Ep. 300: How This Third Culture Kid Sustains A Nomadic Lifestyle with Natasha Ibrahim
In this episode, I speak with Natasha who grew up as a third culture kid, and has lived in many different countries growing up, resulting in a permanent nomadic lifestyle. Over the years, she has worked remotely in different capacities for Fortune 500 companies, as a freelancer, entrepreneur, content creator and more.
Listen on to find out how Natasha has created a sustainable nomadic lifestyle.
Ep. 297: How This Content Creator Has Been Able To Do Slow Traveling Through Remote Work with Jessica Hall
Ep. 296: How This Travel Expert Seizes Every Opportunity To See The World with Gabby Beckford
Ep. 295: How This Tin Whistle Backpacker Lives A Simple Yet Fulfilling Life On The Road with Finn
Hey everyone, thank you so much for being here.
I am really excited to speak with my guest today. I’m here with Natasha.
Hi Natasha, how are you?
Hi, I’m good, how are you?
I’m wonderful. Thank you so much for being here. Can you tell us more about you and why you live an offbeat life?
Yeah, so I am a travel content creator and a digital nomad. I’ve been digital nomading for probably seven years, but I’ve actually been digital nomading or just nomading in general since I was born. I grew up in Australia, Canada, the US and other places in between. So, travel’s always been a part of my life and I brought that into my career and adult life as well.
So how did you end up traveling and moving around so much, even as a kid?
My parents are both from different countries. So, my father is from Canada, my mom is from the US and they are, they grew up in different places as well.
My mom was born and raised in Uganda, my father in India and Pakistan. So, they already had that kind of diverse background and then moving to Australia and Canada and everywhere in between was kind of my parents’ decision.
It wasn’t really normal, but to them it wasn’t that crazy, you know, cause they kind of grew up in a similar way and their work was kind of flexible. My father had his own companies, so kind of just took us everywhere.
That’s pretty amazing because, I mean, that was a long time ago and you were still a kid and that, you know, being a digital nomad and moving around just because you wanted to wasn’t really the norm for a lot of people like you’re talking about, Natasha, and even now, right? That’s not normal and the only time I’ve ever heard people say that they have done that with their families is as if they like lived in a military household or something and they had to move for work, but your parents did that and it was a decision that they easily did well.
How was that like for you moving around as a child?
Yeah, I always get asked if I’m a military child actually, it’s really funny, but it honestly was not easy as a child. There were other circumstances that were not great within my family for us moving, but as I grew older, I really realized the benefits that I had by moving so much.
I really did yearn for a forever home and just to have those experiences of having childhood friends that I grew up with and being around family and everything. But now as an adult I realized that it was kind of meant to be and that it’s given me a really interesting different perspective on life, on work and just resilience overall, that I’m really grateful for.
Yeah, cause it could definitely give you both sides of it, right? It could either make you really love traveling or it could do the total opposite, where you’re just like, “Okay, I’ve done that my entire life, now I just want,”, like you had mentioned, “a forever home.”, and a lot of us, obviously you have thought of this because you’ve lived with it your entire life, but we see people traveling with children all the time and it seems really fun and you know, just on my end, my husband, him and his family used to travel a lot and he talks about it now and he absolutely hated it because he was like, “I would make friends and then we would leave and then it was like, I don’t even wanna make friends anymore because what was the point? And then we would just move on again.”, so that was really hard on him and I think that’s one thing that we really don’t talk about. It’s like we talk about it as adults, you know, how we feel, how it’s so exciting, but then it’s like, “What about the children? How do they feel about it?”, and you have this unique perspective on it that you see it from both sides.
It is really hard on children and I do a lot of healing work that I create a lot of content on because I think during your childhood you’re so impressionable and all of these experiences that might not seem traumatic to our parents are extremely traumatic to children.
And they’ve affected me definitely in good and bad ways, but I’m working through them as an adult and I’m sharing my journey about that on my YouTube channel and through my content and everything because regardless if you stayed in one place or if you’ve traveled, you’ve gone through things as a child.
And I think the main thing for me is to alchemize all my experiences and find the good in them and use them as strengths and not weaknesses because yeah, like it’s, it’s a beautiful life to have grown up in all these places, but it definitely has come with hardships. But I think every obstacle is a chance to learn and grow.
Yeah, I love that mentality that you have because it is, it’s a blessing that you are able to see all of the different parts of the world that most people don’t even get to, right? And your parents gave you this opportunity that most people are striving to have as an adult and you were able to have that as a child, but like anything else, there’s always the other side of it. You know? When we look at something, it’s like, “The grass is always greener on the other side.”, and we usually don’t think about it because we don’t experience it and then if you do experience it, it’s a different part or a time in your life and you don’t get to experience it as a child or a teenager or, you know? And I feel like every season in our life or a different age that we are, the experience is always different and I love that you’re working through that and there’s so much experiences that you can get from all of that.
So, now that you’re an adult, you decided to make this into a lifestyle again. You decided that this was something that you wanted to do for yourself.
How did you come by that decision? Because you could have gone the other way, as I had mentioned, you could have been like, “I just wanna, I just want a home. I don’t wanna go anywhere. I just want something that I can be in forever.”. Why did you decide to continue?
Even when I was very young, I always felt this really strong pull to learn about different cultures and different people and I always felt strong connections to people. And I studied international relations in university and Latin American studies when I was in high school, I really wanted to volunteer abroad, I always had this intense urge to go to East Africa to Uganda and volunteer because my mother was born and raised in Uganda and I didn’t get the chance to, I moved abruptly from Canada to the US but I ended up going to Paraguay and volunteering there.
I lived on a farm for two months. I had no contact with my family or friends. The only way I could contact them was by handwritten letters. I went with an organization called Amigos de las Americas that I worked with for a few years after as well, they have a special place in my heart, but when I was there, I did not write a single letter to my mom and my host family, and no one in my village spoke any English.
So, I was just with one other girl who spoke English and I didn’t speak Spanish, so I was forced to learn Spanish very quickly. But it was the most beautiful experience of my life.
I felt so unconditionally loved and so at home and it was experiences like that and just growing up and having this perspective that I couldn’t relate to anybody else on because I didn’t know many people who grew up like me, but I just always had a pull to learn about new cultures and that I could adapt, that was a huge thing for me is that I was able to kind of adapt and be a chameleon wherever I went, which was really special.
And I still feel that way and I wanted to use my strength of being able to adapt to its complete like its benefit to me to move and travel and connect with other people and connect with cultures and find the relationships between cultures, because it’s so crazy that every culture, no matter like where it is, you can kind of see the similarity between the foods and the languages and the way people interact and everything. It’s really cool.
Yeah, and it’s interesting that the normal, the norm to you is the abnormal to most people because you coming home and being in a steady household, a steady place, actually, you’re not able to relate as much as you are to other people in different cultures because that is really what is what you have really experienced your entire life.
So, that’s kind of interesting, right? Because most of the time you speak to people and it’s like, “Okay, I’ve always had this my entire life and then I had to adjust to it.”, and you actually did the opposite. You had to adjust to normal life and then being out into the world and being a digital nomad is more of a norm for you.
Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s so true. And I always felt really connected to the students that were studying abroad or the people who were from different countries and living in the US. Like, I always became closer with those people than I did with the locals.
So, and that’s really curious. How does it feel for you trying to adjust to the quote, you know, quote unquote normal life when you are, I mean, is there even really a normal for you because you know, like where is home, right? Like how would you define that for yourself, Natasha? Like where is home for you?
Yeah, well, over the years, I spent a lot of time in Austin because my family’s here. I spent university and high school here. So, Austin feels like home to me and it feels very grounding, but I do feel the need to leave frequently.
So, I’m starting to, as I get older, I’m 26 now, to kind of feel more like I want a base and I wanna slow down. Not so much stop traveling, but rather slow travel is really important to me and I create a lot of content on this as well, because I used to travel really quickly and really chaotically.
I would backpack and stay in hostels and do all these crazy things and couch surf, even. And, while that was really fun and really exhilarating and a cool way to travel and really immerse myself when I was a bit younger, as I’m getting older, I’m finding new ways to kind of have a balanced lifestyle while traveling.
And I think it’s more sustainable for my body, for my mind, and also for work and building a life. Cause if I’m constantly moving and just living a super quick nomadic lifestyle, it’s kind of hard to build a foundation on anything.
But yeah, I’m finding ways and I think that we don’t need to have one home for the rest of our lives. We can have multiple places or we can move for different parts of the years and or of the year during seasons. And also there’s so many companies and just possibilities now for long-term or short-term rentals and things like that, which make it easier to be a bit more nomadic but in a slower way.
Yeah, and I think that’s what a lot of digital nomads or, you know, at least the ones that I’ve met have figured out is that in the beginning you’re really excited to see all of these different places, so, you just wanna travel and do it really quickly and then you realize it’s not sustainable, especially if you are trying to do work while you’re on the road.
And then it gets really exhausting, right? Because you’re constantly traveling and then sometimes like the place really gets to you and you love it and you wanna stay longer. But then, you know, you, if you feel like you constantly have to move, then that’s also not only physically exhausting but also emotionally draining as well.
Oh god, definitely.
Yeah. I think your parasympathetic nervous system is something that people are talking about more and more now, but it’s a huge focus of mine is just really balancing my nervous system because as a child moving like that, and I moved very abruptly as well. It wasn’t like, “Okay, we’re gonna be moving in a month.”, it was like, “Okay, pack your bags, we’re leaving, now.”.
So that was very hard on my nervous system and then also the way I was traveling a few years ago was probably not the best for me mentally and emotionally.
So, now I’m really being mindful, I think mindful, balanced and slow are the key words right now for me and my, how I travel.
Yeah, I definitely agree with that and I’ve come to the same conclusion when I started this, you know? And it gets, it takes a toll on you.
It takes a real toll on you and you don’t realize that until like you’re exhausted and it’s really good to just slow down and listen to your body, because otherwise you’re gonna have burnout.
And I think a lot of people, whether you’re doing digital nomadism or even just working, you know? Working from home, it can easily happen to you, is that burnout because sometimes you just don’t have that same, you know? I guess, alarm clock, when you’re sitting in an office and then they tell you, “Hey, it’s five o’clock you can go home.”, right?
Yeah, it’s so true.
Yeah, I create a lot of videos on travel burnout actually and how to avoid it and how to heal yourself from it because it’s a real thing. I think too much of anything is not good for us.
So how are you able to make this lifestyle sustainable, Natasha? Because there’s a lot of opportunities right now.
What had you decided on to make this a continuous lifestyle for yourself?
Yeah, so the way I started nomading, nomading, was when I graduated university I decided to move to Spain to teach English. I had studied abroad in Spain, absolutely loved it.
And by the time I graduated I was so burned out from school and I had a startup and I was just doing so many things that I didn’t even have the mental capacity to apply for jobs and really like, want to do that yet.
So, I took kind of a gap year and went to Spain and that’s when I started my YouTube channel. And YouTube’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was probably 11 years old.
So, it took me 10 years to finally muster up the courage to fully do it. But I created content while I was there and taught people how to travel and about my experience and everything.
And then when I came back to the US I knew that there was an expiration date to that time, the time that I was spending in Spain and that I would need to come back and get a corporate job and you know, do the whole nine to five grind and whatnot.
And when I was living in Spain, I was reading the Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and I was sitting on the balcony of my apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, reading this book about how to live the life that I was already living.
And I was confused cause I had not yet done the corporate grind. So, I was like, “Okay, so he’s teaching people how to live this kind of lifestyle.”, and then it was when I came back and I got a job in tech, it was a sales job for a big tech company and I was just not happy with it.
I was like, “What is this? Like, how can people work like this?”, and it was also covid. So, I started work from home. I was supposed to be going into the office, but because it was work from home, I was about to sign a lease in Austin as well, but I decided not to sign the lease and I was like, “Well, let me see if I’m gonna get laid off or if I can move somewhere else, or I…”, everything was so uncertain, you know, in 2020.
So, I decided to move to Mexico while I was working that corporate job, I didn’t really tell them that I was moving to Mexico, but I went for a few months and I continued my YouTube series over there about working from home from Mexico and just doing the digital nomad life but with a corporate job.
And I was doing it and I was making it work, but I didn’t like my job. So, I decided to quit and just kind of go full-fledged into content creation and creating content on travel and being a travel blogger basically.
But it was a lot of trial and error to get to where I am today. Over the past year, I’m not going to lie, last year was pretty chaotic and scary. I wasn’t working a full-time job. I was doing this full-time, but not knowing exactly where it was gonna go and not knowing how to really run it as a business. But over the past year I’ve learned so much.
If you could see where I was a year ago and where I am now, it’s, I can’t even believe how much progress I’ve made. But yeah, it’s just been a lot of trial and error and I actually just released an ebook a couple weeks ago about, it has all of my travel tips, it’s called Travel Hacking: How to Travel More for Less, because while I had this urge to travel my whole life, I didn’t always have the means to.
And I know a lot of people are in that position where I was, where it was like I had this burning passion for travel and I wanted to do it and I wanted to go see these places, but I had to learn how to make it work.
And one of those ways was teaching English in Spain or teaching English online or getting a corporate job and moving with it and all of these, and credit card hacking is a huge thing for me as well. And I teach every single thing that I have learned over the past years, consolidated into that book.
So, if anyone is interested in any of that, it’s all there.
I love that.
And also, it’s so funny and also really amazing how you’re reading the Four-Hour Work Week and you’re already living the life that he was saying for people to do or if they want to do it.
And it’s interesting how you were like, “Yeah, I was really confused.”, cause you…
Because when I came back and I worked that corporate job, I had that aha moment. I was like, “I already did it, so why am I like coming back to what people are trying to escape?”, like there’s no reason to.
I love that.
Yeah, your story and your life is so unique, Natasha, because you are a third culture kid and people strive to have the life that you lived and then you actually went and tried out what most people actually do and you were like, “Nope. Yeah, confirmed. Not for me.”.
I know, I think it’s always like, “The grass is greener on the other side”, and a huge thing that I live by is to try and fail and move forward quickly. I love trying new things. I love understanding what doesn’t work for me and what does and moving forward from there.
But I love to fail cause it’s always a chance to learn. And over the past year I’ve failed a lot. I actually am gonna be sharing a YouTube video today about my quarter life crisis and just how crazy this past year has been and how so many people go through it.
Cause I feel like in your twenties and thirties it’s like, it’s just all trial and error and we’re expected to kind of have it figured out, but there’s no right way to live. And I think just being present in the moment and really paying attention to what opportunities come up at what time and just reaping them when they arrive. That’s so key. Cause that’s kind of how I made being a digital nomad possible, is just by taking whatever circumstances were thrown at me and making it work with travel, for example, I wasn’t allowed to really travel with my corporate job, but I found a way to make it work. And I think if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, in terms of failure, that’s one of the best things that honestly you can do is to keep failing until you figure it out, because if you don’t fail, you don’t learn. And if you don’t learn, you don’t grow.
And that I think a lot of people are so afraid of failing that they don’t realize if they don’t do it, they’re not going to get what they want. And that’s just a part of life. And you know, with you, you’re in your quarter life and you’ve already experienced so much.
You’ve experienced all of these different experiences with your travel, with all of these experiences, with your career. And then, you know, what else are you going to be able to do, you know, a decade from now, which is so interesting because you’ve already done so much in such a short period of time.
Yeah. And it kind of amazes me sometimes to look back and see like the countries I’ve gone to and the people I’ve met and what I’ve gone through. And it kind of goes back to my childhood where I did travel so much and while it was my parents’ choice, it was also not under the best circumstances.
And from a young age, I had to really learn resilience and to just pick myself back up and kind of take care of myself in those ways because there was a lot of trauma and not great things happening in my family, like within my house, which taught me that I can really take control of my life and I can turn things around because as a young adult, especially in high school, I was kind of in this mindset and mentality, like a victim mentality where I was feeling sorry for myself and I was like, “Oh, but my childhood was like this and there was abuse and there was all of these things.”, but I reprogrammed my brain, like when I was in college or the end of high school, instead of writing down and I would journal every day and I would journal all the things that made me sad or the horrible things about my life.
And one day I decided I was gonna journal all the amazing things about my life and, and everything that was going well. And as I did that more and more, it didn’t feel natural at first, but it became natural and I saw the shifts in my life really manifest, you know, physically like with the people that were around me, the places I was going, the opportunities that float into my life.
And I think that’s so key is to remember that you are resilient. You can create the life that you want and you can really do anything that you set your mind to and that you’re in control.
Cause I think a lot of people, they succumb to the conveyor belt of life, you know, just going to school, getting a job, settling. And I think the key is to really get clear on what kind of life do you want to live? And what kind of career do you want to have? And who do you want to surround yourself by? And where do you want to live? And when you travel, that kind of opens those windows and the possibilities become more attainable, I feel.
So, I think those are, it’s important to start with your mind.
And it’s amazing that you were able to do that at such a young age because, you know, people in their thirties, forties, fifties and beyond still struggle with that, you know, and obviously it’s a process and it doesn’t happen overnight, but like you, you said, Natasha, it’s like, life is what you make of it, you know, and you create opportunities for yourself, it doesn’t happen to you, you take action and obviously, it’s not easy.
Life is never easy and you know, just looking at your life it feels like it’s this like really sexy and fabulous life. You just travel around even when you were a child. But like you said, there were traumas from it and there’s things that you had to get over that most people don’t know about. And it’s not always greener because no one’s lawn is always green, right? Sometimes there’s a drought and it’s gonna be brown and bald. So, you, that’s why you have to make sure you always have to water it because it’s constant. It’s not just a one time thing that happens. So.
But I love that, that you figured this out at such a young age and you’re still continuing to work on it and truly living a life that you want for yourself.
So, let’s move forward to maybe 40 to 50 years from now Natasha, and you’re looking back at your life, what legacy would you like to leave and what do you wanna be remembered for?
Oh my gosh, I haven’t been asked that one before, but I feel like my goal is to inspire people to live life on their own terms.
I say that a lot in my content, but I want to really have people kind of take control of their dreams cause we have one life and it’s so fleeting and it’s so short that if you’re not following your purpose and your intuition and leading with that, I think that it can be wasted so quickly and to not be afraid of failing.
I want people to just go for what they believe in and do it relentlessly because you never know what could happen. You never know what path you can go down and also whose lives you can change by doing so. Cause we all need that inspiration. And I feel like I get inspired by all the people in my life on a daily basis.
I’m so lucky to have such an amazing group of people around me who are entrepreneurs and who are trailblazers that make my dreams seem so attainable. You know? And I think that’s a huge reason why I’m able to live the life that I do is because people around me are doing the same. So, I wanna be one of those people and I just wanna leave the world a more empathetic and connected place.
Yeah, I love that.
And you know, it’s something that you’re living with now and it’s something that you wanna share to the world and you’re experiencing it.
So, thank you so much, Natasha, for joining us today. I really appreciate you sharing with us your journey.
If our listeners wanna get to know you more, where can they find you?
My Instagram and TikTok are both @thenatashaibraham, my YouTube channel is Natasha Ibraham and my website is natashaibrahim.com. So, just my name everywhere.
Perfect! Thanks so much Natasha, we really appreciate you!
Thank you so much for having me, this is a pleasure.
Listen to Natasha’s extended interview where she shares what it’s like living as a third culture kid.
What you’ll find:
In this episode, Natasha talks about what a third culture kid is and what it’s like living as one.