When I returned to Hong Kong six years ago, I had spent precisely half my life here, and half my life in England.
Here, I have my family, a tight-knit group of friends, and work I am passionate about. But over there, I have people who I spent my formative years with, with whom I share long-standing bonds. Every time I visit, somehow it becomes harder and harder to say goodbye.
I know that I am lucky to be a “mobile millennial” (I hate the term “digital nomad”). Our worlds have expanded further than our parents’ or grandparents’ generations could have imagined. We are privileged to have friends and networks across different corners of the globe.
But that is also exactly where our (admittedly first-world) problems come in. Being a mobile millennial might sound fun and exciting on paper. But with it comes some serious drawbacks.
Over the last few years, trips to my adopted home country have grown more frequent because of friends’ weddings and work opportunities.
My most recent trip made me realize that in many ways, my life here is moving at a completely different pace to my friends’ there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But in some ways, you wonder what you’re missing out on there, and if things would be different if you lived in one country and not another.
And I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. In transient Hong Kong, people come from all over the world, leaving family and friends behind. Eventually, some of them decide to leave Hong Kong — whether to go back home, or to greener pastures.
Then there are people like me: “returnees” who come back because this is where home is. But then, there is always a “home” for us that exists elsewhere. And it’s difficult to be so far away from people who are important to us.
“It feels like our personal networks have expanded so far and wide that they are almost unmanageable, with our hearts being torn in so many different directions at once,” agrees S, a prime example of a mobile millennial who has lived in various time zones and is currently in a long-distance relationship.
So, what gives? We could pack up our bags and start anew elsewhere — whether it be where we spent time previously, or to an entirely new city. But then, there’s that fear of leaving what’s comfortable and familiar. What about our family and friends here in Hong Kong? What will happen once we leave them behind?
Perhaps being a mobile millennial is like a balance scale. You have to keep juggling the pros and cons until you find something agreeable somewhere in the middle. But for the time being, you’ll just have to keep finding excuses to fly back and forth.
All Tea No Shade with Andrea Lo.
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