Your life is ridiculous, a friend messaged me after I emailed him from Thailand, en route to Australia, to organise having lunch in London in a few weeks time before I leave for Colombia.
I’ve lived in Ireland, London, Uganda, Oman and quite soon, Colombia. I’ve visited over 25 countries and (once I touch down on Colombian soil) every continent except Antarctica- though I plan on seeing that before I’m 30! #lifegoals.
So it’s fair to say I like to move around.
I always wanted to travel. I can’t pinpoint the orgin of my wanderlust exactly but when I try, I come up with a hazy mix of being raised in a rural Irish village and devouring books and newspapers about what was going on in other places. My sisters subscription to Time magazine surely helped, with it’s articles about West Africa and South America. My Dad’s daily newspaper buying habit too; I remember at 15 almost obsessively following the Israel-Lebanon war during the summer of 2006; We didn’t have Wifi or Sky TV so following international news was about as exciting as it got for me. Some kids did weed to get over the boredom of a countryside teenage-dom instead but I was always a little different!
When I finished school at 17, I didn’t head to Ibiza or Zante, I took off to Belarus for two weeks- Europe’s last dictatorship and arguably it’s least developed country. My family had long been involved with the Chernobyl Children’s Project and I wanted to see the country for myself. I visited the border city of Brest, staying in the Soviet-era tower block home of a family friend. I went to the old Jewish city of Pinsk and spent a week in a small village in the South- my first exposure to getting around on donkey and carts and having to use ‘outside facilities’
I found that visit quite tough but it sparked a desire to travel to more unusual places and see how people lived in different countries.
I had always thought I wanted to be a journalist but when I really thought about it, what actually interested me was the idea of being a foreign correspondent, reporting from places like Rwanda and Lebanon; not actually living somewhere but being ‘based’ in Berlin, Paris or Shanghai.
I wanted the jetsetting, globetrotting glamour of it. Not the hard graft of journalism itself.
I chose to do Human Rights at university instead and then there was no turning back. Studying international laws and conventions, conflicts in other countries and differing cultural norms and practices, I had set myself on an international path.
So now, about to turn 25, I’ve made a pretty good stab at being the jetsetter the teenage me so wanted to be. I didn’t neccessarily intend for the countries I’ve visited or lived in to be quite so different from each other but opportunities arose, or sometimes didn’t arise as planned, and that’s how life happens.
When I went to Uganda in 2011, I was sure it was the beginning of years spend shuttling back and forth between Europe and Africa. At university, I had focused on genocide, conflict and peacekeeping with a particular interest in Africa and the Balkans. I thought that’s where my future lay.
And I did go to Rwanda the following year, and then Kenya and Ethiopia the year after that, and then Zanzibar.
But in the meantime, I took a job in the Middle East and became subsumed by learning more about my new home and it’s intricate geopolitics. Asia was a natural holiday destination from the Arabian Gulf and later, when I’d gone back to Ireland and wasn’t sure what to do next, it was SouthEast Asia that seemed an easy place to explore on a budget while applying for jobs.
Although I enjoyed the three months in Asia, it also made me realise I didn’t necessarily want to stay there. I’d visited six Asian countries in 18 months and though I loved each experience, the main job markets didn’t appeal to me right at that moment. I began applying for jobs in Europe and South America instead and that’s when the Colombia opportunity came up. Life gently and gradually led me away from Africa.
And I still haven’t made it to the Balkans!
People often comment that I’m quite brave to take off but honestly, I found my three month travelling stint much tougher than actually living somewhere. Moving to a place is easier. You find your own apartment, create your own familiar space, make new friends, gradually build a new routine, get to know your neighbours.
Travelling is more difficult. Constantly moving, meeting new people, becoming friends, splitting up and saying farewell, starting all over again. No space of your own, a new bed every few nights, no fridge of your own to stock how you like it.
But the thing about moving places every two years or six months or whatever it may be, is leaving those comfortable spaces you’ve created. I thought I was so ready to leave Muscat after two years but for quite a while after, I missed the city, my friends, my flat and even the hummus from the Turkish deli down the street!
It still didn’t make me want to ‘settle’. I do want to eventually of course. I don’t want to stop travelling but I know after a few years, I won’t want to constantly be moving either. I’d like an apartment or house somewhere, a comfortable base to return to, filled with my art and cookbooks and knickknacks I’ve picked up along the way.
Anyone can be a nomad. Nowadays, with the rise of co-working spaces and ‘digital nomads’ more and more people are travelling and working and living abroad. We’re so ridiculously connected, it’s easier than ever to leave home but remain in touch with everyone. And if you work online, the world is most definitely your oyseter. Globalisation means the world is all high speed wifi and flat whites, so off you go and work in Istanbul or Chiang Mai or Bali or Medellin.
There are always difficulties in being a modern nomad of course but a life lived at home is never smooth either is it?