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Where I Came From and Why I Left

a month with a&a

Whenever I meet a new person, one who knows nothing about me, there are the usual questions such as “What do you do?” and “How did you learn German?” and “How long have you lived here?” But then comes the “Where are you from?” question, and once I answer with “California,” then it’s inevitably followed up with “But WHY did you move to GERMANY?”

And I admit it: though California isn’t exactly like in the movies (it’s not all surf, sand, and sun), it’s still an amazing place to live in and to be from. One of the things I love the most about my home state is how diverse it is. Because it’s so large, it has a little bit of everything: the oceans, the mountains, the desert, the valley…

Green Rows

Where I come from is a city called Santa Rosa. Located about an hour north of San Francisco, smack in the middle of the wine country, it’s the fifth largest city in the Bay Area, but with a population of less than 200,000, it’s still relatively small. The location is ideal and idyllic, being that it’s close to the coast, close to the wineries, and close to the mountains and redwood trees. It’s also famous for being home to people like Charles Schulz, Deep Throat, Natalie Wood, Guy Fieri, Levi Leipheimer, Luther Burbank, and many others.

via Scott Beale / Laughing Squid
via Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

I wasn’t born in Santa Rosa, so describing it as my hometown is a bit loose, as I moved there when I was 14. But I feel connected to the city in a way that I never was to my birthplace, because it’s where I grew into myself and developed as a person. The environment helped to shape who I am and how I look at the world, and it also provided me with a handful of lifelong friendships.

So why did I come to Germany? Well, it was for love, but not the kind of love that you think. I fell in love with a city.

k&k in berlin

I often tell people that my ending up in Berlin was a matter of the right place at the right time. Halfway into 2008, my life fell apart. And part of the process of picking up the pieces involved a trip to Germany in 2009, which ended up being a trip that would change my life (though, as is the case with a lot of turning points in life, I didn’t know it at the time). Thinking back, I could have ended up anywhere, but Berlin just happened to be the place I wanted to be at the time when I most needed to be not in California.

k&k in berlin

When I meet other people who have moved to Berlin like I have, or people who love the city as much as I do, there’s no need to explain why I’m here. We all kind of get it—though the circumstances are different, the reasons are often similar. Which places the emphasis on why I left.

And the answer is multifaceted. There are the philosophical or introspective answers: I left to start off with a clean slate. I left to escape my past. There are the whimsical answers: I left because I wanted to live somewhere new and travel the world. I left because I wanted to meet a German and have half-German babies together. There are the practical answers: I left because of the rising cost of living and the lack of jobs. I left because I wanted to immerse myself in a new language and culture. And all of the above are true.

k&k in berlin

So, it’s not a neat, packaged answer as to how I ended up where I am, and the route from Point A to Point B was extremely messy and long. But even so, I am grateful that my path led me here.

Travel Tuesday

  • I always get surprised looks when I tell people I moved from LA to live in Italy (other women who I’ve met here in italy, also via LA get it haha).

    • I guess the grass is always greener… 😉

  • We fall in love with a city and just have to go back, it happens. Even if it is from California to Berlin.

    • Yes, though there are plenty of cities I’ve “fallen” for that are more flings, as I would never want to live there… just visit time and time again 🙂

  • I get the “why did you move HERE” phrases as well, but I’m not totally in love with my city, just the boy who lived here 🙂 It’s amazing that you love where you live, and I think sometimes when you go somewhere, you can just picture yourself living there. It’s awesome you made it happen.

    • Well, I do love the notion of uprooting your life and moving somewhere new for a person you love. I think there are pros and cons to both sides of the story!

  • This is such a great and interesting story. Thanks for sharing!

    • Of course! Thanks for reading 😉

  • Yeah- if you say you’re from NY or CA people look at you like you’re crazy for moving away! I didn’t know you were from Santa Rosa… although I’ve never been there, this city had been on my “I should probably live here” list for several years. I think it’s because I lived in SF as a toddler, but thinking about CA always brings up really homey cozy feelings 🙂 I don’t hear good things about cost of living and unemployment though, as you mentioned.

    • Yeah, Santa Rosa is pretty awesome. There’s the small town feel of it, but it still is pretty big and diverse, and close to lots of culture (the ocean, the vineyards, the mountains, SF)…

  • Aw I think locals will always think stuff like that – like ‘why would you come to my little bit of country when your bit of country sounds even more awesome?’ but I totally get it! I studied abroad in Berlin – and despite not being able to catch on to German correctly – it’s still one of my favourite places in Europe and I’d move there in a heartbeat! 🙂

    • It’s interesting to me that people have these questions about Berlin though, as it’s a city that a lot of people move to or visit, and that even the locals don’t want to leave. I guess it’s the “San Francisco” answer that gets a lot of people, since it’s such an idealized place in the movies. Though I am not from there, it’s the closest major city to my hometown, so it’s the answer I give to most people.

  • Really enjoyed reading your post 🙂 I especially like that you fell in love with Berlin as I totally understand why. I visited for the first time last year and loved it so much, I could definitely see myself living there!

    • Thanks! It is such a cool city, though I am always surprised when people visit and find it dirty or boring or too big. But then again, it’s a good thing it’s not for everyone or it would get even more crowded very quickly…

  • Can totally relate to so many things in your post! We’re Californians in Paris, and people think we are NUTS. We love it! I’m “from” Chico, but moved there when I was 13, so I get that, too. I have yet to visit Berlin, but my husband went for a weekend this year, and LOVED it…which means we may end up there eventually, too! California is great, but Europe is…well, we live here, so we get it. 🙂

    • Oh Chico, party town, haha. I’ve been there a few times; love the small town college vibe. But PARIS. It’s Paris. And it’s Europe. I think that even though California is great in a lot of respects, the lifestyle is a major differentiating point. People are much more relaxed here, much more about enjoying their lives… and that’s definitely part of the appeal for me.

    • YES, absolutely! The work-life balance in Europe has a nice impact on the quality of life. I think the biggest factor for us is that the jobs we do here (sports that pay our rent and tutoring English to foreigners…which is WAY easier than “real” English tutoring) literally do not exist for us in America. And we LOVE these jobs! 🙂

  • Love this! Is it ever a neat & packaged answer? All that matters is that you’re currently in a place you love! I get faces all the time when I say I’m from New York and I left. EVERYONE wants to go, has been, or has plans to go to NY. Hey, you always long for what you don’t have right?

    • Oh I bet you get that tons. San Francisco is special but NEW YORK IS NEW YORK. Haha. Even the people I know who have no interest in the US are like “well, except New York.” We were there in December and even the New Yorkers were like “this is the best city on earth,” which I thought was pretty hilarious. I wonder if there’s ever a place you can go where people don’t question why you’re there….

  • Then it says, ‘I will go back to my home that I left. … Then it says, ‘I shall return to my house from where I came out’, and it goes finding that it is empty, swept and away.