Arriving in Germany was – friendly said – weird. Why are there suddenly so many Germans around me? Why is everyone talking in German? Are people really grumpier?
Ignoring the jet lag I tried my best to start into the first days back in Germany with the same curiosity I had with all the new places I’ve been to and with a lot of energy. I would love to remember this feeling and meet the daily life here with wanderlust as well.
Berlin, Frankfurt, Nürnberg and München – these were my places to be for the first two weeks. Seeing friends and family, figuring out work and trying to adjust to the new life back home. “New life.” Because this is my main issue: Not to fall back into (all) old habits, but to use the learnings from the last 10 months of exploring the world and myself. 10 months. Right now it feels like I haven’t been away at all. But I remember the months, the weeks, the days and yet still it feels like yesterday.
This is me. 15 minutes after we’ve landed in Berlin Schönefeld.
It’s difficult to hang out with friends and especially groups of friends in the first days. I selected the city to fly in very delicately. In Berlin I could arrive incognito, just letting Stefan know I was there and staying at his place together with his wife and daughter for two days. Slowly growing into the feeling of being back before moving to Frankfurt, meeting my parents and then going further down south to friends in Nürnberg and München.
Our family’s wheat beer Schneider’s and some typical German dinner helped to soothe the pain when I finally set foot in my hometown.
I guess I fully realized that I’m back when I heard Helene Fischer at the Nürnberg Beer Festival while I was having beers with Michael, Svende and new friends we made that evening. Well, the girl on the left just photobombed the picture. So I guess we can’t call her a new friend as well.
Being back in Germany meant that the time with having all these expensive beers in small glasses was over. And with these lovely friends it also meant to adjust to the amount of fluid again on a warm night. I guess we had 6 each?
I wonder if I have changed in the last 10 months. So much has happened, I’ve spent a lot of time alone or arranging myself with many different people. I’ve found privacy in a dorm. I never had to plan with someone else or further ahead than a couple of days, maybe a week. I space off quite frequently in these thoughts.
Sophia passes me some cake dough leftovers when I enter the door to their apartment in München. It tastes like I remember it. Delicious. Cake and cookie dough always help. And hers is in the top 3 worldwide.
We explored the hills around the Tegernsee on Sunday for Cynthia’s birthday – “We” being a group of my Munich friends. At some point I sat there and didn’t know what to talk about. What to say. Only travel stories came up to my mind but I didn’t want to push too many of these stories into conversation. I don’t want to be that travel friend who has just his own stories. But nothing else, nothing really important or interesting came into my mind while we were having a beautiful Sunday out in the Bavarian nature. So I walked quiet and ahead like I had done it so many times during the last months. I hope it gets better. Just one week back.
I’m sitting in the night bus from Köln to Frankfurt. I followed an invitation and spent a good Friday evening connecting with consultancy friends and talking about traveling and carnival in Köln. My seat neighbor is talking a lot – she said so herself in the end and had proved it effectively.
„I want to have a lama“ she adds at some point. „A lama? Is this your favorite animal?“ I ask her back. „Yes. Well, one of them. A lama, a koala and a dolphin.“ This precise selection makes me curious. „Why these three?“ „Well, a lama can spit at anyone who annoys it. A koala can sleep anywhere. And a dolphin can go everywhere.“
We’re sitting in the night bus, it’s after midnight and I fear we might annoy people around us with our endless talks. But her stories, her lightness and her carefreeness to share them – some very private and personal, some like universal learnings – astound me. “My mother always says ‘Education is your heritage’. That’s why I can choose a university and a major that I want and they pay for my years there.” “That’s a pretty good idea.” “Yes. And well, they mean what they say. I won’t inherit anything else because they will donate everything to charities.”
Back in Frankfurt, back in my room I started to get familiar with becoming a freelancer and thinking about all the stuff I have to get for it. My internet connection up here is still not existing – or reduced to my iPhone – so sometimes in the evenings I sneak down in my father’s apartment and use his laptop for some surfing and research.
After ten years that I had to work with Lenovo I was so happy to finally give my work laptop away last year and just use my MacBook… and here I sit now, at my father’s Lenovo and fight again with the little red knob, the trackpad and the english keyboard that is yet set to German. My father calls it “a challenge for your brain”. If you own a Lenovo you know what I mean with “the little red knob”.
It’s definitely a challenge. Good that I can have a Big Wave in my craft beer bar to remind myself of Hawaii again. And more friends to say Hi.
„You will never loose your travel spirit. Our curse after our adventures is to settle our restlessness and be content for a time with routine.“ Bridget texted me when I was sitting in my room and feeling the blues hit me again. Why am I here?
Thunders are roaring above my head while the rain throws itself heavily against my roof window. I scroll through my favorite pictures of the last months, mainly the ones you find here in the blogs. I wanted to look for a picture I could use in a keynote and then got distracted by addictive sights of places I’ve been to. Quite long I rest with the Hawaiian pics.
Hawaii, maybe my favorite place if it is at all possible to give the places a ranking. Hawaii was the one place I had the most expectations towards since I had wanted to go there for so long. And therefore it was also the one place I was afraid to be disappointed because of these expectations. „It was so much better than I ever thought it could be,“ I hear myself muttering out loud. Another lightning and thunder outside make me turn my head upwards. I look into my own face looking back as the window works like a perfect mirror on this dark evening.
During my 10 months of traveling I collected songs in a playlist, quite a lot of songs. There is no specific rule for a song to make it into a special place on my list but that it has to catch in a special moment. You know these songs, as soon as they start to play you have these intense flashbacks? Yes, these kind of songs I was not actively looking for but they crossed my way anyway.
Another thunder rumbles outside. I connect my phone with my bluetooth speaker and start the playlist.
Here are the songs with the most impact on my Across the Ocean playlist:
- “Alone Together – Fall Out Boy”: A song to guide me through the last summer months in my small room in Frankfurt when I tried to save every cent before I left Europe and all the securities and sometimes was close to freak out.
- “One Night In 北京 (Beijing) – 信樂團 (by Shin)”: The perfect day with my friends in Singapore ended in an air-conditioned Karaoke Bar where we fled the heat. Su Fen performed that song so passionately and astounded all of us. I still don’t know what happened on that “One Night in Beijing”. But that was amazing.
- “Sail the Wildest Stretch – Powderfinger”: Sitting in a car with Karen, just coming back from camping and hiking in the Royal National Park South of Sydney, the warm wind blew into my face through the open window and I realized how far far away from home I was – literally on the other side of the planet. We stopped for food and had a delicious chicken pie at Pie in the Sky.
- “Ends of the Earth – Lord Huron”: I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, and to start with something easy I walked the coast to coast path when I decided to sit down in a park on a beautiful sunny day to enjoy a flat white and a date scone from the park café, Lord Huron as my company.
- “Shake it out – Florence + The Machine”: I walked alongside a road in Fox Glacier, New Zealand. No human around me. I just got back from a 2 hour walk to Lake Mattheson – where I didn’t have the fabulous mirror lake that all travel brochures picture but instead that song for nearly the whole time in my ears – singing loud to it when I realized the smiling face of Michael coming towards me on the other side of the lonely road.
- “Cool mit mir selbst – Culcha Candela”: After a couple of weeks of traveling together I was suddenly alone again, sitting a bit sick after the two Great Walks of Milford and Kepler in Te Anau and didn’t feel well at all. So I looked in the Apple Best of the Week playlist for something to cheer me up. And found this song and some sunlight outside to make me smile again.
- “Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin”: The sea was rough when we crossed on the small ferry from the South Island to Stewart Island. People got sea sick, the waves were smashing against the windows and the crew tried to cheer everyone up or at least to distract us from staring at the up and down of the boat and the sea. Last night in the not so pretty town of Invercargill, on a rainy night where everything – literally – was closed except the cinema I had watched Thor: Ragnarok. So I picked the theme song and put it onto my earphones while I enjoyed the 2 hours ride across the waves and towards my upcoming 10-day-backcountry-hike-adventure.
- “Whole Wide World – Cage the Elephant”: Fiji, Barefoot Manta Island. Me and my little guitar Lilo sat in the sand on our beautiful nearly private sunrise beach, both of us looking a bit like the cheap version of Cast Away, the beautiful blue ocean in front and us trying to perform that song. Lucky it has just two chords.
- “Se Tautino – Tyzn Lamtoa”: If there’s one song that seemed to follow me all around the globe it’s definitely Despacito. Especially when I had bad days this sing popping up somewhere in an Uber, a coffee shop or a car passing by made me always laugh. So it was not a surprise to hear that song also on Samoa. But having it in the Samoan version and performed by 7 Samoan boys, dancing in a traditional slapping dance to it, on Christmas evening at the beach was something I will always remember.
- “Black Flies – Ben Howard”: Maui. I drive down the Road to Hana with Kerrie next to me. She takes over the car’s audio player and connects her phone to it. Black Flies starts to play and I think of my friends back home who have danced to that song on stage. I drive the car along the narrow road and through the beautiful green valleys of Maui.
- “Good morning, Hawai’i – Kolohe Kai”: I wake up in the morning at some beach, crawl out of my small tent and prepare a simple breakfast. Kaua’i was far away from a luxury Hawaiian vacation. But it filled me with incredible hikes, lots of thoughts and a down to earth journey – even more than before. I loved to play that song first thing in the often early mornings when I headed off with the car to find a hot coffee and a new adventure.
- “Greyblue – COSBY”: I love songs that have a long and intense instrumental bridge. And when I was driving for hours towards a big volcano on Big Island that appeared in the distance, slowly getting closer and being partly hid in clouds I turned up the volume and let myself get drowned fully in it.
- “Saturday Sun – Vance Joy”: Finally arrived in Los Angeles. I was the first one up on my first Saturday there. I did some yoga, enjoyed the sun with a short run and found that new song in the playlist while preparing coffee. It seemed to have popped up just for this moment.
- “Miss Jackson – Panic! At the Disco.”: A small but comfortable cabin close to the entrance to Yosemite National Park. A snow storm is raging outside and we have just returned from our day trip down to the Yosemite Valley. We drink a hot apple cider with whiskey and play cards. I lose and have to dance. Miss Jackson is the song. I can’t sit still every time I hear it now.
- “This is me – Keala Settle”: Hollywood, Improv Class. Every morning I take the train to Sunset Boulevard, walk up the stairs towards the UCB Training Center and completely filled with the feeling of belief, motivation, emotion and happiness while I dance on the street to the songs from the Greatest Showman. Sometimes literally.
- “Wanderer – Mowgli”: Arriving in Vancouver it hit me that it was time to travel again. To be on my own again. Alone. A friend back home sent me a message. “I just read your recent blog and listened to this music during it.” I opened the file and listened to the song. Yes, it’s time to travel again.
- “LA Devotee – Panic at the Disco!”: I was walking through the beautiful landscape around Banff when I felt the blues. I missed Los Angeles. I missed the feeling it gave me that I could be anything I wanted to. I wondered if I ever really wanted to live there. But at that moment in Canada I felt lost and answered the question to myself with a silent ‘yes’.
- “Galaxy – Thorsteinn Einnarson”: The road trip around Nova Scotia with it mystical and foggy cliffs and roads along the coast and through marshes. Suddenly a ship wreck appears to the left. I have to stop the car and have another look. It feels like nothing I would have expected here. I get out of the car, my phone in my hand to take a picture. The music that plays from my phone via bluetooth stops. Stops like this moment. When I get back and drive slowly on Galaxy plays.
- “Time Machine – Ingrid Michaelson”: Toronto and my last hostel. I’m two days away from flying home. What a strange feeling that after such a long time this is my last hostel for a while. I sit in the lobby and start to work on things back home. My future portfolio, a website sketch, the last blog. Time Machine starts on the big screen that plays old and recent music videos in an endless loop. I have to turn my head towards it and decide to download that song immediately into my playlist.
- “Start Again – One Republic”: Arriving back in Berlin, sandwiched between my two backpacks, the small and the big one, my Propeller Brewing Cap on my head and it hit me. I’m back.