What I’ve Learned by Living on the Streets for a Week
The first week in Bucharest, after I left home for college, was tough. I was an acutely shy and scared 18-year old freshman roaming alone, lost in the crowded and polluted metropolis. I couldn’t secure a bed in the students dormitory and I spent a week on the streets. During the days I would go to university with a few pieces of paper, a pen, a fork and a pillow in my backpack. After lectures I would walk for endless hours waiting for the night to fall when I would take the subway to the end of the city and sleep in an extendable armchair in my best friend’s one-room apartment. The woman who owned the place and who also lived there in the same room was very unhappy with the situation but she gave me a week to find another place to stay. I would arrive around midnight after she fell asleep and leave at 6 AM before she woke up.
It was a difficult period but little did I know that this week will offer me one of the most profound lessons of my life.
After spending a week roaming the streets, desperately asking people to host me for the night, waking up before everybody else to leave so that they don’t see me, coming back at midnight after all went to bed so I won’t disturb them, I now understood how it feels like. I had the actual experience. I had lived through it, I had the facts, I knew the feeling of not having where to go at night fall, of roaming the streets alone, of begging others to keep me for the night.
“The only source of knowledge is experience”
– Albert Einstein
When we see somebody in a difficult situation, we can understand them only if we had the same experience and had lived through it. Otherwise, we just think we know. We usually just express an opinion and offer free advice which is worth as much as its value. No wonder we don’t manage to solve humanity’s problems. We have no real understanding of them. Have you noticed that the people who are most passionate about solving a problem are the ones who’ve been through it and came out alive?
“You cannot create experience. You must undergo it”
– Albert Camus
Only a few months after I have found a room and moved into the students dormitory, three other friends from childhood asked if they can stay with me for a few weeks. Instantly, the answer was always Yes. I only had a bed to share, but I was happy to offer them a safe place to stay. Because I had the experience. I had the understanding, the knowledge and the feeling of not having where to sleep at night. I had now transformed suffering into wisdom. Well, at least for this fragment of my life.
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