Growing up as a Third Culture Kid, or TCK or Global Nomad, meant constantly adapting and adjusting to new places and new people. After a while I became a chameleon, able to blend in to any background. I learned to hone my power of observation and I would always spend the first few months in a new environment reserved and quiet, watching everybody else.
Once I built up my confidence, I would break out like a phoenix, and my new persona emerged as I reinvented myself for my current surroundings. I was always sad to leave a place and friends behind but I looked forward to becoming something new. It was an adventure, a challenge.
As I grew older and started travelling on my own, I lived in fear of being spotted as a tourist or “foreign”. I researched every new place I went and poured over maps and transportation routes. I could land in most places and know my way around in no time. People would actually stop me on the street and ask for directions, and oftentimes I could direct them!
Then I had a child. It is kind of difficult to blend into any situation with a screaming child in tow. I would cross the Atlantic regularly, flying between Moscow and the USA, and one time I actually became that person you hate who lets her child run wild on an airplane. My son met up with another horrible two year old who was sitting across the isle and they disappeared. Normally I would be concerned and go look for him and make sure he didn’t do anything to bother anybody. But in this case, I just couldn’t move. I pretended it wasn’t happening. I had a blissful 15 or 20 minutes where I imagined I was travelling on my own.
And then I saw the Steward walking up with aisle with a child in his arms asking people who he belonged to. I hesitated for just a second…. Yes I did… but then I came to and reclaimed my child. Ah, yes, my adorable little monster!
Now he is a very tall teenager who follows in my footsteps when it comes to travel. We went to Berlin last summer and he landed in that city like he had lived there forever. He had the public transport mastered and knew his way around.
I was happy to let him be my guide. He was in his element.
I wonder if they will find the TCK gene one day.