Tayo Rockson: Thank you so much for being willing to do this interview with me!
Thai Nguyen: Anytime brother! Happy to do it!
Tayo Rockson: Awesome! Let's get started then. Can you map out your third culture/ nomadic experience and tell us why you moved so much?
Thai Nguyen: I guess I've always been plagued (or blessed!) with a deep search for meaning, purpose, and identity. And hence, the reason I've moved so much.
I was born in South Vietnam. My father served as a politician for the Democratic South Vietnamese Government so after the fall of Saigon he was put into prison for four years. When he was released we fled the country to a refugee camp in Indonesia for one year before being accepted into Australia.
Right out of high-school I moved to Canada and played a season of rugby for Halifax, representing Nova Scotia at the National Championships. Afterward, I worked in a bakery in San Francisco, then returned to Australia to finish my Chef apprenticeship. Having had a couple of amateur fights in Brisbane, I moved to Thailand to pursue a career as professional fighter. During my time in Thailand I encountered a Professor from a school in Texas and he invited me over to complete my Bachelor's degree. Once I finished my degree, I wanted to pursue a career as I writer, so I moved to Cusco, Peru, firstly to visit Machu Picchu, then to isolate myself and concentrate on writing.
TR: Wow! Yea I can definitely see your dilemma there so I'm just curious where home is for you.
TN: Where ever Mum is :) I’m very proud to call myself a momma’s boy. Her courage to flee Vietnam and risk persecution with three young boys makes her my hero. She’s in Brisbane, Australia.
TR: I hear you! Aren't moms great?! My mom is definitely the love of my life! I definitely won't be where I am today without her.
TN: Gotta love the moms!
TR: How do you think TCKs will influence the world in the future especially with globalization in general?
TN: Struggles with identity are a major cause of depression. With a more globalised world and continued immigration, lines between cultures and societies become blurred. Identity crises are a byproduct of this blurriness. I see TCKs as those who've come to the point of celebrating their multi-dimensional backgrounds and owe it to others to mentor and share their experiences. A mixed background can cause confusion, but when that confusion is turned into celebration, it takes all the power away from possible depression. Simply creating more presence and awareness is crucial, there's power in numbers.
TR: When did you realize that you were mulicultural?
TN: When I was told in 5th grade to go back to my own country. Sad, but it was the first time I was made to feel really different.
TR: When did you get to the point where you became comfortable with who you are?
TN: Although I’ve been always comfortable with my background, I don’t think I truly celebrated it until quite recently. It’s strange we spend a lot of time trying to fit in unaware that we sacrifice our uniqueness on the altar. Not realizing it’s the very thing that makes us special, and allows us to make a difference.
TR: What is the best thing about being a TCK
TN: Being able to draw from more than one culture. Having an identity that isn’t one-dimensional.
TR: What is the worst thing about being a TCK
TN: The identity crisis of figuring out where you ‘fit-in.’
TR: Transitioning here to a fun question. You have travelled a lot so what is your favorite country that you have enjoyed living in and why?
TN: A tie between Chiang Mai, Thailand and Cusco, Peru. I'm drawn to mountains and places with a rich spiritual presence—and cheap street food haha.
TR: What is one piece of advice you can give to a TCKs?
TN: Conformity won’t do you any favours. Celebrate what makes you different.
TR: How do you connect with people when you are abroad?
TN: Learning the language and trying to have as many conversations with locals as possible. I’ve done Couchsurfing (a website where you can stay on people’s couches for free) in a few different cities before and that’s always great to connect with people who know the city.
TR: Tell us about your book, mission, and website
TN: The book is going to be titled Flip Your Script. Whether we realise it or not, our lives are driven by a story. It’s like a GPS system that guides and shapes our decisions; it’s the internal dialogue of our mind that's constantly providing inner commentary. But a lot of times, that story is hurting us more than helping us. Many of us carry limiting beliefs. The book dives into how our story is shaped, how to master our thought patterns, and move from being a passive observer of life to an active architect of life.
My mission is really to be a catalyst for people to step out and pursue their dreams. I think one of the greatest experiences in life is having an ‘impossible’ dream and working it into reality. That’s essentially what the website and my work is all about.
TR: How do you use your difference to make a difference?
TN: People tell me I’m a walking contradiction and a melting-pot of experiences. Simply being different and creating unique experiences has allowed me to make a difference. It’s provided a platform for me to write and get exposure, promoting my message of embracing and leveraging your unique passions. It paradoxical, but I believe that celebrating our differences actually unites us.
TR: Where can we find out more about you and what are you up to?