Hi, My Name Is Susie—and I’m a Global Nomad



For the past 13 years, I have been a very reluctant Foreign Service spouse. I have followed my husband around the world kicking, screaming, crying and complaining. I have resented my husband, I have resented the State Department, I have resented God for “calling” us to this lifestyle. All of my hopes and dreams for happiness were fixated on the day we’d return to America ... home ... the proverbial Promised Land.

On June 1, 2012, I finally got my wish. We arrived back in the States full of hope and optimism that life in America would ease all of the pain and disappointment of the previous 12 years.

I was wrong! We’d often heard from our friends overseas that the move “home” is the most difficult move of all. However, when you are living in impoverished Third World countries, it is impossible to believe that going back to America could be anything less than fabulous. But once we returned, reality hit—and hit hard.

We learned very quickly that all the perks and support offered to us overseas disappear the minute your feet land on U.S. soil. The financial ramifications and complete lack of emotional and logistical support left us feeling exhausted and completely alone.

So we struggled to find our way. Slowly, over several months, our new life began to take shape. A new house, new schools, new job, new church, new friends—piece by piece, it all started to come together.

Nearly a year later, on May 29, 2013, a crazy thing happened. I went to the airport for a flight to Mexico City to join my husband for a few days while he was working there. As I worked my way through check-in and security, I was struck by the familiarity of it all—the rhythm of international travel—and how oddly comforting it was.

Going through passport control and immigration; getting foreign currency; finding the safe, prepaid taxi stand—all these activities were as natural to me as breathing. Once in the taxi, I was overwhelmed by the realization that I felt more “at home” after half an hour in Mexico City than I had felt after 11 months in the United States. How could this be?

As I worked my way through check-in and security, I was struck by the familiarity of it all—the rhythm of international travel—and how oddly comforting it was.

Day one in Mexico City brought an additional landslide of emotions. There was a huge international festival on the main avenue outside our hotel, with booths from all over the world selling clothing, food and souvenirs. As I walked down the street, it was a stroll down memory lane.

So many countries that have shapedthe life of our family were represented: Turkey, Guatemala, Israel, Nigeria, India, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., Thailand, the Czech Republic, Germany. Each booth unleashed an onslaught of memories and emotions, and, again, that unexpected feeling of being “at home.”

That is when it hit me. We are a third-culture family! Our first allegiance will always be to the United States, but we have left pieces of ourselves all over the world. Each country that we have either lived in or visited has left its stamp on our souls; for better or worse, who we are as individuals and as a family has been influenced by these foreign nations.

According to Wikipedia, a global nomad is someone who is living a mobile and international lifestyle. The pessimist in me says, “No place is home.” But the emerging optimist is beginning to say, “Every place is home!”

Foreign Service families are citizens of the world, and each of us decides whether to focus on what this lifestyle has cost us or the ways in which it has enriched us.

I have focused on the negatives long enough, and that choice has not served me well. So now, I am determined to focus on the positives, and to be thankful for the lives and experiences we have had as a third-culture family.

As a result, I can (almost) proudly proclaim: “My name is Susie ... and I am a global nomad!”

Susie Martineau, the wife of a Foreign Service consular officer, currently lives in Washington, D.C. During the past 13 years, the Martineaux and their three children have lived in Guatemala, Israel, Nigeria and India.