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Winter in Germany was always hard for me because there wasn't much light, and the nights were so long. In November and December in Germany, the sky is usually grey, it rains a lot, and it sometimes snows. In the winter, the streets are frozen solid. I don't like how it gets very slippery at night and in the morning. When I lived in Germany, this was a time of year when I often felt sad. Also, I still don't like Christmas. I think it's too commercialized, and it makes me sick.
Anyway, for my own sanity, I felt I had to escape Germany during the winter and spend time in the southern hemisphere. The first time I escaped winter in Germany was after finishing my studies in 1988. I took some time out before getting a job and traveled to Australia, where I spent four months. I booked a six-week bus trip to travel around and absorb different places. It headed up from Sydney along the east coast towards Queensland. Then up to north Cairns, across the island to the center, to Tennant Creek, a tiny village well known because it's at the junction of two major highways. From there, I continued to Darwin, then traveled back to Alice Springs and visited Ayers Rock. From there, I took the train to Adelaide. So this bus trip gave me a taste of everything Australia has to offer.
As a musician who practices daily, I missed my guitar after just one week in Australia. One of my first stops on the bus trip was in a place called Byron Bay on the East Coast. There was a music store there called Byron Music. They had a 12-string acoustic guitar, so I bought it and took it on my bus trip. After Byron Bay, the bus went to Queensland and stayed the night in Rockhampton, which had a very good feeling for me. It was fun to swim in the ocean, and surfers liked the big waves. Rockhampton seemed like the best place for me because I played guitar and liked rock music.
I remember I had a dream flash before me. It was about laying in a hammock under palm trees and making money online while I relaxed. Since I first started having this dream, I've always thought of Queensland and Rockhampton when I think of it. I wanted to live in a simple wooden house and use a computer in my hammock to make money. I also wanted to be very relaxed and live very cheaply. I didn't even need a car in my dream because everything I wanted to get to is just a short bike ride away from where I lived. I could work out while shopping or hanging out with friends. Yes, that was my dream, but it took me a long time to make it come true.
After four months in Australia, I returned to Germany and got my first job. Every year, I saved up my vacation days and traveled to tropical regions or retreated to Australia to escape the German winter. I visited Central America: Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. Some Caribbean islands, e.g., the French Antilles. And then, I found lovely places in the Indian Ocean, such as Seychelles and the Maldives. Even though the Maldives is more popular, I like Seychelles better. Almost every winter, I escaped Germany. Most of those countries were enjoyable, and I had a good time there. Despite this, none spoke to me as strongly as the image I had in my head of living in Queensland.
Actually, something happened on the way back from Australia. I stopped in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for three days. Well, that's not the case in Malaysia. Westerners are recognized to be from the West and to be tourists. Kuala Lumpur is full of street vendors trying to sell tourists tacky items. Everyone wanted to sell me something, and the sudden interruptions for useless trinkets and fake roses were annoying. The atmosphere there quickly made me angry and annoyed, and I couldn't take it. But to be honest, I wasn't at all ready. No effort was made to learn about Malaysia or read anything about it. I thought the pre-booked hotel would be fine, but I didn't feel good there. I finally concluded that Asia wasn't the right place for me. Asia was the first and biggest culture shock for me. Because of this, I didn't go to Asia for a long time. When I went to Australia or New Zealand, I sometimes had layovers in Asia, but I kept them to a minimum and usually didn't leave the airport.
After the experience of that stopover, I realized I felt so relieved to be able to walk around freely in Australia. Because as long as you are quiet and keep yourself to yourself, the Australians don't recognize you as a tourist. Australia is a colorful mixture of nationalities, mainly from many European countries. As a result, if any European shows up there and the Australians don't recognize you because of your accent, they assume you're Australian.
Since 1988, I've tried to escape the German winter almost every year and held on to my dream of living in Queensland. I've been looking for a place that matches my dream. But everything changed for me in 2016 when I got that message from my friend Kirstin that I've talked about before. Kirsten told me about a workation in Bali and suggested I travel there. Even though I had a lot going on and the deadline was only two weeks from the day I got her message, this idea struck a chord with me. I had to do it because I knew I would regret it if I didn't. While in Bali, I almost forgot about my dream of living in Australia. It lasted three weeks, and I had to go home when it was over. At that moment, I realized how much I loved it. I didn't want to leave. The atmosphere, vibe, and environment were just like my dream. It matched every part of my dream, or at least it had the potential to, from living in a wooden house to making money in a hammock between two palm trees. In the end, Bali was my dream and met my emotional needs. And that's why I remembered that dream when I was there. After 27 years and 27 winters, I finally found my dream place!
The funniest thing about this story is that the accommodation we stayed at in Bali was called "Villa Mimpi Manis." Mimpi Manis means "Sweet Dream!" in English. So, thank you, Bali, for giving me that special sign. Thank you for fulfilling my dream of
Living Abundantly In Paradise
and finally guiding me to my destiny!