As I write this, I am smiling as I realize I am kind of doing my digital nomad thing already. A cool thought. I’m in Singapore, getting ready to go to the airport, typing away happily on my laptop, and enjoying a cup of coffee. Now Singapore is one of my favorite cities in the world. But Singapore is an extremely easy city to deal with as a visitor and it reminded me of something that I journaled to myself a few weeks ago about being embedded versus being a nomad.
I was on my way to Bangkok, and I had a very enjoyable conversation on the plane with a Thai gentleman by the name of two (I think that is spelled Tu but pronounced like the number two). And he reminded me of something that is absolutely true. And this is about the CURVE (my term not his).
Visitors come to a foreign place and usually they go through a curve. In the beginning, they are wildly enthusiastic about the place the people and customs. “How marvelous!” “Oh that is charming!” “Oh I’d love to live here! “The people are so quaint!” … And then they leave … illusions “charmingly” intact ☺.
People that come to someplace to stay to live, work, or both have the same thing happen, but they don't leave. And this is where the CURVE shows itself. Because after the initial enthusiasm of the “The Peak”, you start to get less enthusiastic … then slowly comes the valley. You start to find things that are really annoying, frustrating, "not like where you came from", etc. And from being at a peak, you slowly slide down into the slough of despair.
Hopefully, after having stayed in the place a while, one can come back to some sort of equilibrium. Hopefully better than neutral. After all, you are in another country, doing something exciting that many people may never have a chance to do. Enjoy that. But one must be able to understand that one will never be able to change an entire country and its culture. If you cannot be adaptable and you cannot be flexible, then I would suggest you should restrict yourself to only visiting places, not trying to live there.
The keys, I believe, are, and it bears repeating multiple times, understanding, tolerance, flexibility, and patience. If you have these traits, and keep them in mind when you are living in a new location, I believe you will benefit extraordinarily. Every place in the world has its problems. I don't care if it is the most advanced first world country you can imagine … there will be issues that “are not like where you are from”.
But why concentrate on the negative aspects? Usually, you can always find positive aspects about where you are. If not, I would suggest you probably have no business being there anyway. But, given that the reader to one extent or the other, probably had some control over being where they are, it is wise not to allow any location to get to you. So, look at every place that you stay from the point of what is positive about the place. Even if you have no choice, look at it that way. Much better in the long run.
As for the key traits … approach life with understanding and tolerance. If you don't understand … try to find out. Patience will help you get by anywhere. And it would be hard to understate the importance of being flexible. Rarely have I had anything go exactly as planned. It is nice when it happens, but I don’t let my happiness depend on everything going right.
I am, to be clear, approaching this topic from my particular viewpoint. That is, I would consider myself generally first world oriented, i.e. I have certain expectations in terms of infrastructure, process, and social interactions that are common to the Western world. When I say the Western world, I am predominately talking about North America and Western Europe. However, because of my extensive upbringing in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, I of course incorporate a significant component of my cultural makeup from those countries as well. Perhaps that is what allows me to be more flexible and tolerant. If you have knocked about the world a bit, you too probably have these traits to one extent or the other. But if you've never been to another country before and are thinking of moving for whatever reason … I would highly suggest you think about these key traits before you decide to go to live somewhere new to you.
Something worth adding I think. I find that the most helpful thing in almost any country, regardless of first, second, or third world, is to network. I know that that “networking” is a hackneyed phrase, however, it is true nonetheless. Especially true I would say in places like Asia and Africa and South America. But true to some degree or the other anywhere in the world. And if you have contacts, they can help you deal with the local idiosyncrasies. In places like Asia I have local contacts. I have people that when I need to deal with government bureaucracies, or perhaps business introductions they are there to help smooth the way. They are invaluable. I wouldn’t want to live in these places without them. It doesn’t mean you can’t get by on your own. You can, of course. But, why make things more difficult for yourself than you have to? Of course, don’t beat these contacts to death either. Do what you can on your own. But it can be helpful if you get to a real sticking point to have someone you can turn to for assistance.