2013, at a party, I told a guy I would love to travel again. But more importantly – I wanted to travel PERMANENTLY. He listened intently, nodded his head and said: “That sounds like you have thought this over quite thoroughly. But if that’s what you want, why don’t you just do it?”
My name is Carola. I was born in Berlin on a Sunday in April. I have two sisters, two nieces and seven tattoos. My job title for the longest time was project manager. My life title is traveler.
Society teaches us to seek long-term security. I, too, wanted to live a “normal” life: Find the one, have a career with a reliable income, own a pretty house and lock in a carefree retirement.
I enrolled in business studies, because I wanted a university degree, any university degree. I didn’t want to be stuck in my croupier job at a casino; watching people ruin their lives day-in and day-out.
Already before my 21st birthday I was very security conscious. I purchased my first retirement insurance as well as my first permanent disability insurance contract, not to mention general liability and legal costs. I was being a picture perfect German.
In my twenties, unless I could afford a good hotel and restaurant food, I would not go on vacation.
With a university diploma and foreign language secretary certificate I left my permanent job at the casino to join a temporary placement agency. My second deployment as an office assistant luckily turned into a permanent position. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the beginning of the end of my quest for “normal” secure life.
Working at campaigning organisation ONE was a dream come true. Here responsibilities were diverse and I was allowed to learn something new every day. I was involved in accounting, the internship programme, building the website, writing communications material, and much more. At least once a year I traveled with bona fide rock stars to exotic places. More importantly, I discovered my calling: project management. To boot I was using my skills to better the world.
All good. But sometimes good is not good enough. Unfortunately, after a few years a story about cat fighting, too much anger and wounded pride unfolded and sent me hunting for a new job. Upon leaving my boss suggested I take a break and go travel. But I would have nothing of it. I was sure I needed one thing above anything else: more security.
I soon found a job at a political consulting agency. I was over it that much sooner.
By now I had two more retirement insurance contracts, bought into a capital forming fund and had a fully paid 7 year mortgage savings plan. I also had €15,000 in savings.
I did what any sane person should do: I quit the job, I cashed out some of my contracts, and I bought a 55 liter backpack. I made a decision to travel Africa for six months.
About Africa I had heard a lot while at ONE.
Before Africa I still was incredibly scared.
After Africa I meant to finally pursue my “normal” structured life with a career, a family and a pretty house.
Once in Africa I learnt to put down my fear of the unknown future and my need for security. Now I put my trust in the moment. I bathed in rivers, jumped out of airplanes and off bridges, ate whatever was served on the roadside, rode on antiquated busses. A lot of times I got off in strange places not knowing where I would spend the night.
My six months travel plan morphed into ten months traveled. I had crossed the continent overland from North to South and back North: My Africa 360°. The money was spent, plus some. It was time to return home.
Back in Berlin I found a job at social enterprise Boxgirls. I paid my debts and started saving once more.
After a few months I had an epiphany: I had been asking the wrong questions! I realized I don’t want to be “normal” if that means to be like everyone else. Owning an apartment, having a steady job, securing a nest egg — all of that means nothing to me. I want happiness. And to find it I do not have to look at anybody else. I only have to listen to what my inner voice is saying: “Go and discover the world!”
So in March 2014 I set out on a walk across Europe. I was going to walk home, like, literally. Following a route that put the word “home” on the map I asked strangers for shelter and discovered the beauties of Germany and France.
6 months and 4,800km later, when I had finally reached Biarritz, I was still not done. Now pretty much broke (again), I looked into ways to make income while traveling or to simply swap my skills and capabilities for food and lodging.
So far things are working out: I make a little bit of money here and there, so I can give myself basic security in the form of health and a tiny retirement insurance, but I am also learning to occasionally treat myself to just being a tourist.
Now life is traveling. And traveling is my way of life.
Last updated in Siena (Italy), January 2016