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How One TCA’s Cultural Identity Intersects with the Outdoors

Photo courtesy of Eva Mossberg.

The snow glistens on the ground as sunlight filters through the snow-coated pine trees on the isolated mountainside. A slight, brisk breeze sways through the trees as quiet settles over the desolate landscape. There isn’t a single person in sight – except for Eva Mossberg, munching on a piece of chocolate and enjoying the serenity of the outdoors.

Hiking during the wintertime is just one outdoor activity Mossberg thoroughly enjoys. Mossberg identifies as a Third Culture Adult (TCA). From her formative years spent in Sweden to living in the West Indies, Portugal and the United States, the outdoors has always been an enormous part of her life.

Eva Mossberg stands in the middle of a snowy forest, carrying poles and a backpack. She is hiking during the winter. Photo courtesy of Eva Mossberg.
Eva Mossberg stands in the middle of a snowy forest, carrying poles and a backpack. (Photo courtesy of Eva Mossberg)

GROWING UP IN SWEDEN

Mossberg grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. She says she had a great childhood, and spent a big part of it at her family’s summer home on Vidinge, a small Swedish island that is also a nature reserve. The island had no electricity, no running water and no places to shop, so Mossberg spent nearly her entire childhood in nature.

Mossberg explains a Norwegian term “friluftsliv,” which is a philosophy that calls for living a simple life in nature without disturbing it. Much of Mossberg’s childhood was defined by this cultural norm.

Growing up, Mossberg often explored the woods or learned to sail. She describes her time at the summer house as “a time of learning and exploring.”

“You find things to do,” Mossberg says. “You play games, you are innovative, you climb, you find new trails, you pop over to your friend’s house for a cup of tea or a cinnamon bun. [You are just] living outside.”

During her late teens, Mossberg suffered from anorexia. Due to this, she graduated high school one year later than she originally planned. However, Mossberg’s struggle and recovery from anorexia gave her an appetite to eat life with a big spoon.  

“[When] I was feeling alive again, I was like, ‘I have lost time that I have to make up for,’” Mossberg says.

GATEWAY TO A CROSS-CULTURAL LIFE

In 1991, 19-year-old Mossberg departed from Sweden aboard a 44-foot sailboat, a turning point in her life. She planned to cross the Caribbean and return to Sweden within a year. However, that changed upon arriving in Barbados, an island in the West Indies, where she chose to stay.

[When] I was feeling alive again, I was like, ‘I have lost time that I have to make up for.’

Eva Mossberg

Two Swedish couples who lived in Silver Rock took Mossberg in. Silver Rock was rumored to be the “worst part” of Barbados – it wasn’t a typical tourist destination. However, Mossberg says her time living in Silver Rock disproved these rumors. One lesson she learned during her time in Barbados was to trust her gut and not what others say.

“They took great care of me,” Mossberg says. “It was nice to just immerse [my]self in a true local neighborhood in Barbados instead of the touristy areas.”

It was nice to just immerse [my]self in a true local neighborhood in Barbados instead of the touristy areas.

Eva Mossberg

After Barbados, Mossberg picked up a waitressing job and moved to Portugal. She says that being a server is the absolute best job you could ever have because you can always fall back on it.

“It takes a certain character to be able to do that kind of job,” Mossberg says. “It teaches you customer service, you’ve got to be able to multitask, you have to be quick on your feet, and your own needs are at the very bottom of the hierarchy of needs.”

WORKING IN THE UNITED STATES

Mossberg first came to the U.S., specifically New York City, to visit a friend for three months. When she applied to university, she moved to Florida, USA, where she attended Schiller International University for eight months before transferring to the University of New Haven in Connecticut. She lived there for three years and graduated with a hospitality tourism and travel degree.

Then, she moved to the Boston, Mass. area where she remains today. While there, she pursued a career in private club management but was displaced in 2006.

Boston (Image by David Mark from Pixabay)
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

“That gave me the opportunity to sit back because I was already on this path that I knew I didn’t want to continue for much longer,” Mossberg says. “I need community. I want to work with like-minded people who can relate to me, [and] who I can relate to.”

Mossberg worked as a kayak guide and a waitress; then, she acquired her license to teach English at a Boston language school. In addition to teaching, Mossberg managed logistics and operations of the inbound and outbound study abroad programs.

“That’s sort of always been my department,” Mossberg says. “Logistics and operations come naturally to me.”

Finally, Mossberg began working for CIS Abroad, a third-party study abroad program provider. As assistant director of international operations, she worked in program quality and development, health and safety and accompanied students as they traveled abroad.

I need community. I want to work with like-minded people who can relate to me, [and] who I can relate to.

Eva Mossberg

IDENTIFYING AS A TCA

Mossberg says she first heard the term “cultural fluidity” from a friend she worked with at CIS Abroad, Jessica Jones. That was when Mossberg realized how she fit in with the culturally fluid community.

“It made it feel like I finally found a pair of shoes that fit,” Mossberg says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, this is what it is.’ I’m multiple nationalities, super culturally fluid, speak a bunch of different languages, but think nothing of it.”

Mossberg says living as a TCA has both benefits and drawbacks.

“The benefit is that you fit in everywhere, but it’s hard to feel like you belong somewhere,” she says. “So you’re always welcome, but you’re not necessarily missed.”

The benefit is that you fit in everywhere, but it’s hard to feel like you belong somewhere. So you’re always welcome, but you’re not necessarily missed.

Eva Mossberg

A DEEP CONNECTION TO THE OUTDOORS

Being outside is a necessity because it’s a place for her to disconnect and relax, according to Mossberg.

“I’m very comfortable in the outdoors,” she says. “I feel very competent and capable, which is possibly a way that I make up for feeling lost in other parts of my life.”

Additionally, she feels a sense of belonging in the outdoors.

“The outdoors attracts a certain group of people, a certain type of person,” Mossberg says. “I guess that also brought a sense of belonging, just being outdoors and doing fun stuff.”

Mossberg enjoys skiing, open-water swimming, kayaking, sailing, biking or sitting outside with a good book. she says the outdoors could feel like home. In 2006, she went on a horse-riding trip across the Andes Mountains, from Argentina to Chile, and says the trip was life-changing.

“Even though I knew nobody, it was just the atmosphere and the people around me that made me feel like I was home,” she says.

Eva Mossberg races a sailboat near Marblehead, Mass., USA. (Photo courtesy of Eva Mossberg)

Even though I knew nobody, it was just the atmosphere and the people around me that made me feel like I was home.

Eva Mossberg

HOME IS MORE THAN A PHYSICAL PLACE

For Mossberg, home is more than a physical place because she can feel at home in many physical places. She says Sweden will always be her home. Mossberg adds that up until recently, she struggled to feel at home in the U.S. until she began forming relationships, like when she met her fiancé.  

“I think it has more to do with the people around you,” she says. “You relax, like your guard is completely let down; you feel at ease. That, to me, is being at home.”

Mossberg says ultimately, she wouldn’t trade her lifestyle for the alternative, having never left Sweden.

The culturally fluid community “is almost like a nationality that I’m a part of,” according to Mossberg. “Being able to identify with many cultures and knowing that other people know the struggles and benefits that I go through is cool. That brings that sense of home and makes it feel like I’m not the odd duck. Well, I am, but there’s a lot of us.”

Being able to identify with many cultures and knowing that other people know the struggles and benefits that I go through is cool. That brings that sense of home and makes it feel like I’m not the odd duck. Well, I am, but there’s a lot of us.

Eva Mossberg
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