Two Kinds of People

By Troy Headrick

It occurred to me, about a week or so ago, that I had an anniversary coming up.  On July 3, 2015, I arrived back in Texas after living seven years in Cairo, Egypt.  That means I’ve been in the United States, my home country, exactly six years.

Of course, I brought my Egyptian wife with me.  She didn’t come on the same plane because, at that time, she wasn’t an American citizen.  She remained back in Egypt until we got her “green card” paperwork together and submitted it to the American embassy in Cairo.  Azza, my wife, then flew to Texas about a month or so after I’d returned.   Shortly after her arrival, I landed a job in San Antonio, a city with enough people to make it the seventh largest metropolitan area in the country, and the two of us relocated there.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be flying back to Cairo for the first time since I left the place.  I’m really looking forward to the trip and to seeing all my in-laws.  There is one more thing of note about my upcoming trip:  It will be the first time I’ve left America since 2015.

I have mixed feelings about being back in the United States.  If the truth be told, I didn’t come back because I missed the place.  I returned to my birthplace to reconnect with family after having lived as an expatriated American for nearly two decades.  My aging parents have health challenges, and I started feeling like a bad son for having been away for so many years.

There was a time in my life when I was much more nomadic.  Back in the day, I’d relocate to a new country about every three or four years.  This lifestyle provided me with the opportunity to live in various locales in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

I have a philosophy of life that goes something like this:  Moving around a lot keeps a person nimble.  This is especially true if one resides in places that are very varied.  Being exposed to a new language and culture every so often keeps the mind fresh and alive.  One should also welcome surprises.  For example, in all my relocations, I never once visited a country before I moved there.  I wanted to experience culture shock in a very visceral, in-your-face sort of way.  An occasional jolt to the system keeps a person awake and alert.  Some spend their lives seeking comfort and safety, two things which are highly overrated.  I’d rather be out there, in the crazy world, having new and strange experiences.  And taking lots of risks.

I guess the world is made of up of two kinds of people—those who value putting down roots and those who prefer being rolling stones.  I certainly count myself a member of the latter group.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve been feeling very restless lately.  I certainly do value being so near loved ones, but I’m thinking more and more about pulling up tent stakes again.  And I’ve been talking, in very serious ways, with my wife about this.

The COVID situation has been a godsend in at least one way.  It has showed me a path forward.  Having worked remotely for more than a year, I now realize that a person can travel lightly when traveling for professional reasons.  All one needs is a good laptop and a bag to carry it in.  Also, there doesn’t have to be this hard line between traveling for pleasure and going abroad to make money.  What’s not to love about that?

By the way, Happy Independence Day to one and all!

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

29 thoughts on “Two Kinds of People

    1. It was definitely an amazing place and a little overwhelming at times. I taught at the American University in Cairo during my tenure in Egypt. What did you think of Cairo? How long ago were you there?

      1. Was there several days on a tour. What I recall most is the rebar sticking out of the tops of thousands of buildings and a bus of screaming people on multiple occasions.

      2. That sounds fairly familiar. I wish you had had more time to get to know some average Cairenes. The Egyptians are warm and friendly people who will give you the shirt off their backs. The places where they live can be off-putting, but the people themselves are real gems. Heck, I married one, didn’t it?!

      3. We were screaming because of the driving. No one followed the traffic rules. People were walking in front of us all the time or cars making new lanes. We feared some pedestrian would get nailed. Our guide was from Alexandria and was very knowledgeable.

    1. Yes! Absolutely! I would also argue that a person doesn’t really know his home country very well until he leaves it and can examine it from afar. Thanks for the comment.

  1. Cairo must have been a fascinating place to live in! It was my first international experience after a very secluded childhood so it was an extremely enlightening (and slightly scary) experience. I hope I will be able to visit it again someday. I am (unfortunately more of a putting doen roots person, but soon to be uprooted to Australia, so I found your post particularly uplifting.

    1. I had no idea that I would love moving to far-flung places so much because I grew up in a rural setting among people who barely went anywhere. But there was a part of me, even as a very young child, that was curious about the wider world. In fact, I started collecting stamps at a very young age, and was mesmerized by those bits of postage that would come from Magyar, Polska, Latvia and the like. I’d hold those little stamps in my hand and dream big dreams about a world that seemed so huge and mysterious. i guess I was always destined to be a bit of an adventurer. Thanks for the comment.

    1. I totally agree being a tourist and an expatriate are two entirely different experiences. When you write that you’re “not sure where” you “sit these days,” what do you mean? You’ve got me intrigued. Thanks for the comment.

    1. Not everyone is suited for living the way I lived for many years. Like I said, I’m pretty much a rolling stone; whereas, most, it seems, like to find a home and feel it is their home. I’m perfectly comfortable not belonging to places. In fact, if a person were to ask me today where I’m from, I’d answer that I’m a citizen of the world. Thanks for the comment. And thanks for writing a commentary about this piece. I read you commentary and think I left a comment. I’ll go back and check again.

  2. Europe, Asia and Africa – you should write a 3-part book and a bonus 4th part on a comparative study with the States.
    You may name it – “Rolling Stones”.

    Wow, I visualize a bestseller of Barnes and Noble !

    And a sapid HapID ! 🤠

  3. Reminds me of the old joke: There are two kinds of people. Those who think the world is made up of two kinds of people, and those that don’t (sorry!). Joking apart, I couldn’t agree more. My wife and I run a guest house in Sri Lanka where we’ve lived for the last 6 years. I’m not as travelled as you, up till then I lived only in England. But it’s not just living in an unfamiliar culture but the guest house business itself where one meets people from all countries, all walks of life and all shades of opinion. Compared to my former life in England, where I worked and socialised largely with people from my kind of background and with my kind of views, it’s been tremendously liberating. And in these hard times of reduced international tourism we’ve turned some of our accommodation into longer-term lets for digital nomads, so if you feel like working remotely from the mountains of Sri Lanka let me know!
    All good wishes, Jerry Smith

    1. Your experience sounds similar to mine. I didn’t realize how limited I was until I went elsewhere. Your work sounds wonderful. Do you have a website that I could look at? If so, would you mind posting it here. I just might be in touch. Thanks!

  4. I could not agree more, Troy. A Rolling Stone kind of life is one filled with so much: so much adventure, growth, and excitement. Wishing you and your wife a wonderful trip! 🕊

  5. I absolutely loved this. I haven’t quite decided if I was the former or the latter, but one thing for sure, with Covid and working from home it has definitely given new insight when it comes to working from home etc.

  6. I am the same way. I love experiencing the culture shock of arriving in a new place that will be my home and having no choice but to make it work. I am also looking for ways to get back to that nomadic lifestyle. Enjoy your trip with your wife 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing this honesty. I have not been a good traveller in the past, often seeing the discomfort in being by myself in a strange location as a far greater obstacle than it actually is. Looking back I can recall all the times I was in a foreign country with far more positive memories than negative ones. Talking with my girlfriend recently has got me excited about travelling again, when we are able to leave New Zealand in a practical and useful way.

    A laptop and a bag? Add in a train to travel on every so often and that sounds ideal to me.

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