Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

While our friends and colleagues burrowed cozily into the San Francisco Bay Area, buying houses and digging their roots, we were faced with a life-changing opportunity of our own one morning over breakfast.

Husband: Hey, that application for the visiting professor exchange is due in a few weeks.

Me: The one in Germany, right? I’d move to Germany for a year.

That was the extent of our discussion.

I’ve made a second career of living in — not just visiting — as many far-flung cities as possible. What could be a better use of my time than to live and work amongst new geographies, cultures, dialects, and foods? Germany would be the crown jewel of my wanderings because it was by far the most challenging: I did not speak a word of the language beyond danke schoen. And only that due to the classic parade scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

With a no risk, no reward mindset, we packed our bags and donated the detritus. We threw an epic going-away party. We arranged meet-ups and video chat sessions with friends. We chauffeured our cats to San Diego for an extended sabbatical with the in-laws.

There our adventure started, well before our plane swooped into the hazy air above LAX. It was a riot of activities that would sustain our California-loving souls for the months we’d be away: strolling around dog beach; taco dinners; languishing at San Diego’s Balboa Park prado in the heat of the afternoon; seeing stars at Griffith Observatory; and seeing the other type of stars at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

With a stomach full of butterflies, a new-to-me Nikon D40, and my vintage Céline overnight bag, I was deposited before sunrise at the bustling airport. Was I too hasty in making this decision? Would I come to regret my impulsiveness? What about the stability of the people and places I was leaving behind?

No risk, no reward. I got on the plane.