I left the UK in September of 2014 in pursuit of the nomadic life, 15 months prior to writing this post. It was not easy to take the step to leave the UK, to leave my friends, my family, and most importantly leave the stereotypes and expectations of modern British society. However, I personally felt that the next stage of my life was not destined to take place in an office job in the UK; that there was more to life than building a career dependant on one location.
Since I made that move the predominant comment that I have heard, particularly from those who live and work in their home country, is that I am ‘so lucky’ to be living the nomadic life, abroad in a hot country. I have written this post on behalf of every person who is living the nomadic life, who is sick and tired of hearing how ‘lucky’ they are. Here’s the thing:
We are not ‘lucky’ to be living the nomadic life. We worked hard to get where we are, and we continue to work hard every day.
So please, do not patronise us, do not belittle our nomadic lifestyle by telling us that we are ‘lucky’. The truth is that living abroad is not easy, and it is not the picture that is painted by our social media accounts (whose life actually is?).
We live in limbo. We do not belong at home anymore, and trips back often give us a feeling of bitter sweet remorse, as we walk the streets that hold so many memories, knowing that we can never go back to how we were. However, we also do not belong anywhere else. We are foreigners in every other country, most languages have a word for a foreigner, and it’s rarely used in an affectionate way. We are constantly attempting to learn brand new cultural norms that don’t make sense to us, desperately trying not to offend local people. We live in constant fear of legal encounters, knowing that many authorities would see it as an opportunity to rinse us clean of all our money. For many of us, we are simply considered tourists, living on a visa that restricts us financially and temporally.
The things that used to make us who we are, that used to define us, are also left behind. Sustaining a hobby that is ordinary in our home country can be incredibly hard if it is not normal in our new country: you have to sacrifice this even if you feel that it is part of your personality. Jenny from Square Hippie says “Having hobbies or doing your regular volunteer work is very difficult. I used to volunteer with Greenpeace and was very active in our local group. I still follow along and sign petitions but it’s hard to stay properly active.”
If we are able to make money it is often a fraction of what you are earning back home, and this fact weighs constantly on our minds. It is incredibly hard not to consistently compare our lack of career, our pitiful earnings, with those of our peers back home. We wish every success to our friends as they climb their career ladders, waving from the ground as they ascend into the stars above us. Many of us are chained to our computers, unable to fully enjoy the sunshine beating down outside, whilst knocking back cups of coffee and rushing to meet deadlines for online projects so that we can afford our meals. Personally, I wake up at 4.30am five days a week, and work until 2pm in order to sustain this life. I eat two meals a day and sleep five hours a night due to the conflicting schedule of my boyfriend. I am wholeheartedly unhealthy. We all know that the work we do will never measure up to the social standards and expectations of our home country, and we know that if we continue on our path we will most likely never have a career.
Some of us had a career, and left it for this lifestyle. They live in a fear of potential regret, and have to deal with that every day. Amber from Climb Out of the Cubicle says: “I came from a conservative career path, working for the US government. People believe those are coveted jobs and I was “stupid” for leaving. What about my pension? What about health insurance? What if I can’t ever get back into the government? Why would I want to work so hard? My grandfather even told me that I “make good money for a woman.” People assume I’ll fail/waste money/waste time because I don’t live up to their idea of “normal”.”
Life back home moves on without us. People die, people grow, people break apart, and all that we can do is watch from afar, in our glass bubble, unsure of what to do to help. Some cannot afford to get a flight home in times of peril, so have to grieve and accept change all alone. Friendships slowly drift apart, we become a memory to many back home, ‘that girl that we once knew’. We make new friends, but here people move on even faster than back home, onto pastures new.
Pastures new, new horizons. The most exciting and also most difficult part of living abroad. Finding a new destination is not as simple as throwing a dart at a map of the world. There are a-thousand-and-one considerations. First and foremost: the visa. Can we get one with our passport? How long does it take to process? How long does it give us in the country? Are we able to apply for it from our current country? What currency do we have to use to get it (often $US)? Additionally, we must consider internet connection, as many countries are notorious for having poor connection. Are we able to find somewhere to live, that allow short-term rentals? What is the cost of living? Am I insured?
Every decision that we make has a tint of sheer panic. What happens if it is the wrong decision? We constantly have to make big decisions that affect our lives, and making the wrong one can have a huge impact on our future. We have to be responsible for every single one of our actions, and be prepared to face the consequences.
Don’t consider this a ‘woe is me’ post, consider it an insight into our lives; a snippet of they way we live. Next time you are talking to one of us, think of a better word than ‘lucky’. It takes a serious amount of guts to break away, move away and pursue the nomadic life. We had those guts, and you could too, you just chose to use them in a different way than us. This is a lifestyle choice that has as many complications, considerations, and stressors as a lifestyle back home.