Living life in reverse

Living life in reverse

by Janice Nigro

I find myself living life in reverse. ie I am now doing the things one usually does earlier in life. For example, I have had an extraordinary education and lived in some interesting parts of the US and the world, but today, I am living in a small apartment by the beach, wearing flip-flops every day, in kind of a low paying job where I am learning a lot.

Although living life in reverse can have some negative interpretations-like I never want to grow up-unfortunately being a single person leaves you in some ways few options other than to hang out with younger people-one way that living life in reverse can be a positive is in how you manage to travel around the world. I suppose taking the time to travel around the world especially for extended periods of time (which means more than two weeks in the USA) or live somewhere else is something most do while they are young. I did it well into my career in part probably to make a dramatic change, but also to fulfill a dream I had since university. I simply wanted to know what it would be like to live outside of the USA, and it was my career that provided me with this opportunity.

The thing that currently motivates me most to travel is scuba diving, but my alternate strategy or even combined strategy is to plan around visiting friends. This strategy in fact can only improve with age-for a couple of reasons. One is that presumably you have more of them, and the second is that many of them have real homes that they now live in so that when you do visit, you can sleep on a bed.

Some of my friends live in or come from cities you probably know: Singapore, Sydney, Berlin, Munich, Hobart, Roma, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, San Diego.  Whereas others come from (or made me visit) places I would never have found on my own: Vinstra, Carovigno, Canet, Jena, Wrechen, Cebu City, Freiburg. How to end up with such a collection of friends? I guess a good way to do that is to live in another country all together. Based on the fact that I lived in Norway, you would think that many of my friends would be Norwegian. Norwegians (and from what I understand, Scandinavians in general) are difficult to be close to, so I discovered that when you live outside of your own country, you probably make more friends from countries other than the one you are living in (especially if you take a language class). And since it happens that way, eventually your friends either return to their homeland, or in some cases move on to a different country, making it possible for you to visit more places than you may ever have previously considered.

In some respects, I would feel irresponsible if I did not take advantage of the opportunities my friends present.

But to travel has always been a part of my life. In fact my earliest memory is of traveling to visit friends of my parents in Mexico. My grandparents were also from Europe so a foreign language (ethnic food) and English spoken with an accent was part of my life from the beginning. Maybe that was enough to influence my interest in learning languages and taking opportunities largely through my work as a scientist to become friends with people from all over the world. Over the years, I have visited my friends in their hometowns or used them for their knowledge of places (like the Seychelles) where people from the US typically do not go. This past year has taken me all around the world, and itineraries were mostly built around my friends (who are probably even more intent on seeing the world). A major flaw in the strategy is when you also make new friends in a far away place like Gangga Island or Raja Ampat because it remains unclear when or if you will ever return to see them again.

A taxi driver in Berlin commented recently that I have friends everywhere. After a 10-minute conversation, he came to this conclusion. Ironically, however, it is not that I myself do not live in an interesting place-Los Angeles-but I have no friends here exactly yet. Maybe I need to quit traveling…

How do you plan your travels?

©2014 Janice Marie Nigro/


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