I was speaking with one of my close friends, and we started talking about being embedded in a location versus being a nomad. I feel it is germane to being a TCK, a minimalist, and/or, a digital nomad. And I am definitely two of the above, and working hard to achieve the third status (digital nomad) on that list.
I am currently not a legal resident anywhere in the world. That is to say, I don't reside in my own country, having only a PO Box there and no other ties, and in the countries in which I do ‘reside’, I am only in any of those countries on a tourist visa. It is just easier that way most of the time. By ‘reside’ I mean having a dwelling of some sort where I maintain ‘stuff’.
Now what do I mean by embedded? I was discussing this with my friend, and we concluded that being embedded means that you have ties to a specific locale that would be very difficult to give up. It could be family, it could be a property, it could be a job, etc.
Now I don't have a job where I live, but I do have connections with businesses there. However, I am not employed at those businesses. I contribute only as a somewhat silent partner. I don't own any property in any country. I rent. And I am quite proud of the fact that even though I have a small number of belongings in the house where I live, such as furniture, TVs, office desk, etc., I don't have any emotional attachment to any of them. If I had to leave, I could pack a couple of bags, and be gone within a few hours.
Now, that is not to say that I live like a refugee, or a transient. Not at all. I live in very nice accommodations, I am very comfortable, I enjoy the place where I live, and I like nice stuff.
However, I don't have irrevocable attachments to the places and things where I live. What is important to me are the people that I know, and the relationships that I have. I have a curious sort of pride that I can pick up and leave and go somewhere else in a matter of hours and be comfortable wherever I end up. And my relationships don’t disappear simply because I move.
And by the way, I am not trying to imply that there is something bad about being embedded versus being a nomad. It is of course, completely up to the reader. It is whatever makes you feel comfortable.
It just so happens that for me, I have found, that being relatively unattached to places or things, makes me quite comfortable. Now, having said that, I have discovered recently, that when I have been gone for a few days, I am in fact happy to get back to the place where I have the most connections. I must say I am not an advocate of living perpetually in hotel rooms. However, I would be perfectly happy renting condos (furnished ones) in two or three different countries and rotating between them throughout the year.
There are some things that I certainly do like, my creature comforts; such as a good mattress, nice sheets, a clean and spacious kitchen, and a nice work space to work in. Other than that, however, I find myself exceedingly undemanding. It used to be, as I moved from country to country, trying to cart my book collection and my media collection of CDs and DVDs around with me (even VHS tapes, which dates me of course), was a huge burden. But today if I have my Kindle application on my iPad, and connection to the Internet, I don't worry about any of that. So, a few clothes, a couple of good bags (I'm a bag-a-holic. I am forever looking for the ultimate travel bags) and with my laptop and collection of phones, chargers, and tablets, I'm ready to go. Right now, my formula is two medium check-in bags (less than 40 kg combined) and a carry on with a laptop bag. Not bad for moving from one country to another if I do say so myself.
Would I ever wish to be embedded someplace? I honestly don't know. I have been alone most of my life. No, I am not a misanthrope, it just has worked out that way. I decided long ago I would rather be alone, than be with somebody simply as an expedient measure for company. I suppose if I was to find a partner in life that really completed me, that would probably change my thinking on this matter. Of course, if I met the right kind of partner, she would probably be very interested in doing the same types of things that I am already doing. So, who knows?
So, embedded, or nomad? Who is to say? I just thought it was an interesting concept to write about, particularly when considering my article being a perpetual observer. Since I have been a nomad to one extent or the other most of my life, that has been a huge contributor to being a perpetual observer. And in fact, as I write, I realize that I have tried to a very large extent most of my adult life, to be a nomad rather than being embedded anywhere. Much of this was due to my upbringing as a TCK. I got so used to moving from country to country, it is difficult for me to think of that as anything else other than being normal.
So, which are you? Maybe I should create a Survey Monkey questionnaire?
As a postscript, I have found that not being resident anywhere can create major difficulties. And the problem is this; most governments and their associated bureaucracies, not to mention financial institutions, utility companies, etc. are not comfortable with someone who is a nomad. They really expect, and desire strongly, that the people they deal with have a permanent residence somewhere in the world. Just for fun, I have, a couple of times, when dealing with a trivial issue, or organization that really doesn't have a lot of importance for me, tried to explain that I am not resident anywhere. It has never gone well. Their systems, thought processes, cultural background, almost anything you might care to name, simply do not like to cope with something like that. And it doesn’t matter what country you are in. They absolutely expect you to be ‘embedded’ someplace.
Think about it. Have you ever seen a government form anywhere that doesn’t have a space for your residence? That has a check box for “Of no fixed abode.”? I think not.