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Thursday, September 13, 2018

100 days of "Solitude"

Today marks my 163rd day abroad, 100 days of it being “solo” travel. Can’t very well say 100 days of solitude.  My worries about being lonely haven’t had much occasion to be tested. I’ve had visits with friends and family from the US, England, Norway, and Germany and have made new friends here in Berlin.

Stacy told me that I would be fine on my own; that maybe I’d be better off without her. I didn’t really believe her but knew that I wasn’t ready to go home and risk getting pulled back into the comforts of home and abandoning my dreams. After three months on my own, I’m enjoying the freedom of being able to move through life with only my own desires and winds of circumstance guiding the way. I’m finding a deeper sense of independence, confidence and calm as a result of my self reliance. Sure, I have times where I feel lost and lonely and question what the hell I’m doing, but less frequently and less intensely.

One of the unexpected benefits of being on my own is that it's motivated me to put myself out there and make friends with people in a way that I wouldn't have attempted if I had the comfort of a trusted friend to rely on.  Berlin has a fantastic community of people who use Meetup to meet like minded people and explore all sorts of creative and entertaining pursuits.  It's even available in Kansas City, just go to or download the app.  Check it out! 

I'm rereading a book which I absolutely adore.  What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman. She talks about how she was a shy little girl until her mom asked her if she'd rather have a vacation with no friends or one scary moment.  My dear step father also liked to say something similar. It's taken a while, but I've finally embraced this way of life and as Kristin Newman found, it has big payoffs for little investment.

I’ve had the pleasure of using Berlin as my home base thanks to the generosity of my distant cousin and her husband’s family. I’ve been staying at her husband’s grandmother’s empty flat for nearly three months now. To say the apartment is barebones is an understatement. I can count the pieces of furniture on one hand, I’ve been sleeping on an air mattress, and there are only two lamps which I carry from room to room if I need more light. 

Early on, I found it depressing. The emptiness of the apartment reflected the emptiness of my life - no home, no job, no cats, no commitments, far from friends and family. Just me. As time has gone on, I’ve been able to shift my perspective. It’s been comforting to have a place to come “home” to. Comforting to learn the public transportation without having to rely on google every step of the way. It’s liberating to realize that I don’t need my tempurpedic mattress, I don’t need much really. Just me is enough really. I am enough. If I can live 3 months in austerity, what else can stop me? (Choosing a new phone plan might break me though!)

My time in Berlin is coming to a close. I need to be out of “my” apartment by the end of September. Berlin has been fabulous for my creativity.  My cousin encouraged me to attend a Meetup group called Shut Up and Write.  We meet and chat for 15 minutes then write for 45 and have another 15 minute break followed by another 45 minutes of writing.  I get more written in the two 45 minute sessions than I do in an entire day of in my apartment. I’ve met inspiring people from all over the world who share their stories, ask insightful questions, offer comfort and encouragement and make me feel like maybe I’m not crazy for doing what I’m doing, or if I am crazy I’m not alone.  Today the lovely bearded barista at Handbestand saw me come in and an eyebrow lift later, my customary iced latte was delivered to my table.

Though Berlin has been good for me and I'm going to miss the friends I made here, it is not where I belong. When I visit many other European cities, I am enchanted by the beautiful architecture and cleanliness.  Berlin doesn’t measure up in those categories. Considering that 90% of the city was leveled during WWII, and much of it was rebuilt in Soviet block style, it’s no surprise that the city isn’t as pretty as other European cities. Quite the contrary, it’s remarkable so much of it has been rebuilt and there is a feeling of resilience here that is tangible. I feel I’m being unfair to Berlin, it is more grand than my home town of Kansas City, but I’m not following my head right now, I’m listening to my heart.

The falling leaves tell me that summer is coming to an end and fall is on its way. Though the rebirth of spring is my favorite, I’ve always enjoyed fall.  This time it’s bittersweet. I reflect on the wonderful things I’ve done and seen, but feel regret for all I never got around to.  I really wanted to canoe or kayak or raft down a European river. The closest I got was a literally breathtaking cold dip in the Schlactensee, a lake near Berlin.

I approach the halfway mark of my commitment to travel for a year. It’s too early to allow the fears of what comes after or whether I’ve accomplished whatever I intended to on this journey. Still, like wolves circling a fire - I can feel the fears patiently waiting for the fire to sputter out so they can pounce.

When Stacy and I first dreamed up this adventure, her intense dislike of cold and winter led us to dream up a route that would chase the warmth. I abandoned our previous plans when she left, but now she’s reached out again and asked if she could rejoin me for a couple months.  Perhaps it’s a good time to pick up our previous plans and pursue those activities that I didn’t get around to this summer. The next chapter is about to begin. 

---Up Next!---

Meeting up with friends in Slovenia, Munich (Oktoberfest!), Avignon France, and my first house sitting gig with two adorable cats!  💗 😻💗