A story of how I moved to Berlin on my own to work as a UX/UI designer - moving
As I was telling on part 1 and part 2 of this story, on October 24th, 2017 I received an offer to relocate to Berlin and work as a UX/UI designer in a start-up. After a chaotic visa process, I had only one thing left to do, actually move.
Even though I had no idea when my visa would be approved and I would be able to travel, I started thinking about packing and moving right after I received the offer. It’s not every day that you move to another city, a lot less to another country on the other side of the ocean, so thinking about what I was going to take with me was quite important.
I am quite a light traveler, but this was no summer vacations and it would require some planning. I had one big suitcase (23Kg) only, so I bought a set of 3 (one carry on, one medium and one big).
And all my life would need to fit in it.
I started packing on the day I sent my degree recognition to the consulate. Mainly clothes, shoes and some personal and emotional items. Luckily I come from the south of Brazil, so I had nice and warm winter clothes. I also had to think that I would be going from a 30+ºC summer to a -5ºC (or less) winter. So my carry-on needed to be super flexible and I would need to travel with a lot of layers.
I probably unpacked and packed everything two or three times. I tried to make a mix of things, in case something happened to one of my bags. I didn’t want to lose all my winter clothes, or all my shoes at once. And of course, I did watch some videos on how to organize suitcases for longer trips. Putting scarfs and socks inside booths for an example is a very good strategy.
But this process didn’t involve only making things fit in my luggage. It also involved deciding what I was not taking with me, what I wanted to leave at my mother’s house, and what I wanted to throw away or donate. I used to do these cleaning sessions (very Mary Kondo of me) once a year, but this time I felt I needed to go a bit more radical.
It was a fun process going through some old things, like college projects, school books and other things I still had. It was also good for keeping myself busy while waiting for my Visa. In the end, I donated a lot of clothing and threw away a lot of old things I felt weren’t needed anymore. As I couldn’t carry everything, pretty much all the things I wanted to keep stayed at my mother’s house for the time being.
There was also my cats. I have two beautiful and sweet little cats, and I was not gonna take them with me. Not at that moment, at least. I needed to settle down first and make sure I adapted to my new country before risking bringing them along with me. I would never be irresponsible and put them on a 24h trip to uncertainty. Besides, the process is also very expensive. And I knew they would be well taken care of by my mother and brother. I still miss them, though.
Packing was challenging, but not as saying goodbye. I made a farewell party with my closest friends and scheduled coffees and lunches with people I haven’t seen in a while. As my visa got delayed I ended up enjoying one more month with everyone and I took advantage of that time as much as I could. Watching soccer games with my family, playing video-games, going to my previous company end-of-the-year party, going karaoke with my friends, dinner with my cousins and Christmas with my family, etc.
It was a great time and it reassured me that I was ready for this next phase in my life. I knew I would miss everyone, but I also knew they were happy for me and they would be there for whatever I needed. And that’s all I needed to know.
What I didn’t know is that some things that happened in that month would change my life in the next few months, again.
When I got the call from the embassy telling my Visa would be issued the next morning it all got real. It was in between Christmas and New Years’ eve, so I was a bit skeptical about having any feedback on that week, but it happened. I rebooked my flight for New Year’s Eve as it was the only day it wasn’t costing 3 times as much as I had already paid. That was in 3 days!
I also messaged my friends and scheduled a last happy hour for that same evening. That was a mix of emotions. I was gonna miss having them around all the time. I promised myself I would be strong during all the goodbyes, but that night on my uber back home I could not hold the tears.
The last two days I spent on packing and spending time with my family and my cats. As I knew it wasn’t easy for my mom, I held it strong and kept my anxiety for myself. It was not easy at all!
Saturday night a friend messaged me by surprise and it messed with me. He wasn’t just a simple friend, but for the sake of us both, it couldn’t be anything else. But it was. And we both knew.
Sunday morning I woke up early, finished packing and went to the airport with my family. My original plan was to take a 2 flight trip, but with all the problems I had to book a 3 flight trip. I had taken 10 flights in my entire life, all of them of about 1 and a half hours. I had no idea how I would react to 3 flights in a row, a lot less an 11-hour flight!
On my way to bag drop, more messages arrived. A confirmation of everything I felt and knew. Trough text messages I had company during all the next steps of my trip. It was quite comforting, and it was just the beginning of another story.
I don’t like goodbyes, I’m terrible at them, so I always keep them short and simple. And it’s what I did. I said goodbye to my family and went ahead to the boarding gate.
My first flight was very smooth, and I had 4 hours of waiting time in Brazilia before boarding to Lisbon. It was 35ºC in the city and my blood pressure went super down while waiting at the airport. Probably a mild anxiety attack. Luckily I know how to deal with that and a bottle of water and salt helped. Later in the boarding area, there was air conditioning, so I felt immediately better. Texting kept my heart and mind calm and occupied as well.
My flight to Lisbon got delayed in about half an hour, due to boarding being so disorganized. I had only 1h in between flights in Lisbon and I started fearing for my connection. The flight went very smooth, I didn’t sleep well, but it was ok. The funny part is that after dinner I went to the toilet. And as I was washing my hands the pilot announces that we were switching time zones and it was a new year. Yes, I began 2018 in the toilet of an airplane!
We arrived in Lisbon earlier and I ran out of the plane and got to the biggest line I have ever seen in my entire life. Honestly, I believe there were more than a thousand people in the immigration line that day. It was taking forever to go through. When they finally let me cut the line due to my flight being boarding it was already too late, the gates were closed. And I wasn’t the only one.
And that’s how my 2 flights trip became a 4 flights trip. The next flight to Berlin was already full so they sent me to Zurich to get another flight. And that’s how I ended up in Switzerland for a few hours and got to see the mountains!
I was just so focused on moving that I just didn’t care. I wasn’t gonna let a missed plane ruin my moving day. I bought Pastel de Nata at the airport in Lisbon and waited for the next flight. It was quite empty and shacked the entire time, but I was so tired I slept. In Zurich, I walked all over the airport, bought the first keychain of what would become a collection in the future, ate Swiss chocolate and called my family. I was exhausted, but happy to be living the dream.
Around 5 pm on January 1st, I finally got to Berlin. But my bags didn’t. Mine and of another 5 Brazilians who made the same trip I did. We all went together to claim our luggage and I’m forever grateful for their help as all the bureaucracy was in German. I could even say this was a bit of good luck as my bags were delivered to the hotel the next day and I didn’t have to carry all of them on my own, haha.
It was about 0ºC, raining and dark. I took a cab and went to my hotel. I was tired and all I wanted was to sleep. I called my family, took a shower, ate the rest of the Pastel de Nata I had with me and passed out. The next morning I woke up early, googled how to go to the office and went out.
It was cold outside, but I was so excited to begin the new life I didn’t even notice.