I recently announced that I’m leaving Berlin and moving to NYC after six plus years living in Europe. Yes, it’s a bit crazy. Yes, it may seem like the wrong time to make a change like this. Yes, it’s a BIG change. But it’s my choice and here’s why…
This has been a bit of a surprise for most of you—even many friends and acquaintances in Berlin. I’ve kept it under wraps for a while now because, well, I’m terrified of commitment and even the act of saying it out loud was a little hard. I couldn’t even quite agree to say whether “I’m leaving Berlin” or “I’m moving to NYC.” Both are equally terrifying and exciting and sad and, well, a hundred other emotions.
But here we go.
I’m leaving Berlin, moving back to America, to New York City. It’ll be my first time living in the Big Apple, but it’s always been a part of my bigger plans.
At some point in 2017 I made a promise to myself to leave Berlin. I’d reached six years in the city—just about the longest I’ve lived anywhere as an adult. And it was finally starting to feel like the right time to move on. This was not an easy decision, not even an impulse decision. It took months of planning and a lot of help from my friends and my family.
Since I publicly posted about the big change, I’ve gotten a lot of questions. Even as many of my American friends have been looking to move abroad, here I am moving back to America. It might seem ridiculous and strange, but it is what it is. And I’m 100% happy with my decision. Just scared. Terrified really. Change is always a challenge, but in my limited life experiences, I’ve found I always strive when I’m pushed to the edge.
The reasons why I’m moving range from reasons to leave Berlin (time to move on!), reasons to live back in America (to get involved! to experience NYC!), reasons to escape, to challenge myself, to be different. There are many reasons, and many personal ones, too, but here are the big five.
Living abroad is not easy
First, living abroad is FUCKING HARD. No one really talks about it, but living abroad is not always easy. It’s an attainable goal for most people, but it is 100% not easy. It’s also not cheap. It takes serious support from loved ones at home and abroad to make that initial move, and a certain amount of extroversion is almost necessary. Of course, living abroad is equally, if not more, rewarding. But it’s not a cakewalk.
As a foreigner, you’re often stuck in a weird place emotionally. Home is a tough thing to define, and when you’ve voluntarily left one home to create another, it’s even harder to define. The challenges of living abroad start from before you might even leave your home country. Bureaucracy, visas, residency, languages and that always-hard-to-describe “culture” are all going to create challenges. Personally, for me, I was able to master most of it: gaining basic proficiency in German, successfully navigating the bureaucracy and I even managed to make friends and build a home that I could be proud of.
Berlin is and was my home. It’s where my best friends still live; a city I know inside and out that I always will feel comfortable in. But at a certain point, I just knew that Berlin is not my forever-home. And while I’m single and young, I might as well continue my search for that place I’m looking for—wherever, whatever that is.
There’s always more to do in a self-made career
I left America on May 4, 2010. That’s almost exactly 8 years that I’ve lived abroad. And during that time, I’ve completely changed my career from the ground up. Today I’m an award-winning travel journalist. My blog and my writing gains more and more notoriety with each year. It’s something I’m extremely proud of, even if I sometimes seem grumpy or frustrated about the industry.
But, as an American travel writer based in Germany, and working with brands around the world, I hit the occasional snafu. A lot of my industry isn’t in Berlin, and if I want to continue with what I’m doing, I’ve got to expand and grow. In the past year or two, I’ve just felt like I hit a wall professionally, and now’s the time to take it up a notch.
They say if you can make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere. And I’m not one to turn down a challenge like that. I’ve managed this far and I’m ready for the next step. Time to S H A K E T H I N G S U P.
Politics have become increasingly important
Probably the question I’ve received most often since announcing my departure from Europe, is, “Why America? Why now?” While I have friends in the USA now currently planning their moves abroad, escapes from Trump’s America, I feel so far removed from what’s happening in the USA. Living the past eight years outside the country, I’ve missed out on as many cultural hits from the past decade as I have the political turmoil.
I am an American. I always have been and I always will be. Even if I’d like to identify as European with my residency and long-term connection to Germany, the American culture I grew up with is still deeply ingrained into who I am, what I believe, and what I want to do.
But in the past few years, I’ve felt increasingly disconnected from where I came from. Hearing the struggles of my friends in the USA dealing with healthcare, with job losses, with home ownership, with every other millennial hot topic covered in a New Yorker think piece, I just don’t know or understand fully what’s actually happening in America.
And I want to know. I feel as if I need to know.
There’s a little bit of guilt inside of me, having lived the European life as an expat in Berlin, going to parties, getting injured and having the affordable healthcare to cover it, the insurances that I would always be okay thanks to a social system built to protect me. I know it’s crazy to voluntarily leave that behind, but as an American writing about the world as I travel from here to there, it just feels like time to re-learn my cultural history.
And, also: I’m happy to have a little pride in the country whose passport I carry. Or, at least I’d like to be happy and proud. One of the biggest reasons I want to return to America now is to help shape my country into what I want it to be, to get more involved politically (locally!) and to hopefully make a more positive difference.
I’ve spent years traveling around the world and living in Europe, and it’s time I took those experiences, those things I’ve learned, and (with any luck) bring some of it back to the country that will always be my home.
As a foreigner living in Berlin, I was never fully going to be integrated politically. It’s something I learned previously when I was living in Tel Aviv, working in a political NGO. People will always see you as an interloper, a foreigner trying to inflict your own ideas onto an adopted home.
And, in Germany, as a non-European, I simply wasn’t entitled to all the services my European friends received. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to vote on a lot of the decisions that had a direct impact on my life abroad.
There’s more of the world to discover
With my six+ years living in Berlin, I’ve managed to see a lot of Europe. I’ve been lucky to travel more than most people—some 40 odd countries or so—but I’ve missed a lot on the American continent. And, frankly, there’s still a lot more to see and explore in the USA, too.
Six years based in Europe has made it easy and affordable to travel a lot around the continent, to get a pretty deep understanding of how things work on that continent culturally and politically. But there’s so much more to the world and as a natural explorer, I’m ready to branch out.
It’s New York City, baby!
As much as this big life change is about “leaving Berlin,” it’s equally about “moving to NYC.” From as far back as I can remember, I always just assumed I would live in New York City at some point. It seemed like the only natural thing to do when I was a kid growing up in Texas—I had family connections and roots to the city; it was the backdrop for every movie and TV show that I’d obsess over. NYC was always a part of my plan.
For college, I skipped the idea of NYC, afraid to go from the suburbs to the “big city” and totally unaware of how it would even be possible as an 18-year old. (I wasn’t ever very brave or much of a risk-taker, as much as you might believe otherwise from my travel stories.) In college in Boston, I’d visit NYC frequently thanks to the cheap Chinatown buses—always staying with friends, in town one ridiculous night at a time.
After my year-and-a-half backpacking around the world, I landed in Berlin pretty much on accident. The city sucked me in like it does so many others. I was in love with the cheap thrills, the easy-to-navigate city life. And, in fact, half the city I knew seemed to have moved from either London or NYC themselves, escaping the very city I once dreamed of living in. That kept me in Berlin, thinking I was one step ahead of the others.
But, visiting NYC again and again over the past decade, I’ve come to realize there really is nowhere quite like New York City. It’s been a lifelong goal, and it’s never going to happen unless I make it happen. That’s the one life lesson I’ve learned over and over: nothing happens unless you make it happen.
Plus, come on!!! It’s NYC! Broadway, the MET, Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, pizza…everything is in NYC. It’s the city where everything happens and, honestly, I just hate the idea of missing out.
• • •
There are other reasons I’m making this move now, and not later. But this was 100% my decision. One of my biggest fears is boredom and in the past year, Berlin has been a bit boring tbqh. It’s a city I love, and one I will always call home, but I need a new challenge, a new place to explore, a new motivation.
I’m equal parts terrified and excited about this change. I don’t know what will happen. But I do know that it doesn’t really matter. I’m lucky enough to have work that allows me to have a certain amount of mobility, a self-sustained career that affords plenty of opportunities to exist how and where I want. And I’d be silly not to take those extra steps for those extra challenges.
See you in NYC, baby!