I love to travel. Not just to see new places and try new foods, but to meet with new people and take part of their perspectives, thoughts and stories. By choice, I am a freelancer and have had a flexible work life for the past seven years. I can travel and combine leisure with remote work, and if I so choose be “on the road” 365 days a year. I am also lucky to have a partner who loves to travel as much as I do, with whom I can plan travel itineraries for months, spending evenings reading about a place or watching documentaries and YouTube clips.
We just came back to Europe from a trip to India, where we visited New Delhi and Kerala. Years ago we were neighbors with an Indian family in Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm. This trip we had the chance to meet with them again and experience Kerala through their eyes, as they were also home for the Holidays. Visiting family houses, eating home cooked meals, getting stories told from when they grew up.
One evening we stayed up late talking about life, home and belonging; sitting on a porch up in the mountain region of Kolamavu, overlooking lakes and tea plantations (even though by the end of the evening we were surrounded by pitch black darkness).
We spoke about what it means to come from a place and then move somewhere else. Our friend hasn’t lived in Kerala for over 20 years. We’ve now been out of Sweden for four years. Earlier in my life, my family lived in the US for four years as well, Fredrik’s lived in the UK for five. When you’ve spent almost a third of your life based somewhere else, home becomes many things.
Home is where memories are, where friends live, where you have your family or where you feel that you belong. I feel at home in many places. So for me, travel is not just a leisurely adventure, it’s also reconnecting with a place I’ve been before, or falling in love with a new place that I visit. Appreciating a new place becomes easier when you have friends from there that can show you around and teach you about it.
I recently interview a HR manager at a major industrial company in Sweden, where they today have employees from over fifty countries. She said she thinks it makes them a better company. I remember when I attended Julian Curtis School in Greenwich, CT back in Elementary School. October 24th was the biggest celebration of the year. We had students from fifty countries at the school, and every UN day we had a flag parade celebrating all the different nationalities, followed by a food party where all children and their parents were invited to bring one dish from their home country for everyone else to try.
Already at 10, I had friends from all over the world. Vietnam, Philippines, Colombia, Mexico, Finland and Italy. My best friends Satoko was from Japan. She taught me to fold origami and draw manga. We used to play Pokémon at her house while eating peach candies and seaweed snacks. We later lost contact but reconnected fifteen years later when me and Fredrik moved to Tokyo, thanks to Facebook. She came to the grocery store closest to our house to help guide us through the aisles of local foods, and she showed us some wonderful izakayas around Tokyo.
I think travel and experiencing new places means a lot for the person that travels. But I also believe it makes a big impact to have people from many different backgrounds work and grow together; at school, in the office and also in our free time.
Today, we live in a global world and digitization is making it more united by the day. Many companies look to target global markets. That requires learning the local perspective and adapting to it; either by welcoming employees or consultants from different countries, or by allowing employees to work remotely to learn from different places. It requires welcoming different people as a part of a project of company to maximize the result and the profit.
We don’t all have to be digital nomads, but we should all start looking more at the benefits of learning from each other. By traveling, or getting to know people that travel or that move; either by choice or because they are forced to do so.
Personally, I had a goal of visiting 50 countries before I turned 30; a milestone I reached last year. I am fortunate to have had this opportunity as I believe it has had a huge impact on me as a person. At the same time I’ve met many people that have never left their home countries but still gained a global perspective by getting to know people from other countries.
In one months time we move back to Stockholm, after having spent four years abroad in Japan and the UK. Stockholm is a diverse city today, and I hope that it sees the power of this diversity. I plan to welcome friends visiting from other countries; already I know one person from Japan and two people from the UK have trips planned to come and see us. I also plan to take the time to get to know new people that have moved to the city, just as locals have taken the time to get to know me in Tokyo and London. I am looking forward to it.