Dec 30, 2018
It has now been 2 weeks on the road as a digital nomad
We left Amsterdam on the 15th of December, and today is the 28th. Only 16 days ago, my friends and colleagues in Netherlands threw me a going away party where we toured the Amsterdam Light Festival by boat and ate amazing Alegrian food near Westergasfabriek. That is two weeks now that we’ve been homeless and two weeks before we arrive in our first semi-permanent residence in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
So where have we been? We have been hiding out in Malta, a small group of islands situated between The Maghreb and Sicily, in more ways than just geography. The islands have been ruled at one time or another by a dozen or so different civilisations, starting from the Phoenicians and Carthage all the way to Napoleon’s Second French Empire, and after that the British, culminating in the World War II siege by the Axis powers. Churchill called it the “unsinkable aircraft carrier”, and now, with the “Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel long gone, the island is an independent state within the European Union.
The Maltese language can be heard and seen everywhere, with its range of words from merħba to ċaw, sounds at times Arabic and Italian, but English is spoken commonly with a light, ringing Mediterranean accent. The buildings, uniformly in the colour of sandstone, also speak the language of the Mediterranean with their fusion of styles from their neighbours. A warm, dry wind of reddish sand blows from time to time from the Sahara, but mostly from the East.
Valletta itself is a city built on a peninsula, shaped like a tongue protected by jaws in its mouth of a harbour. Tall defensive walls run the length of its perimiter with the city sitting on top of it like a crown, its streets lined with carved wooden doors and colourfully painted enclosed balconies above them. St. John’s Co-Cathedral, one of those old buildings in the city’s heart built by ambitious Grand Masters of the Knights of St. John (also known as the Knights Hospitallers), has inside of it Italian artist Caravaggio’s famous Beheading of St. John the Baptist from his time in the Knights. Amusingly, his time in Malta was brief, because after picking a fight with an aristocrat, he found himself imprisoned within the very walls of Valetta, only to escape and be expelled from the Knights – they called him a “foul and rotten member”. Valetta’s history is full of these little meals of intrigue (some known, most forgotten), despite its small size.
We were there, zig-zagging through the side streets to find the one cafe we really liked the last time we visited Valletta and happened upon this:
In December, out of season, the pasty knees of British tourists, forever encapuslated in pants back home, shine their pale moonlike reflections as their owners conciously walk about. Some, uncomfortable travellers, speak to each other softly under their breath in muted tones, while others ramble on in their cockney accents.
Malta was fantastic proof that we can live, work and prosper remotely, living out of a suitcase and with a child in tow. As I was jogging a few mornings ago on the beautiful waterfront along Triq it-Torri through The Strand, with the bright sunrise and its reflection on the pale blue water of the Mediterranean, I was a bit overcome with a raw sense of joy. It was a visceral kind of stab of emotion, rather like Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, caused by the realisation that my lifelong desire is not unattainable, not complete, but entirely in progress. Every step, hitting the pink promenade tiles, was a step inside my amazing life.
As of tomorrow, I will be in Bangkok.