Post-ERASMUS Travel: Darmstadt, Germany, May 2017

So the adventure continues. I’m back in a student WG (Wohngemeinschaft – shared apartment/flat) at the TU Darmstadt. But it’s not quite the same. I’m sharing with two others again, but there’s far less happening. Dortmund was a blast: there was constant stimulation: adrenalin and activity through constant events, especially in the first month. I don’t have that here though. There is a sense of a void.

I’m reflecting and thinking a lot more than I thought I would. OK there’s time to read and things, but is that why I’m here? There’s plenty to explore and see (I’m quite far from the centre, so have an idea of the place…also walked all the way from the nearest train station before discovering the local S-Bahn/tram system). Here though, it’s still a lot quieter. It feels almost like a bad sequel that can never live up to the original. I reminisce on the original reason I chose to do this: the great experiences and great people I’ve met. But they’re little more than memories now. It’s time to focus back on me, on the present. To build on it, to make something of it.

Some ideas do come to me, fortunately. Remember what it was all for. In what ways am I possibly “missing the point” somehow? There’s solace in what I’ve managed so far too. I’ve built a great network which is now a great asset and the great experience should develop a great spirit. I need to make sure it inspires more.

My travel is evolving. It’s no longer just about “seeing things”, “learning things”, getting a taste of different cultures. Past the standard menu of options (=”the touristy stuff”) there’s a real sense of more forging an attitude as I push beyond my current comfort zone. I guess this is encountered in all walks of life. It takes effort, will and desire to go further & progress to the next level. Can I muster this? Do I have it?

It’s clear: the only things that happen are things that I make happen. This is a different game now.

Something I first began to notice in Frankfurt, and then arranging the WG rental with the students: it was starting to feel a little forced. The conversations about travel, experience, language & culture, I’d already had several times before. Encounters and exchanges are becoming more predictable. I’m beginning to feel a bit jaded. If I want to change things up at all, that’s now my job.

I suppose you could say I’m now into “long-term travel”. It’s becoming more my regular life as opposed to an adventure or simple change of scenery. And it’s strange. Here and back home, yes, life still goes on. When you’re on the road for this length of time it’s still the same: I’ve had to deal with things like:

  • Illness.
  • Injuries.
  • People I knew fairly well have died.
  • Not to mention all other events over the past 1-2 years, provoking plenty thought and debate.

Here at Hochschulstadion, I’m not far from the SV Darmstadt 98 stadium (Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor), and I visit Luisenplatz and Schloss/Marktplatz on the same S-Bahn line. I’m lucky as I catch the end of a music festival, Schlossgrabenfest there. Albeit under strict security, which has definitely become tighter since 2015. I’m also near L’Orangerie, which makes a nice walk at any time of day.

That’s all I  really managed in Darmstadt – and I know I could have achieved far more. I conclude it’s up to me now. It’s been a while since I was last in Dortmund anyway, and I book a trip. I have friends there now, and should be able to stay with some for a few days. It’s also the DFB-Pokal (Deutscher Pokal – German Cup) final this weekend – and Borussia Dortmund (BVB) are playing. That can’t be missed.

Tools & Tips

Accommodation

For accommodation in Germany (and surrounding), I’ve had most success with WG-Gesucht. A thought-out cover message and long membership helps massively (showing you’re serious and not a spammer).

Others highly recommended, but I haven’t used are:

  • Immobilien Scout 24
  • Immowelt
  • Uniplaces
  • Social Media – Just search, for instance on Facebook, terms like “WG”, “Wohnung” or “Wohnungen” (“Gesucht” optional) and the city you’re looking in e.g. “WG & Wohnung Dortmund” – many groups number thousands of members.
  • Links from local ESN or equivalent.

General

When needing a bit of inspiration, productivity, or motivation I find the following helps:

  • (Google) Image Search or Pinterest quotes from your favourite books or writers. For example “Tony Robbins/Tim Ferriss/Jim Wendler quotes“. Some are more oriented towards training but there’s enough cross-over now. I’ve taken this further by creating this Pinterest board.
  • Quick exercise (personally – flutter kicks, press-ups, stretching, resistance band/weight work if available) or anything else you’re passionate about. It can be reading, writing, music, walking, going for coffee/eating with friends. Whatever inspires new ideas.

The idea is to help regain a sense of pushing towards a cause: either to boost momentum (while it lasts) or bring the underlying concepts rushing back in times of stasis and negativity (which there will be).

Random Takeaways

It’s feeling a bit more summery now with the festivals and celebrations. The people are happy enough, but I don’t know anywhere near as many as I did in Dortmund, seriously impacting my experience.

I’m starting to integrate and relate travel to other things in my life such as martial arts, the gym (lifting), training and language learning. Everything’s becoming more connected. My travel is transforming and morphing: into something else that takes motivation, dedication, commitment and sacrifice to pursue. To maintain this, I need to make it my passion now, not just part-time or a passing interest.

Books, how-to guides and stories that help are great, but one caveat: they’re always written in past tense. Whenever something inspires you, remember that before it was published, the writer themselves didn’t need the book to tell them what to do. In other words, it didn’t exist before they wrote it, including when they actually did what they talk about in the book. Essentially, they are writing in retrospect. What was important then was their spirit: something deep down within them that gave them the energy to get there by themselves. They had the openness to inquire, investigate, experiment. Only as they later reminisce and reflect, are they deconstructing and formalising what they did and how it was achieved.

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