"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain"
Rohan Albuquerque defines himself as a professional at Deloitte, but he might as well be known as a professional globetrotter. He got his driver's license in Muscat, spent his awkward teenage years in Mumbai, enjoyed red solo cups and clubs in London, and is now adulting back in Mumbai. He’s here to share his experience of living in different parts of the world, starting from when he was merely 13 years old.
When did you experience your first move, and what did that look like?
When I was first made to move, I was only a couple months into life as a teenager. My brother and mother had moved to India a while ago for his high school education, and now it was my turn. If you’d met me then, you’d see an overwhelmed, sheltered and introverted young boy hesitantly stepping into the 24/7 bustling city of Mumbai. I found this move harsher than others possibly would, as it was a striking paradox from my life back in Muscat. If you meet anyone from Muscat, you’ll notice that they operate in a laid-back, slow-paced lifestyle. Mumbaikars sit on the opposite end of the spectrum. They are found to be constantly sprinting around, trying to make it on time to their meetings, social obligations or even just home for dinner.
What were some of the biggest changes you encountered cross-culturally?
I’ll admit I was never attached to Muscat, but it’s never easy when you are dragged out of your comfort zone. The hardest part, personally, about my move to India was having to restart my social life from scratch. Although it might be difficult to believe now, I used to be a very shy and introverted child. Even though my school was small, I noticed that there is a lot of “groupism” that is embedded in high schools in India (tell me about it), which did not make the process any easier. As I mentioned earlier, Indian kids are driven into fast-paced lives that require them to be independent and self-reliant from a young age. In Muscat, my social plans would depend on when my father returned from office (yes, public transportation doesn’t exist and Uber was not a thing back then). This relocation was the first time I came to realize where I stood in terms of confidence, self-esteem and disposition.
What efforts did you make in order to cope with such challenges?
Even though I had my mom and brother with me, my process of becoming outgoing was on a standstill. I knew it was something I had to change individually, rather than purely relying on external forces to work in my favor. I deserted my comfort zone, and started talking to the other boys on topics that we agreed on such as football and (not) homework. This spark of courage got me a long way as I began talking to more people and immersed myself in various school activities. I instantly got reciprocation as others started extending invitations to join them for football (the biggest success for a teenage boy) and other activities. Eventually, I found myself excelling at sports, academics (guess who became the house captain!) and social life. All it took was some patience, and the determination to break out of my shell.
What were some of the striking similarities and differences you encountered throughout your time globe trotting? (Moving to India, London, Muscat for a few months and back to India)
When I moved to London for college, I won’t pretend I didn’t feel the same tingling sensation that 13 y/o Rohan did at Chatrapati Shivaji Airport. Moving out of my comfort zone again, built over the tenure of 5 years, put me in the same vulnerable position as a kid asked to sing in front of his parents' friends. However this time, it felt significantly easier for a host of reasons. My move to Mumbai, during the most developmental and crucial stages of my teenage years, unquestionably set me up for success in my coming relocations. Being forced to leave my nest made it a whole lot easier to set up a new one, especially while I simultaneously struggled to solve the British accent puzzle.
Even though there were people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and statuses, it felt a lot less demanding to put myself out there. The UK lifestyle and campus atmosphere nurtures a collective social culture. It urges individuals to be more outgoing and extroverted. It was also easier to meet people and develop relations as everybody stood on the start line together - I mean nobody wants to leave university without finding their “best friends for life”.
What held you back from having a smooth transition in your moves to these different countries?
My environment while growing up had a huge impact on the way I perceived my move to each of these countries. I believe that our surroundings are largely responsible for moulding our personality, nature and confidence. Being cloistered in Muscat, with its lack of public transportation, limited number of kids my age, or the complete absence of sufficient social activities, definitely put me at a massive disadvantage compared to others at my age. In addition to the usual awkward teen issues, not having enough of a social life in Muscat snatched away from me the opportunity to hone communication skills.
I was forced to return to the desert (pun intended) after the limited number of employment opportunities in London. My 9 months in Muscat, before moving back to India for my job, helped me realize how lucky I was to have left this place in the nick of time. Coming back as an adult gave me the chance to reason my previous struggles with communication, and measure just how far I had come in this realm of my personality.
What is your living situation now? Do you ever plan on moving back/moving somewhere else in the near future?
Currently, I’m living alone in my apartment in Mumbai, and working at Deloitte as a Senior Executive. I certainly enjoy my privacy, but would only consider living here for the rest of my life if I was compensated better. I find that achieving considerable career growth in India is gruelling because my tireless input of working late hours and maintaining a strong work ethic, is only matched by the bare minimum output (salary and exposure) which quite frankly is dispiriting. I have to confess that I’m only able to maintain my lifestyle through my parents, and hope to become sustainable through an entrepreneurial opportunity here, or by making a move around the globe again. “I don’t know, let’s go with the flow!”
Are there times you feel lonely or find it difficult to live alone?
For every visa stamp on my passport, I have learned a different aspect of living alone. In London, I learned the art of cooking (yes, this includes meals other than boiled pasta and frozen foods). Being in the UK taught me to be self sufficient whereas being in India taught me how to live life like royalty (just kidding :P). But to be fair, when I landed my job in Mumbai, I would seldom find time to cook or carry out my daily chores, forcing me to hire external help. This period took a massive toll on my health as my irregular timetable forced me to order fast food for most of the week. So to answer your question, yes there are definitely times when it’s hard to be self-sustainable or live alone. But loneliness? I definitely miss my parents but I think I’ve been in this situation long enough that I’ve come to prefer living by myself now.
What advice would you give to someone in your shoes? (Regarding moving to another country or living alone)
“Do it, don’t overthink it.” Each experience differs from the next, and just going through it without over preparing and overthinking will help you grow to the fullest.
Struggling with moving to another country? Want to learn how to be more independent?
Reach out to Rohan!