The Never-ending Weekend

It took five days to realize that my sabbatical had started. In the repetition of “I’m going to yoga teacher training in Portugal and then I’ll travel for another month,” I forgot about the week of downtime beforehand. I mean, I knew it was happening, but I forgot it was part of the whole experience. In fact, moments of downtime were infrequent. I balanced my time with the required reading assignments for the yoga course, “last” time meetings with friends, being outside, and preparing to sublet my apartment. With the pinnacle experience fast approaching, I almost didn’t realize that I’m one week into my 19 week vacation. My detachment from work started immediately, and I subsequently created a lot of fascinating experiences and emotions for myself.

I very consciously chose to start this journey on my birthday, and in retrospect, know this was the right choice. Everyone deserves to treat themselves to things that bring them joy. If I owned a company, I’d make birthdays mandatory paid holidays for each employee. I focused on enjoying myself, with a mix of things I love to do, places I enjoy, and new experiences. Perhaps most importantly, I woke up and made a conscious decision to have a good day. With a boost from the change to warm, sunny weather, I had a great day. With the exception of one minor moment of anxiety – which I suspect I know the root of – I felt pure joy on my birthday, the first day of my sabbatical.

Hanging out in my favorite park on my birthday evening

The subsequent day was less of an emotional high, because I was a bit stressed preparing for a birthday picnic. At midnight, chocolate ice cream batter – the third of three varieties – boiled over on the stovetop. I went to yoga before noon, and suddenly felt the day was disappearing, then at 4pm, I fell asleep on a hillside in the park while waiting 3 hours for my apartment key to be copied. I reacted to those stressors by just trudging through and pretending I was fine. I was. In the end, I had a clean stove and a spare key, and lost nothing but energy along the way. Two days of naturally sliding into afternoon nap time tell me that my body needed this break, so I’m grateful for the timing and ability to process time as it comes and goes.

Oops…

I gathered a small group of friends at a park nearby my house for a cozy sunset picnic. Twelve of us snacked and chatted until we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. (It was dark! I’m in one of my frequent sobriety phases, anyway.) Robin and Peejay’s homemade Dutch apple pie paired especially well with my homemade ice creams. I definitely want you to teach me that recipe, boys! Despite the stress that I created (in my head) in my preparation, the company of so many loving humans reminded me how much our friends enrich our lives.

Impressive Dutch apple pie, handmade with a number 28
Ciao, friends!
Quite an impressive birthday cake candle, nah?

By Friday, I needed a break from my break… okay, kidding! I just needed to get some stuff done and balance the relaxation time. At this point, especially with Germany’s four-day Easter weekend, I lost track of the calendar days. I see no purpose in prescribing attitudes and ways of thinking with certain weekdays. Forget Sunday scaries, Monday doldrums, and celebrating Friday or the weekend. Every day has the same potential. To free up the rest of the weekend, when friends would be free and the forecast called for ideal outdoor weather, I spent Friday morning packing many of the things in my apartment, making space for a friend who will stay there. I felt liberated to sort through physical possessions and realize how much I don’t need, despite the relatively little I own, compared to my American peers.

With the warmth and sunshine continuing to grace all of Berlin, I ran to Volkspark Friedrichshain and met Selene for a few hours of relaxation … but no nap! I spent Friday night at home, procrastinating my yoga readings, and readying my mind for Saturday’s epic canoe adventure.

Sunday was Easter, and by then, I was definitely confused about the weekday. I biked across the river into Kreuzberg, passing many open-air clubs, where the spirit of Berlin still sounded strong at 10am, and met Cinzia at a brunch buffet on the canal. We enjoyed several hours of sunlight glistening off the water, discussing our respective evolutions in life activities and mindsets. As I ready myself for this immersive travel adventure, she prepares for a new job and heavily invests in evolving her world perspectives with admirable reading habits. From there, we cycled across the street to relax in the sun at another park. Yes, there’s a pattern here. Berlin has many green spaces, and Germans embrace time outdoors in most seasons.

I spent Sunday afternoon at another friend’s rooftop terrace, a sort of Easter soirée meets the benevolence of Mother Nature and friendship. Five of us ventured to an open-air club in the evening, where we embraced the vibrations of the sunset late into the night.

Monday… another holiday! I finished packing my bag, read at the park, saw more friends… Tuesday: rinse and repeat, plus some errands, since retail stores finally re-opened. And Wednesday, today, I arrived in Portugal after an only mildly hectic morning of last minute things at home. (Read mildly hectic as: calm, cool, and collected on the outside, but mentally panicking and physically rushing…)

In the constant flux between nothing and everything, relaxation and productivity, being and doing, I gained awareness about my competing calm and chaotic minds. I like the calm one better. I think I won’t have another to-do list for months, and I’m ready to focus on my being, to slow down time, to be where I am, and not to worry about where I’m not nor what I’m not getting “done.”

All Because A Question

A good piece of chocolate is smooth in texture, with a complex profile that tickles its way across the tongue as the crystal structure melts and the warmth untempers the cacao butter. The nuttiness folds into the floral aromas, and the richness massages the soul.

A good “bye” is smooth, too, and it embodies complexity. Uprooting myself has been a soul massage of its own kind, because multiple emotions awaken. “It’s bittersweet,” Mom said. “It’s like chocolate.” When I leave home, whether physically moving or stepping outside of my comfort zone/home, there’s a simultaneous unwrapping of sadness, excitement, and appreciation. 

Everyone in the States asked, “how long are you going for?” They said it’s not goodbye. “It’s ‘see you later,’ because you’re coming back.” Yes, I’ll be back to visit. But beyond visiting, I’m not sure when. It’s not a matter of being opposed to Boston. (I love Boston.) It’s the principle of my non-singular sense of home. For now, as of Sunday, I live in Berlin, and that’s the only plan for now. Where would I come back to? Am I a boomerang or a frisbee? What are you? 

To clarify my tone, I’m okay with you asking. I needed to clarify my answer. If I were a billboard, I’d read “it never hurts to ask.” Or if you prefer my therapist’s version: you have a right to ask; they have a right to say ‘no.’ So please understand, you should ask. If you ask. I won’t say, “no, I’m not going back,” but I don’t have a plan or end-game. 

I do have a reason. This original ask was a long time in the making. I studied and lived in Denmark six years ago, and upon my stateside return and consequential reverse culture shock, I knew I’d be back in Europe someday. Years ago, I gently scribbled “live abroad again” onto my list of long-term goals. That list is now complete, and it’s time to ask more questions, to challenge myself in new ways, and to listen for the answers that reveal themselves when I see a new world.


So the question it all started with: well, it wasn’t quite a question. (I’m subconsciously averse to asking for things that have the potential to receive a “no” response.) My ask was a offer, instead. After a year of contemplation, in May, I told my boss that I was open to relocating to our Berlin office, if the opportunity felt right or necessary for the company. A month later, the timing was right. Sebastian told me that he thought it made sense for me to move, and my insides suddenly felt the potential of my new reality. I was visiting Berlin at the time. “Oh my god. My next trip may be a one-way ticket.” (Spoiler: it was. I arrived Sunday.)

With the next chapter in sight, I quickly contemplated the adventures I’d yet to experience in Boston, and my pen birthed my “Boston bucket list” onto paper. My teal notebook listed favorite tastes (what I call “flavorites”) to rediscover, mixed with new challenges to reach the summits and the depths of my home.

While I didn’t complete the admittedly ambitious Pemi Loop in the White Mountains, in a portion of the route, I was privileged to experience one of the most visually rich and adrenaline-laden nights of my life. “Do you want to go for a hike, instead of driving home this afternoon?” With a close friend and his bro-tographer (get it? brother who’s a photographer), I stargazed on the Bond Cliffs, and we descended at 2 a.m. to drive and reach work in Boston by 9. If you ask me whether it was worth it, I’ll give two words – “Summit: achieved” – we’ll let this picture speak its thousand:

In the midst of the impending move, I took an August vacation and rediscovered the joy of SCUBA diving while in the Gulf of Eilat, off Israel’s Red Sea coast. Suddenly, my longtime “would be nice” desire to dive in Boston became a priority for my last few months.

I’ve realized in the urgency of moving that there are many things I want to do, and that the doing requires only a little more energy than the wanting.

Do you have a place or an experience at your fingertips that you’ve long contemplated trying? A person you want to get to know? What are you waiting for? It can’t hurt to ask. It never hurts to try.

Come October, with the move closing in, I called a few local dive shops. “Any chance you have openings for diving this weekend?” Neither Neil nor I had recent cold water diving experience, nor had we ever dove in Boston. Like in all life experiences, we started where we could. Within a week of my proposition to Neil, on the afternoon after my Flour “internship,” we explored the brisk, foggy waters off Grave’s Light in Boston Harbor, spotting a sea lion, lobsters, crabs, fish, and corrals of many colors. Depth: dived. (Yes, that’s the past tense verb of SCUBA diving.)

The other pursuits started as questions, too:

From my co-worker, Caitlin: “Can we find time to ride to Walden Pond together before you move?” We regularly discussed my pre-work summer morning rides. Nothing like a crisp fall Friday morning to kick that kickstand. Ride: completed.

To Sebastian: “Do you still want to bike to Maine? October 7th?” And just like that, after a few training rides to test our endurance, we were dining on lobster rolls in Kittery, Maine, with our wheels locked outside to roll us home. Century: cycled.

To the woman who I met at a farm stand two years ago: “Even though you told me to call in August, do you have any openings for cranberry bog tours this Sunday?” “We have one opening, because someone canceled.” Appointment: scheduled.

And to many a friend: “Do you want to wake up at 7:30 on Sunday to drive to Acushnet, Massachusetts (where’s that?) to go on a cranberry bog tour?Bog: toured.

All because a question. 

All this – sorting and packing my belongings into suitcases and boxes, saying goodbye to every friend, exhausting my pursuit of adventure across Boston, cleaning out my desk and briefly pausing work, documenting my existence and asking for permission to exist someplace else with a Visa, beginning the search for a new physical home, stretching the geographic canvas on which my friendships unfurl – because a question.

Thanks to the urgency of moving, I’ve solidified my sense of home in Boston, by making more memories and more friendships. Multiple send-offs across friendships spanning many years have given me cause to experience appreciation unlike anything I’ve experienced before, challenging my emotions further when the time for goodbye came. 

Why am I letting go of something so good?” I asked Kyndal when we said our goodbyes last week. The answer comes in reflecting on what I’ve created. In March 2014, Boston was nothing more than a place that I’d visited, and I knew I liked it. Now, it’s home, and home is especially hard to leave when it’s a space you create. When you move, you willingly remove yourself from your home, your creation. In the physical sense, you decide what material goods matter and which are now someone else’s. The old physical home disappears. As Mom reminded me, “once you leave, coming home won’t be the same again, because home changes.” After this, home becomes a memory.

Today, Berlin is nothing more than a place that I’ve visited, that I know I like.

After this, Berlin’s memories will start to become a home.

All because I believe I can make something even better. 

All “because the best miles are yet to come.” (Shout out to the gas station sign that I spotted on my last ride to Walden Pond.)

All because a question.