As I approach my one year anniversary of living nomadically, across 9 countries and 65 towns/cities, I’ve been reflecting a lot on questions like:
What were my biggest learnings and reflections?
What are some high/lows or best/hardest parts of my journey?
What were my favorite places?
Were there any difficulties due to cultural differences?
What are ways we can contribute more to social sustainability?
How did I make new connections?
How do I maintain connections with the non-nomads in my life?
How did I manage the logistics (i.e. flight planning, routing, packing)?
Do I have any advice for people?
What are my future plans?
While I think I could write an article on each of those, and I still might, there is one over-arching feeling that brought me to life again as I shared it in conversation with a friend this morning:
How fortunate am I?
‘How fortunate am I to be here, right now, with these people, in this place, doing this thing?’ Most often this thought came when I felt exposed to something that felt completely different than my day-to-day life or concept of reality. It’s in these spaces that we get a taste of something that expands our imagination of what’s possible and we get a little closer to a vision of freedom.
I’ve been in Medellín, Colombia for just over three weeks and we’re sitting around the dining table of a new friend, Andrea, – someone we literally just met the week before. Water flows in a canal just below the apartment and the treetops near the windows make it feel as though we’re in a jungle sanctuary. As we eat cucumber appetizers that her partner, Alex, prepared, two Colombians, two Dutch, a Brit, and I share our insights on fundraising strategies for Andrea’s local foundation. Collectively, we’ve been a part of securing millions of dollars for social causes and we’re hoping to be of some help in this community where we are all currently calling home. As the wine continues to flow, we swap stories of international lives that have converged on this night around a dining room table in Medellín, Colombia.
Who am I? How did I get here?
Now, three weeks into living in Costa Rica, I find myself around another dining table. This time, Don Henry and his family are hosting my friends (Deke and Donna) and me at their coffee farm in the Tarrazu growing region. We sip coffee that he harvested and processed, eat cheese that they made, and ask questions about how his farming practices are different than those of the Starbucks farm we visited last week. As we prepare to go tour his land, Don Henry realizes we won’t all fit into his vehicle and asks if I can drive us in our rented Jeep. I agree and Donna hands me the keys. Don Henry directs me to the entrance of his farm and, as I turn the nose of the Jeep towards said direction, I literally can’t see over the front. Not because I’m short or the front of the Jeep is too long. Because the road drops off that steeply.
I slowly put my foot on the gas, putting faith into Don Henry’s guidance and we drop onto the two grooves just wide enough for our tires. He suggests we put the Jeep into the manual setting so that we can down-shift when going down steep curves instead of burning out our brakes. Mind you, I haven’t driven a manual car since I stalled one out on a hill while test driving it at 15. Nonetheless, I agree with his advice and, like a kid driving a go-kart that can’t go off the rails, I white knuckle that steering wheel to keep the tires following the grooves all the way to our resting point. He is impressed. I stay cool as a cucumber so as not to worry my passengers.
When we make it off that farm with no damage to the car or people, I must say, I’m damn proud of myself. I just drove a rented Jeep in manual through a coffee farm in rural Costa Rica where the mountains were so steep that our front tires literally dropped onto the road. There were no guard rails to prevent us from rolling down said steep mountain if my tires somehow found their way off those rocky grooves – and by rocky, I mean boulders in the road. What an adventure! Mostly, though, I’m in awe of the hospitality of strangers who welcomed us into their home, onto their land, trusted their life in my white-knuckled hands, and spent the day answering our questions as just a few people interested in coffee.
How fortunate are we? What is my life?!
It’s a Friday in May and we are in the desert somewhere outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A group of fellow entrepreneurs and I just finished riding camels in the very baron terrain and are making a pit stop for lunch. As we enter the building, I notice chairs made out of the same coffee sacks that my backpack from Costal uses – circular economy from Colombia to Morocco! The waiter leads us past these beautiful seats and out back where, not a dining table, but a pool awaits us. Yes, a pool in the middle of the desert. No, it isn’t a mirage.
We wade in, cool drinks in hand, and it doesn’t take long for our bodies to move in rhythm with the DJ’s beats overhead. I oscillate between becoming engrossed in conversation with my fast friend, Tarin, and cathartically releasing everything through dance in the middle of the desert. As entrepreneurs, we all carry pressure to close deals, innovate, network, and implement the latest advice. In this moment, we all become human. We flail our arms, jump in circles, swing our hips, and sing to the heavens like no one is watching (or listening). We lean in, lock eyes, and share personal struggles as if telling secrets to our best friend. Sure, we could do this anywhere, but it hits different when there seems to be nothing and no one for miles in any direction. When you’re in the middle of the Moroccan desert, you can just be.
Who am I? How did I get here?
The answer is I’m a woman from Nebraska who decided to take advantage of this stage in life (my home community in transition, lease ending, self-employed, working remotely, childless, without a partner, etc.) to explore my interests – people, travel, coffee, adventure, and social sustainability.
I’m not special. Well, sure, I’m special, but I’m no more deserving of opportunities to explore the world and connect with people who make me re-imagine what ‘home,’ ‘work,’ ‘family,’ ‘community,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ look like. I want more people to find themselves around the dining table of a stranger, forming meaningful connections that expand and inspire their vision for the future. I want more people to experience moments like dancing in deserts and perilous Jeep rides in the mountains that call us to surrender to faith in new friends.
I’m no more deserving of opportunities to explore the world and connect with people who make me re-imagine what ‘home,’ ‘work,’ ‘family,’ ‘community,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ look like.
These adventures aren’t exclusive to people with wealth and fancy connections, but they are certainly more available and accessible to some people than others. I want to be a bridge builder – to create space to consider the who, remove barriers to the what, and demystify the how. I want to facilitate “how fortunate am I?” moments until it is simply an expression of gratitude and not about inequity. I want our collective imagination to expand until freedom looks nothing like we have the capacity to imagine today. What do you imagine is possible?