Stylized graphic of a yellow VW bus driving on a road

Further and further Photo: Sven Krieger/Auto Bild/ullstein bild, Editing: taz

Traveling as a digital nomad? For our author, first a pure concept of survival, then a consciously chosen daily life.

TOOn a Thursday in February 2023, I write a message to Thi. “Where do you live again?” Thi and I know each other from Uppsala. Since we both travel a lot, we shared an eight-square-meter room there for a few months. Mattress on the left, mattress on the right, desk in the middle. We last saw each other in Cappadocia. Thi is now studying in Italy. “In Piacenza,” she answers. I open Google Maps: 525 kilometers away. Not far. A one day tour. I say goodbye to my grandparents, sit in my yellow truck and start the engine.

Driving from southern Germany to northern Italy is not an exception for me, but everyday life. I have been traveling constantly for more than two years. In 2023, I was in more than 60 places, sometimes a dozen a month. I was in Germany, Sweden, Finland, Italy and Switzerland. I slept in the van, with friends and strangers on the couch, in Airbnbs and hotels, on trains and at the airport, and once on the office couch. Why am I doing this to myself? Because staying still is not good for me. Because then the thoughts become too loud… and too dark.

When I arrive in Piacenza it is a bright and sunny day, 20 degrees. I park the truck and go to Este GT, she comes out to the balcony, we look at each other and laugh. Then we hugged each other for a long time. Although reunions provoke strong emotions in me, goodbyes no longer do. I have become accustomed to my friends being dispersed throughout Europe: a phone call away, a flight away, or a few hours' drive away.

In the coming days we will find a common rhythm. When Thi has to go to university, I drive her, park near her, and write on my master's dissertation. At night she cooks carbonara. On my work days I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop and a cigarette. Once we drive south, we will visit the Saturnia hot springs and sleep in the car by the sea. I don't live here, but I don't feel like a tourist either. The perfect mix for someone who doesn't have that place where they feel at home. I also enjoy diving into a different reality of life for a while and looking: What do I want, what don't I want, what might I want?

Movement that leads to rest.

In the past I did not question the classical model of life. At the end of 2019 I still live with my partner in Berlin, in an old apartment among vintage and Ikea furniture. Then we argued more and more often. Shortly before the pandemic begins, the relationship ends. Although I quickly find a room in a shared apartment, I cannot find peace or tranquility. My thoughts are racing. Dealing with separation, the lack of a stable family, the fear of poverty and not being able to cope with studies, the doubts: I feel as if the walls of my room are crushing me.

I'm getting quieter and quieter. He cries more and more frequently. He smokes more and more. Call 116 117 and have them refer me to a clinic. I stay there for three weeks. Talking to other depressed people stabilizes me; I feel understood and less alone. Between individual and group sessions, occupational therapy and exercise, I stop wondering if I want to continue living and decide to plan a trip. I want distance. About Berlin, about the things and places that allow all thoughts to fall on me uncontrollably. I want to decide for myself when and with whom I talk about my memories and when I just spend a carefree day.

Some people ask me if I don't feel alone, without a fixed center of life. But being alone is a choice I can consciously make.

I book a train to Sweden. I want to stay three weeks and I will stay five because I keep finding people on the Couchsurfing platform who welcome me and give me an idea of ​​their daily life. My definition of the possible is growing. I laugh more often again. I return to Berlin full of energy and after two weeks I notice that depression pushes me back to bed and to devaluing myself. So I set off again.

Since then I know that my head only calms down when I move. And: Security is an illusion, but freedom is real.

In Germany I see a VW T5, an old post office bus, in the eBay classifieds. 177,000 kilometers on the clock, dents, rust, transmissions. The car salesman and I know that he would sell the car for more. But he accepts the 3,000 euros because I tell him about my future plans and my past. Starting in May 2021, I will be traveling almost constantly.

View from a car window of a summer lake landscape

Summer 2023: on one of the many trips around Sweden Photo: private

I'm touring Sweden and northern Norway, visiting family in southern Germany, driving to Spain via France in December 2022 and back to Sweden on New Year's Day, where I'm still renting the eight-metre room squares he shared with Thi. my anchor, which I will release at the end of 2023 to be completely independent, or as I call it: homeless. Most of the time I sleep with the people I visit; sometimes in the van, sometimes in the hostel or on Airbnb. The speedometer now reads 234,000 kilometers.

In March 2023 we will go to Berlin, first to the scholarship selection conference and then to the taz office. I'll take the sleeping bag. If I'm ever there, I'll spend the night. A colleague told me that the sofa on the fourth floor is the coziest. Before I close my eyes, I see the lights of Friedrichstrasse dancing across the glass walls. At 7 in the morning I look at the sleeping city from the rooftop terrace, drink iced coffee from the supermarket and eat a croissant.

Little adventures like this remind me that I am capable of creating beautiful moments. And when I set challenges for myself, overcoming them doesn't feel like pressure, but rather self-determination.

international circle of friends

Berlin, Stuttgart, Stockholm, Sundsvall, Uppsala. Now it's April and I'm supposed to be writing my master's thesis, but my head isn't cooperating. I'm restless again. I can't trust just one context or group. I didn't learn that. Between my mother's teenage pregnancy and my parents' divorce and alcohol problems, I didn't develop a sense of home and belonging as a child. I find it easier to connect with different people in different places than to stay somewhere permanently. So I go to Berlin, Södertälje and Lüneburg and visit Anna-Lena, Shashank and Krzysiek.

Although reunions provoke strong emotions in me, goodbyes no longer do. I've gotten used to my friends being scattered across Europe.

Since I've been traveling, my circle of friends has become quite international. Sometimes people ask me if I don't feel alone, without a fixed center of life. But I would feel lonelier if I was in one place and my friends often didn't have time and I didn't get new input on a regular basis. If you're the one who's only there sometimes, people are more likely to take their time. Y: Being alone is a choice I sometimes make. Loneliness is a feeling.

I am finally writing my master's thesis in Uppsala. I lock myself in so the pages can be filled. In mid-July I will deliver it and I will have a mobile phone again, for free.

“Never wait to do things until the circumstances are optimal. “They never will be.” I heard this quote on a podcast when I was thinking about where to go next October. I think about the coolant tank and the pink liquid I've had to constantly refill for weeks. The sensible decision would be to repair the leak. But when I do that, I get tied to one place for a few days or weeks. And I don't want that now, because in two weeks I'll be in Stockholm with an internship at the newspaper. Dagens ETC. Anyway I have to reduce my spontaneous trips.

This text comes from Laborable day. Our left-wing weekly! Every week, wochentaz is about the world as it is and as it could be. A left-wing weekly with a voice, attitude and a special vision of the world. New every Saturday on newsstands and of course by subscription.

I spontaneously book a ferry to Turku. Finland! I've never been there before, the coolant is leaking, I have no plan where I'm going to sleep and I have to work in five days. Come on. Since the north of Sweden seems beautiful to me, my destination is Rovaniemi, in the Arctic Circle. Where Santa Claus lives and a Finnish photography student I met in Norway two years ago. At that time he told me that I could stay with him when I was in Finland. I ask via Instagram if I can show up for two days. He says yes.

Sometimes I am surprised by how naturally people let me sleep with them. Gratitude runs through these moments. I return the favor by inviting my hosts to dinner, paying for groceries, or going to the movies together. Or take it on short van trips. From time to time I bring sweets from the country I was in before. On the other hand, I just don't like cooking, but I like cleaning, taking out the trash, and watering the flowers. Sometimes there is no return. Then it's just time spent, conversations and new memories.

A yellow VW bus in a spring landscape

December 2022: stopover in France on the way to Spain Photo: private

A Canadian footballer in Turku, a Japanese architect in Tampere and an Indian engineer in Kokkola also let me sleep on their sofas. I rent Airbnbs in Kannus and Oulu for work. The streets are frozen. My all-weather tires don't stop immediately when I brake. Back in Sweden, I spend the night at a gas station when it's minus 4 degrees. Traveling the 852 kilometers to Stockholm in one go was too ambitious a goal. Shortly before arriving at the gas station, I turn the heating on to maximum power so that I can sleep warmly in the van even without additional heating. When I wake up it's very cold.

In November I usually sleep in the same place. my time in Dagens ETC has started. Almost every day I travel 40 minutes by subway to the editorial office and write texts. But the more often I return to the same apartment at night, the more overwhelming it becomes. It seems as if over time I forget that I can leave at any time if I don't like somewhere.

So I escape for a weekend by taking the night train 1,300 kilometers north. 16 hours of driving, the vision becomes increasingly whiter, the inner tension decreases. Four hours of walking in the national park. I'm alone, enjoy it. Then 16 hours ago.

What I've learned now: If you don't have a permanent bed and a permanent living space, you can't hide in it. That's why I never really feel homeless, but rather safe in uncertainty.

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