On Leaving Berlin

 

I got dropped off on a late July night at around 10 pm along Autobahn 10, some 25 km south of Berlin. I picked up my 20 kilo backpack, strapped my guitar around my neck, and waved my Polish truck driver friend goodbye. I started making my way towards the closest S-Bahn station, and towards my first attempt at living as an expat.

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Hitchhiking is a fascinating social experiment that teaches us about ourselves in many ways: appearances, first impressions, natural fears, subconscious decision making process, etc. It gets you to meet people from wide variety of backgrounds: from the trucker to the wealthy businessman, from the young nose-pierced anarchist to the mustached father of two.

I started hitchhiking only recently, in a cross-Canada tour I did in the summer of 2010. And I find it fascinating to look at the social patterns that it bears. For example, in the 40 or so rides I’ve hitched lifetime, only 2 of them were women stopping to pick me up. The vast majority were men alone in their cars, most of them over the age of 35, most of them ex-hitchhikiers themselves. Couples won’t stop, but they’ll take you in every now and then if you ask them at gas stations. And cars with children won’t even look at you, understandably so I guess…

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Busking in Berlin

Have you ever had one of those ideas growing in you for a period of several months or even several years? They start off as a seed without you being aware, planted by some conversation you had or something you’ve seen. They grow slowly along with you, and you start seeing them as some silly adventure meant for some hobo out there. Then one day they hit you in the face and you fully recognize them in disbelief. (e.g. “I can’t believe I actually feel like trying this hitchhiking thing!”)

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Engineering is fun. Finding solutions to problems using science and technology as your main tools is something absolutely fascinating, creative and rewarding in many ways.

I was very excited about hitting the workplace after graduating in 2002, but somehow, things did not turn out the way I was expecting them to. I worked for seven years as an engineer, and each time I was starting a new job, the same pattern kept coming back. I was very excited about starting fresh but after a honeymoon phase of a few months, I was back at struggling to find motivation and it seemed the days at the office were getting longer and longer.

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“Education is not something you will find in books, Patrick.”

That’s what Uncle Jim told me on my parents front porch, as he was about to leave to the airport. And as any 14 year old would do in a similar situation, I nodded politely and said goodbye.

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