For the first time, we’re in Berlin as digital nomads rather than tourists. And sheesh (or doner – there’s lots of doner kebab here) does it feel different from our previous trips to the city.
In the old tourist days, we wanted to stay in hotels that were close to Yelp-recommended restaurants (or Lonely Planet, if we’re going properly “back in the day”). We wanted to be near both decent public transport and at least some of the interesting-looking tourist attractions. We couldn’t really give two hoots about what the hotels themselves were like – after all, we were never in them much.
We’d spend each day walking around like we were in a speeded-up silent movie – trying to fit everything in, trying to force down that last bit of cheesecake after a huge meal of schnitzel and potatoes because we only had one day left and that day was going to be about currywurst and pommes and torte and rye bread.
It was all hugely fun, but it was also knackering and a bit heavy-pressured: we’d have a few days to fit it all in before going back to work.
This time? We didn’t want (and couldn’t justify spending on) a hotel. We wanted an Airbnb apartment with a washing machine, a kettle, cooking equipment and at least one table area to work from. Location-wise, we wanted to be within walking distance of both a supermarket and a wifi cafe that had plenty of plug points. We also wanted to be as close as possible to the hotel where we attended a conference this week. (We got pretty darn close.)
We’ve given up on online restaurant reviews because we’ve finally realised they’re written by tourists who think Wagamama is the real deal. And also because we simply can’t be out for all our meals every day: it costs too much money as well as stupid amounts of mental energy.
For tourist attractions, we didn’t even bother consulting Wikitravel before flying out. And now that we’re here, we just tend to walk around when taking a break from work, and see what cool stuff we come across.
Does it sound like we’re not making the most of our location independence? Fear not: we’re TOTALLY making the most of it. We’re living like excitable new locals: getting to know the area, the idiosyncrasies of German people in general, the cultural differences… and we’ve got the most glorious mix of work and fun.
Take today. After a six-mile early morning walk for Mish and an exercise session in our huge apartment for Rob, we got down to five hours of straight work. Then, after a client call, we wandered around our beautiful and very East-German area, stopped for coffee in a little bakery, then strolled back home via a falafel place for lunch. This evening we’ll go and work from the espresso bar opposite, then we’ll cook dinner in our gorgeous kitchen and eat it at our massive wooden table with the candles lit and a bottle of local wine that our host provided for us.
Being in another country as a digital nomad rather than a tourist is most definitely different. And work does sometimes take over and stop us from exploring quite as much as we’d like. But we’re living our dream: we’re making money on our own terms, we’re not putting all our energies and hopes into 20 days of annual leave that we used to get and, most importantly, we feel free.