2023 Travelogue: Back to Berlin

I spent the holidays back home (Charlottesville) before heading home (Berlin), renewed once again my the energy I had while back in Virginia. IAD 🛫 BRU 🛬 BER

Home’s a funny word, and I’ve never known really where home home is. I moved around a bit when I grew up: five years here, five years there, another town for high school; university, recovering from a health crisis, finally a career. For a while, I called Connecticut my home. Certainly its the state I knew the best. I drove a lot, I knew those roads. When I was recovering from my thyroid issue, I played a lot of World of Warcraft. But on Sunday mornings, I would get in my car, get a cup of Dunkin' coffee, and drive randomly around the state.

I spent ten years in Virginia before moving to Berlin and never developed that intimacy for the state. I was home last August, and I went for a run. After ten years of owning my house, I discovered that the next road over wasn’t a dead-end. There was simply never any reason to go down it. Charlottesville never felt like home until I had to fight for it. Then it became my hometown.

Berlin is a home now, too, and I recognize the privilege of being rich enough to have two homes (though I rent in Berlin), and I try not to squander that. I’m able to work some days a year from Virginia; I try to take the most advantage of this that I can. But to do so that means I have to make the increasingly difficult trip back across the ocean each winter.

I left Charlottesville for my safety but also for my mental health. The city, the trauma, drained me, and every time I left the city for work, I found myself invigorated. The same keeps holding true. When I’m home, I’m working on projects around the house, reading books, and partaking in hobbies. Most work on this website that I do, I do while home for the holidays. This year, I replaced our kitchen faucet, and in a classic software engineer yakshave, that meant resealing and buffing the counters, fixing the kitchen caulk, and repainting the trim. The results ain’t half bad.

Kitchen counter before

Kitchen counter after, with a pro-style copper faucet and less clutter

I also built a scale model of my first car that I’ve had for years. I’m not so good working with my hands, so it didn’t come out great, but honestly, the real car wasn’t great. What is a model if not a faithful reproduction of the original.

A scale model of a white 1980s BMW, hood open

In 2022, I wrote about how there’s a time for builders and a time for breakers, and how I want to spend more time being more of a builder than a breaker. I think that having life in two places is forcing me to focus on that building: building my relationships, building my home, and building myself.

Heading back to Berlin, I was grateful that the trip was seamless and fast. Under seven hours, Dulles to Brussels, a short layover, and another 90 minutes to Berlin. No lost luggage, and no delays. I’m pleasantly surprised at some of the improvements at Dulles. The millimeter wave baggage scanners are a game-changer.

The Berlin, airport, is world-class awful. After such a long wait, it’s sad to see how little they have their shit together. As you walk out of the baggage claim, there are lots of signs about how licensed taxi drivers will not approach you in the airport. Yet as you step out of the customs zone, you are absolutely accosted by unlicensed taxis. Outside the airport, the drivers swarm the taxi rank. I had a hard time finding the actual usher to get a real, licensed taxi. Tip for the first-timers: licensed taxis get transponders, so they can enter the taxi lane at the airport. The unlicensed taxis will make you cross to the rideshare lot. Don’t take an unlicensed taxi. They will rip you off.

Better yet, take the FEX or the Regiobahn. Alas, my luggage was too heavy and the redeye is ever more brutal, so I opted for the climate crime option. Add it to my ledger.

A large sign that says “Beers & Cheers”

Back to Berlin means back to work, and my company has a new office that opened at the end of last year. 2023 seems to be a year of new starts, and although I spent the holiday break more than a little grumpy about my workload, I figured that if I’m going to manage life across continents, I need to get a lot better at time management. So, at risk of sounding like I’m making a New Year’s Resolution, I’m trying new techniques for calendar management, and so far it’s working nicely.

Maybe the year won’t be so bad.

Posted: 18.01.2023

Built: 22.05.2024

Updated: 24.04.2023

Hash: 15f76a6

Words: 796

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes