“You’re a what?” she asked, leaning forward from the other side of the dining table.
“A digital nomad,” I repeated. Realizing this might require further explanation, I went on, “I do my work from a laptop, which I take wherever I go. All my belongings have been in a storage unit for the last year. I travel around visiting new places and staying at Airbnbs or with family and friends.”
“That’s weird,” she exclaimed loudly, leaning back and crossing her arms.
It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten this reaction. And it probably wouldn’t be the last. The lifestyle that I’d chosen didn’t make sense to some people.
“And you’ve never been married? No kids?” she further inquired.
“Nope and nope,” I responded.
“Not likely to get married if she continues on like that, is she?” she declared conspiratorially to the friend sitting next to her.
“I think it’s lovely,” my Airbnb host and new friend, Molly, stated loudly putting a decisive end to the discussion.
Although I’d experienced this type of confrontational behavior before, every time I found it odd when people objected so strongly to my life choices. I didn’t always agree with others’ decisions, but I also didn’t feel the need to assert my opinions on them. For example, this dinner guest had just finished explaining how she could stay at a casino for hours on end. She’d spent several nights so consumed by gambling; she’d only realize it was morning upon walking outside to see that the sun had already been up for hours.
I wouldn’t find that fulfilling or entertaining, however it worked for her. I didn’t ask her any questions about it because I don’t think I’ll understand that hobby. But I also didn’t feel the need to ridicule it.
I guess that’s the part I found interesting. When confronted with a lifestyle choice they don’t understand, some view it as personally objectionable. They feel so strongly that people with different goals and passions are living life badly that they feel the need to explain that they’re doing it wrong.
Sometimes, when you make decisions that run counter-culture, people will object to it. Some can’t wrap their heads around your choices. That’s ok. The beauty is that we each get to make decisions that determine the life we create for ourselves.
I will never understand this woman’s gambling; nor will she get my wanderlust. It can be helpful to gain from others’ insights to be better informed and see situations more holistically. However, none of us should require others’ permission, nor should we seek out their approval. It doesn’t matter if your life works for them, what’s vital is if your life is personally meaningful and fulfilling for you.
Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Jacquelyn is the CEO and Founder of Ristole, a consulting business that transforms corporations through engaging employee training. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here.