World nomads have a lot going on behind the scenes. There is a lot that travel blogs and beautiful Instragram travel accounts don’t tell. In our travels I have touched upon one main thing I think people should know. Let me be clear, I love looking at all the Instagram travel accounts, following blogs of world nomad families, and listening to podcasts on world schooling. I’ve obsessively taken this information in over the past year, at a minimum. The crazy thing is in all of that information intake I’ve never heard what I’m about to say, said by others. Maybe because it’s obvious or maybe because people simply want to inspire. I have a few other theories but they’ll make me digress so I won’t go there. So, what’s the big elephant in the room?
Nomadic life isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s freaking HARD!
I feel better now that I said it. Seriously! It’s not that I thought this journey would be easy; not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just one of those things you don’t completely grasp until you’re downright in it. And, let me tell you, we are in it now.
What’s hard about being world nomads?
Language is No Longer Simple.
If you choose to start off in a country where the language isn’t your native language, like we did, there’s an automatic barrier. That’s something obvious but I don’t know if you realize how much easier (or harder) language makes our lives. I’m talking simple things like getting a taxi and telling the driver where you want to go. Checking into the Airbnb in a residential building and having to explain that you’re already on the list of approved guests. Trusting that when you’re in an Uber and the driver is talking on his personal phone he isn’t talking about you. It’s real out here y’all!
The Reality Is Not What You Expect…At First.
Going on a vacation verses being world nomads with no end in sight or the end far in sight requires a different mindset. I have been trying to prepare my son for the mind shift in the months leading up our departure and I thought he got it. We’d check in regularly, discussing his feelings around it, talk about fears and anything else that came up. However, the day after arrival it was a whole new ball game. Fear was dripping all over him; all the excitement from vacations was nonexistent. Every 10 minutes, he made comments about returning to the Airbnb. He wasn’t engaging in the things we were doing and finally, “I want to go home…back to ATLANTA!” Sigh…
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone is the New Norm.
Being put in situations out of your comfort zone every 5 – 10 minutes can be draining and exhausting. I love self-help but I’ve realized a lot of the self-help content states 80% of the same things, simply in different ways. One thing you hear over and over again is “do one thing a day out of your comfort zone” or “do one thing a day that scares you”. Well, how about 20 things a day?! That’s what it’s like dropping into another country and looking to squat for a while. It’s a shock to the system, for real. While I’m sure as a world nomad, you get used to it, the initial “shock” hits you every time.
With all of that said, I’ve had to put some things in place to keep us both going in a positive direction and they truly have been helpful, in this short period of time. I am sharing them in hopes that they may help you one day, too.
Google Translate App is a Life Saver!
If you don’t have the Google Translate app, definitely get it before you depart on your travels. It’s great because it translates many languages but the best feature is the offline capability. You can download the language pack that you need and whether online or offline you have the translation functionalities. I have used Google Translate to translate complete phrases then playing the audio for the person I’m talking to (while trying to purchase a local phone) and I have used it for simple things like understanding a menu item. Don’t leave home without it!
Grace and Understanding.
These two words will take you far in anything but with a child who doesn’t quite grasp the totality of the trip until in the midst of it, these concepts are crucial. No matter what you are in the midst of, taking the time to let your child be heard is so important.
We were in the middle of sight seeing when my son blurted out his desire to go back to Atlanta. Instead of getting upset or succumbing to my selfish desires (because this is our first day as world nomads…it’s supposed to be amazing!), I mustered up grace because if I was feeling “shocked”, I can only imagine how he was feeling. We found a little seat in the shade and talked it out. I heard him. I hugged him. I let him know my feelings (because I have fear and so much discomfort also). We came to an agreement of what would help him adjust. One thing he said is he wants to get his school work done in the mornings just like when we were home. I, honestly, planned to let all that go (with the exception of math and writing) and let our journey be the teacher but at this time he needs the structure. It provides a sense of normal in an abnormal situation so moving forward he will have that time before we head out. I set a time limit on it so we don’t miss the day but this solution works for both of us. Let your kids know you hear them. Take the time to check in, process and find ways to make the transition better for everyone. Extend grace because you will need grace extended to you, at some point.
Make Your Comfort Zone Your Enemy.
Begin to see pushing your comfort zone as your norm instead of staying within it. Let hanging just outside of your comfort zone be what you strive towards so you don’t get jarred every time you’re faced with discomfort. (It will be often.) See it as a challenge and growth. Remember when you were in school and you disliked all the tests? Well, this is a test every day and what is so great about it is you start the day feeling nervous and wondering if you can “do it” and you end every day saying “I did it!” or, at least, “I tried and I learned from it”. Eventually your comfort zone will even become comfortable…ok, ok, maybe just semi-comfortable.
Relax and have grace with yourself. Trust that you know what to do and how to handle yourself (even when you don’t). Challenge yourself to become better through every mini-test. Remember that you’re trying and your child is too. Lower the bar all around. This is grace. I guarantee that, at the end of the day (literally, the end of every day), you will be amazed at yourself and your family. It’s part of the world nomad family initiation!
We did make it through Mexico City and had a great time. Check out my Mexico City Mini-Guide if a trip to Mexico City is in your future!