In the fall of 2017, while living 6 months in the French alps (where a new day meant a new hike), we found out that my better half was pregnant.
In the midst of all the normal feelings that soon-to-be first time parents experience of insane love, excitement, being nervous, doubting if you are ready, we also knew that a baby meant that we would structure our lives in a completely different way.
Up until that point I had spend my 2017 like this:
- Living 6 months in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Traveling to Bali with my mom to celebrate her retirement
- Traveling with friends in Iran
- Running Tehran marathon
- Celebrated my 31st birthday in the Himalays, going to Everest Base Camp
- Took the train from Beijing to North Korea and stayed for a week
- Climbed Mont Blanc with a good friend
- Total of visiting Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, North Korea, Nepal, Italy, France and Israel with +15 friends/family members
This is of course a transition from extreme freedom to very big and specific responsibility. I wanted to share a few things I observed while doing this transition:
Freedom doesn’t necessarily mean freedom FROM something
The way I would put it is that I have never felt so free as I do after having our first kid. While it’s so easy to think kids just take your freedom away, for me it’s a big freedom-enabler.
Knowing your priorities, knowing what really matters and having someone who is more important than yourself comes with such a big feeling of freedom. All the self-doubt, all the comparing myself to other people and all that other stuff you go through in your 20s are completely gone. I have never felt more free.
Entrepreneurship is the most insane tool to live the right life for you
Entrepreneurship is so overrated and underrated at the same time. Nothing on earth can help you live the life as you truly want it. Thanks to being entrepreneurs / self-employed, we were able to travel the world while working and now we are able to both work part-time, so we can spend as much time as possible with our son — and he doesn’t have to go to daycare, but is always with us.
Done right, entrepreneurship can give you this extremely freedom to do stuff that is right for you and your family. For me it’s a mystery that so many pursue the startup dream of funding instead of being independent makers.
The negative framing of the before and after having kids
While traveling full-time it wasn’t just a few times we heard “Better do this now, you can’t do it when you have kids”, which is such bullshit. There is such a negative framing of the before and after having kids.
Getting this constant “input” we 100% decided that the way we wanted to approach it would be that having kids would put more flavour, more life, more love into all the things we already did.
So instead of seeing it as before and after, it was more like… wow, now we will take this living thing to the next level.
Not tying your identity too much to one community
Making this transition was a good reminder not to tie your identity too much to only one community or way of living. In all small communities I have been a part of, I have met people who are just so die hard into that culture, community or way of living that it becomes their sole identity. The result is sometimes that these people switch of any critical or creative thinking and just apply what is normal in that community. I have seen this in triathlon, FIRE, digital nomads, the startup world, homeschooling.
I really like the idea about being on the border of many different communities and applying a bit from each. Taking some inspiration from each, meeting some people from each etc. I think this makes you more interesting and gives you a much more versatile identity, that you proactively create. If I had been a die hard digital nomad and my whole identity was tied up on that, becoming a parent would have been extremely hard. It would either had resultet in traveling eventhough I didn’t want to or a big identity crisis.
Another side note on being on the border of multiple interests/communities is, when you meet people who have the same MIX of deep interests, there is a much bigger chance of really deep friendships.
How being digital nomads helped us prepare becoming parents
While these are two very different things and non-comparable sizes, I think that traveling full-time helped us prepare becoming parents a little bit. A few examples:
- We were extremely well-trained in not having a normal daily life. Location, food, sleep, working hours, social life changed so often, so change was a big part of our normal day to day life. I think that if we have had the same jobs and same daily lifes day in and day out the 5 years prior to becoming parents, it would have been a tougher transition.
- Living like digital nomads is more or less just an awesome way of experimenting with different ways of living. For us it was a tool to really dig into how we wanted to live. Lessons we use in our new lives as parents.
- Traveling full-time while working shows you just how much freedom you can have. Living like that for a bunch of years taught us that we have the tools to build our lives exactly as we want to and that freedom is possible. That gave us much broader choices when considering how we wanted to live as a family.
What about traveling now?
We definetely still want to travel, but we defintitely want to travel different than before. We want to travel less, better, slower and more with friends and family and we want to travel with other expectations.
One of the ways we travelled after having our son was a trip to Nothern Bali, were we rented a big villa with 5 bedrooms. We did the trip with some friends who have a small daugther. They also brought some family, I brought my mom and we also had another friend join.
Way less adventures and spontaneity, but a beautiful and awesome mix of friends/family, relaxing, everything in the pace of the kids, lots of time to work. In a few months we are doing the same, but in Oman. We also rented a big villa in Spain next summer and want to gather a big bunch of friends and family.
So, it’s more planning, way longer in advance and it’s way slower. But in many ways it’s also better.
Originally published at Nikolaj Astrup.