Featured Nomad: Jennifer Harmony
I met Jennifer last year when we were both regulars in the hip cafe LaMuella on the busy market street of Arambol, Goa. She always looked so beautifully dressed and styled with just the right free flowing style and effortless flair that a true nomad would have. She was often in the cafe with her boyfriend, Antoine, working on (as I came to discover) videos that they needed to edit. We casually acquainted ourselves in the cafe and then, just how it happens in India, we had some friends in common and within a short while, a true connection formed.
She is caring and compassionate and deeply passionate about healing; hers and the global community. Through her travels she was introduced to EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and works closely with her teacher Sonia Sophia. She is also now a highly trained EFT practitioner herself and did wonders on me while we were in Goa.
Jennifer is a true nomad and I think you'll enjoy reading this interview.
Do you consider yourself a nomad, or just someone who travels a lot? Or….is it other people who need to label how you live your life?
When i started travelling in 2001, I was definitely a backpacker - never spending more than a few nights in each spot. Now I consider myself more of a nomad, as I tend to spend months in each location. In the last years, I’ve fallen into a happy pattern of Winter in Arambol, Goa followed by Spring (& sometimes Summer/monsoon) in Pokhara, Nepal (in the foothills of the Himalaya). Last year i walked the Camino de Santiago/Compostela across Spain & spent some time with my family in Scotland. Autumn seems like a wild card - a bit in Europe, then often over to California before arriving again in Goa, India. One friend called me an ‘Earth Pilgrim’ & i like that idea. Humbly walking around the Earth.
Was this traveling lifestyle a way that gradually unfolded or something you decided from the get-go?
It gradually unfolded. At 21, i wanted to see EVERYTHING & do EVERYTHING. I had so much enthusiasm & energy. I raced around Asia for 19 months & absorbed as much as possible. i loved it so much, I went back and visited my favourite places. Anyone who’s ever travelled like that will know it’s absolutely exhausting! So I ended up spending some months in my favourite spots & meeting others who were doing the same. There really are a lot of us who chose to live this way!
How long have you been traveling?
This is a frequently asked question & one i find difficult to answer. Among backpackers there’s a lot of ego & bravado into how long you’ve been away from home. I quit my office job in 2004 & have been a somewhat nomadic lifestyle since then, so I could answer 12 years. But then I spent 5 months living in a yurt in Quebec, so does that count? How about the 9 months I spent in Scotland seeing how much i’d really changed in my 6 years of travelling in Asia? I felt more like a fish out of water in those 9 months, than when I’m in one of my regular haunts! You can stay away from ‘home’ for long enough that the lifestyle, culture, people etc seem even more foreign than the other side of the world!
Where was your first trip and how did it impact you? My first proper backpacking trip was in 2001 (when i was 21).
I wanted to go to Laos & Indonesia. My boyfriend at the time said “okay, let’s go overland!”. “What’s overland?” I asked. It means no planes. I remember looking at the map horrified by the idea of having to cross through the vastness of Russia & China before I’d arrive in Laos. I was almost shaking the first time I arrived in China, because the only thing I new about the country was from school geography - they are only allowed one child & if they have a girl, they might kill her! I discovered that everyone is afraid of their neighbours. In Belarus they warned us away from Russians. The Russians feared the Mongolians. The Mongolians advised caution with the Chinese and so on. The closer we got to the border, the more intense the warnings became. And yet each country proved just as welcoming & friendly as the last. So I realised that it wasn’t necessary to be afraid. Through my own experiences & through talks with other travellers, I realised most of my fears were unfounded & never materialised, so that helped me relax & enjoy my travels more. My mind was opened by different cultures & perspectives. Something which blew me away, was how happy poor people could be. Having grown up in a material society & being told to value possessions & wealth above all, this gave me a lot of things to think about (i studied & worked in Advertising for a few years before leaving the UK, so i should know!).
What’s a benefit of this lifestyle for you?
I am really free. When I quit my job in advertising, many of my co-workers & concerned family members asked me “but what about your pension?”…I was 24 years old!!! At some point I made peace with the fact that maybe I’ll die penniless when I can no longer support myself. However, I refuse to live my life just so I can start living when I turn 65 (& that’s even if the pension system I bought into would have lasted that long!). I heard someone say that he would just keep living this way & when he couldn’t support myself anymore, he’d peacefully go sit under a tree & wait to see what happens. I find that a nice idea. Other than freedom, I had the time & space in my life to discover who I am. By that I mean, I also mean that i came to be at peace with everything that had happened in my life. I learned to love myself. I’ve also been blessed to meet the most incredible friends through this lifestyle. I (mostly) feel like I’m in a constant flow & travelling where I’m meant to be. To be in this flow means travelling for me, but it doesn’t necessarily mean quitting work & backpacking around the world for everyone. I recommend everyone to travel, but this lifestyle isn’t for everyone! People find acceptance, love & peace in whatever resonates deeply with them.
And something you find challenging?
The most challenging part is not having constant friends & family around. I have people in my life whom I love deeply & dearly, but every few months the place changes & so do the people. In this way, it can feel unsettling & isolating at times. I wonder if i’ll ever be able to live somewhere. I honestly can’t imagine settling down in just one place. No single place in this world has called me to stay permanently. The constant up-rooting my life & setting up in another place - lugging all the possessions you need to make each place a home…that can be tiring. But in another way it’s cleansing. i constantly re-evaluate what, who & where I want to be a part of my life.
Do you find yourself influenced by the cultures you’re in regarding your personal style?
The colours! Oh my goodness…I absolutely adore the bright colours of Asia. The lagoon turquoise & fuchsia pinks. In Asia you can never dress brightly enough! It’s one of the things which strikes me the most when I return to the UK…it seems like 95% of Heathrow Airport is dressed in black, grey or navy. I sometimes feel like a Basset’s Liquorice Allsort when I’m passing through. However, people often comment on how much they love the colours. I feel bright inside, so how could I ever feel good dressed in black?! The textures & hand embroidery of India is also such a treat. I love the fine needlework & patterns. I feel connected to something more ancient than myself when I have these items around. My favourites are the textiles from the high altitude places of Tibet & Nepal. Near Muktinath, Nepal, I bought a gorgeous piece of material from an old woman I stayed with for a week. She’d raised & cared for the sheep herself, shorn them, spun the wool by hand, dyed & finally wove it into a traditional Tibetan apron (which is nothing like a cooking apron, but a square piece of fabric Tibetans - people from that area - wear folded around their waists to keep warm the area of our bodies where all our organs live! It really does work. i ended up gifting it to a Japanese friend in Quebec, as i knew she’d get more use from it as i spend most of my time in warm climates).
Can you tell us a ‘wild’ adventure that challenged you?
Walking alone around Mount Kailash in Tibet. It’s said to be the holiest mountain in the world, as it’s revered by Hindus & Buddhists. It’s 53km going over a pass of 5,600m. I slept in monasteries, walked in whatever clothes I could find (including a $2 pair of second hand Adidas trainers I scavenged in a second hand market in Pakistan & a Chinese military rain coat for a tiny bit of wind protection, plus a beautiful Tibetan skirt with faux wool on the inside which kept me warm but isn’t the best for mountaineering!). I thought I was going to die going over the pass because the wind was so intense it kept blowing me down onto jagged rocks. At one point I caught myself with my nose about a centimetre away from being smashed onto a bolder. I wondered at that point if i’d made a really, really poor decision & actually was going to die. The following morning i woke up snow-blind as i’d been walking without sunglasses! It sounds extreme but it’s just the sort of situation you get yourself into in your twenties! I’ve calmed down a lot since then. I’m grateful for the experiences & the lessons I learned, but I have a much deeper respect for my life now!
One that opened you up emotionally?
Honestly, the same experiences which open people up who live in the West! Everything connected to love & relationships! I often feel I’m having similar experiences to my friends in the West, I just have a more epic backdrop & romanticised location (which doesn’t necessarily make heartbreak any easier). I can say that going to volunteer after the 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan opened me up emotionally. Until that point I’d always imagined I’d end up working for an NGO. After I saw how useless the big NGOs were in Pakistan, how uncoordinated & how much money they wasted - I realised I would never work for them. Losing my future like that, combined with living in a disaster zone for 2 months (often sleeping in tents in the villages destroyed by the quake, trying to provide much needed supplies to villagers before winter arrived - plus managing the locals’ apathy & fear)…I ended up very depressed. It was then that I became much more interested in spirituality. In time I realised that all the changes we think we need to make in the outside world, all begin within ourself. The quote “be the change you want to see in the world” was my mantra at the time. I started to heal my own self-hatred & (after even more time) began to like myself!
I like to gather some music suggestions from our featured nomads….Playlist/song suggestions?
Nahko & Medicine for the People (Dark as Night)
Mamuse (All the Way)
Rising Appalachia (Filthy Dirty South & Wider Circles)
Sigur Ros (We Play Endlessly)
Arambolla (Dreamland: Live in the Jungle - by Arambol hang players - INCREDIBLE!)