I am a local. I am multi-local: I am or have been a local of London, Lahore, Dacca, New Delhi, Kuwait City, Dhahran, Manila, Bangkok, Pattaya, Tokyo, Salt Lake City, Evanston (Wyoming), Istanbul, Saigon, Hong Kong, Toronto, Freetown, Addis Ababa and Singapore. It seems like a lot but it's kind of a blur.
My family is almost non-existent. My parents are long dead and I have no contact to speak of with any relatives. I am 55. We traveled so frequently when I was a child that I only have dim memories of any rituals that my family and I developed. Although to be frank, my parents were both alcoholics, and I grew up for all intents and purposes as an only child, so I may be blocking out a lot of stuff!
I learned most of my current rituals on my own: coffee, working out, writing (although that is new) and meditation (new also). I rise early every day at about 4am. I treasure the dark and the quiet of the early morning. I was married once and have a son, but I've been divorced for almost 30 years. I've been alone a long time. Moving from country to country every couple of years made it easy. And I have slowly found acceptance and contentment in being alone. Reading and learning are still my anchors in life. I live in a place where I have slowly been feeling strangled.
I am torn about the ritual of knowing what is going on in the world. I believe one has a responsibility to be aware of current affairs and issues, but the constant barrage of terrible news is hard to take. I equivocate by looking at Flipboard. It gives me highlights, but I rarely dig deeper unless I need to. I read the Economist every week, but that can give me bad days as well. I stay in touch enough to be informed.
The shopkeepers who know me are at the gym at the Marriott in Pattaya, as well as the hotels and restaurants that I frequent when in Pattaya, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. I have a driver and housekeeper where I live and I have, sadly, cut myself off from daily contact here with most people. My staff does almost all my shopping and errands for me. I realise it is funny that most of the people who know me work in hospitality.
Defining my relationships is difficult - I have been in a dark place for a long time now and it is only recently that I realized I had cut myself off from many people who are close to me, and that were very important for me. I lost touch with many good friends during my peregrinations around the world and I am slowly trying to get back in touch with them. In the last six months, I have been making an active effort to reconnect with the people that formed an important part of my life.
I have breakfast every morning with my business partners. Where I live, I have only four people who are close to me, and the two of them whom I work with, although they are lovely people, are very different in background from me. We do share similar outlooks on life in some ways but I found myself trying to fit into their mold because I had isolated myself so much from the world. And their mold is not mine. I have realized that trying to change yourself to fit other people's expectations because you are lonely is not a good strategy. Hackneyed though this phrase might be, you must be true to yourself or you'll never be happy. I am learning to enjoy who I am and cultivate the enthusiasm I have about life and learning again, regardless of whether people who are around me feel the same way or not.
I am very fortunate that I have four or five very close friends who understand and accept me without question, as I do them and I do my best to make sure that I speak with these people every week. Usually, it must be through Skype or by phone since they are in the United States or traveling all over the world. I am incredibly happy that video calling services are so readily available. I am overjoyed that one of my closest friends and his wife are coming to stay with me for four months and they will be here this week. It makes me smile as I type. These are the relationships that are home for me. But, like anything, these relationships take work when you are separated by thousands of miles.
Once I took pride in being alone and self-sufficient. In not needing anybody. Much of that came from being the child witnessing alcoholism first hand. But how pointless that was. It took me many years to realize that having good friends to share with is one of the best things in life. I’m trying to make up for that now.
My restrictions are few: in some ways, I am very fortunate. I hold an American passport (although not, I hope, for much longer), and can live pretty much anywhere that I wish to. I have only come to understand just recently, the restrictions I face living in Asia. This is a place where foreigners are not viewed with much favor. I am struggling with how to say this without sounding embittered or bigoted myself, but in the words of an extremely switched on local who has tried several times to explain it to me, foreigners here are usually viewed as sheep to be fleeced. And over the years that I have stayed here, I have seen more and more evidence of exactly that mindset. And as I am, or try to be, an open and friendly person, I have found that I have been taken advantage of mercilessly again and again. I would be lying if I said I do not have a jaundiced view about this to one degree or the other. But I understand it. I am not angry about it (at least I believe I'm not) but, I must admit, I no longer feel comfortable here the way that I used to a long time ago (when I was much more naïve). This restriction, I need to manage. The way that I plan to manage it is become a quasi-nomad, moving from country to country approximately every 3 to 4 months and staying most in the places where I feel the most welcome.
I look at myself as extraordinarily fortunate that I will be able to do that.
What I look forward to more than anything else these days, what gives me enthusiasm when I wake up in the morning, is the thought that no matter the state of the world, no matter the few problems that I may have, it is exciting to have a wide world to go out into, explore, meet new people, learn new languages and things, and gain new experiences.
It may be late in life, but I feel young still and I have enthusiasm and experience that I want to be able to share with others. It is both nerve-wracking and joyful to be able to reach out and explore the world again.