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The Unknown of the Backyard: what the local movement is teaching me about home

May 16, 2020

Like most of us, I am somewhat a creature of habit. Though my street has two exits that lead to the main road, I often go the same way; I discovered a Kiwi-owned cafe, appropriately named Home early after moving to my neighbourhood (Neukölln for the Berliners) and religiously went there ever since; I take the same route to go to my favourite local park; and the act of trying a new takeout or restaurant option feels like a massive life decision.

When walking or cycling became all I could do outside, it changed my relationship with my Kietz (word used for neighbourhood in Berlin), I went the ‘other’ way heading to main road and discovered a cafe and flower shop literally two minutes away from me; on a new route to my local park I discovered an ice cream shop and a rather tasty pizza place, and while cycling up and down the veiny mini streets that lead to my flat I found sporadic shops and stranded cafes that I had never seen before.

Tempelhofer Feld, Berlin

For context, I moved into my flat last summer (almost a year ago!) and I live close to a train station. When deciding to spend my time, or money, I often head to the station seeking familiar locations where I know I liked the product or service, I want to quickly find what I need.

When I first moved in, I hastily looked for essential places, and stopped my curiosity after finding a place for every purpose. The rest of my discovery was a slow process, I realise now it is because there is no urgency when you have all you need.

I was recently told that the Berlin honeymoon period is roughly three years, and as I am still pretty doe-eyed about the place, it seemed about right. And as I contemplate the ‘shop local’ messaging permeating the world at scale, and witness great projects like co:berlin, a website that rounds up local Berlin businesses pivoting during Covid times, I find that I am weekly surprised–learning about initiatives or enterprises literally on my back door that I never knew about. I am confronted with the uncomfortable truth that my love affair with Berlin might somewhat be face value.

It is not the first time that this thought has come to me. There is the fact that I only recently started to bury my nose in the city’s history (properly) and that I still am not comfortable speaking the language (easy to do as Berlin has so many english speakers, and Germans may be one of the most skilled people I know at learning languages), but then there is this new discovery: that there has been so much new in these last few weeks, that I very quickly fell in love with, but that was obviously unknown to me. To really know and love Berlin, I would have to dig deeper.

I hang out with many people who also love Berlin. Recently I visited Volkspark (oldest park in berlin) for the first time with one of those people, we stumbled across a beautiful corner of the park, with water surrounded by statues and obscured by trees. We stopped to take photos and both deep sighed “and this is Berlin” a phrase we always seem to say in our conversations, we gush about how the city provides: beauty, opportunity, acceptance.

Volkspark, Berlin

On our way out of the park we walked past two homeless people, intoxicated and writhing in the green, in silence. When they were out of earshot she concluded “and this is also Berlin”. She said it with a tone of reverence, no quips, and I got the feeling we were sort of embarrassed of our gushings, or blinders, no matter how temporary they were.

So the theme is strong: you say you love Berlin but do you know it? Is it a careless shallow love, plagued by the naivety of youth, and just what are you planning to do about this feeling?

Well, I respond to myself: seek. explore.

My connection to the travel industry intertwines with these musings. I’ve seen articles on how the trends might evolve. Domestic travel being one of them, when we can move freely we will, but within the confines of our country. In my daily job I have taken in this information, however it hadn’t been truly contemplated, other than something to consider as a marketing strategy, before now.

When I confronted with my lack of local curiosity, it stretched to my relationship with Germany too, even if domestic travel would become a reality or necessity, perhaps it should also be my delight, my duty one could even say, to know what’s in my backyard before I call this whole land my home.

Wanßee, Berlin

Then I thought of my baby: Wading Wade, I’ve left it on the top shelf. I look at it fondly and I want to give it time and attention, but unfortunately I often find those commodities are spread. Since settling in Berlin, I have done just that: settle, travelling twice only in a year and a half, a far cry from when I started the blog.

I think about how I decided to change the direction of the blog;

“To help people to consider life and travelling abroad in a thoughtful and practical way”

And realised that this new realisation fits perfectly into this. I can use it as an outpouring of my ‘love’ for Berlin and Germany and to showcase a more intentional discovery of this place I now call home.

It is something I believe all people living abroad should do, and we too often don’t, because bubbles are easier and also quite lovely. In the case of Berlin, a rather transient city, it occurs to me that people who do that here often have an expiry date on their living here–I do not. Therefore I should treat it as such.

So with an intentional conclusion, I invite all that enjoy following this blog and my musings, to join me. If it sparks a curiosity for Berlin, for Germany, for shopping local, for moving abroad, or challenging the way you live abroad–I know I will have done a good thing in sharing.

Until next time! See you at @kyomiwade or @thewadingwade on IG where I will mostly be documented my journey.

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