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The Nomad Life

I struggled with the idea of home. 

Home is where the heart is? My heart is scattered across 3 continents – with the people I love, the places that helped me grow into the person I am. Home is where your bed is? I have moved 10 houses and beds in the last 6 years. Home is where the wifi connects automatically. Don’t even get me started on that one! 

For 2 years Kölle is where I lived. For the last 1 year it felt truly like home. Whether it was sitting by the freely flowing Rhein and sipping wine, waiting for the Dom to be lit up or afternoons spent lazing on the field overlooking the Stadion and listening to the roar of the 1 FC fans; cheering the Haie onto thrilling last minute goals in the Lanxass Arena or waking up at 7 am to dress up and start drinking for Karneval; walking the streets of the Altstadt alone or sitting huddled in a dorm room drinking homemade alcohol out of mugs with friends from all over – it has been a spectacular year, filled to the brim with memories that I will always hold on to. It’s the city where I was completely free, independent and yet felt safe. I could be who I wanted to be, and it was ok. I couldn’t define who that was – but it felt right. I struggled for the first time to express myself and communicate, I found out that I am quite shy in another language, I learnt that 3 beers overcomes this shyness and 5 is a recipe for a jumbled mush of the languages I know. I questioned my identity, I didn’t find all the answers, but the city didn’t demand them. 

So here you are, too foreign for home, too foreign for here, never enough for both

It wasn’t always so. When I moved there from Bangalore, I wasn’t expecting the dark, the cold and the bland (let’s pretend I’m talking about the weather and food, not the people). Bangalore was a blur of spicy biryani, almost year-round pleasant weather, warm people and homicidal bus drivers. It wasn’t far from Pune (only a 14-hour bus ride which flew by thanks to the most entertaining 3 Bollywood movies that were ever made – Oh my God, Aashiqui 2 and Housefull 2, that were blared at you so you had no choice but to watch them over and over, on every trip, until you could recite them in your uncomfortable, semi-reclined stupor). I could visit my parents once a month, I had a great athletic training coach and the best cook. It was a great place to be, different enough from Pune to keep me hooked, yet similar enough to not push me too far outside my comfort zone. I don’t actively miss Bangalore, I only miss certain aspects of my life there.

Pune of course is whole different story – its where I grew up and it is simultaneously the best and worst city ever. There is absolutely nothing to show people by way of sights, yet I feel the need to ask every soul I know to visit it. The people are both aggressively rude and overwhelmingly friendly. There’s a couple of restaurants that serve mediocre food that by way of comparison to others are outstanding. Seriously I love Vaishali, and George but… Ever since I moved back to Pune after a stint in Delhi, I just wasn’t satisfied with the narrow roads and unimpressive butter chicken. 

Delhi was the first city that completely stole my heart. I always liked it, I visited my grandparents there every year for Diwali, I loved the shopping, the food and the spirit of the city. Its where I had my first job, my first experience living alone and my first taste of freedom. And of lachcha paratha. Every trip teaches me something new, and my most recent one has given me the chance to revisit what being Indian means to me. A strange mix between nostalgia, patriotism and a unquenched thirst for success define this city. 

So how can I decide where I am most at home? All these cities express many facets of me. I don’t know if we miss them, the language or the people in them or just the person we were in them. But I do know one thing – for a nomad like me, and so many of us out there trying to make our way in the world, the concept of home has to change, if we are to be happy. It took me a while to reach this conclusion – it broke my heart to leave my life in Cologne, I even wrote a sappy poem about it here. But I finally feel ready to let go. These are the epiphanies that helped me get here:

- Don’t attach importance to physical manifestations of emotional attachment. For me that means letting go of my many stolen shot glasses or touristy coffee cups. It means taking only the important, and leaving the rest behind. 
- This applies to people more than anything else. Knowing when to let go of whom has helped me to travel lighter, and make space in my life for the new. This was a painful learning process but it is a lesson I needed to learn. 
- Don’t hang on to the shadows of the past. Realise that – when you go, you are gone. This means that birthdays, festivals and anniversaries will go on without you. Maybe even a friend’s wedding and the birth of their child. Life will happen without you, and if you sit in your room by yourself, looking at pictures on facebook while eating instant noodles, there’s really no point in doing the nomad life. 
- And believe that all that of that is waiting for you when you can visit. It won't be the same, but it will still be amazing.
- But for now – go out and learn the language, have some great conversations and eat some amazing food. Discover who you are in this new place. This doesn’t mean you wall yourself off after you leave – only that you maintain a concept of a fluid home. 

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home

And use my wonderfully helpful diagram to pick who comes along for the ride; and who gets to experience the next adventure with you. Self explanatory but for the dummies who need extra interpretation: 

the "inner circle" is reserved for those go everywhere with you because, if you haven't yet figured this out - they ARE home. They can climb in from any stage of your life, and in sad, rare cases they may be demoted to the outer "city circle". The city circle is the cushioning you need to tell yourself that you have more than 2.5 true friends, that your years wasted, uh spent there were not a total letdown. These are the ones you drink with when you visit, but you never visit to drink with. The "trash bin" is a special place in hell reserved for those cowards who drop out of the inner circle as soon as there is physical distance involved. Note the watertight lid - they must not be allowed to crawl back out of the bin! 

As I sit here feeling wise and profound, I'm waiting for my next adventure. I'm waiting to find my new home.


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