I guess it’s pretty hard to describe. A feeling that lives only in outer space with the moon and the stars. Berlin feels…interstellar. Or maybe just stellar. Indeed it has a gravity all its own, its magnetic field attracting beings who are simply not of this world. Those beings who are unique, and not just for unique’s sake. Truly, deeply unique. So open and dedicated to their cornucopia of art forms that they are somewhat beyond this earthly chaos. Nothing could stop them from being the person they were born to be. To live the fantasy we all (perhaps) dream of living.

And I can honestly say at first it felt a bit intimidating. I’m open…but am I that open? I’m free spirited…but am I that free spirited? I felt myself clamming up and shying away from these strange new people who seemed to stare directly into my soul. After all, my whole life has been a series of moments that make me feel a bit unwelcome. Sometimes unwelcome in society, sometimes unwelcome in my own skin. Here I was being welcomed fully and to my surprise it didn’t feel natural. As if every layer I’ve created to insulate myself from the outside world was mysteriously absent, and I stood there naked and defenseless.

I ask myself what that feeling is, that itch that tells me no one is accepting each other for who they truly are. That we go through each day barely scratching the surface, avoiding the discomfort of diving deeper. Perhaps most people don’t experience this sensation in the same way I do, but even when I am myself, most of the time I get treated like I should be someone else. Like I should rethink myself, even if it’s just a tiny portion. If I make a concession, perhaps for work or family, the next concession is easier to justify. Soon enough I’m putting on someone else’s shoes before I walk out the door, living only to appease the status quo, trying my best not to upset the balance, perpetually walking on eggshells.

In Berlin I found something different. Really, truly different. It may sound trivial to some, but it is perhaps my most profound discovery; I found acceptance. Acceptance in its purest form: unadulterated, unfiltered, raw. Every cultural, racial, gender oriented, societally imposed line drawn to separate us from one another is conspicuously absent in Berlin. I’m just as likely to dance next to a 60 year old man for an hour as I am to dance with some hip kids from Portugal. Both will greet me with the same warm heart. Both will look me in the eye when I speak. Both will give me space to dance if it’s clear talking would be better reserved for the couch.

I could go on about each club I visited (there were many), I could make a laundry list of every restaurant I ate at, every profound conversation I had, but that would be dramatically missing the point. The point is much more simple: when everyone is allowed to be themselves, in turn they expect nothing less of the person beside them. And once you get used to being yourself and speaking only to people who are used to being themselves, your old life starts to feel a bit duller. A craving for the cosmic interplay forever buried beneath your skin.

After all, once you’ve experienced the infinite alongside gentle strangers who make strangeness feel less strange, foreignness less foreign, age undefinable, where do you go from there? With deep, heartfelt stares, I fell in love with so many people in Berlin. Just for a brief moment, they accepted me and I them. And really that’s enough. It’s not about the drugs. It’s not about the hedonism. It’s not about the thumping kicks, the 3 day long parties, the most inventive clubs and all the sexy Europeans populating them. Well, maybe it is. but I’d trade it all for the chance to see everyone around me for the person they truly are. The person they were born to be.

The Beginning

After 5 years without an adventure more than a month long, I’ve been dreaming up a trip that would finally put an end to all my ceaseless fantasizing about a journey that is only vaguely defined, and therefore infinite with possibility. Too often am I tied to a schedule while I travel. Too often must I escape one reality simply because I have a looming return ticket to toss me back into the daily grind.

This time I decided to break from that narrative and give myself a year to travel the world without these stresses. Yes, a year. A whole one. Maybe longer. A year gives me the flexibility to meet new people with a certain openness and candidness. If time is not a factor in my dealings, then I can take the extra day to camp on an idyllic mountainside, have dinner with my new friends and their cousins, or just sleep the pain out of my legs after untold kilometers of riding my bicycle. I can ingrain myself in the lives of the people around me instead of just floating along the surface, taking things at face value.

To do this, I had to look critically at how I was spending my time and make a change. A real change, and reteach myself how to live from the ground up. Just because we all live a certain reality as Americans doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical of it. In fact just the opposite, we should be hyper critical and hyper aware of what this society deems important, and what it tends to neglect. Of course it’s quite difficult to see the forest through the tress. Immersed in our daily struggles, life is simply too confoundingly busy to give ourselves the chance to be critical. The torrential river of our daily lives forever flowing and crashing, a dull roar that only intensifies as we get older and take on more responsibilities.

The pious, supposed dignity that we assign ourselves for neglecting our most basic human instincts and instead putting our nose to the grindstone for a more “fulfilling” life is shortsighted at best. We take our best years and trade them for a paycheck, a little box to put our belongings in, and sense of pride for having made the right choices, the sensible ones. Indeed the most exciting thing most of us do week to week is go to a restaurant with our friends, toss a few back at the bar, see a show, dance to some music, then go to bed Sunday night, never having left your stresses for more than a few fleeting moments. Only to pile on more of them the next week, ad infinitum.

So am I suggesting that we all escape for a year and wander aimlessly? Most certainly not. Indeed this lifestyle is not for everyone, and it’s taken me years to develop my traveling prowess, my ability to find comfort in the unknown. No, I’m merely suggesting a shift in values. I think a lot of people haven’t had the chance to discover what it is they truly value. I think it takes time and honest effort to figure it out. I think our society is built on fear which inevitably leads to isolation. If we’re afraid of the outside world, we’re not asking questions about it. If we’re not asking questions, we become complacent with the reality we’ve been handed. A complacent citizen is a good citizen, by all metrics. They pay their rent, their taxes, their car payment, they swoon over the newest gadgets and trinkets, they invest in the idea that society is built to help them, not hurt them.

Take a step back and you’ll see that this is just a fraction of what life can truly be. Monthly payments are the lifeblood of this system. If we can free ourselves from the tyranny of these various debts, possibilities start to blossom as our bank accounts start to thicken. How many repeats of the same nights, at the same bars, with the same people, in the same town can we really stomach? The trade off is murky, but let me lay it out as I see it. For the same price, or cheaper, you could be sipping tea in an ancient Moroccan cafe, overlooking the hustle and bustle of a crowded marketplace. You could be hiking in the Andes, watching alpaca roam freely on a mountainside. You could be riding a Vespa on a coastal road in Italy, watching the sunset on the Mediterranean. You could literally be anywhere. But you’re innocuously choosing to stay right where you are.

You are powerful. Infinitely so. Your reality can change overnight if you want it to. Baby steps are great too. Some can’t handle overnight change, so don’t think of it as the only option. Just start scratching your itches, and I promise they’ll lead to more. This blog is my first true attempt to compile all my thoughts and experiences, into one cohesive product. I hope that my stories can be an inspiration to let go of some of these constructs that we’ve all been living with. I don’t have a real itinerary. I’m bad at itineraries. What I’m good at is making friends, riding my bike, and following my gut. So that’s the plan.

As I move from place to place, I’ll be doing my best to write about my experiences. I’ve been on a hiatus from social media, and I don’t intend to over use it on this trip. What I’m focusing on this time around is making something I’m really proud of. My goal isn’t to make money off this blog, nor is it to acquire as many friends and followers as possible. The goal is to share my experiences with the world, and hopefully inspire a few people along the way. Thanks for reading and stay tuned. My next post will be about Berlin, and I can’t wait to share it.

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