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In The Art of Travel, 14. Tips, Berlin by Ashley Jankowski2 Comments

Come to Berlin.

See what it lacks.

Monday morning waiting for the U-bahn; Rush hour. I look around.

Despite the start of the workday, the station isn’t crowded. Locals leisurely make their way to the platform. Sneakers. Jeans. Dogs. Flowers. The train arrives right on time. Doors open smoothly. No one pushes or shoves, yet we all manage to get on. I sit. Doors close. It is quiet. No one is wearing a tie. Everyone reads. Outside my window, green not grey; not a skyscraper in sight. Colorful buildings are dotted with cafes. Reclining patrons enjoy their first coffee and a cigarette. Swarms of bikers hum along their bike lanes, pedestrians patiently wait their turn on the corner. Neighbors walk their dogs, old friends embrace. Rush hour?

My two hands are full with books and phone and coffee. I am thinking about yesterday’s homework and today’s class and tomorrow’s presentation and next semester’s internship. I am walking faster than anyone else on the street.

“I don’t understand…what does anyone actually do here?”

It was my first week in Berlin; My ideas of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ were once so tied up in pressed suits and emails before 8am, my idea of success so dependent on the presence of a miserable weekly grind that presumably got you there. I did not believe that these unhurried masses desired to get anything done at all.

But Berliners do, in fact, do, and must, at the end of the day, be. And just a short time later, I found that I could join them, but only if I was willing to slow down and let go.

Berlin is the kind of place that makes you question everything you ever thought was necessary. Wearing heels. Honking your car horn. Ordering a venti. It just doesn’t happen here – and yet everything is functional. You are functional. You will get to work on time. You will get everything done, and done well. The pace and the stress, you will find, does not have to be a part of any of it.

Come to Berlin.

It isn’t a break from being a student. You still make a daily commute to school. The classes remain stimulating and challenging. But studying here makes you reevaluate how much of the stress you once felt was legitimate, and how much of it was self-constructed. New York City: the required air of confidence, the continuous chain of consumption, the external illusion of productivity and winning and achievements. Was any of it real? Did any of it actually amount to anything?

Come to Berlin.

Deconstruct your identity. Ask who and why you are. Meet new people who inspire you to change. Make connections across disciplines, generations, borders. Shift the direction of your major. Immerse yourself in questions much bigger than yourself. Be someone without having to be someone. Feel a spark from deep within you for the first time in years.

Come to Berlin.

Breathe in the emptiness of the sidewalks. Breathe out your many pressures. Let the newness of the city make you feel like a blank slate. Bask in the wide open spaces you find on the streets and in your heart. Find the nooks, find the spots.Then fill them. Witness the history. Listen to the echoes. Join their conversation. Discover what’s been hiding.

Come to Berlin.

I promise, you’ll transform into the person you’ve always wished you had the time to be – and still have time to pleasure read.

Come to Berlin.

See what it lacks, see what you become.

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Comments

  1. Hi Ashley,

    I love how you reconstructed the idea of working hard and being successful. Often times in NYC, the idea of work and success is complaining about how busy and stressed you are, and comparing that to everyone else’s business and stress levels. I like how it sounds like in Berlin, the city has it’s own breath and personality, and it just allows you to take up your own space and find your own way. I’ll definitely have to come back to Berlin!

  2. Ashley,

    I totally related to your sentiments on how your time in Berlin has changed your views of NYC. I, too, used to think that the city life was the only life worth living. The constant feeling of having something to do used to give me a sense of purpose, like it made me feel “legitimate” as you said. After my time in Prague, I made the same realizations as you- that there were other ways to live without the unnecessary stress of constant activity. I’m glad that your time in Berlin has taught you that and more about yourself. I also wanted to take the time to say that I’ve loved reading your posts all semester. You’re such an eloquent writer and I hope you have a great semester next year!

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