That question I got a lot recently and it actually encloses two questions: Why put an end to my travelling and why choose Berlin as final destination? The former has been addressed in a previous post, written somewhere over the icy shores of Greenland, and doesn’t need much addendum.
Which leaves the question of why I chose Berlin as a place of residence.
Over the course of the last ten years I have lived in various cities in different countries. On multiple continents even! Some of the places I called home for a few months, while in others I lived for much much longer. What they all have in common is that they all taught me something about what I do or do not appreciate in a city.
When I lived in Karlsruhe, pre-travelling, I enjoyed its laid-back feel as well as easy access to the Black Forest. But returning to it after two years abroad, I quickly missed the company of “global minds”. Many residents had never lived outside the region, and the foreigners I met were 20-year-old students at the technical university. Not quite the seasoned travellers I had acquainted on the road.
What was also rare to find in Karlsruhe was a developed alternative scene, people who had a different view on life, had seen something outside of the usual 9-to-5 circle.
Those two issues were a large motivation for my move to Stuttgart. In that city I hoped to find a lively alternative culture and all kinds of internationals. But I didn’t.
While Stuttgart does have a large international population, most of them come to work for the big automotive companies and are, in their striving for a good salary and careers, all too similar to the natives of the area. I think I found two bars in the city where a plain t-shirt didn’t mean you were under-dressed.
About a year of experiencing that had left me disappointed (and borderline depressed). Not all in Stuttgart was bad, but I didn’t see my future there and hence once again packed my bags to venture on.
I wasn’t just leaving the city but also needed time out of the usual work life. Needed some distance, a different perspective, an opportunity to think about life. Figure out what I need.
During that trip, that year on the road, I understood how important freedom is to me. Of course freedom has many aspects and is all but impossible to define, but an aspect that is very important to me is the ability to structure my day as a I see fit. The 9-5 routine, 40h each week, each week the same – it kills me, turns me into a miserable mess.
Just to clarify, it is not work-life in general that bothers me. On the contrary, I enjoy my work and pursue it five days out of seven, no matter where I am. But unlike in an office, in regular employment, I’m doing it at my own pace, in my own rhythm.
With regular employment out the window (for now), I need a city with lots of small businesses who might have an interest in hiring me for project work. Berlin being the hub of the German start-up scene has raised my hopes high in that regard.
But of course, the potential income situation is by far not the only factor in my decision for Berlin as a place to live.
Let’s talk lifestyle: I am looking for an environment that is down-to-earth, laid back, non-pretentious. Cafés and restaurants where people go to enjoy themselves, not to dress up in a suit. The opposite of Stuttgart, so to speak.
The way I consume these days is a fair bit away from mainstream. I have no interest whatsoever in buying at stores like Aldi, where my purchase makes the rich even richer. And a fair and sustainable product chain is questionable – at best.
Instead I much prefer to get my groceries (and whatever else I can) from small, owner-run shops or the farmers markets. That is something not easily found in every neighbourhood but again, Berlin has raised my hopes high in that regard.
When it comes to community, I have certain expectations in the people I socialise with. After all these years on the road (it’s been about three in total, can you believe it?) I’m looking for people that have lived abroad, have experienced cultures other than their own. People for whom the ideas of national states or borders are as ridiculous as they are for me.
Apart from an international background, I’m also interested in the company of people who’ve stepped out of what’s commonly called the rat race. Those who want to do more with their lives than just secure a pension. My current lifestyle – without a fixed income, with hardly so much as a place of residence – is highly unusual. I’m looking for others with a similar background. Others I can exchange with, learn from, inspire.
All that is asking a lot and I don’t know if Berlin can deliver. But so far it’s looking mighty good.