The Mobile Life: A New Approach to Moving Anywhere
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What is your book about?
The Mobile Life is a how-to guide to establishing a new life for yourself when you move. The book focuses on moving abroad but can be applied to any major move, even within the same country. The book stimulates people to take control of the process and be aware of the tremendous skills they develop, the knowledge they gain, and the positive mindset required for success.
What inspired you to write your book?
I have relocated 14 times to 11 countries on five continents in my life. To me, moving is natural and normal—demanding, but also exciting and enriching. But I have seen people struggle and I wondered what made the difference between a happy nomadic experience and an unhappy one. In my late teens, I discovered that people were writing about life experiences like mine, but in these books and articles, the experiences were described as tough, abnormal, and often leading to major identity or emotional problems. I couldn’t relate to these accounts so, later in life, when I started writing, I wanted to share my perspective and perhaps help others create positive experiences.
Can you describe your writing process?
For me, writing is many different processes. If I am working on something new, I may not write anything down physically, but spend a lot of time talking to myself (silently, I think – I hope). Ideas often come to me or are worked out when I walk. I usually write new material down by hand in A4 notebooks that are scruffy, chaotic collections of scribbles. I work things out – craft, edit, perfect, rewrite – on the computer. The final check needs to be done on paper, on the couch preferably, late in the day.
How did you come to do what you’re doing today?
When my children were very little, we moved from Vietnam to the Netherlands (my husband’s home country) and I asked myself what I wanted to be when my children grew up. It took me a while to admit to myself that I had always wanted to write because I thought that writers were born: I had not won contests at school, written stories as a child, nor studied literature at university, and therefore could not just decide to be a writer in my thirties. It was a career counselor who told me that I didn’t need to become Barbara Kingsolver overnight – I could work one step at a time on my dream; and there are many sorts of writers, and writing is a skill that can be learned and perfected. So I started. I took an online journalism diploma, started writing for no pay for a website, then got hired to write a book… Four books and umpteen articles later, I can now safely say that I am a writer.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
Nope! The whole point of being a writer for me is having the flexibility to go with the flow, work wherever I happen to be and whenever I can, so that no one day looks like any other: I am grateful to be able to say that there are no typical days in my life. I live in Lagos, Nigeria at the moment, where I have the luxury of having a cleaning lady who liberates my time for what I love: writing, discovering Lagos, spending time with inspiring people, and writing some more. I “work” on average about 6 hours a day but that includes thinking, researching, and networking as well as administration and marketing activities. When I find myself overwhelmed with projects or unfocused for whatever reason, I use a time sheet to get myself on track. And I always have a lengthy to-do list from which I try to cross at least one thing off a day.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
Several things give me utmost satisfaction: I like having the freedom to follow a lead and develop the latest project I’m passionate about; having the excuse to ask people about themselves; having the challenge to craft words to get a message across in a clear and beautiful way; and having the opportunity to experiencing those little moments of enlightenment when when the words flow and you know you are onto something.
Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?
I love books and have a shelf containing my all-time favorites (these are the books I drag across the world with me). But inspiration comes from people I meet, particularly women, starting with my mother. She moved from a small town in Quebec to travel the world with nothing but her wits and intelligence. She raised me to be open-minded, independent, and empathetic to others regardless of their origins and economic standing. I have had had the honor of meeting many creative and adventurous women, who are role models for our 21st century global village.
Can you share something that people may be surprised to learn about you?
I had to ask a friend about this. She said I come across as super self-confident about my career – which is surprising to me because if someone says they read an article or book of mine, my instinct is to mentally arm myself for what I assume will be criticism. There is a low rumbling voice in my head that echoes every time, “They didn’t like it!” I’m sure everything I’ve written could have been written better and I wish I could be funnier, more poetic. Saying you are a writer often has an effect on people – they think, “Wow!” and it takes all my willpower not to blurt out, “No, no, I’m just a small-time writer; I hope what I write is okay.” But perhaps this anxiety is good – it keeps me trying to improve.
What’s next for you?
At the moment I am working on articles about people who have done some pretty amazing things in Nigeria. Writing the articles is easy – getting them published is the hard part. That is my next challenge: selling these particular articles to magazines whose readers will be inspired by the examples of these amazing women.