Mozambique Mindset: Your Career is Not Your Life

I live in Mozambique. My wake up time is dictated by the surf prediction. If there is no surf in sight, well, then there is no alarm for me. I wake up, I fight with my partner for who is going to have the first brew of coffee, and then I do a bit of yoga. I read the news online and check my mail to see if I finally won my well-deserved Pulitzer for photography.

Mozambique Kitesurfing by Martina Abba
Mozambique Kitesurfing by Martina Abba

Depending on the weather, we go down to the beach for a surf, a kite surf, or just a stroll. Someday we go diving or fishing. I take my time to cook, and when I don’t feel like it we go out for dinners with friends or family. Almost every day I take pictures of the people around me, the ocean and the incredible Nature around me.

To finance this lifestyle I freelance in a various amount of activities, ranging from teaching Kiswahili online to translating self-published cooking books. All this amazing array of activities can maybe pay for a couple of beers a week, and I carry them out only when there is absolutely nothing else to do: in other words, here, my life comes first.

As I unfortunately still have to learn how to live off the sun’s energy, I didn’t invest early in the Bitcoin, and my pictures only sell for $0.25 per download, I also have a “regular job” to pay my bills: during the Mozambican winter (European summer) my partner and I move to Ibiza, where we work as deckhands on a motor yacht.

Moving to Mozambique wasn’t something “out of the blue” or the outcome of a 20-year-old crisis. Since I was a kid I have been traveling. I moved around Europe for my dad’s job and then when we finally moved back to my hometown in Italy, I was old enough to catch a flight without my parents. I started exploring European countries (thank you Ryanair) and dreaming of more. I believe it is during a weekend in Barcelona when I was 16 that I decided I was going to take a gap year.

Gap years in Italy are not common, also due to the fact that we have one more year of schooling to do before Uni than the average European country, and our degrees are set on a 5-year-plan rather than 3. The fear of getting in the labor market too late pushes people from high school straight into University. So, when I told my parents about my idea, I was met by let’s say… some criticism. If verbalized it would have sounded something like this: “Are you going to travel and do nothing for the rest of your life? You will never go back to school and find a job”.

Martina Abba Mozambique
Martina Abba Mozambique

So, I did go back to school and I did find a job. But, why is then that when I talk to family and friends back home I feel like doing what I am doing is not ok? Why do I feel like people think that I am “lost” in life?

Fast track seven (sic) years later: I have traveled to many different countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. I have graduated from a very good University in London. I have a very well paid job. I live an amazing life doing the things I love.

Why is it OK to go for a two-week surf holiday but making surf the center of your daily life is not ok? Why is it OK to dream about “a dream life” but it is not ok to live it?

I have realized that we live in a purely work-centered society. I have found that if you don’t answer the question “Oh, Mozambique, what do you do there?” with a profession you will be met with skeptical eyes. If you don’t have a year-round job it must not be by choice, after all, what would you do you do with all that time off? Don’t you get bored?

No, I do not get bored. I have time to do things that I enjoy doing, time to read and learn new things. Actually, some days I feel like I didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted to do. Why shall I confine the activities that I love to a holiday or to an after-work pastime when I have the possibility to do it full time? Many people think that having a successful career is the only way to feel self-realized and that the moment you don’t have one you are considered “at fault”. This belief is ingrained so deep into our society that even when I say I enjoy the life that I am living I feel like people don’t believe me. I feel like some people still assume that I must be bored or unsatisfied in at least some aspect of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not all unicorns and rainbows: I know many examples of people who end up unhappy by living a life that it is not dictated by a routine. As a matter of fact, if you don’t have a passion, if you don’t like the active lifestyle, if you don’t like living in a pretty isolated place, then you will get bored and unsatisfied very quickly.

I don’t assume that my friends with a regular job or at the first stages of their career are unhappy and bored with their life; I trust them when they tell me that they are happy doing what they are doing. At the end of the day, there is no “one life fits all” kind of thing. And most importantly, there is not one single definition of “dream life” or happy life.

So when somebody tells you that they are living a life that they are proud of, believe them. Ask them questions, be free to be critical, but believe their happiness.

Writer Martina Abba in the beach with a horse.
Writer Martina Abba on the beach with a horse.

About the Writer

After 6 years of semi-nomadic life of traveling, working and studying, Martina Abba has moved to Southern Mozambique where she enjoys the Ocean every day. In winter, Martina moves back to Europe, where she works as a deckhand on a motor yacht. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and 500px.

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