Strabo, Xuanzang, Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo, Isabella Lucy Bird, Freya Stark, Bruce Chatwin, Bekka Brodie, Viorel Popescu, Tavi Popescu, and Rex-a-roo. All are famous travellers. Okay, true, the last four listed (me, my family, and our dog) are not famous enough… just legends in our own minds. We are academic nomads; in search of wisdom, experience, adventure, happiness… and the “holy grail” (AKA positions at an academic institution). However our nomadic lifestyle is coming to a close and we have finally made our voyage home.
Many academics live the traveling lifestyle for 10+ years before finally finding the “holy grail” and we are no different. Over the last 10 years we have lived in 7 different cities and 11 different rental apartments/houses (this does not include travel for fun, conferences, or research). However, the main difference is that we have unique circumstances (detailed in “The family with no country to call home” and the follow up post “Why we are a family with no country to call home“), and we have lived in 3 different countries (United States, Canada, and Romania). Often (thanks to Skype and the Internet) we are living in one country and working in multiple other countries at the same time. There are many blog posts about academic nomads (here, here, and here) but this post is our story.
The beautiful thing about being academic nomads are the places we have been, meaningful relationships forged, and memories we have made along the way. While living abroad we made a point of seeing and experiencing as much as possible, often with friends and family, or with friends we have made along the way. Just to name a few of our favourites… In Maine, U.S.A, we loved visiting Bar Harbour, Acadia National Park and the Maine coast (too many times to count). While in the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, Canada), our favourite places were the Okanagan, Squamish, and Whistler (2010 Winter Olympics venue), and traveled to Kona, Hawaii… twice! (One of the added benefits of being an academic nomad are having friends to visit all over the world. For us that included beautiful and tropical Hawaii; thanks Emi and Scott!). While living in Romania last year, we tightened bonds with family and friends while exploring Transylvania, Banat, but also Barcelona, Spain, and Montpellier, France. Tavi spent quality time with his grandparents (3 full months of summer vacation), and learned to speak fluent Romanian. …Can’t think of any added benefit for Rex (and, honestly, he has “baggage” from all the traveling), but he might be one of the most well traveled dogs EVER.
Now, we are on our way home (my home, the United States). My husband, Viorel Popescu, and I have accepted positions at Ohio University, Athens OH (not to be confused with Ohio State University in Columbus, OH). Luckily for us, we are good at moving… a super power we rarely get to brag about. We can pack up in less than 1 day and can fit all of our possessions into 6 suitcases. In fact, we have just about memorized exactly which items are packed into what suitcases; making packing even faster and more efficient. To top it all of, Rex, has his own pet passport! His passport helps expedite his movement through security at various layovers and into the country of our final destination. (In this case, back to the USA… not that anyone at the border really cares about the dog because they are entirely too busy giving Viorel the third degree).
We quickly adjust to our new home, (wherever that may be) thanks to Google, Skype, Facebook, family, and friends. (Seriously, I don’t know how people did it before google: search, maps, translate, etc.). Using the internet, we can quickly find the essentials like a home to rent, transportation, and the closest grocery store. Family and friends helped considerably by storing our personal items, salvaging housewares, and furniture from roadside curbs and thrift stores, feeding us warm meals as we transition, and moving us.
We can quickly assimilate into new cultures, places, people and food, but nothing prepared us for actually moving home and getting our dream job(s). Now that we are here, our personal life has settled but our academic life has not… regardless of that coveted “holy grail”. We are still adjusting and transitioning at Ohio University. Viorel is navigating his role as assistant professor of conservation biology: planning lectures and teaching, recruiting graduate students, writing grants, networking, and attending meetings (a lot of meetings…). I have been given adjunct status at OU, with an office, lab, and insect rearing room, which is more than I could have hoped for considering I only recently defended my PhD. Matt White, Biological Sciences chair at OU, was instrumental in providing all this support for me. At the moment there are no classes for me to teach, and it is uncertain if anything will be offered in the future. So, I am concentrating on identifying funding resources (i.e., opening my own business, Brodie Insect Science LLC!) and research. Although we are incredibly nervous, we hope to eventually carve out places for ourselves at the university. Go Bobcats!
There is a saying that “travel is timeless”, and this certainly holds true for us. Over the past 10 years we have developed meaningful relationships, seen amazing places, and made memories to last a lifetime. However, traveling (or, in our case, frequent moving) is tiring and we are happy to end our nomadic lifestyle, grow roots, and really invest in our new community. The timing could not be better for Tavi; he has started kindergarten and looks forward to making life-long friends at his new school. As well as for Rex, who is just too old to be dragged all over the world anymore, and would prefer to spend the rest of his days napping.
This is the world as Academics know it and as we know it. It has made us stronger, opened our eyes to new opportunities, and made us appreciate and cherish our loved ones, and above all else, we have lived. We are not unlike the philosopher and famous great traveler, Strabo, we synthesize our own travel into a science of geography, or as he put it “the art of life, that is, happiness”. Although we have found a home, the adventure is not over, we will continue to look forward to what is around the next corner and the voyage that awaits us… but always returning home.