I have never lived alone, neither as a child nor as an adult. And I love that feeling. The feeling that someone is always there. If you just want to talk or if you want to go out at night. You are never really alone. And that is a good thing. Especially when living abroad a shared flat is extremely practical. Because you can exchange your experiences and contact your roommates if there are some problems or questions.
I gathered my first flat share experience in India – and withal in three different living communities. At first I lived in a transitional shack for five days. And you really have to speak about shack in this case! We slept on mattresses in a nearly unfurnished apartment that you could not even lock. The cockroaches were dancing waltz on the balcony that connected both housing parts. If you looked out the window, you could see semi-slums, teardowns and dirty streets. Our shower did not work, exactly like the light. And the toilet was – as usual in India – a hole in the ground. A real culture shock for me and even for Indians a low standard of living. My three roommates – from Portugal, China and the United States – should live in this shack just for a few more days. They were a great help to me initially. They told me where there is good food in the area, where the internet café is and which sights are interesting. Because they had to work, I spent almost all the time alone – until their departures and my move. Alone in a foreign land. I didn’t mention that before!
I was incredibly happy as I moved to another shared flat in Hyderabad one day later. An absolutely great flat, located in the district of Banjara Hills. Finally I lived where everything was happening, in the city centre. My roommate welcomed me immediately. On the first weekend we went to a party. It was one of many evenings that we should go out together in the coming weeks. For Europeans the Hyderabadi nightlife starts very early at 18 o’clock – just as in almost all other Indian states. But it has a lot to offer. And we made the most of it. Whether at the Rain Club or at Kismet – I had always fun with my flatmates. But that is not all. They also saw to it that I came to work in the first days. I had my Indian roommate driven me to the entrance of my office. What a luxury! After a week they gave me credit for going alone. They took me to the bus stop and told me in detail which bus to take and where to get off. Of course, I got lost promptly and dismounted somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Immediately I bombarded my roommate with calls. My GPS did not work really well. But with his help, I could finally arrived a little late at the office. But in India it does not matter. Tardiness is bon ton here.
Like a small child my flatmates always took me be the hand. They helped me with shopping, they went with me to the Foreigner Regional Registration Office and they took me to the doctor as I had a cold once. It was as if they were my teachers, no, my gurus. They explained me the basics, the time tables of India. Because they already knew how to read the culture, the people and the country itself.
After three weeks, the time had come. We escaped from everyday life and took the bus to Goa. My first trip to India and I had a fever. But that did not stop me from travelling. My flatmates took care of me all the time. They got some medicine, put a cold washcloth on my forehead and watched me while I was sleeping. We were like one big family. And regularly more people were added. This also did not change when I moved to a different flat, my third shared flat in India. For logistical reasons – and later also because of love – I left the nest and tried to stand on own feet. And until today I do not regret this any day. My new flatmates have become new friends and one of them has turned into my great love. With most of them I have contact until today. It is great to have friends all over the world. Travelling means visiting now. You feel home anywhere as long as you have a local friend there. And befriending is not so hard abroad. Because there is a commonality that unites all travellers and expatriates: the wanderlust.
Back in Germany it was hard for me not to live internationally anymore. I had to barter my English for German and my backpack was chucked it for now. How much I missed to go out of my room just for drinking a beer with my African flatmates. Or these little weekend trips to Mumbai or Goa. Somehow there was always someone, someone just as crazy as I am. And suddenly I was alone, as if everything was just a wonderful dream.