It's dark and I'm sitting on my new bed. It smells like fresh wood and I just found a useless screw. I put it on my new desk and hope I don't wake up on the floor in the morning. Then I press my new pillow into my stomach to counteract the terrible cramps in my abdomen. I close my eyes briefly and try to breathe calmly. Everything seems to be spinning like I crashed into a giant kaleidoscope.
Somewhere between the rugged mountains of Wyoming, above the clouds, in the deep snow, between falling leaves and thundering streams, I knew it: As soon as I come back, my life will break apart. Implode.
Eight years. For eight years I was with my boyfriend. We've had good times and crappy times. I used to think it was the big thing. Of course I did. But then too much happened. And too much else didn't happen.
My heart called me out into the world. To my life's dream, to travel the whole US for several months. And then into
self-employment and independence. It kept yelling louder. Live your dream!
And then you realize that your dream isn't the dream of someone else. And that you only have two options: to lie to yourself and stay, or to follow your inner call and go. A month ago, I took all my courage and left.
As the cramps subside, I fall on my back and stare at the white ceiling. In my new apartment. Above me is the small, antique globe that I bought in Florence. I can only see Antarctica from below. Antarctica in the heart. And at the same time a whole Tierra del Fuego. Looking someone in the eye and saying it's over is one of the crappiest things in the world. To say something you've felt for a long time. And pushed it away because you feared it like the preview of a horror movie. The fear of making a decision. The fear of facing a completely new life. The fear of following what life has in mind for you.
How can your own heart guide you away from something it once loved? What a paradox. But I knew I couldn't do it anymore. For the first time, I was sure. So sure I couldn't rewind to see it all again.
So now I'm lying here suppressing the pain in my stomach. I have them every now and then when I'm exposed to stress and something really gets close to my heart. But it's never been so hard as this time. Never before has everything been blown apart so devastatingly. A field of broken pieces of stars circles in my head.
When we met, we were so alike. I wasn't me the way I am today back then. Inside, yes. But I had no money, college not finished and everything was just a dream on the horizon of future. We went to university, once a year we went to some place in Europe for a week from all our savings. I was happy. That's at least what I can honestly say.
And then, at some point, we started to lose each other. I worked a lot, for the newspaper, on weekends, at a museum, 40 hours. My boyfriend found less and less motivation to go to university.
It wasn't the life I wanted to live. But suddenly there was money in my account. More than ever. And suddenly there was this cold day in autumn 2015. It was raining and I entered the parking lot of my bank. I walked into the building without an umbrella and the street lighting was already shimmering orange through the windows. I got a statement from the machine. I looked down at the total amount. And my hands began to tremble. Since a long time I had made a calculation for my big trip to the US - with a certain planned total amount of money for the whole trip. And on that day, I saw the number I was waiting for so long. I went back to my car as if I was in a trance, drove off, turned on the radio and shouted: "I MADE IT! Omigsh, I have to tell my seven-year-old self it's all coming true!"
I'll never forget this moment. I had tears in my eyes. Almost 20 years after I started dreaming about this trip for the first time. I had it in black and white.
Of course, it had never been my plan to do on this adventure alone. But it turned out that my endless enthusiasm had its limits with my closest confidant.
I still worked on my plans all the time. In summer 2016 I went to Frankfurt and applied for my B2 visa. We didn't talk much about it. A mistake? Maybe. Would it have changed a thing? Not really.
In April of 2017, I took off. With my suitcase, my backpack and my heart full of courage and panic and the incredible knowledge that I just was about to fulfil
my life's dream.
I was on the road for four months. Alone. 16.000 miles with planes, buses, on foot and by car. I met wonderful people, unbelievable landscapes, hard challenges, deepest joy and gratitude and in the end I defeated myself. When I got home, I didn't know what had happened. I looked forward to see my friends and my home.
That was the first time we had a huge argument. About everything that had happened and about the future. We tried again. I didn't want to let it go. Seven years is not something you just throw away. There had to be a solution.
Just a week after I started my new full-time job after the great US-trip, I quit again. For the first time, I got a hunch something had gone off the rails. I had listened to my heart and made my dream come true. Now normal life should go on. I had finally achieved everything.
But above all, I had achieved that something had awakened in me. The feeling that I was able to make things happen. Even if they seemed absolutely crazy. I had crossed the desert at 120 degrees, survived a day under tornado warnings in purple clouds, I had taken it up with loneliness and doubt, confided in complete strangers, made them friends. I had seen a million stars in the darkest night and heard the earth seething under my feet in rainbow colours.
I started researching about self-employment, failed in Nvember and finally made it in February 2018. From now on I was on the road with my camera and notebook. I staggered several times and pressed pillows on my excited stomach, but I made it. It worked. I started planning on new trips. Shorter ones. Two weeks here, three weeks there. And all of a sudden I was on the road again for ten weeks and in between I was only home for a short time in order to take a few appointments for my job and to do my laundry.
On one of those trips, my boyfriend came with me. We had a good time. But that was all that was possible for him. The regular job. The money he didn't enthusiastically throw into
the travel agency like I did. The enthusiasm at all. This completely detached and not normal enthusiasm for life. He was the one standing on the road with his shoes on while I
ran barefoot across the wet meadow. Always. It just suddenly became so obvious.
In October 2018 I flew back to the US to visit a very good friend I got to know last year. When I saw the wide streets, the golden sunsets, the endless horizons, the steppe, the dark blue rivers and the rugged mountains again, something burst in me. It clicked. Quietly but firmly. I closed my eyes in the car, heard the warm laughter of my companion, blinked against the light and felt that I had not flown away from something, but towards something.
Besides, I didn't hear much from home. Once again. One night, I took my cell phone, looked at the empty inbox, threw it on my bed and shouted: "THEN GET STUFFED!"
On my last evening I looked at my plane ticket for a long time and thought about tearing it apart. "Anything is possible," my heart said. "You know it. You proved it yourself.
More than once. Keep walking. You can do it. You have to."
I put the ticket into my bag and knew that I had to bring the final explosion to a sorted end. I stared at the calendar. It was October 14th. I opened WhatsApp and texted my best friend. Just a cryptic sentence: "Maybe you'll remember October 14th as the day where I went crazy."
I didn't go crazy afterwards, but made a fierce but necessary decision. I flew home. I started looking for apartments. On an interim basis. Then I had to talk. Everything was agravic. But as clear as a morning sky in December. Somehow I wish something more dramatic had happened. Something to scream and rave about. But it's just quiet. And sad.
It's dark and I'm sitting on my bed. It doesn't smell like fresh wood anymore. I'm almost out of stomach cramps and eating ice cream. I followed my heart and this time the price was pretty high. But right.
When the moment comes when your path in life or your destiny calls you so strongly that you think you are going to break if you don't listen to it - then take your courage and run. Tear down the walls. Be more honest with yourself than you've ever been. Until it hurts. Take your doubts and throw them away. I'm sure you can think of a hundred reasons why something won't work. But the truth is, your boss enemy will be your own fear. The fear of everything that's new, the fear of failure, the fear of breaking with conventions.
It always sounds so incredibly exciting and great to follow your dreams. But it doesn't mean dancing on the beach under confetti rain all the time. If you know that and if you don't back down from it - then anything is possible. Believe me: ANYTHING. Pretty scary and crazy, huh?