Trust that everything will be okay.

There will, inevitably, be times when life will throw us curve balls before we’re ready to hit them.

There will be times where we feel so happy – or comfortably content- with our lives that we wouldn’t want to change a thing. But life wouldn’t be life if it didn’t throw you that curve ball every once in a while and suddenly everything needs to change. Perhaps the most challenging time of all will be the chasm that exists between these chapters in your life. When we have to walk away before we’re ready. When we have to leave what we want and what we love in the past.

Up till this point, I had always been ready for the next chapter. I could always acknowledge the memories made but would look forward to making more, different memories in the future. I had never been in a situation like this before, where I need to walk away from what I love before I’m ready to. Every fibre of my being understood that my visa will expire in September and there is nothing I could do about it. Every rational part of me knew that my situation wasn’t even all that bad: The company I enjoy working for wants to keep me employed and relocate me to Europe once my visa expires. And, since they don’t have an office established there, I could move anywhere in Western Europe as long as I have a working phone and internet connection. And yet, I’ve been spending the last 4 months either ignoring all that or trying to find a miraculous loophole or shortcut that would allow me to have it all. I wanted to linger.

But lately, I have been trying my best to return to my old self. The self that is adventurous and positive and happy no matter the place or the situation. In moments of transitions, you have to believe that there are so, so many better things coming than any of the things we have left in the past. You have to have faith in the future, in the unknown, in the tomorrows and somedays that will line up in ways you can’t possibly imagine from where you’re standing now. You have to have faith in yourself – faith that you will get yourself to where you want to go, even if you’re not entirely certain where that is yet. Faith in your future self to figure out if she wants to move to Berlin or London or Lisbon or Paris or Amsterdam or…

Yes, California has made me indescribably happy and I will leave a big piece of my heart in San Francisco. But before moving to this city, before making it home and becoming this incredibly happy here, all I had wanted was to stay in my protected bubble of friends and family, rainy German days and not push myself out of my comfort zone. I guess I sometimes forget that, just because the scene in the rear view mirror looks nicer than the scene on the road ahead, doesn’t mean you’ll never reach another beautiful destination.

It’s rare and it’s wonderful to ever find a place or a person or a certain situation that makes you want to linger for longer. When happiness hits us, we all want to cling to it as tightly and as mercilessly as possible. We want to capture it and hold it between our palms forever – not realizing that we have to let it go for it to mean anything at all.

I thing that, when we have to leave the things we love behind, we are allowed to mourn them. To miss them. To look back on them dejectedly and sadly. But we must never, ever forget that the best days of our lives are not all behind us. That there are more wonderful things awaiting us in the future than we could ever even fathom. That so many of our happiest days are still ahead. And that we have to keep moving to get there – no matter how tempting that view in that rear view mirror is. And in order to get there, we have to blindly and blissfully trust that it’s going to be somewhere indescribably worth going.

Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.

CHRISTMAS EXODUS GETS UNDERWAY AT HEATHROW HEATHROW READIES FOR

And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!

Cheers,

Ari

Everyone Else’s Story

The following are aimless philosophical ramblings. No actual point is being made.

That being said: do you ever wonder about everyone else’s story?

I’m writing this on a semi-crowded train taking me from a Bavarian town straight to my new home in the North of Germany. Six and a half hours between the place where I taught a seminar and the place I will call home, forty square meters in beautiful Hamburg, shared with the man I love and (for the time being) quite a lot of cardboard boxes.

I’m twenty-four and I’m in love – with this guy, with a city I’ve only ever visited for weekends, with the steady movement of the train and with this moment in my life.

I can’t help but wonder: what’s everyone else’s story? If you could measure the emotion in this train car, what would you find? At first glance, most of the people surrounding me look bored. But would boredom really be the prevailing feeling you’d find? I doubt it. I’m sure I look bored to those around me, sitting cross-legged in a reclined window seat, typing away on my laptop. Maybe I am a little, intermittently. But much more than that, I am excited, ecstatic, happy, nervous, joyful and a little baffled at how amazing this sequence of events has been.

passengers on train by OTFO on Flickr

passengers on a train (by OFTO on Flickr)

So what about the guy across the aisle with the band-aid on this right thumb, swiping backwards, forwards, up and down on his cell phone? He’s dressed casually, has a small suitcase with him, slight frown on his face. Looks like he’s reading something – sometimes he’ll use two fingers to zoom in on the screen. He looks bored, too. But what if he’s just distracting himself? It’s a Monday evening, so maybe he’s heading home from a long weekend that he spent in the city his long-distance girlfriend lives in. Or boyfriend, actually, maybe. No, probably girlfriend. In that case, would he be a bit sad, maybe, to have to leave? They might have had a fight and he’s somewhere between relief and frustration. They might have gotten engaged, and he’s still trying to process the fact that she said yes. It might have been a Monday work trip, though, too. He might just be tired. Nothing much may be happening in his life right now – or everything.

I won’t know – and I won’t know what brought that couple sharing a newspaper, or the woman with the bright yellow book, on this particular train. Neither will they ever know just how excited I am. That I’m moving, right now, and for the first time in years, moving somewhere I plan on staying indefinitely. I don’t know if they’d care, either. I’d find it interesting, right now, to know what they’re up to – but it wouldn’t touch my life beyond tonight, so in the end, it will not matter to me.

And still, sitting here and letting my eyes wander around the train car, I can’t help but marvel at the unknown stories, the biographies, the tragedies and comedies around me that I will never know. The stories behind these random faces. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around just how MUCH is going on in a single train car, let alone the whole world, at any given point in time. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing to think about?

Sunset Viewing Spots in Bay Area

I love sunsets. You love sunsets. Everybody loves sunsets. But, ever since living here, I’ve come to realize that California sunsets put this amazing spectacle to a whole new level! So, here are a few spots that turn an ordinary sunset into an unforgettable experience.  So, if you are located in the Bay Area and got a car, time and a sense for romance and adventure- GO.*

*Warning: sunset viewing spots within San Francisco limits really only work if Karl the Fog is on your side…

1. The Touristy One: Marina Beach

Standing at the shore of Marina will give you a view straight onto the Golden Gate Bridge, behind which the sun goes down. If the bridge wasn’t already orange, it sure would be then!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_2354

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. The filmography One: Alamo Square

Yes, yes, it’s the Painted Ladies from the Full House intro. And yes, they look even more beautiful and photogenic when the sun sets and taints them in a lovely rosé color. Head to Alamo Square for a nice picnic and enjoy the scenery!

DSC_0199 DSC_0185

DSC_0182

3. The Obvious One: Twin Peaks

You really cannot get around a hike up to Twin Peaks when visiting the city. Ideally, you hike up just in time to see the sun set over the ocean. That way, you will be able to see the city both in daylight and slowly getting ready for another night to remember.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Windy One: Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is where the sun touches the water and the horizon and it could look all epic and stuff…but it WILL be windy and, 90% of the year, it will also be foggy. If you are willing to pay a little more to view the spectacle in a warm, elegant restaurant, then Cliff House is your place. But for all those that scramble cents together for next month’s rent, just look at the wind as a way to clear your head! And, once the sun is down, you will be able to enjoy beautiful city lights (again, if it ain’t foggy that is).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5. Around the Corner: Stinson Beach

Just over the bridge and straight on till the moooorning…or something along those lines. Stinson Beach is a great place to watch the sunset if you just wanna get out of the city and breathe and be by yourself and all that jazz.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. The Warmer One: Santa Cruz

Just about about 70 miles (100km) south of San Francisco lies Santa Cruz, a beautiful surf town. The beach has a pier that offers everything from rollercoaster rides to, wait for it, deep-fried Oreos and Cheesecakes…ooooh ‘murica…
It is often much warmer in SC than it is in The City, so go there on a summery day and enjoy the sunset by the lighthouse!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7. The Magical One: McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Ok, this one is quite a drive and really halfway between SF and LA. But, it is also the first sunset that has moved me to tears with its beauty. There is a beach, a waterfall, the ocean, amazing colors and this very very intense sunset. I swear, I am not a super emotional person, especially not in public. And still, I stood there watching the sun go down and was totally overwhelmed with the realization that this moment is as perfect as it gets and that I’m happy and incredibly lucky to be able to experience something like that. Truly magical.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

P2177880OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

California Dreaming: Highway 101

Cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway is considered one of the most beautiful road trips on earth. Naturally, I couldn’t just let that opportunity slip. So, lé boyfriend and I rented a car, loaded the trunk with food and clothes and cruised off into nature…and WOW, is all I can say really. WOW after every turn Peete the Passat took because it offered new, breathtaking views over the ocean. WOW at the sunsets because, lets face it, sunsets over the California coasts might just be the most beautiful thing in the world. WOW at the green hills and the powerful waves and the cute little villages we passed along the way. So, I think you should WOW too! I think, you should take a roadtrip! To convince you, and make planning the trip easier, here is your ultimate guide for a three-day-long roadtrip during which you will pass all that is worth seeing!

 Stop 1: SF to LA

Due to time constraints, we drove straight down to Los Angeles on Highway 5 and were there within 6 hours. The city was smoggy but warm and amazing nonetheless. Hit up Beverly Hills to marvel at the mansions that you might be living in one day. Or, you know, recognize in a TV reality show. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen move on to the Hollywood boulevard. I really don’t know what it is but for some reason, the stars on the sidewalk make you feel so much closer to your idols than movies ever do. It’s like: “Yaaay, Johnny Depp stood RIGHT HERE, get your phone and Instagram!!!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_0958

Then find a look-out point from which you can see both the Hollywood sign and the city’s skyline. In our case, you really didn’t see much. Dammit, smog. But, mind you, it was February and we could easily walk around in shorts and tops. Fat bonus point!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_1016

End your day at the Santa Monica Pier. Great nightlife, many bars, restaurants and street food vendors and the lights from the pier just make you feel like a seven-year-old again. Have some funnel cake. Dip your toes into the ocean. Enjoy life. Go to sleep.

DSC_1045 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 2: From LA to Monterey

Now, this day was my favorite one by far. I liked LA but it’s a very wide-spread, overhyped city that got nothing on my beloved San Francisco. So, good-bye LA, hello Highway 1!
First, we started our morning with a swim in Malibu. Point Dume National Park only has six available parking spots but on a Sunday morning you might be lucky and enjoy one of the most secluded, yet most beautiful, little lagoons I have ever seen. That’s what I’d call Paradise!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The water here is cool but crystal clear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Point Dume National Park.

DSC_1117

Say Hi to Oscar the starfish, proud residant of Point Dume Beach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Santa Monica Beach at daylight

On to El Matador State Beach. Beach hopping like a boss! This beach has lots of people, dogs and surfers and fun!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_1210

Back onto the road. A mandatory stop for me was Arroyo Grande. Why? Because my dear Co-Author of this blog has spent a year there during high school. Pismo Beach is windy, which makes it perfect for kite surfing, btw!!

DSC_1257

We drove for a while before hitting Hearst Castle and the sea elephants that chill next to the highway. Hearst castle is only worth it if you’re not European. Because, if you are, chances are you have lived in a castle at some point in your life. They are that common over there. Also, it’s $75 to see the entire castle property and $25 to see certain parts of it. I’d like to call them out on that bull!

DSC_1284 DSC_1297

On to Big Sur and the famous Bixby Creek Bridge!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We hurried like crazy to see the sunset over the McWay Falls in Big Sur. We succeeded and the scenery was so beautiful, that I got incredibly sentimental. Words cannot describe, so GO GO GO!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 3: Monterey to SF

So, it’s the final roadtrip day and, since you’re in Monterey already, you might wanna check out its acquarium– because that’s what they are most famous for! The jelly fish are insanely cool and entry is $40 (student discounts exist, so take an ID!!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On to the Scenic-17-mile-drive that leads to Pebble Beach and Carmel. You gotta pay (I believe it’s $7) but by then nature will have lured you in so much, that you’ll be happy to pay whatever it takes to see more of California’s magnificent coast line. Along the way, you’ll see the famous Lone Cypress.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
After that: Carmel-by-the-Sea. I really wanted to stop there after I had seen the town being featured in an American Eagle Photoshoot. So we did. WORTH IT!! The town has a very European flair with its adorable little houses and playful decorations and stores located in backyards. It looked like a Disney town, only that people were serious about it. I absolutely loved Carmel. Have lunch (or early dinner) at Porta Bella on the main square:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last stop before going back into the city: Santa Cruz. This laid-back surfer town close to San Francisco has an adventure pier and..well..LOTS of surfers. Take a stroll on the beach and watch the sunset. Know that you just did the most amazing of roadtrips and that life is beautiful and that you will never never ever forget this magnificent piece of land that is called California!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_1324

California Dreaming: Yosemite National Park

It’s been a while since I last gave tips for awesome trips through California. Pardon me, I was a little busy with school. But to make up for it, I am hereby presenting you amazing photos of Yosemite National Park!! Although San Francisco offers a great variety of outdoor activities, nothing beats the grande impressions of wild nature that are just a short 4-hour-drive away! I highly recommend taking a 3-5-long trip there if you have time at all to spare. It will be so worth it!

DSC_2447_1Cooks Meadow Yosemite Falls, close to the Park Entrance

DSC_2450_1

Tunnel View

 

DSC_2730

View of Nevada Falls from the Vernal Falls Plateau

 

DSC_2507_1

You don’t get that sort of night sky in a big city, enjoy!!

DSC_2582

Vernal Falls

DSC_2618

DSC_2711

Are your lunch buddies ever that cute?

DSC_2745

Watch after the little ones!

 

DSC_2761

DSC_2816

One day we hiked in a T-Shirt, the next day we woke up to this!

DSC_2993

 

DSC_3134

DSC_2979

DSC_3061

Grizzly Giant, with roots as big as an average tree!

DSC_3217

DSC_3231

DSC_3289

 

 

Great, it rained. Happy?

Last weekend something weird happened in the Bay Area. The clouds in the skies would get darker and darker, the fog wouldn’t roll out but become a thick cover and wet stuff was falling from the sky. People called it rain. I called it Armageddon.

After California had been heading towards a serious drought for the past months, this past weekend brought a temporary relief in the form of inches of precipitation for San Francisco and its surrounding. I should be happy but, of course, it was the one weekend of the year I had a friend visiting from Germany, which called for lots of sight seeing. I learned several things over that past weekend:

1.) I am not equipped for rain. Neither mentally nor actually. How did I survive three years in a city with more rainfall than Scotland?! Last weekend, my so called “water resistant” shoes proved the salesperson wrong within minutes and my mood dropped to below zero before sunrise.

2.) Avoid malls during rainy season. Or shiny grounds in general. Trying to lift myself up via retail therapy, I marched into a mall and…fell face flat to the ground. After stumbling embarrassingly for a good couple of steps. When I stood back up, EVERYBODY was starring at me- sales people in the stores, shoppers on the escalators, bystanders. I bowed and ran away but it definitely taught me a lesson.

3.) Rainy season means survival of the fittest. Or of the ones with the biggest umbrellas. Suddenly, people forget how to live the California way and start pushing their way through the streets instead, as if their amount of pushing could limit the amount of rain drops that would fall onto them.

4.) Avoid public transport. Because that’s where you’ll find them. The inhabitants, the tourists, the homeless. Don’t take the F train because the first few ones will pass by your stop due to overcrowding and when you finally do get on one, it will smell like wet dog. You will be equally wet if you simply walk.

5.) Netflix. Day in, day out, without having to feel guilty about it. Finally.

6.) No Wharf. Because, at the wharf, you will be surrounded by water from all sides and it just leaves you with a very…watery…feeling.

7.) If you do decide to take a break from Netflix to go out (crazy much?!), don’t bother trying to combine clubbing outfits with rainprofability. It probably won’t work anyways and also, nobody cares. After a whole entire day of sightseeing in my hiking boots, my friend and I went barhopping in the castro (yes, in hiking boots and rain jackets). Nobody noticed. Nobody cared. Instead, we got props for daring to go out at all.

8.) Once it stops raining, the city finds itself in a state of rebirth. The air is fresh, the streets are clean and clear and people walk around in a state of astonishment. The world did not end, the sun came back, the temperatures rose. Faith in California restored. I know that it would have to rain a whole lot more to diminish the fatal results of a drought and I know I should be happy that it did rain. I should stop being naive and foolish and selfish and turn into a responsible, conscious citizen of this region by praying for more rain. But I am still in shock and so I am praying that this end-of-the-world-scenario will not repeat itself anytime soon. Between rationing water usage and heavy precipitation, I’d take communal showers anytime!

9.) A rainy day in San Francisco is still better than a rainy day anywhere else in the world.

 

But, just to make sure that my spoiled body gets its’ monthly sun intake that it has become accustomed too these days, I will be going on a roadtrip down to L.A. this weekend. Next blog posts with awesome photos and tips coming soon!!