10 Years Ago Cheryl Moved To Germany Alone, Unemployed, & Without Knowing The Language: It Was Her Best Decision Ever!
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GAFFL connects solo travelers from with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time with you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

18th Jun | 5 min read

Cheryl is originally from Canada but has been living in Berlin for the better part of 10 years. While she does have a day job working in Berlin’s startup scene, Cheryl is also a travel and Berlin life blogger at cherylhoward.com. She mostly writes destination and restaurant guides, features unusual places to visit, and tips for living in Berlin. You can follow Cheryl's adventures more closely on her blog and you can also connect with her on GAFFL.

Why I Travel

I’ve been travelling solo since 2007 when I went on a dream trip to the Galapagos Islands and a hike to Machu Picchu in Peru. At the time, I’d been in a pretty down state of mind as my father and grandmother died within a span of the year. The trip was challenging as I’d never travelled outside of North America and tears were shed many times, but I learned a lot about myself and grew as a result. Since then, I’ve travelled around North and South America, a tiny bit of Asia, and of course, my beloved Europe. I even moved to Berlin, Germany alone so I could explore every nook and cranny of the continent. I never would have had the confidence to do this if it hadn’t been for my solo travel adventures. 

I keep on with solo travelling as I like the freedom to do what I please. I’m pretty independent, like being alone, and have a lot of fun on my own. I also have very specific tastes when it comes to travel and it’s hard to find like-minded individuals. In fact, I’m still looking for that perfect travel partner! 

I’ve been to 43 countries to date! It’s hard to pin down a favorite, so I’ll name a few. Iceland for the pristine and beautiful landscape, Italy for the food and culture, and Montenegro for their Game Of Thrones like cities on the sea.   

I've Met Some Great People During My Travels

I’ve met a lot of new people over the years but never established any long-lasting friendships. I’ve met people randomly either at hostels or even at restaurants and we’ve spent fun nights out together, but nothing ever really evolved beyond the moment. As I mentioned, I like being alone when I travel, so I don’t go out of my way to meet people. 

I do have a few good memories that really stand out. While in Montreal, I met a few locals at a cool restaurant. After chatting them up, we became fast friends, and they invited me to come to a jazz club with them. We had a blast! Another time backpacking in Havana, I partied with other backpackers and spent an evening under the stars, laughing and sharing travel stories while drinking rum and smoking cohibas sold to us by a gentleman named Alfredo with gold-capped teeth. In Budapest, I went out on different nights with people from my hostel, as well as people I met on a caving tour (including an Italian cop from Venice with whom I had a brief romance). There were ruin pubs, night clubs, and a lot of alcohol involved. 

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Why I Left Toronto For Expat Life In Berlin

Life in Toronto was mostly good, but I craved a life-changing experience and new adventures. So I sold everything I owned, quit my job, and moved to Berlin. I moved having not been to Berlin before, completely alone, without a job, and any knowledge of the language. While some thought I was going through some midlife Eat, Pray, Love crisis, it was anything but that, as moving to Berlin was the best decision I’ve ever made. And that’s why, almost a decade later, I’m still here. 

How My Approach To Travel Has Changed Since Becoming An Expat 

My travel approach has changed in a couple of ways - first, I have travelled more often due to Europe’s great transportation network and an abundance of cheap flights. I’ve also tended to visit less travelled destinations that are more budget-friendly and where my money goes a long way. 

Since COVID-19 however, my future travels will be much different. I see myself doing fewer trips, and much longer ones, all the while being more mindful of my carbon footprint. I’ll take the train much more often and avoid lending any support to some of the cheaper airlines who’ve been immensely difficult during this crisis, being stingy when it comes to issuing refunds. 

Life in Berlin has had its ups and downs over the years, but there isn’t much I can complain about here. What’s really difficult right now is not being with my family and other friends back home. Things are super weird in the world - I’m terrified to fly long haul and am unwilling to take a vacation that involves quarantining on both sides. I likely won’t visit home until 2021 or 2022 when hopefully, coronavirus will be more under control. That’s a long time to be away and it breaks my heart. 

The Most Rewarding Aspect Of Being An Expat

I’m happy to call another place home and am proud to have established an amazing life in Berlin. While I’m always going to face a constant tug of war between wanting to be in Berlin and wanting to be in Toronto, I don’t see myself leaving Germany anytime soon. Although, I’d be open to moving to another German city and Hamburg has caught my attention recently. 

My Advice For New Expats

Do your research well before moving and plan out your move in great detail. Check out government websites, look on local expat blogs or Youtube channels, and even join related Facebook groups to get relevant and comprehensive information. If you have the cash, hire a relocation specialist to help you through things. If there’s a new language to learn, start your studies well before you even arrive. 

A lot of people move to a new country completely unprepared and suffer a lot as a result. There can not only be emotional pains but financial ones as well. 

Share one or two incredible travel memories that will last on your mind forever. 

Sitting in the warm and steaming thermal waters of an outdoor bath in Budapest at night while it was snowing. Paragliding through the Italian alps. Spending the day at a luxury spa in Rio De Janeiro.

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