“Wealth is now defined, at least in part, by the ability to be offline whenever you want” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Travel
June 3, 2008

10+5+2= Change?

Two years ago today we left Delhi and arrived in Hong Kong to start a new chapter of our life. Five years ago, on the same date, we left London for Delhi, with a mix of anticipation, excitement and not a little sorrow. Ten years ago, at this time of year we were living in […]

Two years ago today we left Delhi and arrived in Hong Kong to start a new chapter of our life. Five years ago, on the same date, we left London for Delhi, with a mix of anticipation, excitement and not a little sorrow. Ten years ago, at this time of year we were living in Sydney, remodelling our newly bought home, pondering a possible move away from our childhood home and having only the slightest inkling of what the future held and what being a global nomad might be.

What amazes me at each of these transitions is how radically my patterns of life have changed. Not so much the everyday things, I still love to read, to cook, to find good places to eat and drink coffee. Rather, it’s the bigger things. I was a pastor, then a chaplain; lecturer, then student; I traded the Gym for the golf course and now I do neither. I almost gave up playing guitar and now it consumes almost every spare moment.

This year has been teaching me how tired my stories have become, especially those I tell about myself. I was a pastor, but I’m not now. What does that mean? I don’t know. I was an academic, but I’m not now. I don’t know what that means either. I’m a musician now (of a sort), but will that hold the next time we move? I don’t know. Perhaps I could go back to any of these – or not. In all humility, I’ve done a decent job at all three, but not for very long.

And, therein lies the problem. Being a global nomad is an amazing experience, but it’s tough to anchor your identity, or vocation in this life – especially if you are the trailing spouse. It’s even harder if you are a male trailing spouse. For the past three years I’ve worked to get around this by building an identity that is portable – writer and musician – yet still aligned with what I understand to be my calling in life.

That sounds great in abstraction, but the reality is that where you work matters a great deal to how you work. Even a portable and modular career needs space, networks, support and inspiration to thrive. You can’t find those anywhere and sometimes it’s hard not to jealous of those who live in places where they are more abundant.

Responses
Shane 12 years ago

Hey Fernando,

Poignant post. Thanks. I can relate to some of what you said, having moved around a good bit over the past twenty years. Our moves have not usually been to places that were so completely different from the previous place, but the effect is similar.

I’m curious what work your wife does that takes you from London to Delhi to Hong Kong. I also wonder if you trace the arc, where the next stop might be!

When we think about dear friends scattered right around the globe, we fantasize about heaven. At least some of the things CS Lewis says about being free of time and hanging out with whoever you want whenever you want.

Our most recent move and role shift has landed us back where I grew up. The role is with a local church and therefore is pretty much geographically limited. It’s first time that what I do is significantly linked to where I do it. That feels sort of strange, but good for the reasons you mention above.

Keep writing interesting stuff.

Shane

Steve 12 years ago

Interesting post, Fern. I think that any lifestyle we choose will have its plusses and minuses. I think a key, of course, is being open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, but i also think our choices bring us where we go.

I’ve lived in the Denver, Colorado, USA area for most of my life and foir a variety of reasons have chosen to stay – even leaving a position at a large multi-national in the auto industry because the next step on the career path involved a relocation. Having a split family is a huge consideration in making a move. Here’s some of the things I like about staying put:
– I couldn’t take my son aways from his mother.
– I love our little church and being heavily involved long-term.
– I love being part of the same group of musicians in the that church for going on 10 years now
– My wife has no desire to move – though it’d probably do her more good than I.

However, I’ve often wanted to experience living in a different place and different country. I even took several years of French in school thinking I’d like to live there one day. Spending a couple of weeks in northern France cured me of that particular longing, but I still wonder what It’d be like to live elsewhere for awhile.

I like to think I’m open to God’s lead in this area- but sometimes I doubt if I *really* am.

Mike 12 years ago

Fern,

I envy you, bro. Not the travelling and the apparent lack of roots you seem to be feeling. I envy you ability to do that, though, to pick up and go, and take what the world gives you.

I’ve lived in the Northeast or the US all my life. I’ve done a bit of travelling, and have found very few places that I could imagine myself living. I hate the thought of living in the country, but could easily live in the desert. I like being near the hustle-and-flow between New York and Boston, but could pack up and move to Central America if the opportunity came.

But that’s all talk for me, for now. My wife has been wanting to go south for years; I have no desire to leave where I am. But by staying in one place, I could easily see myself stagnating.

The great thing about the world today is that our roots can grow longer and deeper than ever before. I can still be in touch with people who live across the country – or the world – and I am. The world is a much smaller place today.

Don’t get bound down in looking for an identity, or a legacy. God puts is in the right place at the right time, if we let Him. Did Paul have roots? Often he expressed regrets at not being able to be at a particular place at a particular time. He wanted to be in Rome, but God took him elsewhere. But still, he considered it gain for the Gospel’s sake.

Look at your experiences not in terms of your legacy, or who you seem to others, but to who you are to yourself, and the One who made you. You have made the most out of an interesting life, have strived to do things well, and seek to edify others with your experience. Your stories are tired to you, because you hear them all the time. When I teach or preach to young people, part of me says “That’s old hat!” But the other part says “Not to them!”

To me, you make the most of your situation and experiences. Good job, Bro…

Duncan McFadzean 12 years ago

Fernando, I really like the new format for the blog, pretty unique in my experience.

I’ve not lived many places, did a decade in London but then came back to Scotland. Even London felt like a foreign country, where Scots were known as Sweaties (sweaty sock = jock = scot) which was wierd to get used to. I think part of the anchoring is your attitude to change and what you find security in. I love change, my wife doesn’t, and so we have different perspectives on moving around.

Toni 12 years ago

Duncan – I grew up in London, but never heard ‘sweaty’ before. Cultural drift.

Fern – maybe part of the issue is that you’re identifying yourself (as many do) by what you do, rather than who you are. I’m in a slightly curious place, in that I’m being identified by a certain group of people by what I do rather than just who I am, which is unusual for me. One of the things I like about web forums is that it’s possible to just say things, and provided there is no background info, people can take what I say at face value.

I guess this is also why I hate with a passion people being called ‘pastor whatever’. It makes statements about who they are expected to be, and frequently does not reflect their character – think of who is called ‘pastor …….’ on CMF who is patently not pastoral.

It will be interesting to see how you grow and progress. What shapes the real Fernando takes on as a result of this and what it produces outwardly from you in terms of serving God.

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