East Berlin, September 1989.
They packed everything in our little Trabant car and drove into the night, off for our vacation in Hungary.
When we reached the Hungarian border, I believe it was early morning, my parents stopped, and went for a short walk, with my brother and me. One that would change our lives…
During that walk, they would inform us that they had never intended to go on vacation but instead, everything had been perfectly planned to make their biggest dream come true: to leave everything behind in East Germany, and to try to somehow begin a new life in the Golden West.
I cried, not for the last time. Not only because it’s what you do as a little girl faced with such news but more because as the nomads we were, it meant I would move to the fourth town and attend a new school, the third within two years. I was done with moving, really.
The eight year-old me, torn a bit apart. New world, new friends, new everything, again.
That night, while the Wall between East and West Germany was still up, my parents, like other rebellious-hearted freedom-seekers who took the same route during the months prevailing the Fall of the Wall, drove their small family through Hungary and Austria, and in a moment of all-or-nothing, passed the border into West Germany.
There, the little girl who 48 hours before had eagerly awaited our family vacation in Hungary, became a ‚refugee‘.
We spent the first week or so in different reception camps around the South of Germany, then were offered to move into two hotel rooms where we would spend the next nine months. Little did we know back then, that only a few months later, the Berlin Wall would come down. Our country suddenly be freed.
Socialism would turn into capitalism and a free market economy. We were welcomed with big hearts and open arms by many, greeted with resentment by a few. Those moments in the school courtyard, bullied by the boys in my class and being called out as someone ‘who should go home’, they are as much part of my story as the many warmhearted souls who went out of their way to make our restart in life as pleasant as possible.
What I gained through all the loss and hurt and leaving-everything-behind, was freedom.
What I lost, to this day and possibly forever, was the sense of having a home.
Thinking about it, I’m blown away and grateful about how much has changed in the timeframe of my relatively short life. In those 36 years, the German reunification happened and the expansion of Europe, freedom of movement and work and so much more.
Born into a socialist, walled in, no-chance-to-get-outta-here country to living a location indie laptop lifestyle.
Definitely those first few years of my life informed the rest of it. How much I value the freedom that’s available to me now. Freedom is my highest value. My parents fought for it and I’ll continue to make the most of it as long as it’s available.
The moment I left school, I was out exploring the world, stamps in my passport, new countries, new languages (I’m counting seven and hopefully can add a few more), falling in love with the world, even more so with Europe, with Italy and England.
Nowadays in the Western world, as long as we have our health and a stable political situation, there are no boundaries left.
The only boundaries are the ones in our minds.
So I go about and stretch my mind, question the status quo. I quit jobs and create businesses and move to foreign countries and new cities and become location independent and get my husband out of his 9-to-5 and we start living our dream life in Italy and England and I carry dreams in my heart of that calm oasis I want to create, of peacefulness and immersion in nature and friends around my table, and stone-fired pizza oven parties under an olive tree in Italy.
I’ve come far, still there’s so much more I want to explore. It’s my way of making sense of it all.
This wonderful gift called freedom.
Sometimes I wonder, what if.
What if the Berlin Wall would have never come down?
What if the German reunification would have never happened?
My life would have taken completely different turns for sure.
Instead, I’m free.
Free as can be, free as a bird.
Freedom. The life blood that’s running through my veins.