Embarking on a Global Journey: Insights from Living Across Seven Countries in the Last Decade
Today marks exactly 10 years since I embarked on what would become the most transformative journey of my life. A decade ago, I left the comforts of my home, filled with a blend of excitement and apprehension, not fully grasping the profound changes this adventure would bring.
This journey wasn’t just about traversing seven countries, but about a profound change in worldview, values, and identity. As I stand at this decade-long milestone, I am excited to share these perspectives with fellow nomads, migrants, friends, family, colleagues and anyone with a taste for global consciousness.
This narrative is deeply personal, capturing my own experiences and reflections. It’s not a declaration of universal truths but rather my individual perspective. I share it in the hopes that some may find resonance, perhaps recognizing their own global-thinking sentiments articulated here, while others might gain insights into a worldview shaped by extensive cultural immersions.
The Depth of Being a Global Citizen
To the uninitiated, globe-trotting might seem synonymous with being a tourist. However, there’s a world of difference between skimming the surface and diving deep into a culture. Unlike the fleeting experiences of a tourist or the transition of a one-time migrant, the journey of a global citizen involves a continuous process of immersion and adaptation. It’s not just about visiting places but integrating oneself into the heartbeat of various societies.
In the last decade, my journey took me through the vibrant streets of Latin America, the bustling hubs of North America, the scenic coastlines of Australia, the historic landscapes of the UK, and the intricate tapestries of Western Europe. With each destination, there came profound shifts in my perceptions and beliefs. These experiences left me humbled, making me realize the vastness of what’s yet to be learned.
Linguistic Evolution: A Bridge to Deeper Connections
Language, in many ways, mirrors our life journey. Before setting off on my global adventure, my speech was a strong Australian accent, one that was instantly recognizable and, ironically, occasionally challenging for many non-English first-language speakers to understand.
Fast forward to today, my accent has undergone a change as profound as my experiences. It has mellowed into such a neutral tone that even fellow Australians find it hard to trace. This conscious transformation came from a desire to foster clearer communication, especially with individuals for whom English isn’t their native tongue. This linguistic metamorphosis signifies not just adaptability but also the deep connections I’ve sought to establish across different cultures.
Unraveling the Intricacies of Humanity: We Are All Very Different
Diverse relationships and countless interactions across different cultures illuminated the different shades of human values and behaviours. From food-centric gatherings in Mexico to the hustle and bustle of the capital of England and the linguistic quirks of different regions, it became evident how deeply cultural, linguistic, and political boundaries shape our values. While these differences are glaring, there’s an underlying thread of shared challenges and aspirations that binds us all.
While Australia, with its azure beaches and friendly locales, will always be my country of origin and very special to me, my experiences abroad have distanced me from a normalized nationalistic perspective. I’ve come to understand that the essence of life isn’t tied to a singular ‘best’ place but lies in making the best of wherever you are.
Challenging and Redefining ‘Normal’
Navigating through diverse cultures, one theme became starkly evident: the concept of “normal” is relative and deeply entrenched in societal constructs. Growing up in Australia, my understanding of “common sense” was defined by a specific set of cultural norms. As I expanded my horizons, this definition began to shift, shrinking to a core that’s more universally applicable.
Take the simple act of having breakfast. Presenting a Dutchwoman with a plate of chilis and corn tortillas, or offering a Mexican a bowl of cereal, quickly highlights divergent cultural norms. What seems ‘obvious’ or ‘normal’ in one culture might seem bewildering or outlandish in another. Beyond food, even perceptions about professional success or interpersonal interactions vary drastically. Questions like “What defines good work?” or “How should I approach a stranger?” evoke different responses in different cultures.
Yet, beneath these differences, I’ve discerned a universal layer of emotions and reasoning.
Across cultures, emotions like love, fear, joy, and sadness are universal.
Likewise, there’s a shared foundational logic governing our decisions, rooted in basic economics and survival. And, while societal norms differ, certain ethical principles are almost universally accepted, like the belief that taking a life without consent is wrong. Stripped of cultural nuances, this is what I now perceive as ‘normal’ — a smaller, more elemental set of shared human values and responses.
This journey of redefining ‘normal’ has been both liberating and challenging. While it has provided me with a richer, more global perspective, making me more tolerant and open-minded, it also places me at odds with my surroundings. My recalibrated ‘normal’ often clashes with prevailing cultural norms. For instance, humour, rooted in specific cultural contexts, often doesn’t resonate with me. And, common societal expectations, which might now seem alien to me due to my widened worldview, can lead to friction in daily interactions.
Conversations become exercises in cultural translation. I’ve learned to approach humour with caution, understanding its culturally specific nature. Misunderstanding a serious statement as a joke, or vice versa, risks offence. This cautious approach sometimes paints me as more solemn than I genuinely am, overshadowing my playful side.
This evolved understanding has also influenced my professional trajectory. Working in decentralized technology, digital identity and governance systems, I aim to reduce the friction caused by political and cultural boundaries. My global citizen’s perspective, combined with technical expertise, drives me to shape innovative solutions for an interconnected world.
A World Interconnected Yet Divided
In a world where global events affect local dynamics, the phrase “Think global, act local” has become more relevant than ever. However, while this mantra sounds harmonious, its application is fraught with challenges. Interacting with someone from a different cultural background isn’t just about language barriers; it’s about decoding a whole set of beliefs, behaviours, and norms that might be alien.
Despite the world shrinking digitally, many still think and operate within a local framework. This localized perspective often leads to misunderstandings, especially when it intersects with another culture.
The global challenges we face, from environmental crises to socio-economic disparities, require coordinated solutions. As our planet becomes more interconnected, there’s a pressing need for shared efforts and collective action. Being a global citizen, I’m passionate about contributing to this shared vision, ensuring a harmonious future for all, which is aided by a better understanding of cross-cultural nuances and a global perspective.
Discontent with the “System”: Echoes of a Global Need for Effective Governance
Navigating through diverse landscapes, from the vibrant streets of Latin America to the bustling hubs of North America and the historical backdrops of Europe, a ubiquitous sentiment stood out: an broad discontent with the “system.”
While the specific nature of the discontent varied — from bureaucracy’s weight to socio-economic disparities — it always pointed towards a deep-seated disillusionment. The prevailing systems, whether local or global, often felt inadequate, unresponsive, and sometimes, even obsolete. This was not just about local government institutions, but about larger systems of governance and self-management that span communities, regions, and nations.
In Western Europe, where protestors clamoured for transparency, the call was as much about global accountability as it was about local policies. In Latin America, discussions on socio-economic reforms were framed within a global context of trade, economics, and interconnected markets. North America’s debates on environmental policies reflected not just national concerns but global ecological imperatives.
This collective discontent points to an underlying and profound realization: we’re in dire need of effective governance. Not just within our borders, but on an international scale. While globalism has brought nations closer, it has paradoxically also highlighted the absence of robust systems that allow humanity to navigate shared challenges collectively.
But this global oversight is merely one part of the puzzle. Closer to home, the same discontent echoes — a feeling that national governance, too, is faltering. This isn’t just about governments in the traditional sense but about a broader idea of governance, encompassing systems and structures allowing communities to scale and manage themselves effectively.
These insights, combined with my deep immersion in international cultures, led me to a concerning observation. As our world becomes ever more interconnected, we lack the trusted and effective global governance mechanisms to steer it. This realization isn’t just an academic observation; it’s a pressing challenge, one that demands attention, innovation, and collaborative action.
Adapting, Evolving, and Moving Forward
The relocations throughout this decade have deeply instilled adaptability into my core. This journey has been a whirlwind of learning and unlearning — redefining notions of community, trust, and individualism.
Each cultural immersion has been like stepping into a new world with its own unique rhythms, perspectives, and norms. In this process, while I’ve gained immense insights, there have also been certain losses.
While this adaptability has empowered me in many spheres, ensuring my survival and growth in diverse settings, it also poses its own set of challenges, particularly in preserving a consistent core identity amid the ever-changing landscapes.
Final Thoughts: The Road Ahead
This narrative, deeply personal, is an ode to global citizenship. While concerns about our world’s future often cloud my thoughts, I believe that with shared efforts, we can navigate the challenges and build a brighter future.
This blog’s journey started in April 2021. I meticulously penned down my experiences, ensuring my perspectives on the page aligned with my enduring life views. Before finalizing, I sought feedback from friends and refined the narrative based on their invaluable insights, enhancing its readability. For those curious about the original iteration, you can find it here.
I recognize the unique privilege I’ve been afforded to travel the world in the manner I have, and I’m deeply grateful for these unparalleled experiences that not everyone has the opportunity to undertake.