Do you have friends from all different places? Are you always on the go? Then you, my friend, might just be a ‘floater’.
“I guess you could call me a floater.”
This was the first time I heard the term, over dinner with an old friend visiting from Australia. She immigrated there from the UK a decade ago, and had lived in a few different places since.
With no sense of ‘home’, nor defined, friendship group, she described herself as someone who fits in to all different places, but doesn’t really fit in at all.
This concept resonated with me on more levels than I’d care to admit: my life has been an endless series of chapters opening and closing, and now I find myself living abroad, long-term.
With the ease of transport and travel, more and more of my fellow ‘floaters’ are taking over the world. They forge their links in different place, with different people, but none of these links every form a chain.
But, being a floater isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s actually pretty liberating.
Floaters don’t feel such a strong sense of attachment to a place or people that they’d never be able to up and leave. They’re happy to gel with new, distinct groups, but also feel pretty content on their own.
They’re the travellers, the entrepreneurs, the digital nomads. The bloggers, the photographers and artists. And their number are growing at epidemic speed.
Think you might be among them? Here are the five signs to tell if you’re a floater:
1. When people ask you where ‘home’ is, it takes more than a few sentences to answer
It’s that same, repetitive conversation that you have in every single hostel you stay at.
“So, where are you from?”
For most people, this is a simple one-word answer. But for us floaters, it requires a detailed, multi-sentence answer.
“Well I’m originally from Australia, but…”
If I’m being honest, it’s this exact conversation that drove me a little insane in the end, after my last, two-month solo trip around Europe. As a solo traveller, arriving at a new hostel is like your first day at school; but repeated over, and over again.
You’ve got to forcibly insert yourself into other people’s conversations and pool games, trying not to be that one person stuck reading guide books in the common room, while the rest of the guests go out pub-crawling.
But after telling the same story and asking the same questions twenty different times to a hundred different people, I was quite content to curl up in my bunk bed with my iPad and a notebook, planning out every step of the following day.
Which brings me to my next point…
2. You enjoy your own company
I’ve always hated the words ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, like I have to fall somewhere under one of the two. Like an extrovert, I find happiness in other people’s company, good conversations and good wine. But, on the other end of the scale, I’m always happy to stay in on a Friday night with said good wine and an even better book.
Floaters enjoy their own company. Why? Because they’ve come to understand that no matter how much they have in common with others, there will never be someone else who likes exactly the same things, wants to go to the same places and try the same food.
Being a floater means that when you travel solo, you get to do whatever you want to do, at any time, on your own terms. For me, this meant spending hours in as many of Berlin’s museums as I can fit in, cycling 30 kilometres alone into the Austrian countryside, and waking up on the morning of check-out in a Prague hostel, and deciding to book another three days.
I’ll never forget the feeling of smug sanctification I got when, sharing a train compartment with a group of American travellers, I had to endure their three-hour long passive-aggressive argument.
“No, let’s do what you want to do.”
“I don’t even care!”
“Neither do I!”
This is why I’m travelling alone, I sniggered to myself.
3. You’re more comfortable moving around than sitting still
Floaters constantly crave a change of scenery. Even when they ‘settle down’ in one spot, hoping for a rest, they can’t stop plotting and planning their next move. They’re not happy unless they have something in the works; something to look forward to.
I’ve always been one of those people who just can’t sit still. Call it a result of modern technology, my brain always seems to flit so quickly from one thing to the next, that I find myself switching from a notepad, to my phone, to my iPad and my laptop, opening and closing tabs, typing sentences and deleting them.
Floaters are absolutely terrible at meditation. While some people can happily sink into a sofa and switch off, floaters have always got something on their mind. They’re always fidgeting, always switching the channel, always looking for something different from the last five minutes.
In travel, floaters who find themselves in the one place for a period of months or years have no qualms with upping and leaving to settle elsewhere. They’re not afraid to pull up their roots and plant them somewhere else for a while.
4. You always have side projects
I’m not saying that floaters can’t hold down a full-time job. In fact, they’re more than capable of making an honest living – only that it often goes beyond just the nine to five.
Take blogging, for example. There are several travel bloggers out there who work full-time (such as yours truly), who maintain and commit every spare moment to their blogs. They can’t just come home from a day’s work and do nothing – they’ve constantly got to have something to work on.
Entrepreneurs and digital nomads fall into this category: not content with working for the man, they’ve got to do things for themselves, too.
Be it an art project or a herb garden; the floater is always on the go, always creating and brainstorming, and never sitting still.
5. All your friendship groups are like Venn diagrams that don’t intersect
This is probably the one sign that most floaters, especially myself, can relate to. Besides yourself, all of your friendship groups seem to be lacking a common denominator.
I started school in my small, beach side town. When all my friends went to the local high school, I went to the one in my nearest city. When all my friends from high school enrolled in the city’s university, I attended university in Sydney. When all my university colleagues applied for jobs in Sydney, I packed up and left to start my career in Spain.
Floaters are like frogs, hopping from one lily pad to the next, but none ever seem to touch.
They’re quite happy to have different, non-interlocking circles of friends in all different places, but still find themselves a teeny-tiny bit jealous of characters on TV who always seem to have that sure-fire friendship group that they can call up in any situation (Carrie Bradshaw, I’m looking at you).