The Cologne House Hunt

If I have only one complaint two complaints about Cologne, it’s that people smoke way too much, and the housing market is a complete nightmare. In no other country I’ve moved to have I felt the possiblity of being homeless so keenly!

To spare you the drama, let me just say that I’ve already been lucky enough to find a lovely house right in the middle of old town. Cobblestone streets, old buildings, reading nooks, live sports showings, birds, the river … I can’t really complain!

But getting here has been one psychological nightmare ride full of sleepless nights and anxiety ridden tears. It’s not just the housing market here is so limited or that most houses have been repurposed for students who have no desire to host couples, it’s also that scammers thrive in this situation.

I was approached by many of these with lovely photos of stunningly furnished houses for such reasonable prices you can’t help but respond. If I wasn’t so good at rooting out catfishers (it was literally my job for a while), I’d be a few thousand Euros poorer.

The approach was quite creative. They’d say they were European and had only just bought and furnished the house, but that they’d gotten an unpassable opportunity abroad. So they thought of renting their house out through AirBnb. However, if someone is interested in it long term, they could also do it through the same way.

Now, if you’re deseperate for a house and hear the words AirBnb, you automatically trust that this is legit. But if you’re someone who actually uses airbnb, you suddenly start to smell something dodgy!

I also came across a second scam where they ask you to transfer money through western union. Apparently bank statements are not legit proof you have enough money to pay for a house.

When I asked why a money transfer, this is what they said.

While I hope that no innocent house seeker buys into these thinly veiled scams, it definitely made good conversation starters. And for that, I’m grateful.

Hello From Deutschland

A winter sunset in Köln

I have been keeping my move under wraps for many months – partly so as not to jinx it, and partly because I was so sure I would fail. But it has happened, and I am here.

My work situation had become unbearable, and while Bangkok was great and I loved that big city, it became quickly apparent that what both of us were looking for was a bit more stability. I never thought I’d be the one to say it, seeing as I moved countries every 2 years previously. However, it just struck me that there is more to life than being a slave to a corporate during my young and best years.

The result is this gamble.

I don’t really have a job, I’m not really a student, and I can’t really tell what the next year will look like. But, I am free from a job that affected my mental and physical health, I am closer to my partner’s family, and closer to my niece, the apple of my eye.

And while winter like this is something to get used to, I am now in a unique position to consider extraordinary what most people in the blogosphere consider normal. It’s interesting to watch people’s reactions when I call something regular “exotic”.

Like this warm reception I received when I first landed here.

For those who often look at social media feeds and wonder at the big adventure that is my life, I have this to say – it isn’t. It’s gut-wrenching and soul-crushing, you don’t really get to see the blood, sweat and tears that go behind a big move. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fairy-tale like. I have had to take big risks and giant leaps. But if there’s one piece of unsolicited advice I can give you, it is this – take those risks.  You will look back on those gambles as the best times in your life.

Reflecting on a year of gratitude and self care

Some food for thought on self-care in 2018! Take care of you!

From Outside The Mall

At the beginning of 2017, I had not made any resolutions. In fact, a resolution kind of followed me and made me adhere to it! I began to maintain a daily gratitude journal simply because my soul was begging me to. I’d say I wrote regularly for almost 7-8 months. You can read about it here – “800 Positive Things in My Life”.

Another idea took root at the same time. I wanted to take care of me. So began my year of self-care. The year saw me go to physiotherapy, osteopath, massage therapy, women’s support group and a therapist. I also was regular with my yoga and daily walks after meals. My body had never looked and felt better! However, as the year passed, I began to go through a lot of stress in my professional life. I won’t go into the details, but in the end, I decided…

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N-N-1 October 31, 2017

This has been my favourite N-N-1 to date! Anyone up for a Christmas one?

The View from a Drawbridge

This was a fun post to write, because it took a village. In an atmosphere of increasing divisiveness, people from all walks of life, from all over the world, got together to do one thing: Take a photograph at 6 pm (their time zone) on the 31st of October. If you’re mathematically inclined, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (because those numbers should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time. These photos were sent to me, along with 50-100 words about them, so that we could share them all with you.

What I love most about this project is that we are all seeing different things at the same point in time. The world is so varied and nuanced, as are our lives, and yet we are all part of the human race. Thirteen responses…

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Flipping The Narrative

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I know I have waxed ad nauseum about how much I despise corporate life, and how desperate I have been for a change of scene. To everyone who would hear me, I have ranted about my unfortunate passport and the lack of opportunities being awarded to me because of it. And then Spotify came to Bangkok. How is this relevant?

I have been listening to a LOT of music because of it. Music I wouldn’t have even bothered listening to during those Spotify-without-VPN days. And in listening to all sorts of music, I realised that we have become so conditioned to find the negative in everything. This is our first reaction.

“Have you heard the new Harry Styles album?”, “EWWWWWWWWW, no way!”

“Have you had the new 7/11 draught beer?”, “Erm, I’m not insane”

We dismiss new experiences because it says on the internet that it’s shit. Reviews on the internet are king! Doing what’s popular is the norm.

And I discovered all this while listening to a song I wouldn’t listen to. Crazy, right?

I had the revelation that rather than moping and whining about how everything is horrible, how the world is awful, how life has set you up for failure, etc, I would focus on trying, on being proactive, of taking crazy gambles that may not work out. After all, there might be something you’d fall in love with when you do. You might find home.

These startling motivational quotes provided to me by my brain in conjunction with a popular music streaming app has now helped me look at things differently.

  1. I work in a country many people are trying to get into desperately. I’m already here, and I’ve made it.
  2. My passport is not the best, but it opens way more doors than a lot of my friends who happen to be born in places Mr Trump wouldn’t be able to place on a map.
  3. I have a family who loves and supports me no matter what crazy decisions I make (and trust me, I make some insane ones)
  4. I have friends who root for me when I need a boost, who tell me how it is when I need a dose of truth, who send me music to soothe my soul, and funny videos of late night talk show hosts when I need to rage and laugh at the same time.
  5. As much as I hate the politics of my workplace, I get paid to do what I’m good at doing. My parents have had to struggle their whole lives, and they still don’t get as many work benefits as I have been getting.
  6. I live and work in a foreign country – it helps me stay out of my comfort zone and discover something new and exciting every day.
  7. I am able to go on long holidays, and thanks to technology, able to connect to my niece every single day if I need to.
  8. The world is f&^ed up, but I am surrounded by good people both in person and on the interwebs. Your heart, your drive, your energy, your passion, your goodness – it drives me.
  9. I live in a world where I can cuddle with all sorts of animals, and deal with my allergies thanks to the wonder of science.
  10. I am a woman who can vote, save, earn big bucks, spend them all on movie tickets and useless stuff I don’t need, I am able to wear what I want, I am able to have my voice heard.

Life is good. All you have to do is flip the narrative and focus on everything that you have going for you. Listen without bias, and you just may discover joy.