Preface: I want to put some context to this post before you read it. I was having a very down 24 hours, when I wrote this, for a combination of reasons. There were some things happening in Australia that I was wishing I could be there for and my mind and body were not feeling at all good. I wrote this 5 days ago, at 2am in the morning, after having had little sleep the previous couple of nights. My anxiety was extremely high and I was feeling sorry for myself. I am aware that it might make my hosts look like they have not been considerate or caring – both which is not true in any way, shape or form. So why post it, you might ask? I’m posting it because the feelings are real and I believe these kinds of feelings do occur, at times, when you are travelling. I always try to be honest in my writing and this is an honest post – for that particular time. Of course, as with most things, the hard stuff does pass and I have been experiencing many happy times since.
To say that I have found the entire first 2 weeks of my trip to Berlin easy, would be wrong. There is so much of what I have been experiencing that I have found isolating and lonely. Change is not something that comes easy to me – in fact I find it bloody hard! I really don’t enjoy being outside my comfort area and I am certainly that …. every minute of every day I am here!
I often don’t really understand what my role here is – even when I have been told. The lifestyle I have found myself inserted into is so different from my own at home, in Australia, that every few days I find myself floundering to achieve the simplest of daily tasks like cooking, cleaning and even eating regular meals. I have learned very quickly, that loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to care for them in the way they require.
Living in a sharehouse for the first time in my entire life at 57, is proving challenging for me. Food seems to be the thing that I struggle with the most. Everyone has their own cupboards and shelves in the fridge, to store their food but when it comes to cooking …. everything is free to be used by anybody as long it is replaced sometime! I have been told this many times but I struggle with the concept, especially if it is the last of the milk or bread! I still don’t feel confident to find my way to the supermarket and the only time I have been into the local corner store, I’m pretty certain I didn’t hear any English spoken. That and the tipping scares me to death!
It is important to state here that I have been made incredibly welcome in this beautiful home. The shortcomings listed are my own, not those of the young people I am living with. I am the one that has entered their world not they into mine. The longer I stay, the more I realise I am a creature of routine and habit. Probably because my boys have all lived out of home for many years now, the irregular hours that things happen here, is a great mystery to me. The fact that the sun doesn’t set until after 9pm means that meals happen at random times and at night not often before 8 or 9pm. Eating out is the norm as food is cheap and socialising is a high priority. Unfortunately, this old lady still wakes up at 5am and so is tired and hungry way before everyone else is. She also, doesn’t really desire a different ethnic taste each night of the week! Last minute dinner or drink meetings are also on high rotation. But, rather than go out, on occasion I have found myself standing alone in front of the fridge, trying to decide what I should prepare to eat before a night home alone. The fact that there is no television in the house has meant sometimes those nights feel a bit lonely.
Have I mentioned that Berlin is a city where public transport is the way to get around? Now if you are a young, fit, 30 something, that is just fine and dandy but to be truthful for this still overweight, 57 year old with crapped out knees, it is difficult. To get to the trains and buses there is always at least a 15 minute walk on very poorly maintained, uneven footpaths, and then usually the same at the other end. We have had to resort to cabs for at least one way for many of our trips out and about and even if the natives see this as somewhat of a waste of money – my knees do not! Every cab I have taken when with others, has had an English speaking driver …. that is until I decided to leave the young ones to meet friends for drinks after dinner and catch a cab home alone. Although, the driver was given instructions by my German speaking dinner companions, I still felt uneasy and had to manage the tipping myself! I know I gave him too much!! I also, had to enter the apartment block in the dark, not really knowing where the entrance and stair lights were. Add to that the fact that someone had got into the locked entranceway the night before and tagged graffiti all over the stairwell. I was happy and relieved to get inside and make myself a cuppa.
On reading back over what I have written, I realise it all sounds very negative and petty which it may in fact be, but it is part of my travelling truth. Travelling alone and living in foreign lands can at times be lonely and isolating. That doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the people you are staying with or travelling to see. It mostly has to do with your ability to go with the flow and the acceptance and embracing of new experiences. This is something I will be trying to improve on but it is indeed a struggle for me!