Why did you decide to move abroad?
I'm a military brat, so I grew up moving around a lot. I liked the idea of moving somewhere new on my own. I couldn't move abroad in college because I was an athlete and had to be on campus year-round. I couldn't move around early in my career because I was an attorney and only licensed to practice in one state. Even after I left law, my career wasn't international.
I quit my job in November 2016 to travel and launch my own business, in that order. While I was traveling, I realized that the time was right to take the jump and move abroad. I didn't have any furniture or lease or book club or boyfriend back home; I had set aside money for my business that I could draft off of; and I was an adult with salable professional skills, so I could find a way to make money.
At first I thought I'd move to Paris because my French is decent. Then I visited in Berlin. I fell in love with the weirdness of the city, the low cost of living, and the number of tall people wearing black. I found my people.
How did you spend your First Month Abroad?
I spent my first month getting my new life in order, but I won't bore you with the details of opening a German bank account. When it came to making friends, Girl Gone International, which has Facebook groups in many cities around the world, was invaluable. I also found a local supper club called Polish Thursday Dinners and started going to those alone, making friends with other diners once I got there. I signed up for a German class and met a few people that way too. The key was to join communities that met regularly, so I could build friendships based on multiple interactions without having to ask for people's contact information.
What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?
It's not hard.
I mean, living abroad has its challenges. But if the story you tell yourself is, "Oh my god, this is going to be so hard! I'll have no friends and I'll never find a job," then that's exactly what will happen. I made it a point to adjust my internal monologue whenever I started getting weepy. I would tell myself: I can do this. I will make friends. I will make money. I will grow.
And I have.
Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?
Tons. Let's just say I had no idea how uncomfortable I was being naked until I had so many opportunities to be naked in Berlin. I'm not sure this is the place to talk about sex clubs, but if readers are curious, I wrote about my sex club experience in my book, Let's Take Berlin.
What are your favorite activities in your new town?
Clubbing! Check out Resident Advisor for party listings. I still go to Polish Thursday Dinners and have become friends with the founder, who is badass. And I also love exploring Berlin's cocktail scene. Panama is my new favorite.
What advice would you give to tourists visiting your new home town?
Download Rick Steves' Berlin City Walk. He'll take you through all the must-see sites. On your own, visit the East Side Gallery and the Berlin Wall Memorial. Go to Prater Beer Garden, Dr. Pong, and K'Ups Gemusekebab--they're all within two blocks of each other. Check out Resident Advisor to plan the rest of your party route. Alternate beers with Club Mate when you go out. Don't get drunk. Do stay out until the sun rises.
What is the one MUST SEE?
You have to go clubbing in Berlin. It's unlike any other party experience in the world. It's hyper-permissive yet chill. It doesn't matter if you like house music. You will when you're here.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss being able to put my brain on autopilot. In D.C., I've memorized the metro map, I can recommend a good restaurant in any neighborhood, and I know exactly which friends to call for a wild night out or a quiet night in. In Berlin, everything takes a bit more thought. I have to plot out in advance how to get from Point A to B; I'm still learning where drug stores are, let alone restaurants; and I'm developing great friendships, but slowly.
Also, I miss chocolate chips, air conditioning, vanilla extract, brown sugar, and giant glasses of ice water.
I'll definitely stay in Berlin for the duration of my visa (one year). I'll renew my visa in the spring of 2018 because I'd like the option to stay longer. Whether I'll stay or go is anyone's guess. Six months ago I didn't know I'd move to Berlin, so I can't pretend to know where I'll want to be six months from now.