Traveling the world one month at a time (or even one year at a time) has always been on my bucket list, so when the opportunity presented itself I couldn’t say no. It all began in June of 2014 when I decided to list my apartment on Couchsurfing.com. I couldn’t afford travel at the time and wanted to work on my people skills (cuz you know, I’m kinda shy). Couchsurfing, and later Airbnb, provided the perfect outlet for me to feel like I’m traveling without having to leave my apartment.
One of my first guests was a woman named Gabi. She’s smart, kind, really fun to spend time with, and we became instant friends. I trusted her 100% and was sad to see her leave after just a couple of days. Gabi and I stayed in touch through social media and in February 2015 she asked if I’d be interested in swapping apartments for a month. Gabi said she was available to swap May and I was left with the question, should I go, or not? I weighed the pros and cons and in the end it really came down to: I love to travel, so why not? Andrew graciously agreed to vacate our apartment for a month and work with some friends in California so that Gabi could have our little Portland nest all to herself. Then it was just a matter of buying the flights and going.
I’m so glad I went!
I’ll admit, Berlin wasn’t my favorite city but it grew on me over time. I’m partial to cities with really ancient history, cats, and plenty of old scenic streets to stroll along. While Berlin itself isn’t new by any means, it is a modern city full of graffiti, dogs, beer, and the most amazing children’s parks I’ve ever seen. I felt lucky to call the city home for an entire month, planting my roots in Prenzlauer Berg for a period that seemed long, but not quite long enough. It was in Berlin that I felt my first every bout of homesickness, which came over me at the grocery store of all places. It didn’t last for more than a day before I was out exploring in my new world, wide eyed and eager to find foreign treasures.
The more time I spent in Berlin the more I came to appreciate it. The city has grown and exploded with artists and Turkish immigrants over the last few decades. The East side of Berlin held my favorite neighborhoods where low rents attracted artists after the wall come down. Now East Berlin is flourishing with hipster cafes, art galleries, local boutiques, and family friendly parks. Berlin has flea markets and famers markets that can be found all over the city on the weekends and weekday evenings. I particularly loved the Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, a large flea market just a short walk from my apartment overflowing with antiques and tasty food. The city is full of photo booths, which I made sure to frequent almost daily, and one of my favorite things to do in the afternoon was walk through Mauerpark to the local Späti, pick up a Radler, and find a nice warm sun patch on the grass to watch the sun go down.
In just a month I met a new city, reeled at the difference that wasn’t quite different enough, and left. Looking back on my month in Berlin I’m realizing how much of the city I missed. I would love to go back and dive deeper, exploring those nooks and crannies that only locals seem to know about, chipping away at the rough surface of the city to find the bits that really draw me in.