I grew accustomed to moving at a young age. You could say my parents have “itchy feet”, as staying in one place for long periods of time has never been their strong point. By the time I started third grade, I’d lived in three out of fourteen states on the East Coast. To say the least, I live a relatively nomadic lifestyle. It became a routine for me; packing up, shipping out, and preparing myself to adapt to a completely new environment. I was young then, so I never really viewed moving as a beneficial change. To me, it was being torn away from the place I called “home” at the time. My friends, my house, my school, my life as a whole. Can you blame me? Moving was a huge step for a melodramatic child. But eventually, it turned into something comfortable. By fourth grade, we’d settled down – temporarily. A sleepy town in rural North Carolina molded its way into my heart, becoming my “home base”. I recognized and embraced the fact that I had friends in other states, but in North Carolina, I associated myself with a group that I felt would last forever. It was a new record – six years in one place. I had my beloved town mapped like the back of my hand, created bonds to last a lifetime, and even considered myself “North Carolinian”. Unfortunately for early teenage me, this dream of a consistent home did not last. By the end of my eighth-grade year, the moving routine I’d nearly let go of became all too familiar when my parents announced we’d be moving to the Caribbean.
Picture this: white sandy beaches, crystal clear ocean water, and sunshine almost all year round. Sounds like luxury, right? Well for me, it was misery. By then I was entering the brooding teen phase, so I was beyond unhappy to hear that I’d be leaving everything behind for an unheard of, small island nation. Instead of the typical American high school experience I’d been groomed to anticipate through books and movies, I’d spent two out of four years learning a new curriculum, donned in an intricate uniform in a private international school of only thirty students. For the first year, I resented this new place. But reflecting back on it, I regret taking it for granted. There were things I wouldn’t take the time to appreciate. The simplicity of my new lifestyle, the ability to be so in touch with the nature that surrounded me, the people I’d grown so close with in a mere 12 months, and the sound of the heavy ocean current that reflected the inner conflict I’d encountered when it came time to leave. By the end of my second year in this little sliver of island paradise, I was able to leave with treasured memories and valued experiences I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
You might be wondering where I ended up after leaving the Caribbean. As I’m writing this, it’s slowly approaching a year since we moved to the Middle East, specifically the United Arab Emirates. In all honesty I anticipated this move, however, I’d experienced a lot of anxiety in the process. Since I’m so accustomed to moving, this was pretty unusual for me. It was mainly because I was expecting a huge culture shock, but what I had in mind was far from it. While I’ve encountered a significant language barrier and had to undergo some wardrobe alterations in respect to the country’s modest culture, I was greeted by a diverse, accepting community that made the adjustment very easy for me. These past months in the UAE have been a time of significant learning and growth. I’ve learned to love my unique way of life and open my eyes to how it has impacted me as a person. While I wasn’t aware of it early on, moving has allowed me to develop. My desire to travel and explore is now at its strongest, and my interest in different cultures and language study has strengthened. I can also credit my people skills and open-mindedness to the exposure I’ve received over time.
Fellow nomads and travel bugs, oh the places you’ll go. I encourage you wholeheartedly to be mindful through it all and notice how constant new surroundings will enrich you.
Words by Kayla Sandiford // Photography by Emma Robinson.
© 2017 Reef Magazine