Posted by: mlawrencekey | March 10, 2011

Living as a Global Nomad

I spent most of the first 18 years of my life in Africa. Until I reached high-school age, I lived in a country the size of West Virginia called Togo. After that, I went to boarding school in a country several hundred miles to the west called Côte d’Ivoire. When I graduated, I went to college in Texas for four years, worked for a couple of years after that, and then, when the opportunity first arose, I took a job that sent me back overseas again–this time, to the Middle East. And that’s where I’ve been ever since, working as an ESL instructor and freelance writer.

I’m a global nomad. A wanderer without a place that I think of as home. I embody the saying, “Home is where you hang your hat.” And I’m raising five more little global nomads. Fortunately, my wife and kids also love living globally.

When I was growing up, being a third culture kid (see definition here) was a bit unusual. But the times, they are changing. We elected our first global nomad U.S. president a couple of years ago, and several of the members of his early cabinet were also TCKs, having spent a significant part of their growing up years in other cultures and countries. As our world becomes more and more globalized, more and more kids will grow up or spend significant time in cultures other than their passport countries. Being a global nomad is becoming more normal, which I think is a good thing.

Why?

• Global nomads understand other cultures almost instinctively. They understand how we are all connected and can build bridges. Our world needs more people like this, to build peace and relationships between nations and cultures.

• We’re highly adaptable. You can send us nearly anywhere, and we’ll learn the language and the culture and generally thrive. We’re at home anywhere because we’re not at home anywhere. Paradoxical, I know, but it works.

• Living globally is becoming the new norm. The most competitive people in the next generation will be those for whom living in various countries and across time zones is an integral part of who they are.

I may someday move back to the United States. I’m a citizen, after all, and it isn’t such a bad place to live. But the wanderlust will strike again someday, and off we’ll be again.

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