Last week, and after a three day work session with one my clients, I left London. Months ago, I had booked flights to see one of my best friends who lives in Holland. I had been contemplating from where I should book the flights before I settled on Vienna. I figured it would be the most likely place I’d be at the end of June. That was in January.
I flew to Vienna on the last flight, only to take off for Amsterdam on the first flight again. I spent the day in Amsterdam and headed to Utrecht to have dinner with my former flat mates. Just half an hour before the dinner, I had to spontaneously book an overnight bus to Berlin to then come back to the Netherlands. For months, we had planned to go to Vlieland. I wasn’t going to skip this.
The reason I needed to go to Berlin was to meet the landlord of a place I looked at a couple of weeks ago. The couple who lived there hosted the viewings and luckily, they shortlisted me for the place. The landlord then wanted to meet me in person before he’d commit to signing the contract.
Yesterday, I flew back to Berlin to pick up the keys and sign the contract. I can't even believe I’ll be living in the most incredible apartment I never thought I had a chance of getting. It feels like the universe is very much approving of this decision at last.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t an easy decision. Many things happened that made me to commit to coming back to Berlin.
You might ask why Berlin? Vienna is so clean and beautiful and life there is so good. And you're right. It is. However, and the short story is: I love my friends in Berlin and the people who choose the place to be their home. Somehow, I feel much more alive when I’m in Berlin. It’s just what the city does to you I guess.
The long story on the other side is slightly more complicated. You’ll see none of this was easy and none of this was planned...
In March 2017, and after two years traveling around Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, I gave up Kickstarter as my main client. I was no longer excited about waking up in a new city every day. What once was fun now became work. I felt like someone new would do a better job. I knew it was time for me to hand it over. It was time to look for something different.
After so much travel, I craved being rooted in one place and having a community again. I remember many times while sitting at the plane and looking out of the window all I wished for was going to the cinema with friends. I was tired. I knew I needed some time off.
Somehow, it was clear to me I needed to go to a place where I wouldn’t take on a new project immediately. I had to go somewhere I’d actually take off.
I had never taken a proper break for longer than two weeks. Having moved out of my parents' house at the age of 17, it’s become normal to hustle. Very often during my studies, I had up to three jobs simultaneously. It never was easy and there never was any money for me to just not do anything. I knew I deserved a break, which is why I eventually booked a trip to Bali. My plan was to be away from everything and without my computer for a month.
While sitting in Bali, I picked up Tim Ferriss’ book The Four-Hour Work Week. I was very much wondering where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. And somehow I also realized I missed having a dog by my side. Given I was planning to have a more stable life, it seemed like a good idea to get one.
Back in my apartment in May, I finally managed to fix my kitchen after getting rid of the water damage I had been dealing with since December of 2017. I got another remote project and was spending time with Orion trying to make her a well-behaved city dog.
After that a new project request reached me. This time for a project in Iceland. I had to go to Iceland for a bit and then to Holland. Nevertheless, most of the work I could do remotely. But then, I knew that if I wanted to travel less, I needed to make my business more Austria-centric or find something I’d be excited about in Austria.
I applied to become an associate at Teach4Austria and went through the assessment center. Yet in the last round, they turned me down.
I then started doing what I was doing when I first went freelance; I reached out to my entire network and told them what I was looking for and what people could hire me for. I was trying to find my first proper Austrian client knowing that once I succeeded at finding two or three local clients I’d be good. Simultaneously, I started looking for jobs. One of the main things I missed when representing Kickstarter was working in a team. I figured now might be the time.
In October, I then started talking to Die Presse about a role of a digital product manager. In a small country such as Austria, newspapers need a very different approach if they want to be financially viable. In my opinion, here a newspaper can't just copy what has worked for The New York Times, The Guardian, die Zeit, and others who have a much bigger market potential. Having a community strategy background seemed like the best background for such a role considering the constrains.
To sum up how these conversations went; we talked for six months and in April, after much time investment from my side, they changed their mind. They no longer planned to hire a digital product manager (I still can't believe they’ve had an online presence since January 1999, yet only the editorial team decides what gets displayed on the main page and how). Instead, they requested a quote for a communication strategy. After they’ve received my quote, they simply sent a note they were no longer able to work with me. I might have asked for too much money.
Given I actually really wanted that job, I spent a lot of time between October and December on acquiring new skills. I learned all sorts of things that the job of a digital product manager requires. I also spent much time researching the media industry. I thought the role would have been exciting. And for once, no new project requests arrived in my mailbox. There were definitely no project requests from Austria.
At the beginning of December, I called a friend in Germany. I told them I needed new projects and that Berlin would be okay again. It took two days and thanks to him, I was fully booked again. On the 15th of January at 11am, I had my last in-person conversation with Die Presse. The same day at 3pm, I was flying out to Berlin to then join the Veganz marketing team for three months.
In the same week, my friend Eva asked whether I was able to support her as she was working on a project together with Hanzo. Given I always wanted to work on a project with Eva, I said yes. Now I wasn’t just fully booked. I was overbooked. And once I started teaching at the New Design University in St. Pölten, I was literally swimming in work.
But swimming in work feels more like me and while I was in Vienna last year, there was no work and very often I felt lonely. I had a hard time reconnecting with people in Vienna. It’s understandable as I hadn’t really been there much since I have finished my BA. Despite the fact I’ve always paid taxes and also rent for my apartment in Vienna, I wasn’t really a local.
In a way, it would have been a no-brainer for me to move back to Berlin. Yet with the political situation in Austria and my moral desire to get involved instead of packing up my bags again and leave, I wasn’t ready to give up on calling Vienna my home just yet.
Another thing popped up I thought could work. After being rejected by Teach4Austria and Die Presse, I then found a job as a digital campaigner for a political party in Austria. I only found out about the role two hours before the application deadline, so I applied thinking I could think about whether I could commit to working for a political party later.
I’ve always had my issues getting involved with a political party. Nevertheless, the party seemed like the one alternative that could have a chance to challenge the current government. When they then rejected me after two interview rounds as well, I felt like I did everything I could to stay in Austria. I didn’t quite see myself there anymore. That was a new feeling.
Personally, I’ve always felt like Berlin was too unstable for me to move back to. I remember talking to Sarah, one of my soul friends, and telling her how I didn’t like how people came to Berlin, got what they wanted, and once they met someone and things got serious for them, they’d move back to where they came from. She laughed and replied: “Oh well, you might meet someone and move back too and then your apartment in Vienna wouldn’t be suitable anymore anyway. Think about it.”
She was right. And for the first time in ten years, I felt like it was time for me to close the door to Vienna. At least temporarily.
Between February and July, I applied to about 40 apartments. I was invited to about 20 viewings. Right before I left Berlin on the 10th of June, I saw 9 apartments within 48 hours. Somehow, the very last apartment I went to see, and literally the one where I felt a big Y.E.S. but also had zero chances to actually getting it, is the one I’m sitting in right now.
It’s crazy how the universe is always giving us what we need. Somehow I needed to go through a lot of rejection, loneliness, disappointment, and 20 apartment viewings only to be holding the keys of a place I’ll tell my grandkids about. That’s how good it is. I’m still in awe.