Simply Berlin and Vagabonding

About five days ago I moved to Berlin, continuing my theme of vagabonding rather than settling. In the last three years, I’ve lived in San Francisco, Kenya and now Berlin is my home. The first two were both unforgettable and life changing, so I hope this meandering remains as positive as it has been.

At this stage in life, probably just short of the looming familiar responsibilities that tend to arise in one’s 30s, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity for this exploration.

At times I’ve envied others whose businesses and relationships have gone from strength-to-strength. At others, I’ve figuratively pounded my itchy feet in the dust of freedom and lived in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if things had gone ‘to plan’.

One thing is for sure, I’ll never regret these last few years, even if I’m far from where my younger self imagined I might be and I suffer a fair few lonely evenings.

Although my new business is based in the UK, the nature of the work (almost solely phone-based) and my desire not to get sucked into London life, means that Berlin offered a inexpensive, accessible alternative.

Yet the changes haven’t been without strain. Starting a new business on your own is difficult. Really difficult.

It requires the dedication to get out of bed each morning and to self-motivate, even when there’s little other than your wavering self-belief to keep you at your desk. In an industry like mine, where you rely on just a handful of contracts each year, it also means you can spend many months working hard before your first cheque arrives in the mail.

It is an unsettling time – leaving you unsure whether it will be next week or five months down the line that you start to see tangible results. It involves trusting yourself, your offering and the process enough to keep you motivated. Sometimes, the insecurity can get a hold of you, but you have to persevere and push through the self-doubt.

My decision to move to Berlin is questionable. It could further exacerbate the feeling of alienation. In London I have friends, family and a home. Surely when you’re working alone and hard, it’s good to be around those who can support you?

This line of thought holds some truth. Yet there’s also something to be said for spicing up one’s environment and enjoying new perspectives to keep things fresh.

Certainly it’s possible that I won’t be able to enjoy the city as I might if I were here to study, or simply to learn German. That’s a sacrifice I’ll have to make.

Yet the benefit is that at the end of each day I can reward myself with something new and different. Being in a new place, there is a lack of community, but there is also a chance to learn on every street corner and meet new people.

I have no idea how long I’ll stay. At the moment, I’m committed to spending a couple of months and seeing how this vagabonding goes, and to try to make it work for the short-term. Who knows, the short might extend into the long.

All you can affect is the present.


POSTSCRIPT – I realise I’ve recently meandered into navel-gazing rather than simplicity tips for you, dear reader – so I will make an effort to try to add the existential with the practical. More to follow and I promise to be less of a curmudgeon about London and life in the UK (as one reader noticed – negativity isn’t the way). I guess after Africa you sometimes see things with fresh and alarming perspective.

Thanks for all your kind thoughts, support and wishes. It’s a surprise to me how many people actually read these ramblings.

3 thoughts on “Simply Berlin and Vagabonding

  1. Hey Tom, It’s Matt’s Courtney here. I used to live in Berlin and think you have made a great decision to go live there! The German people who were in my life during my exchange, showed me that at first they can be cautious (as they try figure you out!) but once you have become friends – they are really unbeatable, such fun amazing people! I know that as you sift through the streets of this impressive city, you will feel inspired and very creative. If you need anything at all just let me know! Viel Spass!!!

  2. As you break out on your next stage, I, conversely, am surrounded by packed bags, returning from one of the very same acts of self-imposed freedom. How long will this next stage last, and where will it take me? I don’t know. However, your words ‘little other than your wavering self-belief to keep you at your desk’ echo in my overtired cranium as I watch myself take my next, tentative steps back to civilisation. Where you chose Berlin, I chose Barcelona, but the context of the unknown was the same, and what might have been a few months ended up being two summers, a spring, autumn and a long cold winter. I have built a business until I broke, I have loved until I almost lost, I have survived other people’s bad decisions and am now faced with an infinity of unknown to now walk headlong into. Those closest to me have married, given birth, been promoted and changed jobs, while I chose to run towards a different kind of progress, a progress of self-love, self-discovery and motivation towards a dream that might one day become a passable version of reality. I have learned just a few things, but I thought they were worth sharing. 1.) Going your own way isn’t easy – few people truly understand why it is so important to you, and so you have to learn how to find the silence amongst their questions, let alone your own. 2.) To thine own self be true – this life wasn’t designed to be easy, and to discover who you truly are beneath the onion rings of society’s programming takes great courage, sacrifice, faith and sheer bloody mindedness. 3.) You can’t have it all – so make sure what you do have is bloody worth it. Sometimes I want to cry but I spend far more time laughing than I do crying, so it is definitely bloody worth it. Good luck on this next stage Tom, your writing is a testament to who you are becoming – you are a true individual and you should be proud. when I see you again, down the road, we will shake hands and smile.

  3. These are down and out two of the nicest messages I’ve ever received… thanks Courtney, thanks Jonah. Be true to thineself. I should read some of my own blog posts eh 😉
    Thanks again – onwards!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s