the MORE Network

The Bittersweet of Travelling as an Adult TCK

Malik Dieleman / Tuesday, May 9, 2023

When I was 17, I returned to Canada and attended ReBoot, a re-entry retreat for Missionaries’ Kids (MKs). One lesson that stuck with me from that retreat is learning that our processes of transition and grief are not linear. Rather than a smooth line from point A to point B, our journeys of growth are overlapping squiggles that form what looks to be a messy plate of spaghetti. Though I am coming onto 7 years of being back in Canada, I still experience moments of being profoundly unsettled, and I am reminded that I am still amidst the process of transition and grief. Many of these moments occur when I travel, where I am given the opportunity to once again be in a space of limbo.

Dwelling in the in-between presents both comforts and challenges for Third Culture Kids (TCKs). On one hand, the familiarity we have with these spaces can be quite comforting. Sitting at an airport gate and overhearing unfamiliar languages, the international jumble starts to feel like somewhere I belong. In this place, I am not expected to fit into any cultural archetype. Yet on the other hand, as I look down at the CANADA on my passport, I wonder if it feels right yet. There’s a discomfort in not feeling truly like the citizen of any one country.

Image by Malik Dieleman

Growing up, I was so accustomed to my parents’ ministry determining what continent I would find myself in on any given month. As a big boy now, who must make his own decisions, I’m finding my relationship to travel to be evolving. This freedom to choose when and where I’m travelling has taken some getting used to.

Over the last year, I took more flights than I ever have within a single year. I’ve had more time to be in these liminal spaces than ever before. This has invited me to reflect more deeply on why I am where I am in the world, and how that continues to shape my identity. In these spaces I momentarily re-enter into the journey of transition and grief.

Image by Malik Dieleman

Never Nowhere

Last month, I had the privilege of taking a trip to visit some relatives living in San José, Costa Rica. Throughout my time there, I was reminded of countries I use to call home. I discovered that there are many things I had no idea I was missing so much while in Canada. Delicious fruit, sandy roads, warm weather, bright flowers, architectural designs, distinct cultural values … ­so many things took me back to childhood memories. I found myself seeing France and Senegal in the sights, sounds, and smells. And while my ethnicity and beginner-level language skills made me stick out as an obvious foreigner – these familiarities kept me from feeling quite like a tourist exploring an exotic land.

During one visit to a national park, there were loads of tourists following local guides who pointed out wildlife. Something about seeing these large numbers of tourists put me off – I so desperately did not want to be associated with them. The label of tourist for me reeks of cultural faux-pas, classism (sometimes arguably outright racism), and the need to overspend to enjoy oneself. Being a travelling MK/TCK can isolate you even from other travellers. If you belong nowhere and everywhere, how can you truly ever be a tourist?

Returning to Canada after this Costa Rica trip hit different. As the plane took off, tears welled up in my eyes. And no, I wasn’t emotional about returning to Canadian weather in February (although this certainly didn’t help). I was overwhelmed by the mixture of emotions that arose at once - the joys of having experienced so much new beauty and old familiarity, and the sadness of returning to a place where neither of those exist quite the same.

Image by Malik Dieleman

The past 6+ years in Canada have been the longest I’ve resided in one place at a time. I have established slow-growing roots and relationships that are now growing deeper and stronger each day. I’ve even started to have those dreaded thoughts that this may be the place I stay forever. But taking a trip like this one and stepping away from my day-to-day life, I realize there are still things that keep me from feeling like I’m quite at home here. I realize there are still parts of me that remain across an ocean. Perhaps there are still aspects of my childhood transitions that require some grieving.

Some Advice for the Travelling TCK

While travelling can bring things to the surface like memories of growing up years, it can also be a form of escapism. Travelling as a TCK can unintentionally be an unhealthy way to temporarily run away from whatever troubles we are facing. It can be tempting to blame our problems on the place we’re in. And travelling does scratch the itch to just ‘get away’. But, if there’s something I’ve learned about the many trips I took last year, it’s that troubles have no borders. We can say the grass is greener all we like, but every place has its weeds. It is possible to continue loving all the places you’ve called home.

Although it can be tempting to ignore our emotions, don’t be afraid to lean into them for a time. When you’re in those times of travel, of limbo, make time to process what feelings come up. Perhaps journaling or creating an art piece would help. For me, taking photos throughout my travels helps me take in my surroundings and capture some of the things I’m feeling.

When you’re back at home, it’s worth it to pay the extra money to get snacks from that international food store. It’s worth the time to keep reading and practicing using your second or third language. It’s worth the effort to stay up to date with the news from other parts of the world. Taking hold of the things you still can from your past homes doesn’t mean you aren’t transitioning well. In fact, the more you can make the routines of your life reflect your blended identity, the greater your transition will be, and the more authentic you will be to yourself.

Image by Malik Dieleman

For the TCK, there may never be a place in the world that feels just right. For me, this keeps me focused on the promised Kingdom, where I will one day experience a belonging like no other. In unity with my Creator, I will finally be at home. Until then, I focus on the land where I now stand and the glimpse of the road ahead.


Malik Dieleman is TCK (Third Culture Kid) who grew up in Marseille, France; London, Ontario; and Dakar, Senegal. Now he lives in Toronto! Malik first attended ReBoot back in 2016, when he was introduced to MORE Network, and has since been involved in ReBoot as a staff member. Malik works as the Digital Content Designer for MORE Network. Malik is an artist at heart and studied Photography at OCAD University. Outside of his freelance work, he loves cooking, playing volleyball, and watching reality TV.

 

 

 

 

 


Classic ReBoot 2024 Classic ReBoot 2024

Classic ReBoot is an annual Canadian Retreat for MKs (Missionary Kids) and TCKs (Third Culture Kids...
Read More..

Lament of a Returning Missionary Lament of a Returning Missionary

Loosely based on Psalm 13, here is a prayer of lament of a returning missionary.  How long, L...
Read More..

Christmas Memories from Around the World Christmas Memories from Around the World

Watermelon, Handprints and Fireworks ... What do they all have in common? They are all elements of ...
Read More..

Deeply Rooted Deeply Rooted

We invite you to join us during this season of generosity so that, together, we can give Missionary...
Read More..

The Eternal Benefits of Debriefing The Eternal Benefits of Debriefing

I recently returned from RE-VIEW, a week-long family debriefing retreat, where I served as an adult...
Read More..

Bonds Beyond Borders: The Impact of ReBoot on MKs Bonds Beyond Borders: The Impact of ReBoot on MKs

There is something so beautiful about the quick bonds that form between MKs (Missionary Kids), who ...
Read More..

Adult Third Culture Kid Research: The Heart Behind the Research Adult Third Culture Kid Research: The Heart Behind the Research

This summer, we had the privilege of connecting with Shelly Lyons about her research on Adult Third...
Read More..

Is Competition a Biblical Value? Is Competition a Biblical Value?

One Sunday morning in the church where I pastored, a family came to me and shared how some of their...
Read More..

Deny Yourself: My Story of Self-Denial & Abundant Life Deny Yourself: My Story of Self-Denial & Abundant Life

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” -Mar...
Read More..

Ministry at the Speed of Relationships Ministry at the Speed of Relationships

Building relationships is the first and foremost thing we should be about - everything else comes o...
Read More..

The Bittersweet of Travelling as an Adult TCK The Bittersweet of Travelling as an Adult TCK

Over the last year, I took more flights than I ever have within a single year. I’ve had more time t...
Read More..

Wilderness ReBoot 2023 Wilderness ReBoot 2023

Wilderness ReBoot is an annual Canadian Retreat for adult MKs (Missionary Kids) in the Canadian bac...
Read More..

Classic ReBoot 2023 Classic ReBoot 2023

Classic ReBoot is an annual Canadian Retreat for MKs (Missionary Kids) and TCKs (Third Culture Kids...
Read More..

Risk-taking in the Canadian Wilderness Risk-taking in the Canadian Wilderness

What first came to mind when I was invited to the “Canadian wilderness” to help lead a Wilderness C...
Read More..

Inviting MKs and TCKs to Stillwood: An Interview with Mallory Inviting MKs and TCKs to Stillwood: An Interview with Mallory

Listen in to this interview with Mallory Luesink, Program Director at Stillwood Camp and Conference...
Read More..

Wilderness ReBoot: What to Expect Wilderness ReBoot: What to Expect

Designed for adult MKs (Missionary Kids) seeking a deep encounter with God amidst the beauty of the...
Read More..

Updates & Reflections from My Trip to India Updates & Reflections from My Trip to India

Paul shares stories, updates and reflections from his recent trip to India. God is at work!
Read More..

Wilderness ReBoot: Solitude, Community & Mission Wilderness ReBoot: Solitude, Community & Mission

Ben shares about how his love for the wilderness first started, and gives insight into what adult M...
Read More..

The Busyness of an MK (Missionary Kid) The Busyness of an MK (Missionary Kid)

I love airports. The hustle and bustle. People of every nationality streaming past me. The end...
Read More..

MORE HOPE 2022 MORE HOPE 2022

Would you join us in making a difference in the lives of Cross-Cultural Workers and Missionary Kids...
Read More..

Adult Third Culture Kid Research Adult Third Culture Kid Research

One of the main reasons I decided to pursue doctoral studies was to conduct research. Not just any ...
Read More..

6 Gospel Truths for TCKs 6 Gospel Truths for TCKs

Ethan, an adult Missionary Kid, shares 6 gospel truths for Missionary Kids & Third Culture Kids ......
Read More..

An Invitation to Pray for MORE Network Summer Retreats An Invitation to Pray for MORE Network Summer Retreats

Sign-up to receive prayer updates for our MORE Network summer programs & retreats. 
Read More..

Behind the Scenes (at MORE Network) Behind the Scenes (at MORE Network)

 A behind the scenes look at God's faithfulness in the MORE Network and an invitation to pray with ...
Read More..

Serving Leaders: Replacing Ourselves Serving Leaders: Replacing Ourselves

How do we serve leaders? By thinking about how to replace them! Okay, maybe some of you will think ...
Read More..

Changing the Oil on your Cross-Cultural Worker Changing the Oil on your Cross-Cultural Worker

How do we care for our Cross-Cultural Ministry Workers? Using car maintenance as an analogy, Mark u...
Read More..

The Joy of Transitions The Joy of Transitions

God calls us to follow Him in obedience. Almost always it means change. Leaving our comfort zone, w...
Read More..

...

MORE Network: Deeply Rooted
An in-person afternoon of cross-cultural stories, connections and celebration with MORE Network. Save the Date! Do you have a heart for missions? Are you friends or family of an MK (Missionary Kid) or Cross-Cultura...
Read more...
5 Ways to Pray for MORE Network in 2024
At the MORE Network, the key verse we’ve chosen for 2024 is Exodus 33:14: “The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 (NIV) Prior to this verse, God had told Moses to l...
Read more...
Ministry Mental Health Summit
The Ministry Mental Health Summit, with a focus on Missions member care personnel and Church ministry leaders, will take place at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario on May 22-23, 2024.
Read more...
Classic ReBoot 2024
Classic ReBoot is an annual Canadian Retreat for MKs (Missionary Kids) and TCKs (Third Culture Kids). 
Read more...
Lament of a Returning Missionary
Loosely based on Psalm 13, here is a prayer of lament of a returning missionary.  How long, Lord, will I miss our former HOME where I sobbed in frustration and prayed, pounding on heaven’s door to learn language(s...
Read more...
Christmas Memories from Around the World
Watermelon, Handprints and Fireworks ... What do they all have in common? They are all elements of favourite Christmas memories and traditions from our MORE Network staff, from around the world! 
Read more...