This is a story about life shaping…and a thank you to the people who have helped make it possible.
A few days ago we returned to Berlin from a month in New Zealand. Something was different. Really different. Traveling for a month is not particularly unusual for us, but the fact that we had keys to an apartment, one where our names were on the buzzer, certainly was.
At this point, you might be saying: “What?! You guys are nomads! Nomads don’t have keys, much less apartments with their names on the door. What’s going on?”
Life shaping. Berlin. That’s what.
1) What's this all about?
Short answer: we’re creating a base in Berlin. In practical terms, this means having a flat (apartment) that we can return to between trips and projects to recharge batteries, write, and create and work on new projects. Think of it as a move towards semi-nomadism.
Long answer: That’s for telling over a drink or two. We actually moved in a couple of months ago to an altbau flat in a cache of Neukölln just a couple blocks from the edge of Tempelhof, atop one of Berlin's few hills. From here on out, we'll call it Tempelkölln until someone from Berlin tells us how ridiculous that name is. There’s a whole backstory of twists and turns as to why we decided on Berlin, how we jumped through hoops to get a legal lease with our names on it, why we had a meeting with the bezirksschornsteinfegermeister (District Master Chimney Sweep) to get cable internet installed, and much more.
Oh and by the way, this whole process took a village – a village of friends in Berlin, a village for whom we are profoundly grateful. When people come to bat like all of our Berlin friends continually do, it underscores why we are magnetically drawn to them and to this place.
2) Does this mean that you’ll stop traveling?
Not at all.
In fact, we expect this year to be as busy as any other on the travel front. The primary difference is that we’ll often return to Berlin instead of temporary apartment-hunting elsewhere.
Throughout our journey, we’ve found that we need a little perspective to truly appreciate the power of travel and to not take it for granted. Our goal is, and has always been, to do justice to all that we see and experience, deliver more effectively to our audience, and — here’s the linchpin – to do it all while deliberately servicing the kind of life that we’d like to live together.
3) Why the change from a completely nomadic life?
This is another long and complicated one. We loved (and still love) how nomadic life provided us with so much flexibility and freedom. But after living this lifestyle for six years, we noticed both our personal and professional lives evolving and we needed a change. (Full disclosure: perhaps it was more me than Dan, but we’re a team here).
We wanted a bit more stability, a community of friends around us, a place to reflect and collect our thoughts from our travels, and to create something new, something more.
Sure, we could have continued with our previous lifestyle and put off addressing some of the difficult questions and feelings we were facing. That’s life drift. There’s no reward for being the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going without reflection on where he’s going and why he might be doing it.
Let me also tell you, change is tough. This has not been an easy transition.
While finding and furnishing a flat may sound ordinary to many of you, we’ve gone well outside our comfort zone on this. It’s been so tempting to throw this idea away and hop on the next airplane to leave it all behind and to find a chicken bus to take us to the middle of nowhere, our usual yet unusual comfort zone.
There also remains a great deal of uncertainty with what we’re doing. We’re trying to have our cake and eat it, too. There are risks, including that this experiment could fail. And in the fullest of disclosure, one of our greatest fears in making and announcing this change is that we’ll disappoint our community.
But, we only have one life to live and that life goes quickly. And we wouldn’t be following all of our own personal growth advice if we did it any other way. Deliberate decisions. Not wondering “What if?”
That’s the life we'd like to live.
4) Why Berlin?
We traveled all around the world and chose Berlin as a base. Why?
We like this city. A LOT. If you’ve ever visited Berlin, you’re nodding your head right now understanding the reasons why.
Berlin has a feel and vibe to it – entrepreneurial, creative, energetic, irreverent — that has drawn us in for the last three years. We also have a great group of friends here. The city felt like home with each of our recent visits and we always looked forward to returning. Each visit, we hoped to stay longer. This time we did.
(Note: We did get some grief by recently abandoning Berlin in its darkest hour, quite literally. Our February trip to New Zealand, during one of Berlin’s most sunshine-free interludes, drew cries of “You’re not really living in Berlin until you’ve lasted a full winter.” I think we even lost some of our Berlin friends after all those New Zealand photos on Facebook.)
Berlin is also very centrally located not only in Europe but also for access to Africa and the Middle East (two regions where we still have a lot of exploring to do). Additionally, it’s easy to get to the United States and Asia as well. And with the new airport opening up next year (hopefully, chuckles coming from the local crowd), the city will be even more connected than it is now.
Furthermore, Berlin seemed to offer us a combination of ease of work-life, infrastructure (we currently have 100Mbps internet), all at an expense level that worked for us. Not to mention, Berlin's food scene and its abundance of fresh markets. Friends who visit come away amazed by how well and inexpensively one can eat in Berlin (if you know where to look) particularly when compared with other European destinations.
5) But you’re American. How can you live in Germany?
Americans are allowed spend up to 180 days in the Schengen region within one year on an ordinary tourist visa. However, we didn’t want to take chances and be limited in when and how we could return to our flat in Berlin. So we applied for a residence permit to live here legally.
And just a few days before we flew to New Zealand, we learned that the German authorities said yes. Shocking! And for two years, which for first time residence permit applications submitted by American freelancers, is surprisingly long. After two years, we can renew. How we navigated the bureaucracy to procure this is for another long piece in the form of a post or ebook.
6) Will Uncornered Market change?
No. If anything, Uncornered Market will continue to expand its scope of life and learning through the lens of travel.
Although we have a base in Berlin, Uncornered Market will not turn into a Berlin expat blog. It will continue to be a travel and life inspiration blog focused on following curiosity to explore and learn about oneself and the world. So expect the same sort of travel, human interest, food, personal growth, and humorous dispatches coming from all corners of the world.
Frankly, our hope is that with a bit more time and space, we can improve the quality and expand the volume of our content. As one of our friends often remarks, “I can tell when you’re taking a break from the road because the quality of your writing improves.” It’s always been our goal to improve and to grow.
That’s one of the reasons why we’ve made this decision.
Shift happens. We hope you'll embrace it with us.
As always, we appreciate your support of our journey – in travel and life — and all the twists and turns it has taken over time.
Have any other questions? Ask away in the comments!