Internationality:

Our biggest Strength and Enemy

I like to tell people that that coolest thing about our team is the coincidences that brought us together. We are a diverse team: Juan and Luisa are cousins from Colombia. When they were teenager Juan came to live in the US, and they were devastated by being separated. They’ve been best friends since birth, even across thousands of miles. Eva is from Austria. She met Luisa and Juan by a fluke and agreed to travel across south America with near-strangers. And I am from the US. I’ve lived a seemingly normal life until I recently quit my job as a high school English teacher to join the NomadApp team and travel the world. I met Luisa at a bar, and three days later invited Luisa and Juan on a road trip to Minnesota. In a normal world, we never would have met. In this universe, it was fate.

Combined we speak 6-7 languages, and we all come from different educational backgrounds. The first time I met Eva was in New York City. We took THIS picture, and could not stop talking about how miraculous it is that we even ended up in the same photo. How many impossible things had to happen to lead up to that moment?

We are a family now. We share everything, and because we have to pack light, I mean we share everything. Deodorant, brushes, computers, phones, passwords, food, beds and floors alike. We know far more about each other than we care to, but there is something pretty magical about living this lifestyle. Sure, you never get alone time (which is a challenge in itself), but you’re never lonely. Its these little things that are the fibers that hold us so tight to one another, but despite the fibers, our biggest fears are the inability to stay together.

A few weeks ago there was tension in our team. Not the kind of tension where we were at each other throats, but there was a heaviness looming in the air and we couldn’t quite shake it. Little disputes about what to do next: pursue investors, continue traveling and promoting the app, apply for accelerators. Time is running out. Visa’s only last for so long. How should we prepare for the app launch? In the midst of all the tension in the team, Juan was probably the most heated.

Let me paint a picture of the usual Juan: this is the guy who skips from park bench to park bench asking me to do “parkour” with him. He’s the definition of happy-go-lucky. He has infinite amounts of energy. He is the only one I know that can literally jump out of bed and be ready to leave the house within three minutes of waking up. He is optimistic to a fault and always looking for the next adventure. And you can count on him talking all day about the fans he talked to on snap chat…So when Juan is quiet, there is something on his mind.

When we talk to investors, they also want to know our weak points, our faults. Truly, we have the gambit of skills: experienced programmers, graphic designers, top-notch social media marketers, communication specialists, financial advisors. Aside from the occasional lack of patience, we tend to think of ourselves as the perfect team. But our biggest asset, that diversity, is also our biggest enemy.

When we sat down for a meeting over a drink, we were finally able to talk about our thoughts, our words finally parted the dense air: “What are we going to do to stay together?”

A few weeks ago, when we went to Niagara Falls, we were so excited to have to opportunity to walk across a bridge into another country. Another stamp in our passports! We proudly marched up to the bridge in our “citizen of the world” shirts, ready to proclaim another trophy. As we approached the footbridge, we noticed big iron gates and signs posted everywhere “DO NOT ENTER WITHOUT PASSPORT.” We scanned the signs to find out that only two of us could cross. Selected solely on country of birth, Eva and I were granted the privilege to pass, and we left our companions behind.

I feel a certain amount of guilt having been born in the USA. In many ways, I have more privileges than my Nomadic family simply because of where I was born. I didn’t ask for that privilege, and even though it works in my favor, I do not want it. I feel guilty that there is nothing I can do to change the rules. What makes the people of one country inferior or requiring more restrictions? In a few weeks, I am going to Colombia and need nothing more than my passport and a few shots. Meanwhile, in a few months, Luisa’s visa expires and she will have to apply for a new one if she intends to come back to the US–a privilege not guaranteed. I’ve come to find out there are a number of countries I can enter without a visa, but those same countries must have visas to come here. This inequality strikes me off guard. If all men are created equal, why are they treated equally? Why does the internationality of our team have to be our biggest obstacle, when it is most certainly our biggest strength?