The life of a nomad, a dream for many that goes unrealized. You can live the life of a nomad no matter what you do. All you need is the grit and the mettle that Gemma had when she decided to go be a nurse in an unusual location? Want to hear her story? Read on!
Same old story?
My name’s Gemma, I guess you could say I found my passion late in life. 32 years on this earth and I somehow only took my first backpacking trip in 2010. The lead up to this was somehow cliché. Girl splits up with boy, girl has breakdown, girl cries a lot… girl reassess life, saves up money desperately, packs up and flies off to Bangkok, Thailand. Little did that 25-year-old girl know that she would be horrendously struck down by the travel bug. Cliché, no?
At this point in my life I had been working as an oncology nurse in various roles for about 4 years. Although I was passionate about my job, I grew to crave more. I needed a change, to escape the rat race that had ended up consuming me by such an early age. I had got stuck in a rut, working hard, playing hard, failed relationship and my fair share of financial issues. The list of things that made me unhappy went on and on.
Fast forward 7 years and my life feels much different. Somehow back then I always knew I wanted to travel. Back in 2006 when I qualified as a nurse, I never did it with the intention to travel. Today I am grateful, not only for a career that takes me around the world, but to have a wealth of interest and experience in what I do. Once I realised in myself that I no longer needed to please other people I found the strength and the courage to start pursuing my dreams. After many months of finding my deep-rooted courage I started looking at nursing around the world. Of course, the usual countries like Australia were appealing. But by some twist of fate I found myself at an open day, learning about nursing in the Middle East. Things snowballed and before I knew it I’d landed a haematology nursing job in Saudi Arabia. For me, the decision was easy. I wanted a challenge, I was craving to be immersed into the complete unknown. Without second thought I accepted the job on a 1-year contract.
As you can imagine, friends and family had mixed views on me packing up my bags and randomly moving to Saudi Arabia. Some people quite literally thought I was mad, but close friends and family were supportive of my decision and that was the most important thing to me.
Nursing in Saudi Arabia brought me all the opportunities I craved. A new experience, a new culture, vast amounts of holidays and a lucrative salary to spend on my dreams of travelling the world. I know my move to Saudi Arabia was one of the best choices I have made in life. Since making that move back in 2012 I’ve travelled all over the place, ticking countries off my bucket list just as I’d dreamt.
Working on short term contracts like this meant I had the opportunity to take a year out to travel around Asia and Europe with the money I’d saved during my time working in Saudi, and after that I took another short-term contract in Jeddah. My main saviour in achieving this kind of lifestyle has been from building relationships with colleagues from previous jobs, being flexible and keen to keep learning. As a result, since leaving Jeddah I have landed short term contracts in dream destinations, Turks and Caicos and Bermuda. All within oncology nursing roles. Having the luck and ability to work in this way has given me a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the nomadic lifestyle I was so desperately craving. I’ve even had the chance to hike the Great Wall of China. By the by, here’s a great post by my friend Dana on how to eat food in China.
Working a bit and travelling a bit, supplemented by some freelance writing in-between, my newest venture! Exactly what I always wanted!
Achieving my dream lifestyle hasn’t come without hard work. Having these opportunities means that the positions I’m working in are high pressure, high responsibility roles and moving about means I must learn quickly and concentrate really hard! It means being flexible to diverse cultures and unusual ways of working. Being extremely patient and understanding of different standards and ways of doing things. It’s honestly taken 11 years of challenging work, oncology experience and world experience to get me to where I am now. I truly feel that travelling in between opens my mind to working successfully in unfamiliar cultures and not being phased by differences in practice across different countries.
Of course, there are some downsides. Some people tell me I can’t live like this forever, that I will have to get a ‘proper job’ and ‘settle down’ at some point. Sometimes this is difficult to hear when you have worked hard to achieve what you have. I often think that people don’t fully understand what it is I do. It’s pretty hard for anyone to understand this lifestyle until you’re living it. You sacrifice normal friendships and relationships somewhat. Working in this way is very transient which can be difficult. Of course, you miss out on things at home, engagements, weddings, babies. Life goes on without you. Hopefully next year I plan to be at home a little more to make up for this!
Today I’ve travelled to over 40 countries, places I always wanted to go like Vietnam, India, and Japan… and places I never expected to see like Lebanon and the Maldives. Who would have thought I’d drive over 3052 kilometres in India in a rickshaw? Yes, everyone said it was dangerous. But it happened! Or discover Beirut’s beautiful heart along with the ancient Byblos. I now have the freedom and flexibility that I desperately craved. I am truly blessed to have found the courage to take the plunge and see what life could offer me with a bit of bravery and a lot of hard work.
I have managed to form a life where I get to have a fantastic career whilst fulfilling my dreams of travelling the world, learning about myself and expressing my creativity without any boundaries. It may be an unconventional life, and it may have its pros and cons, but I will keep working hard and enjoying it whilst the opportunities are there for me to do so.
My career funds my travels… just work hard and have the courage to take risks. You can do this too! <3
Gemma is originally from the UK and now lives wherever her work takes her. She left her regular life and work behind in 2012 and is always seeking new opportunities. She funds her nomadic lifestyle through her passion for nursing and has recently pursued her hobby for creative writing as a freelancer. Catch up with Gemma and read her journal at Blessed are the Curious or follow her on Instagram at @Gemma_Laing
Gemma was just one of us, living a mundane life before she found the courage to break boundaries and live the life of a nomad. Does she inspire you to do the same?