We were contacted a few months ago by a friend of a friend. She introduced us to her conference series for digital nomads, called 7in7. The concept is to have 7 conferences, in 7 years, on 7 continents. The conferences aim to provide support and resources for digital nomads, mainly women.
The 7in7 conference for 2018 was held in Medellin, exactly where we are! The organizer explained her idea for a “Generations Panel” where she would interview digital nomads at different ages and different stages in life. She asked if our teenager, Haley, would be interested in representing the younger side of life as a digital nomad. Haley said yes!
Haley is not a huge fan of public speaking so we gathered up our communal-living resources and the four adults living on this floor worked with Haley on her answers and public speaking skills. We were lucky to have Scott on the prep team, as his job at [major technology company] involves coaching people on being presenters. Dan, with his acting background, also had a lot to add. Jamie and I…. well we are moms so we always know what to say.
The following are Haley’s answers to the questions, transcribed during one of the practice sessions. At the end you can see the video of the actual panel. Although the actual questions ended up being different, we felt our blog audience would enjoy reading and watching both. Spoiler alert: the audience LOVED Haley. She did an amazing job. You’re really going to want to watch this video. Signed, Proud Mama.
Q: Loneliness is a pervasive and often unaddressed problem across much of the location independent community. What are your experiences? How have you dealt with it?
Haley: My family and I communicate a lot, and when we feel like we are not getting the community that we need or we don’t have enough social time, then we say “why don’t we go to this place instead, where we will have a better time?”. For example, last year we were fast traveling a lot and I didn’t have a lot of friends and I did feel fairly lonely. So I said “hey there’s going to be a retreat with a bunch of people my age in November. Why don’t we go to Thailand and why don’t I go on that retreat?” And we went to Thailand 3 months later. So we just communicate very well about how we are feeling socially. And right now we are in Colombia so my little sister can go to school and she has a lot friends.
Q: I know a lot of our audience is considering starting their own families, if they haven’t already started having kids. Haley, what are you grateful for about being raised as a digital nomad, and what do you find difficult?
Haley: I am really grateful for the amount of experiences that I’ve had, such as going to Dubai, and swimming with whale sharks in Mexico, and visiting one of the largest waterfalls in the world in Zimbabwe. I am definitely grateful for the experiences that I’ve been given that my friends back in the states likely have not. I am also incredibly grateful for the language skills that I’ve learned on the road, as I am now nearly-fluent in Spanish after studying it for about 4 years. And studying Thai in Thailand. I don’t remember too much but it was a good experience. I am grateful for the life skills that I learned while on the road. Travel days are extremely difficult and you have to learn how to make things work when they really don’t.
One thing that I’ve found difficult while on the road is that I don’t tend to have consistent personal space. Wherever we go we try to get me my own room in our small apartments and we do our best to give me and my sister personal space. But it’s difficult not having a consistent room that I can decorate, and not having a pet. Which is something that you would normally get as a teenager.
Q: The daughter of another panelist did NOT like nomad life and asked her mom to move back home. Have you ever thought about telling your parents you didn’t like something about your family’s lifestyle?
Haley: I have told them what I don’t like about our lifestyle but I’ve never specifically asked to go home. Which is mostly because I don’t find the need to. Wherever we go, if I don’t like the country we are in or if I don’t like the situation we are in, I can say “Hey I’d rather go to this country and do this” and soon enough we’re there, and it’s a better situation. So rather than asking them to give up and go home I say “let’s try this instead“.
Q: How have other kids reacted to your lifestyle?
Haley: I find my peers’ reactions to my lifestyle very interesting. Not sure exactly how to describe it but I’ll give you an example. In June I went back to visit my cousin in the states and we went to one of her friend’s birthday parties. We got there and she introduced me as the cousin who has been traveling the past 4 years and I think they assumed that we didn’t have anything in common and then didn’t try to find anything in common with me. They just weren’t very interested in trying to be my friend at all. So after about 20 minutes of just hanging out and being ignored by everyone, I wandered into the kitchen where the adults were. They immediately started asking me questions about my lifestyle and they were super interested in what I had to say. They were so fascinated by the lifestyle. It was such a difference and such a contrast between the people my age and the adults who were actually attentive.
Whereas with other kids that have been Worldschooling, when I meet them it’s immediately like, “Where have you been, what have you done, what languages do you speak, where are you from…?”. We immediately hit it off with all the friends and experiences we have in common.
Q: What advice would you give young nomads?
Haley: I have two pieces of advice. One for the parents and one for the kids. Parents, I really recommend you listen to your kids’ wishes. It is important to parent them, but you also have to consider that this is a very difficult lifestyle, especially to some. And if your kid says they want to go somewhere or do something, try it. Just try it.
And for the kids I would say, just try to go all-in. Because last year my family and I went to tons of countries and half the time I wanted to be in my room. I didn’t really want to be out experiencing the world. And I kind of regret that now. I wish I had been more attentive and I wish I had taken advantage of the life that I was given in those countries.
Q: What is one of your favorite and least favorite countries?
Haley: Probably my favorite country outside of my home country is the Netherlands because I had a really great experience there. I love the food, I love the culture and we lived just 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam in a tiny little town. Anywhere you looked in that town there were huge fields, it was green everywhere and you could hop on the train and get right in the center of Amsterdam. It was a perfect situation for me because I don’t like living in cities but I enjoy visiting cities.
And one of my least favorite countries was probably Panama. It partly had to do with it being our first country that we visited. I was very new to the whole traveling thing. I didn’t know any Spanish so I didn’t have any friends. We lived in a very small town, it was super hot, super boring, 5 MB of internet, and I was stuck there for a long time. It was not a good situation for me. It was a great experience but I hated it. And my parents recognized that and we moved to Mexico next, which is another one of my favorite countries.
Q: How has your education been while traveling this whole time?
Haley: For about a year I have been doing something called unschooling where I lead my own education. Before
Q: How has your experience being a teenager been different than your sister’s who is younger?
Haley: That’s difficult to answer because my sister and I are very very different, like polar opposites. She is extremely extroverted and the life of the party and I am quite introverted and therefore don’t need as much social time or a community as she does. But we travel to places that are differently beneficial for us and we kind of go back and forth between beneficial for her vs beneficial for me. We are going to school now, not to take tests or graduate but to have a classroom and have friends. Next I hope to go somewhere to get my dive certification, which is something I want to do.
Q: Haley, can I follow you on social media? I’d love to see what you’re like in 5 years.
Haley: Yes, my family writes a travel blog. When I say “my family” I mean “my mom”. It was originally called Panamá Pause because we wanted to be in Panamá for two years and then go back to our life in the USA. But then when we left Panamá and it wasn’t to go back to the states, we decided “let’s just travel”.
While we waited to get the copy of the video of the panel, Haley has followed her plan and on December 18, 2018, she took her last GED test and passed it. She is now done with “high school” (or at least checked a box that society tells us we need to check). We are thrilled for her to have the opportunity to explore her own interests and continue her education in the way that she feels best suits her, at an earlier age than most. Next steps? Haley will probably dip her toe into the water of online college courses, specifically in the biology field. We’ll be traveling a lot in 2019 so taking one or two classes at a time will probably be plenty. All of us will also be literally dipping our toes into the water of the ocean, as our next country will be an island. More on that later!
This is not just a proud mom speaking, the entire audience seriously loved Haley. If you have some time, take a moment and watch the video so you can see why we are so proud.