What I learned in 10 years of being abroad

It’s been just about 10 years since I left Germany. Naturally, many people have asked me over the years how I’ve changed and what were some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned. It’s actually quite a hard question to answer and I’ve sat on this post for a while, always coming up with new points to add.

Nevertheless, here are some major points I’d like to highlight. Hope you find them insightful!

It’s impossible to predict what opportunities will present themselves in your future

I remember writing a letter to myself when I was around 12 years old, describing my future life. I haven’t been able to find it but I’m sure I’d describe it something like this: “I will live next to my hometown with 2 kids and a husband in a house with a garden.” 

…which is not exactly where I am today…

However, as a 12-year-old, how many different lifestyles can you imagine? It’s impossible to be aware of all the opportunities that can and will present themselves to you in the future. So how could I have even pictured the life I’d be living now? At every stage in life, I always thought ‘This is it. This is the life I am going to have.’ And then life would always laugh at me and be like ‘and there’s this other interesting way/job/country to try out…’. I’m glad that I’ve been open enough to take these opportunities because they’ve shown me so many different facets of life all over the globe. There’s nothing wrong with having a plan and a direction where you’re heading towards but it’s great to know that there are always other options out there if, where you’re at, doesn’t work out. 

Even the most stable life can fall into pieces. And then you rearrange the puzzle, find some new pieces and create a new picture. It can be scary because you often don’t have the model picture but step by step it becomes clearer and clearer.

You might find hidden parts in your personality that surprised you

I believe every country or place I’ve moved to (and every language I’ve spoken) for a while has brought out a new side in me. I could be writing about this for pages, but let me narrow it down to a few examples.

The most surprising and somewhat shocking one was when I went on a study abroad semester in South-Korea.  

I clearly remember sitting on the bus from the airport to the university, thinking ‘how am I going to survive a semester which is most likely going to turn out to be a big party’ (I was and am not a party person at all). Yet, something about this care-free life I eventually had there and a new environment changed me completely regarding that. You should have seen my friends’ reaction back home when I told them of my fun party-semester. At one moment I was sitting in a cafe in Suwon with a friend who was experiencing the same situation. We were both saying how we felt like we weren’t ourselves and that we felt like seeing us from a different perspective. Later I realized that this was also part of my personality and despite this only being a short phase I’m glad I saw that side of me and embraced it to the fullest.

Japan also brought out another side of me. The one of a person who connected well with kids and her own inner child. Teaching kindergarten was a huge learning curve for me but eventually, I became a bubbly teacher who didn’t mind goofing around, singing songs and doing a full-body workout to keep the class energetic 😉

All this taught me that when I have a thought such as ‘this is not for me. I cannot do that. That doesn’t suit my personality’, I think I should give it a try as long as it fits within my morals. Often my own thoughts about my personality were the ones that put me in a box and limited me exploring my potential and I’m really grateful for this lesson.

The one perfect country doesn’t exist

For everyone who thinks living abroad is the dream and has an image of the one country of their dreams. It is and it isn’t. If you’re working or studying you’re going to end up having a daily routine as if you’d be in your home country. Granted, there are the added benefits of experiencing this in another country, which can feel much more exciting (and which is the main reason why I’m still abroad) but you’ll also get sick, have money problems, break-ups, changes of jobs, car break-downs plus the added difficulty of visa issues, language barriers, and all those quirky, fascinating, yet sometimes annoying cultural differences.

Full-time traveling isn’t always a piece of cake

So you’re taking a year off to travel full-time. You see yourself in the most exotic places, sipping on our cocktail at the beachfront, or hitting mountain tops, feeling as if you were on the top of the world…

Yes, this can definitely be a reality. But the reality is also that you might have a 10-hour bumpy bus ride with multiple bus changes, buses standing still for a few hours due to traffic, mosquitos that love you to bits, food that makes your stomach turn upside down and a person snoring in your dorm so that you end up spending the night scrolling through your phone suddenly missing your friends, your own room, your favorite restaurant that doesn’t give you diarrhea and having everything you need in one place without having to move around. Ok, again, I love my freedom when traveling full-time and I am slightly exaggerating by giving you a worst-case scenario. I am able to create the life that I want by being so independent. But that also means that I am going to come across many things that I am unfamiliar with that create problems I didn’t use to have. And most of the time there won’t be familiar surroundings to help you out and you’re often on your own, wishing you were not. So then why would you go through this? …because

… you will grow in resilience and personal strength

On my first trip to Australia, I almost had a nervous breakdown. I had 3 nights booked in a hostel when I arrived and that was it. I felt so lost, out of place, hardly being able to deal with the fact that I was fired from my first full-time job after just a few days (it was fundraising on commission to be fair and most people were let go rather quickly when not meeting targets). Now I wish I could say that these days I am able to handle any problems calm and composed but I have learned over the past years that problems in other countries have solutions to them just as in our own countries. Things that work differently may be resolved differently but through all those crazy incidents that you might experience you will eventually realize how many obstacles you overcame despite thinking you never would. Living abroad broadens not only your cultural knowledge but also the way you think about life. You find more solutions, different point of views and thus gain trust in that you will make it through.

Top tip: do yourself a favor and get some earplugs. Snoring problem solved (and in the worst case, Spotify will overtone the noise).

 …and learn to be OK with things you’d usually not be OK with

If you’ve read the above, you can imagine that often you have no choice but to accept things the way they are.

Returning home, brimming with new confidence as a changed ‘you’, people might still look at you the same as before.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing but it’s often taken me by surprise. With many good friends, you’ll be able to continue where you left off. Which is an amazing thing and will help you settle faster. Yet sometimes, there is this feeling of ‘didn’t I just change and become a better person yet people treat me the same as before?’ I think your parents will always see you as their ‘child’, your sibling will always see you as older/younger sister/brother. Sometimes it takes some time for people to notice your changes. I have learned not to be frustrated about that and am embracing the familiarity that comes with meeting old friends and family.

Not everyone falls under a culture’s stereotype and you can find your kind of people everywhere

You might stereotype Japanese people as always being polite and never saying what they really think. Germans are seen as blunt as hell. Brazilians as super outgoing. Canadians are the ones who will always excuse themselves… Yet, I have met very outgoing and direct Japanese people, held-back Germans, blunt Canadians, and shy Brazilians. Stereotypes can often give an indicator which side a culture might lean towards, yet remember there are always exceptions and you find your tribe no matter where you live. 

Be yourself, adapt to a culture as much as socially necessary and as much as you are willing to do

I remember being in Japan, overwhelmed by all the traditions and customs and the way people did things differently. Over the years I then adapted many small customs which helped me feel more part of the culture. However, I still made sure to keep traits of me that I was proud of, being more direct than people around me, just making sure I wouldn’t offend anyone, i.e. speaking loudly on the train (a big no-no in Japan and Korea and something that you can definitely learn to adapt to).

I think it can be really fun to be a different person for a while as long as you don’t compromise your own valued character traits. Also, it might be a breaking point of whether you can imagine staying in the country long-term.

Last but not least: Learning the new language of the country can go a long way

This even applies to just learning a few basic words and phrases. You will be able to connect much easier to locals by using some of the language. Many people who don’t travel, don’t know other languages and are very appreciative of the fact that travelers made the effort to learn some of their language.

I am personally hugely passionate about languages and have poured a lot of heart and soul into it and will be happy to write more about my experience in learning foreign languages and how that can make your stay even more authentic and better.

Fun and creative journal prompts

Journaling has been invaluable to my mental health – it’s helped me understand my thoughts, emotions and feelings more and as well as prompted me to look at my life from different perspectives and angles. Most prompts go quite deep and can create heavier thoughts, so I thought I’d share some more light-hearted ones. You can always take these prompts to a deeper level by asking yourself why you gave that answer. You might also just want to leave the answer the way it is. These prompts also make nice questions to ask among friends/coworkers/students.

Happy journaling!


FUN AND CREATIVE JOURNAL PROMPTS

  1. If you were reincarnated as an animal, based on your personality, what animal do you think you would come back as?
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  2. What color best describes you and why?

  3. What’s the most vivid memory in the kitchen of your childhood?

  4. Take a personality quiz. What do you think of the results?

  5. If you could only speak twenty words for the rest of your life, what words would head your list and why? 

  6. Which character from a book or movie would you most like to meet and why? What would you ask?

  7. What would you do it all the electricity in the world just stopped? (have you ever unplugged your Wi-Fi?)

  8. If you had to evacuate your home because of a natural disaster, what three things would you take with you?

  9. If you had to give up one of your senses – which one would you give up?

  10. If you could decide what happens in your life tomorrow, what would you want to happen?

  11. If you won €1,000,000 at the lottery, what would you buy?

  12. If you went back in time, what year would you go to and why?

  13. If everyone was mentally incapable of lying, what would the world look like?

What is your most valuable possession?

I’m not a materialistic person. I have lived with very little for extended periods of time – think backpacking the world or moving to a city for a few months and not wanting to accumulate stuff.
I quickly noticed that things don’t make me happy in the long run, and to this day, I feel pretty detached from my material possessions.

The one thing that I absolutely cherish in its physical form is my journals. I started journaling at a young age. In the beginning, not in a book but rather on random sheets of paper. I remember journaling for the first time when my great-grandma passed away. I was nine years old and had experienced a close person’s passing for the first time in my life. I turned to an A4 yellow sheet of paper and wrote how emotional this situation had affected me. Somehow I must have already realized back then how soothing this outlet was and how I could handle this difficult period by myself.

The other experience I had with ‘journaling’ was my mum. She used to write us long texts when we had a fight or an argument and didn’t want to talk to each other. I would often find a page describing her feelings towards this situation on my seat in the dining room or the kitchen. I thus learned how helpful it could be to sometimes put things out of your mind and onto paper rather than throwing emotionally charged profanities at them. It helped me understand my mum’s perspective a little better and remove all the bitter feelings and simply focus on the paper’s words.

My first real journal was given to me by my sister. She had labeled it ‘The Tribe’-journal. The Tribe was my favorite TV-show when I was young. It was basically about a world in which a virus had broken out and killed off all adults, leaving the kids behind to figure out their own life (as if people had known). At the time, I had a hard time making friends in school, and this series was my refuge. I spent my time journaling about how I felt for the characters and their storyline and eventually started writing about my personal struggles in life.

I kept up journaling over all those years. I have dozens of journals from the past 18 years or so. I haven’t written diligently every day but rather sporadically and some times more than others. Yet, I frequently come back to these books because they are fascinating to me to read – I get reminded of my younger self, my thoughts, and experiences at the time, and I am taking advice into my current situation.

And in case you’re wondering – as a language lover and polyglot, I have written in different languages indeed. One of the best language learning advice of all times has been to write my diary and journal in other languages. I have a diary in Japanese, some passages in French, some childhood passages in German but the overarching language in English. It is the language I feel most at ease expressing my thoughts.

Journaling has been a lifeline for me these days more than ever. It’s the friend who is always by my side, listening without judging.

JOURNALING PROMPTS WHEN YOU’RE FEELING DOWN:

2021 might not have brought the change we’ve been waiting for so far. If you’re like me, you simply felt as if 2020 continued. Months of lockdown have seemingly been tearing on everyone’s nerves.

Journaling has helped me through this time. My mind has been racing too much for me to meditate and I’m grateful that at least using pen on paper has helped me return to a calmer state.



I like to set the scene when I’m journaling. I put on some dim lights – fairy lights, a salt stone light and get comfy. I like sitting on my bed or on the ground so that I have a lot of space around me. You might on the contrary also enjoy cuddling into a smaller space like an armchair. Take a notebook that has a nice cover – treat your journal like something special.

For my first prompt and in general, I always like to do a little check-in with my body. I like to do a self-scan of my body, eyes closed and in a sort of meditative state.






And here come the prompts:

  1. What sensations are you feeling in your body right now?

  2. Are you judging these feelings – my anxiety ache is bad, I’m making myself sick, etc. If yes, can you simply focus on it and then let it be there the way it is?

  3. If you were a loving parent to yourself, what would you tell yourself to console you?

  4. If you had your best friend right next to you now, what would he/she say to you?

  5. What do you need right now? Can you give it to you unconditionally?

  6. Which minor everyday life things make you happy and grateful to be alive? Here comes your gratitude list 🙂

  7. What are the weaknesses I’m frustrated about, and how can I use them to fuel something positive? Which ones should I simply let be and accept, reminding myself that in the end, no matter what the world makes us want to believe, nobody is perfect, and embracing that is a positive step into acceptance.

  8. Do you think what you’re feeling right now will last forever? Do you remember the last time that you felt down? Did it end? Are you willing to accept it and sit through, knowing that you will come out at the other hand?

  9. What is a compliment that I could make myself today? Reading this post means you’re taking action!

  10. If you’re angry at another person: Is their behavior something that you don’t like in yourself either? E.g., the other person is so selfish – are you selfish yourself?

  11. If you’re angry at the world: Are you in control over this? If not, can you let it go? If yes, what steps can you take for yourself to better your own position and stance in this world?





I hope you’ll find acceptance and release in this. Stay safe!

Life is like the weather in Patagonia.

If you’ve ever been to Patagonia, you know what I’m talking about. Even if you haven’t, you’ve gone through life, and I’m sure it’s felt like this at some point.

This time is such a time. Stay safe!


You’ve checked the weather forecast and are expecting a fine day.

You open your eyes, being greeted by warm, balmy sunlight. You optimistically start into your day hike. The path is easy, some rocks are scattered, but you are feeling full of energy, ready to tackle any obstacles. Suddenly – a strong breeze hits you by surprise. You’ve heard other people talk about these tempestuous winds that seem to occur from nowhere. They’re infamous in Patagonia and can knock you off your feet. You stumble around a little, but keep going. The wind is strong, but you are stronger.

After all you listened and brought a windbreaker. And a down jacket. The cold is hitting your face, but you keep walking. It’s getting warmer again. Time to let go of some of your protective layers. 

You eventually turn into a valley that looks very hazy. This is the path to your destination. The good weather starts to fade and is slowly being replaced by fog and rain. You brace yourself for the weather. One layer after the other. Knowing that it’s never enough. As you’re walking further and further with the weather getting worse and worse you find yourself torn. Should you continue in this miserable weather? Will it be worth the struggle? Or should you simply turn back into the luring safety of the sunlight? You decide to continue because you want to reach your destination, the end of the trail. After all this is what you came here for. 

The rain stops for a bit. Then comes back. Time seems to stretch endlessly. An hour’s walk feels like a never-ending period of time. You really wonder why you’re here, but you simply keep going. The bad weather conditions are at their peak. You suddenly find yourself in a snowstorm just as you hit the end of the trail. And the final view is blurry and hazy. No trace of what you wanted to see. The walk seems pointless now. 

Except suddenly you remember that it is not only about the goal but also your way towards it.

So you put on a smile, walk back through the ice and snow that eventually turns into rain. You can see a bit of sunshine trying its best to break through the clouds. It succeeds for a minute, sending you a feeling of ease and warmth even though the rain continues lightly. It never really goes away, it’s always there, even when you thought it had just left. 

And then you head back, and suddenly you are overlooking a beautiful view. A view you had not appreciated before when you were fixated on your goal and only your goal. But now you’re taking it in fully. It looks mesmerizing.

Your heart lifts as did the clouds. You already forgot about the bad weather. Gratitude and joy are overwhelming you. Only your soaked shoes trace back to where you came from. You’re peeling off your protective layers, ready to enjoy and face the sunlight. Only to realize that rain & wind might come again. That’s what the weather in Patagonia is famous for after all. But you feel stronger now. You are not that scared of the weather anymore. Maybe next time there will be sunshine at the end of the trail. In Patagonia, anything is possible.

Life is like the weather in Patagonia.


How I’m learning Japanese

For me, Japanese is at its own level in terms of language learning. It took my brain forever to realize that this was actually a language. Somehow I struggled to make out individual words in the beginning. I tried out many resources and always find it hard to answer what was the absolute best. This is like looking for the magic pill that works for everyone and everything. 

Most resources will cater to a particular skill of language learning: listening, speaking, writing, or reading. Others will cater to learners who learn by rote learning, auditory learning, drills, movies etc.… 



I started my whole Japanese journey when living in Japan, which will be different from most learners. The first place I studied at was ‘Kumon’ – a cram school. I learned to write hiragana and katakana there as well as some simple sentences and grammar. I did not have a teacher; rather, I got CDs with audio files and worksheets that I worked through. That was a helpful method for me in the beginning as I like learning through writing and reading/seeing the words and characters in front of my eyes.

Later, I decided to take the help of the endless resources out there. In 2016, there were considerably fewer resources than these days, especially in terms of YouTubers who teach on YouTube – you have such great content these days that I wish I had at the time.



Below are some resources I’ve used over the years. If you’re a complete beginner and want to self-study, your best bet might be Duolingo or textbooks that teach you Kana (hiragana and katakana), as you’ll need this as a base for your Japanese study.

The resources below start just after you learned the very basics.

I’ll start with my preferred way of studying these days: YouTube. I find it the most entertaining way and very good for finding good grammar explanations, which the other resources lack.


My favorite YouTubers:

Japanese Ammo with Misa – the most detailed grammar explanations I’ve ever come across. Long videos, so take your time for them 🙂 You’ll also find videos on vocabulary, conversations to practice your listening to and more.

Miku Real Japanese – very clear grammar videos – teaches a lot through skits that are entertaining to watch! Clear structure of the videos in ‘example’, ‘grammar’ and ‘practice’. Also many conversational videos for listening practice such as interviews with other YouTubers in Japanese

Japanese with Yuka 101 – lots of Live classes that go through topics in detail and also prepare you for Japanese tests

Onomappu – really great channel to learn Japanese onomatopoeia

Learn Japanese From Zero! – channel by an author of Japanese study books. Shorter videos that focus on small nuances and details of a word, Kanji, or grammar point


The following are the apps I mostly use.

I have tried dozens and these are the ones I keep coming back to.

Anki – my favorite flashcard app

This is a more time-intensive way of studying as you have to manually enter the flashcards you want to review (or you can download or purchase sets from different sources). It’s highly effective thanks to its space-repetition system, which will show you words repeatedly until you know them. 


Yomikata Z

This is an app that teaches you how to read vocabulary step by step. You learn the words in the context of a sentence and have different ways of learning it, either by writing out the reading or selecting the meaning….

The words are categorized in JLPT levels and get repeated while you’re studying. 

I found it helpful for learning how to read Kanji in context as well as learning vocabulary.


Japanese dictionary Takoboto

This is my dictionary of choice. You can search by typing in Romaji (Roman alphabet) or Japanese or English. There is also a function to look up the Kanji per radical. It’s very extensive, and you get example sentences, stroke order, and radicals for Kanji. You can bookmark words and export them into an Anki deck.

If you’re using a desktop computer, then Jisho is the place for you!


Kanji Study

If you’re all about learning Kanji after Kanji, this is your app. It beautifully shows you the stroke order, lets you practice drawing the Kanji itself on the app, and quizzes you on pronunciation and meaning. I love that it has a chart that shows you how much you’ve studied, so it helps to keep you accountable for your progress.


Easy Japanese news

This app lets you read Japanese news in an easier version. It highlights vocabulary that a Japanese learner might not know, shows you the translations, and even tells you which JLPT (the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level belongs. 


Satori Reader

 Another app that helps you learn how to read. Just like the news app, you will get help with reading kanji and the respective translations. There are articles, books, and stories for each level, and you can adjust the amount of Kanji and furigana shown.



If you live in Japan, of course, you should find someone to regularly practice speaking with.

In my case, I registered with our local city hall to get matched with a volunteer ‘teacher,’ a person who had no teaching experience but who was willing to help a foreigner for free. I’d write a diary in Japanese and get it corrected every week. This would also serve as a base for our conversation. On top of that, I’d take note of issues related to the language that I came across in daily life. I’d ask my teacher about those points in the lesson, and we’d go through example sentences of a certain word or grammar structure. I want to stress that if you’re practicing a language with someone who isn’t a teacher, don’t expect them to know ‘WHY’ something is said the way it is (e.g. ‘Why do you say ‘x’ in this case?). Native speakers are used to their language and don’t necessarily think about its grammatical structure the way a language learner or teacher does. Therefore, it’s more useful to get example sentences from a native conversation partner, than grammar rules.

You always have the opportunity to find a teacher/tutor on italki or through apps like Hello Talk and Tandem (see my previous post on how to find someone to practice speaking with)

I hope this can give you an idea where to start or continue your Japanese practice.

頑張って!

The origin of my endless motivation for language learning

When people hear how many languages I speak, they always ask me how I’ve been studying. The thing is, I learned each language differently. Some I was taught at school, others I learned by living in the country, others just because I was curious (and later solidified my curiosity by spending some time in the respective country). Take modern technology and all the fantastic resources one can find for free or very little money, and you can drown in an ocean of ways to learn.

But what is at the bottom of this? What lies beneath the hundreds of resources I’ve tried, the thousands of hours I’ve poured my heart and soul in and studied diligently.

Last night I had a thought. I was clicking onto a random YouTube video because I couldn’t figure from the title whether it was in Spanish or Portuguese – the latter which I’m still focusing on these days. And it turned out to be in Spanish. Even though it was not what I was expecting, I suddenly got this feeling of excitement. It was a feeling of familiarity. Hearing the sound made me genuinely happy. Truth be told, I didn’t understand most of it (it was a philosophical analysis of a song, in case you’re wondering), but I still felt connected to the sound and the person who spoke it.

Later that evening, I found some old Japanese notes. Whenever I look back at those, I usually feel all the pain and struggle I went through learning this language (it was the most’ painful process’ in language learning I had been through). I also remembered how I had friends with whom I could connect by speaking solely Japanese and how much I enjoyed it. It wasn’t only that I was proud to communicate in that language but also that I simply felt happy hearing and producing those sounds.

They sounded familiar.

And that’s the thought I had this morning again. The reason why I have endless motivation to work on a language is because of the emotions these languages bring up in me. When I hear them, they make me feel at home. And precisely because I feel “comfortable’ speaking and especially hearing these languages, I end up immersing myself more and more in them. That means that when I’m not in the respective country, I will find podcasts to listen to and YouTube videos and Netflix shows to watch. Often, this is only to hear that language again, to feel some sort of connection to it, even if I don’t understand what is said entirely.

My point is, I think if you genuinely want to learn a language, the sound of that language needs to start sounding familiar, as if it belongs into your life. When I first started learning Japanese, I struggled immensely, as to my ears, the sounds did not sound like a language, rather just some sort of ‘noise’. It was the first time I studied an Asian language, which was remarkably different from the Roman or Germanic languages and sounds I knew.

Once I had been in Japan for a while, it became normal for me to hear the language. I got excited once I was able to make out my first few words in the ocean of sounds that I seemed to be swimming through. One or two words per sentence were often enough for me to get the gist of the conversation and gave me the necessary push to keep going.

So how do you get there?

What do you do, especially now that traveling is either impossible or greatly limited?

Well back to the vast ocean of resources on the internet. There is no shortage these days regarding videos in any language. Podcasts are another great way to dive into the foreign sounds of another language.
And of course, music! Nothing gets me more excited about learning more Portuguese by putting on some good old Bossa Nova dancing through my apartment.

I have found that podcasts or videos made by native speakers, FOR native speakers, tend to create this feeling of excitement for the language and culture in me.

Podcasts or videos for language learners don’t convey the same feeling to me as they tackle my intellectual and logical side of my brain and not necessarily the one who just wants to indulge in the language. (That doesn’t mean that I don’t use them – just that they don’t trigger those good feelings for me as much.)

So if you’re learning a language and notice how you’re losing motivation, surround yourself with the language’s sound so much until you feel like it sounds so typical to you that you have no choice but figure out how to understand it. Once you return to your language learning practice, you will feel more energetic working on it, which will speed up your progress.

It doesn’t help if you have negative feelings towards a language because that won’t help you learn it. Try to find anything positive to associate with the language and go from there. Google the most popular songs in your favorite genre. Ask people to give you their recommendations (online and offline). Find a language tandem partner. Find a local group that speaks the language you’re learning. Be with the language and let it become a regular part of life to you.

I’ll soon post resources in each of the respective languages that I speak so that you can hopefully find something that motivates you along your journey! Keep going!

How I learned to embrace crying

Ok, so this post is about crying.

And the title is something I never thought I’d be able to say (let alone write about).

Not because I don’t cry. The opposite actually. I cry a lot. Of frustration, of anger, of emotional pain, of nostalgia, of joy and for no reason. I cry in front of people and by myself.

And I have always hated that about me.

I found myself weak, a cry-baby, too emotional. And I didn’t see any use in all my crying. After all, once I was done feeling (mostly) sorry for myself, nothing would have changed. My problem would still be there, life would still be the same. Why did I do this? Why was I making life so hard for myself? Why would I do something so unnecessary?

I had carried these questions with me for most of my life.

Society and dictionaries were giving me the feeling that crying belonged in the ‘negative action-category’ as well. Showing vulnerability and talking about crying aren’t regular conversation topics after all.

However, this year, I was confronted with this issue a lot in the open. I talked to people who wished they could cry more. And I remember staring at them in disbelief? Why would you want to do that?! Why would you want to seem so weak? Weren’t they happy they seemingly had life under control?

And then things changed. I was staying at a hippie volunteer placement. Imagine 25 travelers from all over the world put together in an old barn. Lots of emotions guaranteed. So I actually cried in front of people. It wasn’t my first time for sure but I slowly and through painful embarrassment, in the beginning, learned that it was OK. Because people weren’t judging me. They were mostly comforting and proud that things were spoken that others didn’t dare to speak and released through tears.

And despite many times when I didn’t feel relief at first, I slowly started to put my attention towards this. Really allowing myself to cry for emotional release. And then also stop, when it was enough instead of crying endlessly when I was younger, just because wailing in sorrow somehow felt comforting and easier than stopping.

These days I’m not asking myself the question ‘Why am I so weak and why am I crying so much” anymore. Rather I’m stating to myself

‘I need to release some trapped emotions, so hello tears, let’s wash them away‘. 

And this has been such a life-changer!! Why? Because now I can feel the power in my tears. And my crying is less ‘wailing in sorrow’ but more of a release just as when you stretch your muscles. 

Maybe you have experienced crying while exercising? It might just be me, but after a good yoga session, lying in Shavasana or a profound meditation, I can often feel that emotional release and it feels great.

My question to you is: Can you embrace your own crying? And acknowledge it. And know that a minute later you can and are allowed to smile if you feel like it 🙂

If you saw your 10-year-old self, what would you tell her?

This post is inspired by a journaling challenge I’m facilitating. I modified the original question a little, and the following words poured out into my journal.

Dear 10-year-old me,

You’re going to struggle to make friends in the future. Still, you’ll get back on track despite a long period of ‘solitude.’ This period will be crucial for your life – you’ll end up having more compassion for people. You will try to connect with people having as little judgment as possible, knowing that everyone needs friends.

Enjoy being a child because it will give you the purest joy, Don’t worry about the other kids your age trying to grow up as quickly as possible. You have a lifetime of adulthood ahead of you, and once you get there, finding inane, pure joy for no reason will be so much harder than it is now.

You might now know where you’re headed, but you’re preparing for life unknowingly. Your love for languages, dance, and music will accompany you, and your work ethic will be a wonderful tool for independence and growth in your adult life.

Be grateful for your parents – they might be ‘nagging’, and you might take their presence, love, and support for granted, yet life will teach you eventually that it’s not a given.

Be grateful for your sister – you might fight frequently and will continuously encounter conflict throughout life, but the bond you have will stay. No person will ever understand you better where you’re coming from because she’s been there all along. 

The people that you call your best friends now might leave you soon. This will be a bitter experience and something that will become a regular part of life. As much hurt as it will cause, as much of a reminder it will be to appreciate the moments you had and are having with those friends. Continue to keep them close to your heart because ‘miracles’ might happen, and they can come back into your life.

Don’t worry if you have no answer to the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ – it’s not a question you’ll find an easy answer to – try to live your life with integrity, and opportunities will open up for you. Be bold and take them!

And one last thing: Try finding a way to love yourself because you are the person you’ll be around in your life the longest.

Love,
Constanze

Journal prompts ‘loneliness’

The other night I was meeting with my women circle. These are some very close friends to me and with whom I can share anything on my mind. We meet up regularly to discuss a topic of life that we have explored ourselves already or would like to explore more, e.g. ‘inner child, gratitude, anger, connection…’ One of our most recent topics was loneliness. We all felt that this has become such a prevalent topic for many of us with the pandemic. And not only that, it is a part of everyone’s life, which people don’t seem to discuss much.


Our meeting brought up some eye-opening questions and thoughts that I wanted to share. Below are some journal prompts, which you can write about or simply ponder over. Maybe you have someone to discuss these questions. I hope they will bring you more clarity or insights.

  1. Do you enjoy your own company?
  2. If you don’t enjoy your own company, why is that? / Why does it happen in some moments? Do you feel more lonely then?
  3. When do you feel the most connected?
  4. Have you ever felt lonely in the presence of another person /other people? Why was that?
  5. Do you lack close relationships or social interactions in general?
  6. Do you feel a certain lack of something other than company when you feel lonely?
  7. Do you feel low self-esteem when you are lonely, and if yes, why is that?
  8. What sensation in your body or feeling do you have when you feel lonely? Can you locate it in your body? If yes, you can try and sit with the feeling (in meditation) and divert your breath to it. Let it pass through and see how that feels.
  9. Have you developed any bad habits to cover up your loneliness or distract you from it?
  10. What has loneliness taught you?
  11. Can you think about the word loneliness with a positive connotation?
  12. Can you find gratitude for loneliness?

I’m not a professional in this field, but I’ve spent a lot of time looking into this topic. Simply writing down your thoughts can feel healing and bring relief. These questions have personally helped me, and I hope they can add to your life in this ‘loneliness pandemic’.


Stay safe!

Community life – a travel diary

In South-America at a hippie community volunteer placement

5:45 am – somewhere in the far distant, the rattling of pots and pans starts arising. Hushed footsteps, some silent whisper. I pull my sleeping bag over my ears and toss over to the other side. One more hour to forget about the present world.


6:45 am – the faint melody of a Mac de Marco song is reaching into the depths of my light sleep. The volume is increasing. I sigh and get up, facing the cold air waiting for me outside my fortress of blankets and a sleeping bag. It’s almost winter, and the old barn with milk cartons’ isolating’ the cracks between the wooden planks are only doing the bare minimum of a job.
It’s still dark outside. I pull out my phone and light my way downstairs. Dozens of headlamps bobbing around are awaiting me. I stand in line to scoop some oatmeal and fruit into my bowl and sit down by the tables. The lack of light makes for a cozy atmosphere. I can hear people talking but am only able to see the traces of their faces. Slowly with the continuous breakfast chatter, the sun brings these faces into light. By the time breakfast is finished, the room is bathed in light, and you can clearly make out everyone you’ve been talking to for the past 30 minutes.


Morning circle!‘. The familiar call from downstairs. With neither excitement nor apprehension, we make our way to the very bottom of the barn. One facilitator is awaiting us. They are taking turns in guiding us through our morning activity. Grumpily joining, most of us will be glad they had by the end of it.
The music is playing. Our task is to get moving. Intuition is the key. We shadow others. We lead others. There is some giggling. Others seem entirely lost in their movements while still paying attention to not bumping into another. Eyes are crossed. Smiles are exchanged. We’re coming together as a group.


Eventually, we stop and stand in a circle. Announcements are called. Most of us are working in the woods, as usual. Some luckier ones managed to do an artistic ‘chore’ or are off and ‘only’ need to take care of the cooking.
Last but not least: love notes. The cheesiest names of them all. However, it is more of a way to voice appreciation to individuals in the group without saying that personally. Think about how often you would turn to a person and say, ‘I love how the energy you radiate. You make me feel comfortable and heard.’ or ‘When we hang out, I can feel the wisdom pouring out of you. Thank you for sharing it with me’. Thoughts that find their way into the world, reaching people who are nourished by them. Gratitude for the presence of each and every one. Some open statements are called out, directly straight at a particular person. ‘I liked how you guided last night’s activity. We felt well-supported. Thank you’. There are some hugs, as well as appreciative nods and smiles.


Let’s get going, everyone.’ We break into different groups, slip into our’ work boots,’ search for gloves, and whatever else we need. I am back on my regular shift, stacking pieces of wood onto a truck only to unload it at a different place and stack it in a beautiful stack again. This work is just as tedious as it is team-building. Creating a ‘human chain,’ tossing pieces of wood from one person to the next until they make it into a truck eventually established a rhythm that puts you into a state of flow with which you’re able to work through this for a few hours. Not being a mentally challenging task, we use our capacity to talk about life and its meaning. ‘What is the meaning of doing a task like this’ would be scratching the surface of our conversation topics. It helps time to pass.
Finally, we’re done with work and return to the barn. Like hungry wolves we’re attacking the food prepared by two of our group. As our home does not have electricity, we neither have a fridge nor an electric stove. Two people each are on lunch or dinner shift, taking about 4 hours to prep our meals. The food is vegan, made from vegetables and grains stored in our ‘bodega’, cooked on a wood stove.

People are exchanging conversations about their day. Some days I wish I’d have a computer’ job’, others I’m glad that I could be out in the fresh air, working together in a group.

In the afternoon, people group together to spend their time doing Acroyoga, going for a swim in the lake, practising the guitar, reading, blackberry hunting, or whatever else they can find to do that doesn’t require internet. Not having Wi-Fi sparks your creativity. I hardly miss it.

I’m going to do some laundry!’. Anyone needs their devices charged?’ Hands shoot up from all sides. Nobody wants to walk 20 minutes to plug their phone into a socket, and wait until it charges. (electricity and thus the laundry machine and sockets are found in a building 20-min away from our barn).
Luckily people try and help out each other as much as possible. They might even take your laundry down the hill and throw it in with yours.

Everyone else goes on with their day.
Someone asks if anyone wants to do some yoga. I grab a mat, and out we go into the grass.

Eventually, darkness hits, and the dinner bell rings. Hungry wolves are attacking the food as usual. People are talking about their day; others are finding some space for themselves. Having your own time is appreciated, and no one would see anything strange about it. Community is valued just as much, however. Everyone has a different balance between the two.
We clear our dishes and head to our evening activity. Wednesdays are sharing circle days. Many of us will join. We head over to the living room area and huddle together on the sofas and other ‘seatable’ objects. A solar ‘candle’ dimly lights up the room. Again, the dark swallows our exact faces. The anonymity yet proximity to the others feels soothing and protective.


The sharing begins. The first person picks up the ‘talking piece’. Shrouded in silence, they talk about what has been on their mind and what they wanted to let out. Nobody says a word. There is no need for comments or space for judgment. The aim is to free yourself, to put into words what has been hiding inside you. It can feel liberating. The mere presence of everyone gives you more support than any words could.
Hours later, the last words in the group subside. People start to disperse, but not before leaving some sign of encouragement to those who vulnerably shared their stories. Faint whispers in small groups linger here and there. I head to bed, back into the warmth of my sleeping bag. As I am lying there, light voices from downstairs reach my ears.

Somehow they don’t bother me, instead they give me the feeling of this ‘family’ that I have here. The open ears. The unspoken communication. The feeling of being a community.