The idea of home has always been elusive: Entrepreneur Jessica Nabongo
Jessica Nabongo is the founder of Jet Black, an ambitious boutique travel firm which supports and encourages travel to countries in the African diaspora. She recently spoke to Aerostorie about the moment which prompted her to shave her head and move to Japan, being a third culture kid, and creating a truly global life.
“Back in 2007 I was living in Detroit following graduation from St John’s University. At the time I was employed by a pharmaceutical company and working quite diligently towards meeting my personal goals of early promotions.
One day, it was bonus day, I was on the phone with a friend of mine, who also worked for the company, and his bonus was more than ten times mine, though I knew he was not working as hard as I was. This was a massive blow and as a result, I cut my day short and went home and Googled teaching jobs in Japan.
A few months later, I packed up my condo and put everything in storage, shaved my head and hopped on a flight to Osaka for what would be my first trip to Asia, and my first time living abroad.
Since I left my parents’ place, following high school graduation, I have not lived in the same space for more than a year and a half. Most places I’ve lived in have been for one year or less. In August 2015, I packed up my apartment in DC and began a life of travel with no end in sight. It was tough not having a place to call home. I passed through Detroit relatively, often staying with my mother in my childhood bedroom, but my long absence from the house meant that I was relegated to a pulling out a bed in the basement.
For 20 months I was a true nomad; living nowhere and everywhere, not paying rent and crashing on friends’ couches around the world. In April 2017, on a whim, I bought a place in Detroit. Though I spend more time away than I spend there, having a place where I know my things are resting brings me peace; it means I go home to Detroit between trips.
My current home is a simple (small, by American standards). A one bedroom condo in a riverfront building on the Detroit River. This is by far one of the smallest places that I have lived in, besides my dorm room, my apartment in Japan and my place near the Coliseum in Rome. It is exactly half the size of the first condo that I bought when I graduated from university.
My current home reflects my travels and personality and also reflects how I have changed as a person over the last ten years. I am living a much more minimalist lifestyle, though I still feel like I have a long way to go.
I love coming home to my place because it is a place of peace and the trinkets I’ve collected from around the world. Whether it be a pillow or a rug, these remind me of my best memories of traveling abroad.
Because I am in the middle of such an intense travel schedule, and when I am home it is for very brief periods of time — usually less than one week — I tend to spend a lot of time in my home. If friends and family want to see me while I am in town, they’ll usually come to my place to visit. When home, I spend time unpacking, packing, doing laundry, listening to records, drinking liquor and wines from my travels, and dreaming about new adventures.
I truly miss living overseas. Having lived in Japan, England, Benin and Italy, I highly recommend it for everyone. I spent nearly seven years living abroad and they were some of the best years of my life. I learned so much about myself and about how other people conceive work-life balance.
Living in a new country truly allows you to immerse yourself in another culture in a way that traveling could never do. Because I was raised in America, living in different countries has truly opened my eyes to the fact that America is very materialistic and puts such high value on consumption. Because of my years abroad, I consume a lot less, even though I have returned to living in the US. I fully intend to move abroad again in the years to come.
A typical day off for me, or slow day, starts around 05:30. I wake up and have hot water with lemon and hop in my bedroom hammock to journal. Following that, I usually head out for a 06:30 spin class, then come home, make a green smoothie, shower and hop back in bed. Because I so rarely get lazy days, they are usually spent in bed. I try to watch a bit of TV and maybe grab lunch with a friend. It is also a time when I try to get some purging done around my house.
Honestly, because I have been traveling and living abroad for nearly ten years, I do not get homesick. As a third culture kid, the idea of home has always been elusive. Detroit is my hometown and I feel very affectionate towards it, but I do not often long for it. I suppose for me home is my family and friends, so to be homesick is to miss my friends or family. When this happens, because of the wonderful marvels of technology, I just FaceTime people when I miss them, and in many cases, I hop on a plane to go and visit.”