The Expat Diaries Entry 2- a series of mine featuring diary-like entries that reflect what it is really like growing up as an expat.
I  type h-o-w in my google search browser, prompting a list of purple colored search suggestions to appear on the screen. You aren't exactly taught how to fit in, make new friends, or transition to a new country in a classroom. Growing up, I had to rely on other sources.
It’s a typical Saturday night and the Seattle rain put me in a reading mood. After putting down my current read, I regretfully turn to my laptop and fall down a familiar black hole. My research. I comb over my search history for the hundredth time as if a wiki how thread is somehow going to magically solve my greatest challenges.
I’ve never been good with endings. They are always really hard for me to accept. You wouldn’t think so, given that I’ve experienced so many in my life. While moving brings new beginnings, which always excites me, it comes along with a lot of endings. Moving ends attachments. It replaces them. Attachments to friendships, to places, to routines, to languages, and to cultures while introducing new ones in exchange. I constantly look forward to new experiences, however along with it, I dread the endings that come with these new beginnings.
Many people think that living a nomadic lifestyle trains you to detach from everything. However, for me at least it is quite the opposite. I have learned to value people more and dive into friendships and attachments head first because if I don’t, then who do I have in my life? While it is harder to actually form those attachments to people and places alike, it is not harder for me to become invested in forming them.
Downtown Genoa with my cousin Sam (2012)
My whole childhood consisted of travel- new destinations brought new communities, and new neighbors brought new attachments—but my inevitable yet powerful “investments” into these attachments never necessarily correlated to the strength of the attachment itself. That is, my urgency to form relationships never felt reciprocated.
Take this for example- if two individuals are playing a match against each other and the first player feels like the match will end in 5 minutes, while the second one plans to play for 30 minutes, the first player develops a sense of urgency and feels more pressure to “score” earlier, compared to the second player. As a result, the players never truly share the same objective—they never truly play the same game, all because the first player feels like the game will end sooner for her.
I never felt like I was playing the same drawn-out “game” as my other local peers, which is frustrating no doubt. I constantly felt the pressure of a looming countdown, reminding me how little time I had to adapt to my new environments before they would change again. As soon as I got used to one place and the people in it, I was uprooted to another.
Winning my HS golf tournament in Phoenix, Arizona (2017)
As I’m writing this, I’m the only person in my family in this country, and that scares me. Who do I have left here? I no longer visit Arizona, where I attended high school, making it impossible to maintain those friendships. I moved too many times in middle and elementary school to form any lasting connections at all. So who am I left with? The people I am surrounded by right now. And that is why they are so important to me. They are truly all I have. I’ve always felt like no one really knew me beyond a superficial level, which is what happens when you move every two years or so. I was never granted the time to develop deep and meaningful connections with anyone.
One of my defining personality traits is how much I care about everyone. I’m infamously known for calling everyone my “best friend” and am very vocal about how much I love everyone I meet. I would honestly take a bullet for any of the important people in my life. Maybe it's just my nature, or maybe it's because I’m used to getting close to people very quickly, before I move again. I’m used to constantly meeting people then saying goodbye to them a few years later. Over time, it stings having to leave behind all of the amazing people I meet. It’s exhausting having to constantly start anew, but it comes along with childhood travel. You don't make many lifelong friendships. So you have no choice but to get attached. While people have friendships that have lasted since the first grade, I truly only have the people who are in my life at that given time- my best friends.
This is a noteworthy consequence of childhood travel, but why is it so important? It's not to make this sound like a pity party- rather, it’s because it’s something to consider when making the decision in my life- what’s next? At the moment, I feel as though I am in a noteworthy transitional stage. In the sense that for the very first time, I have full discretion over what I do with myself. Now that I’m on my own, will I choose to stay in one area for the rest of my life, seeking to make up for lost attachments? Or is travel so important to me that this ‘vulnerability’ is more of a necessary evil—where the benefits of travel consistently prove to outweigh the drawbacks?
It’s important to consider this question now because during this ‘transitional phase’, it’s finally time for me to choose. This blog is literally the answer to this question- Nicole Travels. The present tense of the blog name reminds us that travel is not a means to an end—a memory of the past—but rather an ongoing experience that persists even in the light of notable shortcomings. The rest of my writing essentially reflects the answer to this question, and hopefully, it will help others make their own decision one day too.
Fly high, Nicole
UNDERSTANDING THE MIDDLE EAST
The Middle East, in the media, is often presented in a polarizing way, so I’ve turned to film and writing to explore deeper into the subject.