September 2017. The flame is dancing silently in the colorful glass on the wooden table. I’m looking out of the window of my favorite little café with raspberry ice cream in front of me. I’m back home for two months now. After my four-month-USA-solo-trip. My childhood dream. As a journalist, I sometimes put my thoughts into emotional headlines. I’m 26 years old and I have lived my dream – everything else is just bonus. Sounds awesome. I did it. I did not wait to fulfill my most important dream until I was old and sick. Great!
But then it’s coming to my mind that I need to do at least something for the rest of my life. I wish I could pack my bags immediately and go back on a plane. Or lock myself in my house to write a book about my adventure. But things like these are only happening in movies. In reality, I was surrounded by bills for my health insurance, my rent and worries about my CV. Only few people asked “How has your trip been?” anymore. Most of them wanted to know: “What are you going to do now?”
I am a lucky devil. One of my first applications is straightly successful. I’m going to start my new full-time job soon. When people are asking me about it, I quickly answer that I’m totally happy about it. Basically I’m just nervous. Everything will work out fine! I would be able to save some money for new trips. Furthermore, it was obvious that the old routine had to come back. On my first day my new colleagues are very friendly. Only my tasks do not seem like something I had expected or hoped for. But well, it would just take some time and everything would sort itself out. In the evening I get stuck in a traffic jam. I’m facing myself in the driving mirror and I realize the dark shadows under my eyes.
On my second day I’m caught in a huge traffic jam already in the morning. Afterwards I’m sitting in my office for nine hours. I’m freezing so much that I start sweating at the same time. I’m looking out of my window watching the thin white clouds floating calmly above the city. My stomach starts to ache. By coming home in the dark my cheeks are burning while I’m feeling cold as ice like a lifeless puppet. I’m trying to meet myself in the mirror of our bathroom. “You will get used to it”, I’m telling my self. Then I have to look away because I know I am lying.
On the third evening I’m shutting the door of my car after work in despair. I lock myself and start crying for 20 minutes on the first floor of the parking garage.
While I was on the road for four months, I experienced the incredible beauty of nature, I met fabulous people, I had fits of laughter and panic attacks. I realized deep in my heart what it means to actually live. Not just to exist. All those quotes about dreams and happy life, they turned into a visible truth and overwhelming experience. Since then, I knew something I had always suspected. I knew what was the most important thing to me in life: Time. Time to travel the world. Time to spend it with beloved people. Time to be passionate about my hobbies and interests.
And now all I want to do is knocking this knowledge out of my head, tearing it out of my heart. Because it is not compatible with the life I am actually living. With a life I had to face for months and maybe even years now. I’m trapped in a routine that’s waiting five days for the weekend to come. A useless weekend because you can’t put your whole ideas and spirit into only two days. I’m aware that this is not the life I should live. I’m acting against my innermost belief.
Weekend is coming and I can’t hold back anymore. “I’m going to quit”, I’m telling myself. It’s feeling like a thick black cloud is leaving my lungs. In the evening I’m writing my notice and on Monday I’m knocking on the door of my lovely boss to tell her that was going to leave only one week after I’ve started. I’m feeling terrible, and she even tries to find more exciting tasks for me. But it’s over. I’m pretty sure that my colleagues are having doubts about my state of mind. I decide to stay as long as the company is able to find a proper replacement. In the end I’m there for nearly three months and I’m leaving finally two days before Christmas.
Between my notice and my last day a lot of things have happened. I’ve cried, I’ve fumed, I’ve planned on things like self-employment or starting a life as a digital nomad. But I dropped it again. Too expensive, too risky, too crazy.
January 2018. I’m looking out for new jobs. Part-time jobs. I’m swimming in circles in a murky fishbowl, bouncing against the glass and following the same exhausting thoughts every day. It’s raining constantly and I start wishing I was born brainless. I wish I never had experienced a life aside from a dull work-eat-sleep-routine. I wish I was not different but happy with five weeks of holiday and a company pension scheme like everyone else. I’m close to running riot inwardly.
And suddenly: A freelance job appears. Through some connections. The phone is ringing. It’s a big job and it would cover all my running costs for some months – and running costs for self-employed people are extremely high because of very expensive insurances. I’m excited as hell. I’m saying yes. I’m jumping in at the deep end. A lot of red tape, research and many calls. But I’m feeling alive again. My stomach is aching. Finally not because of doubts and fear but because of excitement.
March 2018: My little company now exists since two months. It’s called “Zeilenaufbruch” (an artsy German composition out of “word-wrap” and “departure”). I’m
working as a freelance copywriter and photographer for the tourism industry, museums and events. I cracked the fish bowl and started swimming towards the ocean. And I hope everything
will work out well. Not because it has to but because I want it. Maybe for some people it’s easy to find there way back “home” after a long trip. But to me it was impossible to go back to the
life I had before. What’s coming next? We’ll see. Maybe bonus.
What happened to you after a long (solo) trip? How did you feel and what are you doing now? Let me know and text me via email@example.com or on Facebook.