about Greece and Prague. For 2012 in Ireland, Karin and I write blog-like posts on our Ireland site at http://www.ireland-for-you.com/2012Ireland.htm, Greek island life at http://parosparadise.blogspot.com/ and Prague experiences at http://www.parosparadise.com/CzechMates/.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
From the relevant blog.

Michael blogs at http://parosparadise.blogspot.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Paros Paradise has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Michael, please also drop him a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Calogero Mira wrote 10 years ago:

Good luck to Michael Shepherd and to his wife in Paros and Greece.

Becky Shaw wrote 9 years ago:

Our dream is to live in Ireland 6 months out of the year when my husband retires in 3-5 years. We visited in 2009 & 2010 and just fell in love with the country. My husband was able to get citizenship thru his grandmother who was born and raised in Cookleclure/Dunmanway, County Cork. Look forward to reading more of your blog. By the way we LOVE Poets Corner!!!

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