I chose this title for the folder of the pictures that I took. A year apart – apart from the “normal” life, travelling, exploring. Only now I fully realize how true this word was – is – on so many more levels….
I didn’t choose to go on this journey, I was taken. Taken by former decisions by steps along the way. In 2012 I commited to a person on another continent. I commited with all I got. I was all in. A commitment that led me to working limited contracts, that gave me the goal of moving to another country. Only by getting to know this country I realized it wasn’t one for me. And time made me ask if this person was. Still we didn’t want to give up before we didn’t try a bit more. A decision was made to spend 6 months together – in this country that I knew wasn’t mine. Only, I ended up doubting that decision – had I been there already twice for three months at a time. Berlin’s way of paying their teachers and a humble way of living had left me with a lot of money and I decided it was time to spend it on me. This relationship – if it was meant to last – had to find different ways. Life – a beautiful person – brought me this idea of a farm on a little Greek island, working with an endagered, endemic breed of miniature horses. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity – first as a trip before going for 6 months, then as a starting point for my own trip. My plan was to travel, to be free, to enjoy, to help people and to learn skills for future projects while doing so. Only it went quite different.
During the previous years I had been on a journey to myself. A challenging (looong distance) relationship, moving to a new city, the “referendariat” where you get judged constantly and some other stuff put me up with many tasks and made me hit rock bottom more than once. I pulled myself through – finding healing in nature and exploring my mind and myself with psychedelic substances and with the occasional helpful word from a friend. I came out the other end much stronger and with a new sense of who I was and wanted to be. While I worked at a special place – a primary school in Wedding, Berlin, that will forever be close to my heart – I continued on that path. For the first time since I had entered school I was (relatively) free of being judged on my output and had to carry my own responsibility within that system. Here I had the room to finally define my role – as a teacher, as myself. What I found was love. It became a big part of my role, of my way at work – to share appreciation, to give compliments, to spread warmth.
I had found myself and my role in this context. Still I wasn’t truly happy or healthy. I felt boxed in by the rules of the system. I saw people struggle every day with the work load they were given from the outside and I was teaching kids that were stuck in the obedience to a system that I was questioning more and more – working 5 days a week? Getting up early?…
So when I left I already didn’t have the intention to come back. I wanted to see what other things life was holding for me and to have time to explore my creativity.
On that little Greek island, I was seeking to slow down after my job. I wanted to help wherever I can and be of use.
I found something else – I found what I needed – as we always do. I was confronted with my need to please. I tried hard. Only you can’t please people who aren’t happy with themselves. I became a mirror (I realised recently that I did that a lot). I struggled and my body and mind lit up with symptoms like a christmas tree. Living conditions that weren’t easy – mostly a lack of privacy and at points harsh island weather didn’t make it any easier. My need for planning had made me book a return flight and so I felt stuck in the box I had created for myself. Also I am not one to quit easily and so I tried to make it work. I found myself some beautiful pockets and made some lasting memories. I walked up a big hill and found a mesmerizing 180° panoramic ocean view. I took a bike trip to the magical and stunning beach of Agios Petros. I rediscovered my passion for photography and found goats to be wonderful photo models. I fell in love with a dog. I met beautiful people that will forever be in my heart. Early on me and my friend walked into the bar Korphari and found a place that felt like home – emitting warmth and welcome. In the end I didn’t just stay because of my flight, I stayed because I felt there were still things left for me on this island. A violent temper tantrum (I was on the receiving end) ended my time on the farm and I moved in above Korphari. Even though certainly a character, Dimitri was a good host and wonderful friend. I helped with sanding wooden furniture, window and door frames and waxing them with beewax, also wherever else I could. I met other wonderful people that I now call friends – Christina – jewellery maker from Germany, integral part of the community and a tremendous help with the little thing that would become my companion, Nasja – beautiful soulsister and jewellery maker, Dylan – American adventurer, Ambre – chearful and happy, there are few I can laugh with in the way I can with her, Jason – Australien artist and painter, Georgis (Pat) – even though we had a significant language barrier his loving and gentle energy and his beautiful woodwork deeply impressed me; and – very important – Anastassio – Athen-based film maker and artist who became a constant inspiration and close friend. There were many more like Alexis and Elini with all their wonderful four legged companions, who welcomed me into their home and life during my last days on the island, Costa with his free and loving spirit and many who’s names I can’t quite remember.
In the end, the little island in the Aegean Sea taught me a lot about myself and brought me far along this journey of finding balance wherever I am. I met many beautiful people and enjoyed the rugged nature. I found a companion and we enjoyed running barefoot along the beach.
We left together, off to new challenges and new horizons.
Thank you beautiful Skyros for the experiences you gifted me, for the freedom I felt, for the sun and for your beautiful, special people. We will be back some day.
I had been on the island for three months. We got back to Germany at the end of May.
Back in Germany my new companion Raki and I had some missions – I wanted to give the little one time and space to settle into his new life and for that went to my parents garden house. There we had green around us and space for long walks. We played and learned and were. Another mission was finding a car as I had decided – now that I have the dog, I need the car for the adventure way of life and travelling. It had been a vision of mine before and I didn’t want to travel with a lot of stuff on trains (also not a big fan of the German train company). As there is minimal to zero internet at my parents garden place. That was a difficult task. Also as I don’t really have a clue about cars, I needed help. But for the moment I was in no rush and we enjoyed ourselves as it was.
At the end of June I went to visit my friend Nina, her mom and her sister in Woland – a beautiful, peaceful place in the middle of nowhere in the Mecklenburg countryside. There Raki got to know horses, following along while I was riding and while I was biking. He also found a friend – lovely Tonka. When we got there his perception was still influenced from his former way of living. He only perceived things that were in a four meter radius around him. I was so happy that he didn’t show any hunting tendencies. Well that changed in Woland. The big population of wild rabbits caught his attention and he found a liking in chasing them. Throughout time it became clear that what I had gotten myself there, was a dog with a hunting heritage. He has a very good vision and nowadays spots the tiniest movement in the distance. He gave me a lot of hardship with that part of him but he is a smart guy and we are working on it.
I was told that in order to get a decent car I needed a certain amount of money. I had the idea to ask my boyfriend for a loan. In the end being in a long distance relationship money had always been a topic. For a while I had brought more to the table and no matter how our relationship would turn out, we were friends and trusted each other, so why not. That’s what I thought…
So in July I went to Boston, to visit, to see how we were and to ask. I felt incredibly anxious about leaving Raki behind as he is not an easy character and has a ways of pushing people’s buttons, certainly then at the height of puberty. In the end it was a step on the way – letting go and accepting.
Boston was interesting – in many ways. A beautiful city with a diverse crowd that felt very European – I saw many women without bras.
Tommy and me were not in a good place. We had been moving apart already for a while and had had little contact in the previous months. It turned out quickly that that money idea wouldn’t go down when I realized that this loan wouldn’t be one of trust but connected to how I was doing with my “career” and the decisions I would be making. As we had at points in the past, we weren’t getting along that well. Only this time it was the finale. We decided to split up. Five years we had been together. It had been an interesting journey. I learned a lot about myself. Actually this relationship had been the initiation of looking at myself in ways I didn’t before — asking who I was and starting to define myself. Part of that was throwing myself into another culture, another society and understanding the one I had been born into from another angle. I will forever be grateful for all of it – for the missery, the hardship, the suffering, for the deep love, the passion, the knowledge and a mind boggeling physical connection. With Tommy I discovered striving and being passionate about life and your goals. In many ways this relationship woke me up. Thank you.
Back in Germany it now really was time to find a car. A lead to a consultant who helps with buying VW busses faded into nothing and my new found hope was crushed . Time was passing quickly and my frustration growing – finding places to stay, finding help to find a car, being ferried around. … Nonetheless I learned once more opportunities always come and if you trust, a way will be found. I had many wonderful experiences and met beautiful people – visiting friends and family and making new friends along the way. I celebrated the 30’s birthday of my friend Konny in a beautiful old farm house with many lovely people, a lot of laughter and curious incidents. More than once I stayed with my cousin and his girlfriend – Sven and Andrea, amazing people who truly know how to enjoy life and are always inspiring with new ways of making the world a better place. While with them I found the Ideenwiese. A place that came just at the right time and let me recharge my batteries, enjoy the beauty of a place and people like no other.
Leaving from this beautiful place I payed a visit to Potsdam and had a little touch down in “my” apartment that made me realize once more that this wasn’t my place anymore.
From there our journey brought us back north – celebrating the birthday of my dear friend Johanna in the countryside close to Greifswald.
Our journey continued back to an old love – Rostock – city of my studies and first independence. Six years had I lived there and I hadn’t been there for something like three years. I was excited to meet friends and to fill the well known place with new experiences and new people. Rostock was the place where I had to find my car. It was September already and I knew this was the place. Rostock has an avid community of water sport enthuisiats, many of which have their own bulli. As I had in the past I went back to personal communcation. I believe that in our fast paced society and the age of social media it is all the more important to make the effort for personal messages and communication (even if it is through a virtual way). So I wrote little messages on bright coloured slips of paper and put them on bullis throughout town that looked attractive and like the owner might have a good circle of friends and could know someone who would sell a car to me.
In the end I found our matt black companion on the Internet. I recently named him Ouzo (I thought it works well with Raki). Ouzo is a giant and held some challenges for me. I spent a lot of time and energy on building something like a home into him – my first real experience with conctruction and building. He also made me face my parents and some conflicts between us. They had been cooking for a while and I felt the big clash coming. So building and constructing with my dad, me being certainly overwhelmed with that task and a very different approach to it made us errupt like a volcano. The clash with my mom followed as a consequence. It was part of the journey – part of the taking apart of myself and looking at the pieces, part of putting them back together. I learned, we learned and we came out the other end, stronger and happier. So Ouzo has put me on a journey, not an easy one but I am very proud about the outcome and very happy that I found him. He also challenged my patients (and my wallet) when he had to go back to the shop several times and took much longer to get fixed than anticipated. Still he’s a pleasure to drive and has carried me around very reliably.
While I was in Rostock I also stumbled upon Mike-Georg, a beautiful soul, full of adventure and warmth and he led me to a place called Tessenow and a person called Dirk. Tessenow – this magical place of peace and silence brought me just that – peace and time to reflect on the events of the year. Quickly it became another home (one of many I had found in this year) and pulled me back for rebalancing in nature several times. Dirk is a very interesting person with a life of many forms and helped me put together many puzzle pieces to myself. He also gave me work and friendship and he is one more person that will stay with me.
During my stay in Greece I got a message from Dinant, Belgium, from Ingrid, asking if I would want to come and work with her. I really liked her way of approaching me and her profile on this platform I was using looked tempting, so I said I would like to come. We stayed in touch through all of the year. She accompanied me on my journey with Raki before it even started. So naturally going to Belgium was like a set plan. I was longing for time to slow down after that rollercoaster of a year, ready to settle into a place and of warmth and appreciation. But it wasn’t time just yet. Ingrid had had a very difficult time, not to say life and was at a turning point herself. We triggered each other and I found myself again struggeling with my need to please and help. I learned again, the same lectures from the past, in different forms in a different place. Ingrid was and is a beautiful person with an incredible strength and power. I learned a lot from her and I so much hope that she finds the love for herself and for life that she deserves.
From Dinant I had a short stop with my friend Ambre, whom I had worked with on Skyros and her family. Having a language barrier with her parents made us appreciate our poor efforts all the much more. I had a blast with Ambre and her brother. Ambre has an unforgving humour, dark and without boundaries. With her I enjoy the ease to say whatever I want and we laugh a lot.
Stocked up with human connection and foody gifts I was ready to celebrate my 30th birthday in solitude. I had booked an Air bnb in the netherlands, right smack in a nature reservation and had a great time with myself, in nature, with food and with mary jane.
Christmas was spent with my family. I had a wonderful time of warmth and appreciation and I learned a lot about the system of my family – putting some more puzzle pieces together.
Sweden – where it all comes together
While I was in Belgum I was writing with my friend Kajsa from Sweden. I met her and her friend Meit in 2010 at the Copenhagen airport while all of us where on the way to New Zealand. In the country of the long white cloud we managed to meet a few more times and especially Kajsa I held in fond memory. She is a happy, warm and confident person. When we were writing in December she told me that she had broken up with her boyfriend, was living alone in the countryside in a little house and while otherwise fine could use a bit of love. My bells were ringing and I suggested to her for me to come and stay for a while, giving her money for electricity and water and pitching in with the food. At first taken aback she said “that could work” and so in the beginning of the year I went to the south of Sweden, close to Jönköping. Kajsa is living in a cozy little home on a small farm with her landlords across a pasture and otherwise no neighbours for a few kilometres. There me and Raki found time to settle in, to slow down and to get to know each other and our needs better.Kajsa was a wonderful host and flat mate, warm and appreciative. It was a pleasure to see her with her drive of life and we had many interesting conversations and exchanges. She brought me to her brothers birthday and I enjoyed seeing a true Swedish family and way of living. I also had one of the meals of my life there.
In Sweden I had space to put the puzzle pieces of me – past and future – back together and redefine ways of being and living – where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. Dirk was giving me tasks and I was exploring old procrastination patters, the relationship of want and have to, wanting to please, searching for connection and following and listening to my needs of relaxation and tension. I found my love for picture taking and writing again and managed to touch many people deeply with my words. Through that I found confidence for this art of mine and am inspired to continue along this path. My journey through Sweden brought me to few places and to many people. I started in Svensbygget, continued along the south coast, staying in Höllviken, Ystad and Dalby. From there I went North to Vika into an unknown world of winter wonder. Here Raki and me found calmness and relaxation through long walks on frozen lakes, through peace and space. In Sweden we met Kajsa and her family, Nima from Irak, Manuel from Spain, Lionel from the UK, Amir and family Schröter from Germany. I met many more through virtual ways, like Johan, Nicholas, Erik and Kristaps. In Sweden I strengthend my trust – the trust that things come when it is time for them and found back into my form of love, warmth and appreciation. I stay on that journey, for it is one of life and it is hard to let go of old ways. Still now is a breaking point and we are off to new horizons.
Tomorrow we will leave Vika and take on the adventure of camping in the cold. I’m longing for freedom, independence and solitude.
Even though I feel anxious of going back to Germany and facing the real life challenges of doctors appointments, insurances and so on, I am excited for what our future holds for us. I know it will be amazing and colourful.
Brace yourself, here we come.
Cindy, Raki and Ouzo.