At the end of February, I was sitting in Madrid’s El Retiro park, sipping Cava in the warm spring sunshine with three good friends, looking forward to the year. It was just one of countless trips and meet-ups I had planned before moving to South in August or early September. Needless to say, that this is not what happened. The virus changed all our lives just shortly after that. Closed borders, cancelled visa applications and a worldwide lockdown put our travel (and moving) plans to a halt.
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Funny enough, we had already cancelled the lease for our apartment in January as we were planning on spending four months in Bosnia-Herzegovina, traveling Europe and saying goodbye to friends before the big move. At the end of April, still in the middle of a lockdown, we were suddenly homeless and not able to get into Bosnia – Europe was pretty much at a standstill with no busses, planes or car shares whatsoever shuffling from A to B. After a few weeks at my parents’, we managed to make our way to Croatia with the first Air Croatia flight that took off from Munich. We stayed in Split for three almost relaxing, calm weeks – sunbathing at the beach, swims, runs on the seaside promenade, evening drinks in almost empty bars… Until Bosnia opened its borders to foreigners in June. Finally, we had an apartment again, an address – even if only for a transitional period – cupboards to put our stuff in and a couch to crash.
How long we were gonna stay, we didn’t know. The virus dictated the rest of the year – but for now, I couldn’t be bothered with planning anymore anyway.
a new concept of home…
Fora few years already, the concept of home has changed for me. For the longest time, I was sure that home would always be the place where my story began. This little town in the middle of Bavaria with its famous Christmas market. But already after studying abroad and volunteering in South Africa, this concept had shifted. I felt I had lost the definition of home and the place that I called it, didn’t feel like it anymore. And the more and more I realized that I am not one to grow roots in a place. I am more like the mistletoe, growing on trees, not having roots for itself – and like a mistletoe I would make people and feelings my home. It was not about waking up in the same bed every morning, looking out the same windows – it was who I was waking up with and what the day ahead had in store for me, that felt like home.
Little did I know that when I packed my bags in 2016 to move to Cape Town for good, it would result in a moving marathon over different countries and continents that wouldn’t stop for the next four years. Had somebody told me back then, I would have been terrified and stressed without end. But looking back today, I am happy I went along for the ride without hesitating when opportunities opened up. Apart from Cape Town, I lived in Prague, in Hamburg, in Munich and in Sarajevo in the last four years (yes, that’s more than one city per year, you don’t have to count them again) and I don’t want to brag but who can say they lived in so many cool places in such a short period of time?
the girl that is running away
When I first told my family, I was planning on moving and living abroad, they thought it was a phase. Just an idea and a lust for adventure, that would pass. “You can’t run away forever, you know”, my sister-in-law told me over family coffee one day, “You just turned 30. Now it’s just time to settle down and accept that you have had your adventure.” But was I really running away? To me, it felt more like running around in the search of something that I hadn’t found yet. Cause the truth is – our lives are ever-moving, ever-changing. There is no need to concentrate them on one place, to settle. Everything is flowing, so you might as well just go with the flow.
We stayed in Sarajevo for six solid months in the end. Was it a happy place for me? Not necessarily? Did it feel like home? Certainly not in the beginning, a little bit more like a place that could become home eventually in the end. Those six months felt like a year and the year felt like two. Looking back nothing and everything was happening at the same time and months just blurred into each other. Yes, we moved inside Germany this year, then to Croatia, Bosnia, back to Germany now to wait for our visas and then we will hop on a plane to South African by the end of the month.
Right now, I don’t have a permanent address, I don’t have keys to a place that I call home and I live out of two suitcases that I only open reluctantly to take out new clothes because I’m scared I might not be able to close them again.
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It’s not a comfortable situation. From the outside looking in, my life probably looks like a weird, unglamorous jet set mess. And you know what, in fact I hope it does look like a mess –because I didn’t plan any of this and I have, by no means, everything figured out. So please don’t think that I just surf this wave, knowing what I’m doing. I don’t. But I also don’t care anymore if other people think I do. Because nothing in life ever works out as planned. Life is a mess – and the sooner you realize it, the sooner you can really enjoy riding the wave.
Yes, I moved to South Africa for good and left just short to one year later to move to Prague with a guy I had just met a few months earlier. Why not? If it hadn’t worked out, I could always just have gone home.
Yes, we left Prague for his career and moved to Germany just to realize that is don’t work out. Well, my only regret is that with everyday life going on, I didn’t manage to see my friends more often back then and I am still sad about that.
Yes, we will move to South Africa (again), already knowing that this might not be the place we grow old in. So what? We design our lives the way we feel it makes us happy. And what makes us happy can change during the course of time.
have i finally arrived?
What made me happy yesterday doesn’t make me happy today and vice versa (like… I would have never thought I would ever enjoy a long, hot bath. But now… man, show me that bathtub and hand me a glass of wine!).
You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to leave a place again, to break up with a person, to quit that job. You’re responsible for your own decisions but also for your own happiness and well-being – and if that means to realize that something is not for you, go ahead, admit it, change it if you can! Because you know what – life is a mess, but it’s supposed to be an enjoyable one. And do you want to take the fun away from yourself just because you made a decision once and now you think you have to stick to it?
I know I won’t.