Travel is a wildly privileged thing to do. But just because it’s a privilege to travel doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and unicorns.
We all have travel horror stories and things we hate about travel, even if our Instagram captions beg to differ. #blessed
But what I hate most about travel has very little to do with the one-off horror story, the mundanity of waiting at an airport, or praying to your deity of choice that you can find a bathroom before your body ejects the local specialty your body’s still adjusting to.
No, no. Because when I think of travel, I’m thinking even more broadly, like going across town to try out a new restaurant as well as landing in faraway places.
And no matter where I go, the disappointment is always the same.
Few experiences in my life have been as dreadful and anxiety riddled as dealing with the German immigration system. I would rather get arterial surgery again than go to the freakin’ Aüslanderamt or foreigners office.
To be fair, thems was some goooood drugs, I got!
But if you want to live in Germany, it’s a necessary evil… Like listening to your co-worker talk about how their weekend was.
So in this video, I’m going to share my immigration experience from getting my initial visa at the German consulate in Chicago to getting my Aufenthaltstitel residency; my Blue Card; and finally last year; my Niederlassungserlaubnis, or permanent residency.
Stick around for the end and I’ll share a little update on citizenship.
It’s the first sunny morning of my trip to Swedish Lapland. This time I’m with Inger, who’s driving me back to the Tornio River that etches out the border between Sweden and Finland. Her English is so-so, the kind where sometimes I ask “either or” type questions and she responds, “Yes, mhmm” without elaborating. Having struggled with languages myself, I know that move.
But she’s sweet, pulling over on the highway at one point to show me Instagram photos taken by, I want to say, a local photographer. As we near the Finnish border, she asks me if I’ve ever been to Finland. When I say that I have not, she makes the executive decision to drive me over the border and back around the next roundabout where you can see IKEA welcoming travelers into Sweden.
By all accounts in Liehittäjä, Sweden, sauna is as Finnish as it gets. But we were just 12 kilometers from the Tornio river border between Sweden and Finland––a border that’s relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Plus my sauna boss, Henry Huuva, grew up with a Finnish mother, though he more outwardly seems to embrace his Sámi heritage through his father. Sámi, too, have a sauna cultural tradition.
Perhaps that explains why Henry loves him some sauna––it’s embedded in him from two cultural touch points.
I’m generally skeptical of all things Airbnb. It’s not just the questionable things they do to cities i.e. one person buying up multiple properties in a neighborhood and renting them out exclusively to travelers. I just generally feel awkward running up and down the staircase of an apartment building, sticking out as the obvious tourist. I’d much rather be in a hotel, lumped together with my fellow ignorant travelers. To me, a city hotel is a safe space to make mistakes. Nobody expects you to know the cultural cues of a destination when you’re walking in and out of a hotel.
That said, I do from time to time pop on over to Airbnb Experiences when I’m traveling and even when I’m not. When I first moved to Berlin, I found it could be a great source for locating neighborhood interesting tours, cooking classes, and other culinary experiences. So that’s precisely what I looked for when Melanie and I planned our trip to Gdansk to celebrate our anniversary.