What Are You Doing Here?

arepa with quesito

Some questions are just straight up awkward for a nomad to answer.

How long are you traveling for? What do you do? Where are you going next?

These kinds of questions literally make me squirm. I rarely have a comprehensible response. You would think that after having the same conversations so many times, I would have thought of something witty or interesting or mysterious to say.

And this new question, what are you doing here, is even more disconcerting than the others. I’ve been hanging out with lots of students lately, and the ones who are from other countries are actually doing something here – studying. They came here for a specific reason. They know how long they’ll be here, what they’re doing next, and why exactly they came.

Inevitably the conversation turns towards me. “What are you doing here?”

My reply is underwhelming, to say the least. “Not a whole lot,” I normally say. Or, in Spanish, “No… nada.”

You can imagine that this response is less than satisfying to my conversational partner. I’m met with a puzzled look and more questions. At this point, I have to choose a path. Should I focus on my obsession with Colombia? Should I talk about work and my digital nomad status? Do I have to give them all my travel stats?

I could try to be funny and say something like, “I’m addicted to arepas and Colombian coffee. Instead of seeking help for my problem, I decided to embrace it.”

Or I could just keep it short and deep with an answer like, “Because I belong here.”

I am actually doing things here. In order to stimulate myself, I have made 2012 my year of fun and learning. I am expressing myself musically with bongos and a violin. I am taking French classes. I enrolled in a photography course that will start in a couple of weeks.

I suppose I could mention these when the question pops up again, but none of these activities are location specific. I could be practicing French in France, or sharpening my violin skills in Austria, or learning about shutter speed and optimal lighting in Tokyo.

These new skills and abilities I’m developing are for my personal satisfaction and fulfillment and don’t have anything to do with Medellin or Colombia, so this answer would also be misleading.

What am I really doing here? What are any of us really doing anywhere? What would you say if someone asked you why you live where you do? I bet you’d be a little stumped, too.

I am doing a lot here. I’m being. I’m living. I’m enjoying myself. I’m meeting people. I’m experiencing different things. I’m looking for a way to stay. I’m loving my life here.

Isn’t that enough?

  • No..nada. Si..mucho! I sounds more like you do have so much to do that you  dont know where to start & btw the students can also study somewhere else in the world ;)

  • Ha maybe you’re right! :)

  • Hear hear! I enjoy the “I’m addicted to arepas and coffee” bit. In fact, I wish I liked arepas and coffee because then I could say it… I usually just fumble along with something like “I’m living here” but sounds like you often come up with more creative things. Cheers, Jasmine!

  • That works too! Though I’m sure even that would lead to more questions… like why are you living here?

  • You could be zen and be like “I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing here.”

  • Melissa

    How about:
    “What are you doing here?”
    “I’m living life to the fullest!” / “I’m living life the way I always dreamed.”
    Sounds more appropriate for what you’re doing right now! :)

  • I’m sure that would warrant more questions from most people too :)

  • That could work!

  • John

    I love your response, “Because I belong here.” It would shut them up pretty quick!

  • The funny answer was a good one. I usually try and be funny. What a stupid question. You are right. Sometimes I say something like “I had a dream a month ago that I would meet you, so I had to come here to see if it would be fulfilled; and low-and-fncking-behold… here you are!! I think we are gonna be amazing friends now, it’s like fate or something” :)

  • That’s a good idea! Sounds like it could be a fairly decent pick-up line too haha :)