As the summer settles into fall I am beginning to realize I am redefining home. I have had coffee and pivo with other expats to gain a sense of the road ahead. I’m jarred a bit by the references to a transient life. I’m not sure it’s what I’m looking for. Do I want to take on the mantle of Digital Nomad, an interesting group than comes in and out of Prague or do I want to become one of the expats who perks up when they add up the years in Prague; five, seven, twelve. They smile with a look of still checking this place out, but so far it’s good.
I am struck by how much time I spend pretending to not be an America and how much time I spend pretending America is not considered the greatest nation on Earth. The mix of admiration and resentment I experience in Prague is received with both frustration and agreement. There are things my country dominates in and much to be ashamed of. And, from a distant shore it is easier to see what there is to be proud of.
But, I can’t give up my American digital privileges. I can’t give up American television, watch hours of it through VPNs. I even made sure the VPN said we were in America when I reloaded ITunes. The privileges of being an American push my Blackness to the background. In Prague as a Black woman with dreadlocks I am perceived as interesting, not threatening. I wonder about the experience of the Africans here, is it different? I wonder about the migration history of Africans, many Nigerians, in the Czech Republic. Is it good or bad? All I know is I felt none of the weight of it on my shoulders. And relationships in Europe are largely defined by migration history. How did you get here? Did we invite you? Are you contributing anything beyond crime and difficulty?
Being in a European country as an American, where immigration is a constant news item, I see the issues through a different lens. Here I have no former slaves, or Latino immigrants or Native American victims I feel need to be addressed. Here the history has a migration story of Jews and Gypsies. Like Black people who became African American the dominant culture has a strong resistance to call Gypsies what they have asked to be called, the Roma, and I haven’t met enough Roma to tell if they care. In America the title colored fell hard, but fell, to a stumble of awkward words that often meant the same thing. The emotion behind the title Jew may or may not have changed at all. I will leave that to my Jewish friends to comment. Czechs have rugged opinions of the Germans, Russians and Ukrainians, naturally. And a gentler, yet segregating opinion of Poles and Slovaks. Most, from both sides, seem to understand the delicate history and work around it, when possible.
So, I believe there is room for me here to settle now that the Country’s authorities have granted me time to live for a bit, and so I ask myself how long is enough. What kind of Digital Nomad am I.
Home Is Where TheIs
There are three categories of Digital Nomads. There is the Road Warrior. Six month stints in one location, often based on weather conditions. The Lifestyle Tester, hanging out in an international location looking for the right place to nest. The Lifer who has found a home away from home and is building a brand where they stand. They often eventually marry a local, integrate themselves into local culture, and potentially become citizens.
Several people I’ve met in Prague fit this category. They are working a backpacker trail through Southeast Asia or Europe and drop into Prague to network with the vibrant start-up community and take a minute’s rest from the road. Like Mike and Regina, who’ve come in and out of Prague on several occasions promoting their Courageously Free lifestyle which they explain on their website. Or Colin Wright who allows readers of his blog to vote on his next destination.
I’ve done the Road Warrior. Desperately seeking out internet connections in remote locations. While fun and adventurous, it is not a steady diet that I crave. So, I find myself a Lifestyle Tester. Assessing how long I can spend apart from the people I left a continent away. Will SKYPE and Google Voice be enough to keep me from missing the one’s I love too much to love the one’s I’m with?
Some of the Digital Nomads I have met work for global companies that allow them to live anywhere within reason. They tell stories of storage boxes in their last known location and feeling like everything is an adventure, and no stay is guaranteed for the long-term. There are an important segment, as was pointed out by me when I was befriending an American Expat. “Are you really staying because I get tired of making friends and having them leave?” Makes sense. Hadn’t thought of that, or being that person, but I can get how frustrating that would be. I am one who needs meaningful social interaction. I have been quite busy building up a friendship base and thinking about what is acceptable critical mass to sustain a happy social life.
Olivier is a Lifer. He doesn’t pretend he has plans to return to France. He is determined to make his way here in Prague. As a Brand Creative Lead he has joined the startup movement here in Prague to make something happen in his adopted home. He knows everyone and is known by everyone, a solid part of a community of fellow expats from around the globe.
So what type of Digital Nomad am I? Well, so far a Happy One.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YseJVI1OcZkResources for Digital Nomads
What you wish you knew before moving to Prague