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What's the difference between being a nomad and being in exile? It's taken me 25 years before I really understood the meaning of those two concepts, which I didn't think I'd learn while I was in my television seminar class and being explained to me in a language that I barely understand. Actually, I can't remember anymore how those two terms came up in class but they proved to be enlightening.
When my professor raised that question, I tried to answer but I was only able to provide a shallow meaning to them. I've come across the term nomad in elementary when we studied history and how mankind lived in the old days. I know that nomads don't have permanent settlements. They're always on the move for someplace better. Once their current settlement didn't provide them with their necessities, they pack their things and move to a better place. The term exile was also introduced to me when I was in elementary while studying Jose Rizal's life. He was punished and was exiled to Dapitan, Zamboanga, where he taught kids and practiced medicine. I'd say that I fairly understood the terms because of the historical samples that were provided by my teachers. However, it was only when I reached this point in my life that I totally grabbed the concept, most probably because I have my life as an illustration to what "nomad" and "exile" mean. This time around, my history gave me a clearer picture of what those two words mean.
My professor explained to us that the difference between a nomad and one in exile lies in the term "home." Those in exile have a home to come back to, unlike nomads. Wow, I didn't realize that until my professor explained it in class. It was a light bulb moment. It hit me. Frankly, out of all the topics we discussed in class, this was the only discussion that has left a mark in my life. It's also probably the sole classroom lesson that I'll forever remember. After hearing what my professor said, I thought that there are actually a few things that we learn in class that can be applied in life.
After my professor's explanation, I realized that I was in exile. Before this, I didn't think "exile" would be an apt term to describe my life. You see, in 2009, I left everything in the Philippines to live in a country where I didn't speak its language. It was a totally different place. I don't look like its citizens, didn't speak or write its language, and the country has 4 seasons, which was different from my country's rainy and summer seasons. Unlike Jose Rizal, I was not punished and ordered to be away from home. I flew to this foreign land out of my own decision. I chose to be in self-exile.
For a year and a half, I lived in a foreign land. I didn't really terribly miss the Philippines because I was happy, have friends, and technology has given me the opportunity to talk to my family on a daily basis if I wanted to. However, just as I made the decision to leave everything behind in the Philippines, I took another bold step and decided to put an end to my self-exile. I returned home, which was a shock to those people who I've bonded with for almost two years and those people I'm coming back to. I don't like explaining my decisions to others but I ended up doing so. I'm sure I failed to explain myself well but that doesn't matter because I hold accountable only to myself. I am the master of my fate.
However, life has a way of also explaining to me how it's like to be a nomad. I came home but ended up flying again to another foreign land. Yes, I can say that it's better than the Philippines in many aspects. It's a great place to start anew, to settle in and live comfortably. I was on the move for a month. I enjoyed the experience. However, I didn't think I'd say this, considering that it's always been my dream to travel, but it's tiring. I felt like an apparition. I was popping from one place to another. My friends couldn't track me and once they knew where I was at a given time, they'd laugh at how I was all over the place. I felt like a jet-setter. Now I know how it feels like to live off a luggage. One could argue that nomads bring with them their homes. Maybe true, but I believe there's a feeling of emptiness at being always on the go and nothing to come back to. To not be attached emotionally to a person or place is sad, isn't it?
Right now, my geographical status is still not permanent. There's always a chance to move to another place, to make that leap and trust that I've made the right decision. And if you ask me if I consider myself a nomad or someone who is in exile, I'd say I'm the latter because I'll always have a home to come back to. No matter where I go, I know that I'll have a home and a family waiting for me. And for that, I'm very thankful.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HerWord or BusinessWorld.
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