How do you find routine in long-term travel? It's made all the difference in my year so far in Berlin.

The joy of finding routine in long-term travel

I’m celebrating my four-month Berlin anniversary next week. That means I’m one-third of the way through my year of living as an expat. Although I suppose I did spend most of the first month and a half gallivanting around Europe and revisiting some other beloved homes.

Anyway, I’m settled now. I have a small circle of friends, including a few writers and bloggers. Sometimes I meet with Michelle and Manon at Mozzarella Bar in Mitte for burrata and wine. Last night we went to a book launch in a refurbished crematorium, followed by a late-night doner run and a cup of Turkish tea. The owner took note of Manon and me admiring the giant photo of Istanbul on the wall, and so he launched into a five-minute spiel about it (in German). All I understood was “a bridge five or six kilometres” and a few other words. But hey, it’s a start.

I have a supermarket just at the end of my street, Kaiser’s. I’m as familiar with its layout as I was with my Sobey’s back home. The stout and smiling man at the Kiosk around the corner is the only person I’ve managed to have a full German conversation with so far, mostly because I’m well versed in various types of alcohol (and polite greetings). I like that the M4 tram stops just outside my door, and that I can run across the street to the Bio Mart if I’m feeling particularly splurgy and need over-priced quinoa.

Basically, I have a life.

And often that life involves sitting on my couch all day, wrapped in my fleece polar bear onesie with an enormous cup of coffee, writing my little heart out (or, more accurately, wasting time on Facebook being offended). And as much as I absolutely crave, desire, and need new experiences to break me out of the norm, there’s an absolute rapturous joy in having an everyday routine.

I get up every morning, chug a glass of water, place the espresso maker on the burner, scroll through Instagram, pour a giant cup of coffee, read my book for an hour, and then get to work.

It makes me happy. I can’t live without routine.

Sometimes, in fact, I get annoyed when something comes up to break my routine. That’s a slippery slope. I don’t like having appointments, or midday dates, or events. I like having a small social circle. I like that I have a bank, and that my address is registered at the burgeramt. In other words, it feels an awfully lot like living in St. John’s.

Like I said, I have a life.

This is a different sort of travel for me. This will be the longest I’ll have ever spent in one place, other than home. Me and my writer friends talked about those small details we take note of when we’re settled in one place for awhile – the bakery with the Turkish breakfast, the baby I can always hear howling upstairs, the constant thrum of traffic at the intersection outside my apartment. And those details, to me, seem richer and fuller than any experience I’ve had quickly blowing through a destination and writing a “top ten” list about it. (Guilty.)

I haven’t been able to write about Berlin yet. Despite being here for four months and spending a good amount of time exploring, I still feel ill prepared for writing any sort of helpful guide about this massive, sprawling, complex city.

But I do finally feel like I’m part of a little community. Or, well, a big community. Something bigger than me. I have an odd sense of pride about blending in — I like that I don’t need to check Google Maps to get places anymore. The simplest things mean so much.

At my reading last night, Fatin Abbas talked about dealing with the confusing emotions of being thrilled and honoured to be a part of Berlin, but also the guilt about contributing to the city’s changing nature. I get that a lot – I can’t claim to be a Berliner, and perhaps I never will.

But if I can’t claim to be a Berliner, at least Berlin can claim me. And for now, it has.

  • November 27 2015

    I can so much relate to that. I started traveling only a year and a couple of months ago, starting to work a freelancer. Anyway I noticed quite quickly that I still need my routine. Even though from time to time I need to get out of it, generally I really need it.
    Since December I basically live in Mexico. I started to live in different places but settled down as I met a guy (of course :P) and I am happy to be here, get my online work done, have a base and a routine but am still able to travel to another country or as I do now visit my family for a month in Germany for Christmas. Thank you freedom. I couldn’t have been more thankful. But yes I’m definitely a person who needs her routine ;)
    Stef recently posted…Why walking is the best way to explore a city (PLUS GIVEAWAY)

    • December 01 2015

      Yes! I think having a home base is key. I like that I can have my apartment here in Germany but plan big trips across Europe throughout the year!

  • December 01 2015

    I feel like you’ve put into words exactly how I feel whenever I move somewhere new. It’s my favorite kind of travel – the one where you stick around for a while. I think it’s probably built my confidence over the years, knowing that I can move somewhere and make a life for myself there. Glad you’re enjoying Berlin and looking forward to reading about it when you’re ready to write :)
    Laura recently posted…Trying to Stand out in a Sea of Sameness

    • December 03 2015

      That’s definitely a huge part of it that I haven’t really considered — the confidence factor! I have a weirdly smug pride in being able to ride the Berlin rails at ease now, haha.

  • December 02 2015

    Lovely post, began my nomadic journey in Chiang Mai, Thailand this year and felt the same way you expressed in your post. I spent 6 months there and have moved on now, but for me, for a time, that was my life, I had friends, and my fave lunch spot, and I felt at home ☺.
    theaspiringdigitalnomad recently posted…10 Tips To Make Friends and Meet People as A Solo Traveler

    • December 03 2015

      I’ve heard similar stories about Chiang Mai! Seems to be a great little community over there.

  • December 14 2015

    So many things you said are the same way I feel. I spent 5 weeks in Budapest and began getting into a routine there. I didn’t want to leave because I had only begun my time there! Now I’m in Chiang Mai and have been here since Oct 18. I’ll be here until the end of Jan and am dreading leaving. I like my life here. Sometimes I do feel like I should be traveling around more and coming up with more posts, but we all travel in different ways.
    And your comment about getting offended on FB cracked me up! I have to stop myself from reading certain posts or I’ll be worked up all day!!!
    Sadie recently posted…Photo Friday: Kuang Si Falls

    • December 14 2015

      Hahahaha right??!! I had to stop following certain comment threads because I’d just get sucked in for the whole day.

      I always get worried about not visiting enough countries too. There are still SO many places I want to visit, but we have some time. I think there’s a special value in being able to settle for an extended time

  • March 19 2016

    And even when you don’t have a “Home home” stoping for a while help. I used to this know I hated rotineiro, and realized it’s not quite that. Also wrote about it a month ago when I stoped in Cali

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.