Fresh out of junior college, I ventured off on my own and left Singapore — the little red dot where I grew up. I was 18 and leaving home, not just to go around the block or across the border. I moved halfway across the globe to Munich, Germany. The idea of moving so far, and out of my parents’ home, this young had never really crossed my mind before. Upon landing, I kept wondering why that had been the case – the world beyond was so beautiful. Munich was so beautiful.
Without a Home
When I arrived, I did not have a place I could call home, I did not have any friends whose hearts I could find refuge in, and I did not know where I could run in the mornings to watch the sunrise. Separated from everyone and every place I grew up surrounded by, I was alone. I jumped straight into the deep end.
The idea of ridding myself of every trace of familiarity sounded like a potential recipe for disaster… Yet there was something in me that knew this would be anything but. I knew I had to leave to start afresh and find out for myself who I was without everything that I had so tirelessly embellished my name with. I had to grow up, and I could not do this where I had my parents at my beck and call.
Like I said, Munich was so beautiful, but I did not mean it in the way its gorgeous cityscapes were portrayed in postcards, or in the way the love for the city shone through the eyes of every person I met. Munich was beautiful in the way it stripped me of everything I thought I was and had, soothed me with reminders of reality, and ultimately healed me through helping me find the part of me that had gone dormant with age. Here’s a story of just that.
Finding My Feet, 31 Days In
Let’s begin with the first month that I spent scrambling around trying to get my bearings… and the oranges that kept falling out of my obviously-too-small-but-I-had-no-choice-because-I-had-nothing-else shopping tote bag. During these thirty-one days, I officially transferred my residency, moved into a lovely apartment, commenced with classes, discovered where to get the cheapest bananas, and made three friends who are currently still in my life.
It was a whirlwind of activities that took the breath out of me many a time. I was terrified yet exhilarated, and I did not quite know how I could simultaneously feel two emotions on polar ends of the spectrum, but I did.
So Many Things to do in Munich
Munich was madly exciting – the festivals-to-dance-at-every-other-month, the museums-to-peruse-around-every-other-corner, and the parks-in-every-other-suburb-to-roam-at kinds of exciting. Munich had so much life to live, and so much happiness to give. I mean, Munich was where the electrifying, world-renowned Oktoberfest came to existence! And I reckon that already speaks volumes for itself!
Munich showed me the value of having fun… or letting loose if you will. It sounds funny that I needed to get taught the value of that, I know, but growing up in a country where I was put under the impression that grades were everything, I saw little value in taking routes the likes of merriment, mindfulness, or recalibration. Munich simultaneously introduced me to a life of balance and rekindled the little youthful fire in my heart – it let me live a little freer, a little calmer, a little younger… a little me-er.
More Than Summer
Munich is in the Northern Hemisphere, which means it is blessed with all the seasons of the year. Seasons that embodied the very essence of change being the only constant in life. There was so much beauty to this embodiment that pulled my focus away from my desk and guided my feet out into the world outside of my apartment.
Always another flower to smell, another dandelion’s cluster of downy parachutes to blow, another leaf to watch fall off a tree, another snowflake to watch trailing down from the sky.
The irrefutable simplicity and inherent humility of seasons taught me that life was more beautiful when observed without the rush of the race towards all my dreams. That the value in life was not synonymous with saying, “I have lived through it”, but rather in actually living in it. Every breath, every footstep, and every train ticket. I was reminded that life is lived in moments, not in memories.
Learning, Out in the World
Beyond the seasons that I found endlessly enthralling was the wealth of knowledge that rolled out in every direction. Think,
Castles that inspired the ones in Disney – Sleeping Beauty’s castle was modelled after Schloss Neuschwanstein;
Mountain ranges and lakes that came to be during the last ice age – Mangfall Mountains and Tegernsee;
And towns that saw the birth of one of the greatest scientists ever known – Albert Einstein’s birth in Ulm.
Textbooks were suddenly not bound anymore – they came alive. A literal world of knowledge lived beyond the four walls of my apartment and all I had to do to access them was to swing open my front door. My mental health crippled me, yes, but this interest coupled with the intent to live and learn proved enough to get me out of the door every day. Slowly but surely, pulse by pulse, the courage to live engulfed me whole as the living world outside pulled me out of the fading world inside me.
I was surprised at how quickly I felt comfortable enough to say that Munich was home for me. I realised that home is anything but a physical location. It is, much rather, the ability for one to fulfil all of their needs – human contact, physical and mental nourishment, security, connection with nature, and opportunities for learning. I discovered that these do not necessarily need to come with a permanent address.
I left Munich for another phase in my life elsewhere on Earth just shy of two years after landing in this city. I remember we had a near-perfect sunrise that morning – salmon pink, fire orange, marigold yellow. I wish I had taken a picture of that too, but I remember being in tears and knowing that the last thing I wanted was to look away from the only thing comforting me from my impending departure. Munich, you are missed.