After my high school graduation I never stayed in one place for longer than three years. Different apartments, different cities, different countries. I’ve been a nomad for a long time. But why?
I had a very stable childhood. My parents still live in the same house I grew-up in. We never traveled overseas when I was a kid. But we took trips all over Europe: Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary. We left our home in the middle of the night, tried to get some sleep in the back of the car that was turned into a bed, and asked for the first snack before we had even made it to the Autobahn.
During high school I participated in several exchange programs with schools in France and the United Sates. Sadly, my exchange partners were never a perfect match. I always wondered why my teachers set me up with the strangest kid in the group. But I still had a good time. Falling in love – briefly – with a French boy surely helped.
I also traveled to Australia (I have relatives there) and New Zealand when I was 16. With my little brother in tow and a signed letter in my purse that I was fully responsible for him. My parents trusted me and let us go. And he came with me to the other end of the world. He only threw up a couple of times on the plane, but other than that it was a great trip. I still remember the pizza we ordered at the airport hotel in Sydney before we returned to Germany because I was too afraid to step outside the building.
I returned to Australia after graduating from high school and did work and travel for a couple of months. I couldn’t have done that without my grandparents’ help and support. They gave me the opportunity to explore the other end of the world. Again. While there, I took the Indian-Pacific through the Nullarbor Plain because that trip had always been my Grandpa’s dream. It was the most boring trip ever. But I did it.
Then York, Great Britain, as an ERASMUS student. A beautiful city, but a terrible experience. The weather, the food, the half-naked British girls. I hated it. I made two really good friends though who I am still in touch with. One of them is from the United States.
I visited this American friend several times over the following years, in Minnesota, Mississippi, and California. On top of that my husband, who did a high school year in the US when he was 16, was and still is in contact with his host family. So over the years we visited them (and their kids) wherever they were stationed.
On top of that my research semester at the University of Rhode Island to give my PhD-thesis the final touch. And – full disclosure – to be closer to my husband-to-be. So it was more than obvious that we got married overseas. At Boston City Hall.
I moved several times within my hometown Braunschweig before I made the big move to Munich. A big step, a different life away from family and old friends, a new language (kind of). And I loved it there! It still feels like home to me although there is not much left: no relatives, no apartment or house, most of our friends have moved.
And now finally expat life in the United States. I’m a mother of two kids. One German, one American. So far they only know the American way of life. How will they adapt to life in Germany? I wonder whether these early childhood years will spark a nomad lifestyle similar to mine. Will they be restless? Curious? Always open for new experiences? Always looking for the next adventure? Or will they plant their roots and stay in their comfort zone?
Looking back at this travel list, I ask myself again: what was it exactly that sparked my nomad life? Those exchange programs in high school? My grandparents? My trips to Australia? Or was it my nomad soul mate whom I promised on our wedding day that home is always going to be wherever I am with him?
My answer: All of the above.
What was it that sparked your nomad life? And if you don’t consider yourself being a nomad: What was it that made you choose to stay?