A few days ago, I had a Zoom meeting with Omar, my nephew by marriage.
It’s been a while since I last mentioned that I married an Egyptian woman—a truly beautiful person named Azza—a little more than twelve years ago, back when I was living in Cairo, Egypt, and teaching at the American University in Cairo.
Omar is Azza’s sister’s son. He’s in his early twenties. A couple of years or so ago, he graduated from Helwan University, an institution located in Egypt’s capital, with a degree in Computer Science. He’s been working remotely for an international company for the past couple of years now.
The Zoom meeting that I’ll be talking about shortly was preceded by an email he sent three weeks prior. In it, he told me he was planning to leave Egypt and live abroad. At the time of that missive, he was trying to work up the nerve to tell his folks and sister about his plans. It’s unusual for young Egyptians to do what Omar was planning, and in my Egyptian family, only my wife has ever lived outside her home country. (My wife and I currently reside in San Antonio, Texas, USA.)
In Egypt, the family is sacrosanct, so leaving, as Omar is about to do, is quite unusual and can be seen in a very negative light.
I should say one more thing about Omar’s email. He did not give any details about where he was planning to move or what he was planning to do after he left.
Then we had our meeting.
I now know that Omar wanted to talk with me because I did exactly what he’s planning to do, decades ago now, starting when I was quite young. Back when I was just a little older than he is now, I joined the Peace Corps and was sent, by the American government, to Poland to do educational consulting work and teacher training. He knew I would be supportive of his decision; whereas, he feared that his parents would try to get him to abandon the idea. By the way, after ending that first experience, I lived in the UAE, Turkey, and Egypt, for a period of twenty years, and have traveled extensively in many parts of the world.
So, the Zoom meeting happened. While the two of us were situated side by side on my computer monitor, I couldn’t help but notice how dark Omar’s facial hair was (as mine had once been) and how grey mine was. My how time flies (whether a person is having fun or not).
I have now entered that part of my life where people approach me for advisement. And I always feel like I have a few things to say to those who come with questions and concerns.
The passage of time sometimes feels so strange to me. It seems like only yesterday that I was inexperienced and naïve and full of the same sort of yearning—that strong need to see the world, to have adventures, and to be tested—that is now inside of Omar.
As our conversation played out, Omar had questions for me, and I had answers for him. It felt good to support him. There was a strong feeling that I was passing the torch to the next generation.
Omar is moving to Bali later this month and will become, as he said from his own mouth, a “digital nomad.”
Even though I am much older than he is now, I can see my wife and I doing a version of what he’s planning. As a matter of fact, we are about to buy property in the coastal city of Sharm El-Sheikh. And from that spot, we can be a bit nomadic ourselves.
Long live the nomads among us! Long live the spirit of adventure! Long live those who think of themselves as citizens of the world!