The Culturally Mobile Lifestyle of a Military Brat

Pikes Peak (Image courtesy Rachel Schlachter)
The Color Purple 2023

I am a Third Culture Kid. I am a Military Brat. I am a National Nomad. I am a child of the United States of America. I’ve only been out of the country once, for a week’s vacation in Canada. I’ve lived in five states, and visited twenty-two more.

I’ve lived in ten different houses and/or apartments, and attended seven different schools. I was born in Alaska, then moved to Wyoming, Colorado, North Carolina, Nebraska and Colorado once more. I’ve never lived anywhere for more than four years at a time — with the possible exception of Colorado. I lived in Colorado Springs for two years when I was little, I lived in Colorado Springs for four years during high school, and I’m currently living in Fort Collins—this is my third year here.

My 2015 trip to Canyonlands National Park, Utah (Image courtesy Rachel Schlachter)
My 2015 trip to Canyonlands National Park, Utah (All images courtesy Rachel Schlachter)

The issue with being in college is that it’s a big melting pot, and one of the first questions that gets asked, immediately after “what’s your name,” is “where are you from?”

I usually say that I’m from Colorado, just because I’ve spent the most time here (nine years and counting). But I know that’s not entirely true. I am a TCK. I am one of the homeless children. I can’t identify any one place as home. If where you’re from is where you were born, I’m from Alaska . . . but I moved away from there before I turned three.

Me & friends at the top of Mt. Princeton after a long hike.
Me & friends at the top of Mt. Princeton after a long hike.

I have lovely memories of childhood and growing up in Wyoming, North Carolina, Nebraska, and the amazing road trips in between. I’ve always had family in Colorado . . . but I also have family in Texas. I love it here, in “Colorful Colorado,” but is it home?

But even if I claim Colorado as my home . . . where in Colorado? My parents still live in Colorado Springs, and they don’t plan on moving again, after my dad retired from the Air Force in 2013. Is that home? But I’ve lived in Fort Collins for three years now, and I’ll be here for at least one more year. My boyfriend — another TCK/Military Brat — wants to move to California after we graduate. Will that be home, once I leave Colorado behind? How am I supposed to answer this question of home?

Personally, I’ve come to this conclusion: home is wherever I am. I live in the now, not the past. I’m not homesick for any other place. Home is where I am happy, and I am happy in the now. I’ve found home in the life I lead currently, with loving friends and whatever surprises the future brings. Home isn’t a place. Home is a state of mind.

Home isn’t a place. Home is a state of mind.

Me near the top of Pikes Peak.
Me near the top of Pikes Peak.

Cultural mobility has been an important part of my life thus far. I believe it is fair to say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had spent my entire life in just one place. Because of my cultural mobility, I haven’t grown roots in any one place. I love adventure and moving is just another part of life for me.

Me & my boyfriend visiting Loveland Pass in Colorado
Me & my boyfriend visiting Loveland Pass in Colorado

Packing up my things isn’t an ending, it’s a new beginning. It’s the opportunity to see somewhere new, meet new people, and go on more adventures — even if I’m just moving to another apartment in the same complex (which will likely happen again once this lease ends). My life has been full of amazing experiences, thanks to my military-nomadic lifestyle. I can’t wait to see where I’ll go next and what the future holds.

I am a Third Culture Kid. I have lived a culturally mobile lifestyle, and I’ve loved every second of it. I am proud of my adventures. I’ve had the chance to see this glorious country we call the United States of America in a unique light, in a way that very few of my peers have.

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