After traveling Australia I heard so much about Berlin. This hyper cool, progressive, cheap, fun, young central European city. Since coming back from Australia over 5 years ago, I wanted to go desperately. I tried to make my life here in Vancouver work but always felt this sort of force pushing me to a more aligned dream. It took me many years to finally get the courage to leave and go to Europe. I knew I could go for a few weeks if I wished, but felt a real opportunity to do something larger, and to go for a long time. I remember wanting to get a year working visa for Germany. I had already booked my ticket to Europe and had maybe 3 weeks before takeoff to apply. I was surprised to learn that the Visa for Germany takes around a month to approve, and must be done before leaving. I was sad that because of this a year in Germany for me was not going to happen. I got a Visa for The Netherlands instead since their rules were easier. I knew I wouldn’t stay in Berlin now long term because I couldn’t work, but at least ill experience Europe long term. I landed in Europe in mid October, in Geneva, and within 3 or 4 days was in Berlin. My emotional expectations of the city were very high, after all I’ve heard. When I got there, it was dark, with this heavy industrial feeling. Like getting dropped off on the outskirts of a city. Not the read carpet fireworks my mind imagined. I had a base to go to (a friend of a friend), and began settling in. The emphasis I gave on this city was so strong, and it took me a bit of reprogramming to see it for what it truly is, rather then what I want it to be. In many ways it was a great city. There was so much space, so many buildings, so much young culture, and a more liberal environment. There was an abandoned airport that was now a giant place for people to bike and exercise, as well as just meet. You could smoke and drink in many bars, and beers on the street were totally fine. Not to mention good beers were only a dollar. On the outside it was such a perfect match, yet I don’t know what it was that left me, unenhanced. It hurts to imagine some things that sound too good to be true maybe are. I didn’t stay here long; I think I was in the city for a week. Which is great to see the buildings, but not to actually do all the things it offers. After this point began a nine month journey through Europe, as well as 3 months split between India and Nepal. It was a big lesson for me on over expectations. Of putting too much value on something that maybe isn’t quite capable to fulfill them. Later in my trip I lived in a small town called The Hague in the Netherlands for 3 months. That to me was romantic, and much more individualistic. In Berlin I’m among plenty of other people from all over the world. In The Hague I felt much more special. A Canadian, in a Dutch city other than Amsterdam. I worked at a beach restaurant, and was the only non-Dutch speaker there. I felt cherished for that, rather than a part of the crowd. The irony of this entire experience is I wouldn’t have been confident to choose this experience beforehand. I was open to The Hague because I had to be, it was my only choice after many things weren’t working out. Yet, it turned out really special, and a secret so hidden from my sight months before. It’s so novel that system life uses. Sometimes where you end up can be very unique, and where you thought you wanted to go doesn’t fulfill you like you expected. It’s amazing the unpredictable nature of life. And to think we all go to the Berlins and Vancouver’s, and haven’t ventured off to the plenty of other inviting and embracing places as well. The big cities get so many spotlights. I look at this to myself as “Berlin Syndrome”. Where I dream and set huge expectations for something which isn’t based on my experience, but on others. Who knows, I could go back tomorrow and love it. It’s just ironic the way the cards played in that moment. I like analogies of poker. Sometimes the best hand going in loses in the end. And life is strange for that, but it’s always a possibility.
On September 11 2017 I left Holland. It was after a 4 months experience in that country, where I had a work visa, a job, and a settled feeling. I first volunteered in a hostel there, and then worked for a beach restaurant on the busy tourist beach Netherlands West Coast, in a town called Scheveningen. It was an exciting, relaxing, more grounded part of my 9 months in Europe. On September 11th I decided to fly to Poland and do some traveling through Eastern Europe. This decision came after working for months in Den Haag (The town I lived in), and ready to continue what I started – seeing the continent. Below is an excerpt that I wrote, that I contemplated. At this point I had 3 weeks left on my trip, and was at this point nearly one year away from Canada, away from home. I feel it gives inspiration to the thoughts going through my mind, the heritage and roots that so many in the world have in Europe, and just the questions I asked in that moment. As well this is my first post among 12 over the next 3 months of delving into my writings and seeing what I find. Enjoy!
“When I was in the plane looking down on Europe I imagined how man has tried to have dominion over this land for millennia. People killing others in the name of tribes. Name of god. Name of peace. Before some of us came to Canada, some of us were from here. Where for me, my roots must be. Perhaps in Poland or Russia. Maybe Sweden. Or somewhere in the Mediterranean. There’s a certain home about this place. An ancestral home generations and generations ago. Untraceable maybe now. Unfathomable how long back the cord of ancestry goes. Like a past life, a blood line, of all our past lives. Real birth and endless human cycles gave birth to me. I wonder if my ancestors in Europe imagined this. 500-1000-1500-2000-5000 years ago. The newest generation, living on a new continent. Flying. Vacations and long term travel. Inexistent at the times. Maybe my ancestors were simple working class, never leaving their cities, or more accurate their village. And here I am, never staying in a city for long – the irony. How one, on a long enough time line and after enough generations, gave birth to me, and to these times. 7 billion other people all born within the past say 100 years, so much re-creation. So many eyes and varieties get to experience this thing called life. And in our separateness, we are combined, with living in this century with these abilities and these obstacles. We all have cheap travel, and we all have global warming. What seems disconnected is a fight and celebration we all participate in together. What seem like clouds and dark greenish bluish land from this planes eye view, is really are cobblestone villages, medieval towns, modern universities, a detailed-ness hidden from a height so high. The detail is in the cities, is in being on the same level as what you are witnessing. “
This was a small excerpt but is mostly about getting the ball rolling on my project.
Reflecting back on this trip today, 2 years later in the summer of 2019, I felt really astounded by the life I was living. Nearly every part of my life was a contradiction from the times long before. Transportation, food, clothing, mixed cultures, credit cards and cell phones. We have evolved so far, it was great to contemplate and see that. Europe to me was a glossy cover. Beautiful landmarks, food, way of life, but Europe had its fair share of dark sides. Its slavery, wars, tortures, inequality, diseases, and poverty made me really aware of the yin and yang of those times, and life in general. We too have our past, each and every one of us. The beautiful things all arose from a world where this existed too. It was really conflicting. How the creation for some of these amazing monuments and wonders were funded by the conquering and killings and various exploitation. I did not go to Europe to learn that but I came back realizing it. That reality made the picture less romantic. I struggled to imagine living in those times. The crusades. The wars between countries, plagues killing millions. I went to see the buildings, meet new people, and learn stories. Incredible that one couldn’t be separated from the other. That its history is intertwined to its losses.