People who have more than one child often remark how different their offspring are from each other. We appear to have raised one traditional person — and a digital nomad.
kind of saw both our sons emerge from my body, three and a half years apart. Nevertheless, sometimes I wonder if they had a fool proof baby identification system during the 1980’s in the nursery of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Our older son is married, has what one would call a “real” job, and is pursuing a Masters degree in Organizational Dynamics.
Our younger son, the one who climbed out of his crib at 11 months old, just bought a condo in Mexico City. This year, he also spent extended periods of time in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, not to mention a few trips to the United States. In fact, as I write this, I believe he is in Las Vegas, or near Las Vegas, or somewhere. If you inquire as to his occupation, he’ll tell you he’s a digital nomad.
Our son’s college major was exercise physiology, so I’m not sure I could have predicted the “digital” part of his job description. However, there were signs foreshadowing the “nomad” part.
When our son was a high school student, he rejected my advice that it was very helpful to learn a foreign language, especially Spanish. He did the least amount possible to earn Bs in Spanish classes and made no effort to approximate the accent of any Spanish-speaking country. Consequently, he was pretty much a mono-linguist when we delivered him to his climate-based college choice – the University of Miami.
I soon started receiving calls from him inquiring about the family dog, and by the way, “What’s the pluperfect subjunctive of the verb estar?” This helped me not be stunned when he chose to spend a sophomore semester studying in Barcelona, Spain. When he subsequently floated the idea of spending a summer taking an intensive Spanish course in Argentina, he met my incredulous look with body language that said, “Whaaat?” and the pronouncement, “I’m a citizen of the world.”
Still, I admit to some surprise when he chose to spend his junior year spring break in 2009 traveling with me in Spain, rather than joining his friends in Cancun.
Traveling with a Future Digital Nomad
Arriving separately at the sprawling Madrid airport, we managed to find each other and rent a car. I was relieved when he agreed to be the designated driver, even when I learned that the only thing he dislikes more than driving is the thought of me driving. We set out on our best behaviors, with a GPS unit, a detailed road atlas, and Google Earth.
With memories of our son’s not-so-long-ago contrarian teenage phase, I was silently pleased to realize that, in addition to my passion for Spanish, he also inherited my wanderlust and fascination with history. We marveled at the Roman aqueduct in Segovia and walked the preserved medieval city walls of Avila.
We were enchanted by the glow of sunset on the cathedral in Salamanca, and the view of Toledo from across the Tagus River, still so similar to the one captured on canvas by El Greco in 1597.
In Toledo, we were drawn to the Sephardic Museum, dedicated to the history of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 by the Inquisition of Ferdinand and Isabella. Yes, there was a dark side to the “enlightened” monarchs who sponsored the voyages of Christopher Columbus.
Our son’s last name, Albelda, is of Sephardic origin. His Bulgaria-born great-grandmother, who lived to be 97, spoke Ladino, the Spanish of 1492, nurtured through the Diaspora and the centuries by the Sephardim (Spanish Jews).
The Sephardic Museum in Toledo adjoins the Sinagoga del Transito, the exquisite restored synagogue built by Moorish (Islamic) craftsmen in the 14th century.
We explored the synagogue together, but by mutual agreement and in the interest of familial harmony, we toured the museum’s exhibits separately. I found my son waiting for me in the museum’s bookstore, perusing a book about Sephardic surnames. I felt a shiver when the book informed us that the name inherited by my self-proclaimed citizen of the world, means citizen. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised he grew up to be a digital nomad.