It’s hard to believe, but on the 6th July 2006 I left Germany on a journey that would take me nearly ten years before I returned.
My brother had taken me to an airport outside Berlin in the early morning hours. He was the last one of my family and friends I said goodbye to. It was the hardest one, too. I boarded a plane to Dresden. It was a small one. Another, smaller plane still, took me to Vienna. And then I was on a big one to Kuala Lumpur, which was followed by one to Sydney and finally I landed in Auckland, New Zealand, for the first time in my life.
It was a trip of nearly 40 hours. I was exhausted. It was after midnight when I landed, but thankfully someone picked me up. We drove two hours north to Whangarei, where my first trip around the world truly began. Though it would take a while before I completed it.
Ten years is a long time. I had left Germany, because I had come to the conclusion that there had to be more to life than studying and working and having friends and being content with everything. At 26 I didn’t find “content” a desirable state of being.
So, instead I went for “uncertainty”. All the safety I had in my life up until the moment I decided to leave meant nothing. A novel by Richard Bach is called “Running from Safety”. It’s among my favourites and it always rang true with me.
I gave up the life I had and left for something new and different. I told my parents that I’d be gone for two, maybe three years. But I had no idea, truth be told.
As an introvert seeking adventures doesn’t come naturally to me. My comfort zone is where I’m usually happy. Or at least content. Yeah, there’s that word again.
But as someone thirsting for knowledge, for experiences, as someone who wants to live vicariously not just through the books she’s reading, I wanted to see things for myself. I needed to.
Ten years on I feel as if I barely scratched the surface.
I sailed from New Zealand to Fiji. I lived and worked a year in Australia, namely Melbourne. I fell in love. I travelled around the world for five months by myself, stopping by at home for Christmas to see my family and friends. I returned to Melbourne and moved to New Zealand with my now ex.
I stayed for nearly three years, fell out of love with my partner, fell in love with the country and my greyhounds and eventually I had to move on.
After more than four years gone from Germany already, I still wasn’t ready to return. So I went to Canada, after a brief interlude in Berlin to arrange for the working holiday visa I needed for Canada.
So, I went to Vancouver and landed myself in Victoria, where I stayed a year and worked. It’s a beautiful part of the world. Next I travelled around the US for two months, staying four weeks on the Big Island of Hawaii.
And then, I thought, perhaps it was time to return to Germany after all. But no, it wasn’t meant to be. Red tape and the job centre chased me out of the country after only three weeks. Never again will I apply for benefits in Germany. I only did it to have health insurance, but it wasn’t worth it going that route.
I moved to London instead.
It took about a year before I knew I wasn’t done travelling. Serves you right working for an international travel company. I did stay another 18 months, however, in order to save enough money for the next big trip. This time it was mostly South America, but some SEA as well and seeing friends in NZ and Melbourne.
I travelled for six months before I returned to Germany and then London once more.
For the past year I’ve worked on my freelance career, which is going well enough that I’ve not had to return to any form of more regular employment. And eventually I decided that, perhaps, it was time to finally give Germany another chance.
I came back three months ago.
My life changed many times during the past ten years; certainly more times than I would have anticipated or have ever believed when I first left. And it became so much more than I could have ever hoped for. Ten years full of seeing new things, meeting new people, making friends for life and finding unexpected joy. I fell in and out of love, I grew up and learned to let go. I found friends and I lost friends.
I figured out what I really wanted in life, what I am capable of and that home is many places.
And, no, not everything was perfect. Not at all. I struggled often and sometimes despaired. I was alone at times and sometimes lonely. But I always had someone to fall back on, whether my family in the distance or friends close at hand. It wasn’t perfect and I do have regrets. Ultimately, however, there are very few things I would change given a chance. And since I won’t get that chance, I’m okay with how things turned out.
I’m here now.
There are many adventures still ahead of me, so many places to see still. So many lessons to learn and new friends to meet. For now I’ve decided to make a home and with any luck, I may even find someone to share those next adventures with me. I love to travel by myself, but some things become all the more enjoyable when shared. That would be a new experience, too.
This scratch map was given to me by friends. I have been able to scratch 30 countries free thus far.