Life as an Adult Third Culture Kid: Meet Alaine!
5 min read Along with providing online therapy to individuals around the world, I also post an Interview Series on this website where I share the…
5 min read
Along with providing online therapy to individuals around the world, I also post an Interview Series on this website where I share the stories of global citizens throughout the world who have moved abroad, are traveling the globe or are transitioning to life back at home.
This week´s interview is with Alaine, an adult third culture kid. Born in Singapore, childhood in Jakarta, pre-teen to full fledged teen in Singapore, undergraduate studies in Los Angeles, most of her twenties in New York City, back to Singapore, postgraduate studies in the Swiss Alps, interned in Brussels, and back to Singapore (sort of a nomadic existence), Alaine has had a colorful life growing up as a third culture kid/expat kid, student, performer, choreographer, traveler and a whole gamut of jobs onstage/offstage at dance studios, schools, public parks, community centers, retail, hotels, food & beverage, and events. She recently started Social Zen Retreats and will be hosting her first retreat this summer! Her interests are wine, food, cooking, cocktails, travel, dance, and sharing stories. Check out her blog at Travel with Alaine.
Hi Alaine, when was the first time you left your home country?
I’m just going to clarify and assume that this question means my passport country which is different from my birth country. I was born outside of my passport country and then at a few months old we moved to my passport country for a few years. I think I was 7 or 8 years old when we left again.
I don’t remember much about my passport country to be honest. What I remember most is the food and growing up as an only child that had to entertain herself with make-believe and toys until I was old enough to start school, ballet lessons, swimming classes, and piano lessons. Also, I had maids, a driver, and my grandparents helped take care of me while my parents were busy working on their own businesses.
Why did you decide to make this move?
My family decided to relocate because the country was safer to live in as well as better schools. I grew up in the International school an overseas American schools system. We spent summers visiting my grandparents and other relatives in Jakarta and Sydney then later on to California for summer schools and visiting other relatives too. Because of my American education, I decided to attend university in California as well as my pursue my passion for dance. I majored in World Arts and cultures with a concentration in dance studies at UCLA. After graduation, I moved to New York because that was the center of the dance world in the States.
What inspired you to move to California?
I moved to California mostly to go to University and major in dance. As a global nomad, I decided to pursue my passion and try to make life meaningful for myself even if it meant traveling far away. I love making friends all over the world, sharing stories, performing, cooking, eating, drinking, and hosting gatherings.
After living in so many different places, how do you answer the question of ¨Where are you from?¨
Depending on my mood I have several variations to this answer, but my favorite one is to say “It’s a long complicated story but I grew up in and have lived in quite a number of countries.”
What’s the most difficult part about travel or living outside of your home country? How do you overcome these difficulties?
The most difficult thing about traveling often and living in different parts of the world is that sense of rootlessness. I’ve grown up not feeling rooted to any one place so it carries over to adulthood. I like meeting up with my friends and family that are scattered across the globe but I always feel a bit disconnected. Like an outsider getting a glimpse of the inside. Not being from anywhere but also being from everywhere. Also the homesickness for places that I’ve lived. My mind is always thinking of being in other places. When home is a moving concept of memories in each place, then feeling that sense of belonging among people becomes even more important.
What’s the best part about having lived in lots of different places?
Being able to freely live my life without restrictions on safety, rules, and what to wear on a daily basis. Making friends and building a network of global friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. I love traveling and discovering how different cultures work and live in their communities. There are pros and cons for every country and what works for one country may not work so well in another.
What experience have you had abroad that you want everyone to know about?
Oh there are so many! I’ve lived most my life apart from those few years as a young child in my passport country (I don’t remember much during that time because I was so young). A few years ago, I went on a solo ski trip to Zermatt in Switzerland and had a wonderful week of skiing, taking in the fresh air of the alps, making friends with people from Germany, America, Switzerland, Taiwan, during my ski lessons. Received the kind hospitality from the hotel owners of the small hotel I stayed at and soaked in the views of the Matterhorn. It was in Zermatt where I decided that I wanted travel and hospitality to be a part of my life and when I returned from that trip, I embarked on a journey that changed the course of my career.
What has living outside of your home country taught you about life, romantic relationships, family and/or professional ambitions?
I have never really stayed in one place to grow roots and truly believe that life should not be spent in one place, one career, with the same group of friends. I do admire those that are content with staying in one place, growing up there, living there, working there, and then dying there. There is a charm in that kind of life. I just know its not for me. Settling down in a place for a few years before moving on to the next location seems a bit more realistic for me. I’ve come to terms with having a romantic partner that would respect my need to travel the world and be a global nomad. I would like to someday retire in a beautiful countryside location by the mountains and host travelers from all over the world.
What are 3 things on your bucket list?
Well that definitely depends… in the bigger scheme of life. These are definitely on my bucket list 1) Be able to speak another language at an advanced level (I am ashamed that my only fluent and native language is English and of course Dance Movement 😉 with all the other languages at intermediate levels or basic levels) 2) Work around the world 3) Find home in different places around the world.
What advice do you have for people who are considering traveling or relocating to a new country, but are feeling doubtful?
Just do it. You travel and move to a new country to seek new adventures, a different perspective, overcome challenges, and adjust to living there. Its not going to be easy and the adjustment period can really push you but you will find your way around and adjust. Some places are going to be easier than others. But all those experiences are priceless! You will learn a lot about yourself and your ability to adjust, make new friends, expand your network, and make the world a slightly better place by expanding your view on the world by becoming a global citizen.
Do you have a favorite quote, book, movie, TED Talk, etc?
Books: Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, A Global Soul by Pico Iyer, Fairytales by Hans Christian Anderson, and Harry Potter series
Movie: L’Auberge Espagnole, Shanghai Calling, The Road Home, En man som heter Ove, Tillsammans
Also I love the following documentaries I’m in, but I think the directors did such an awesome job! Dreaming to Escape (http://lauramlamp.com/Dreaming-to-Escape), Neither nor There (http://www.neitherherenorthere-thefilm.com/)
TV shows: The Americans, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Den Brøn, Reign, Chef’s Table, Vikings
Music: Ken Ring, Veronica Maggio, Timbuktu, Pentatonix, Linda Pira, Sara Barrelles, Ed Sheeran
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before starting this journey?
I would definitely tell my childhood self to embrace all the cultures and then when I had a severe identity crisis before I discovered there was a term and a book on Third Culture Kids, to say that it will be ok to have the crisis because your experience is unique and your story. There are also others with unique stories who don’t know how to answer where they are from.
What do you hope people say about you on your 70th birthday?
I hope there will be a nice party around a fireplace and cozy blankets with inspiring people around me. I hope I inspired people to be creative, travel, and reinvent themselves many times over.
Thanks for sharing your story of life as an adult third culture kid Alaine! Want to learn more about Alaine´s story and her upcoming retreat? Check out:
Travel with Alaine: www.travelwithalaine.com
Social Zen Retreats: www.socialzenretreats.com
If you’re living outside of your home country or are an avid traveler and want to be featured in a future interview, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF INTENTIONAL EXPAT: Melissa Parks moved from Seattle (USA) to Madrid, Spain in 2009 to spend what was supposed to be just a year abroad working as an English teacher. Over 7 years later she’s still in Europe and recently relocated to Amsterdam. She currently works as a psychologist providing online therapy for people living outside of their home country (as well as in person therapy in Amsterdam). Her passions include travel, meditation, promoting positive body image, dancing, writing and helping empower women and men around the world to live their best life possible.