I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel Europe before starting school in January. My initial plan was to visit my loved ones in Chicago and New York, then head to Berlin where I would spend about a month. After this, I would spend my remaining month and a half traveling around Europe before returning home for the holidays.
I have fallen in love with Berlin and decided to spend an entire two months here. The best part of traveling alone is that I am fully in control of my plans. Being on my own can be extremely lonely at times, but I already can see that I’ve grown in ways I never imagined.
My mom and I fly to Chicago. It’s hot for September, and all the clothes that I packed for Berlin are completely unsuitable in the thick, warm air. We go for a swim in the lake near my aunt’s house to cool off. I fall asleep each night to the sound of cicadas and the comforting familiarity of being in my mother’s home city.
I arrive in Manhattan alone and take a cab to Lucy’s dorm. I haven’t seen her since she left for school a month ago, and it feels like so much time has passed but simultaneously no time at all. I get to know her new roommate and the three of us stay up late talking. Whenever she has class, I go to the park and read.
Lucy and I head to Brooklyn to act in Etta’s short film. I play Lucy’s phantom ex-girlfriend who haunts her as she goes about her day.
Still in New York, but I’m staying with Charlotte now. I shoot some photos of her in her room with the new camera I got myself as an 18th birthday present.
On the weekend, we grab bagels and coffee at a deli near Charlotte’s place, and spend the rest of the day wandering around the Lower East Side.
To commemorate my last night in New York, we all go to Stuyvesant Park. Charlotte braids Bennett’s hair. We end the night with a dollar slice from Ray’s Pizza on St. Marks. When it’s finally time to say goodbye, I feel like crying, but don’t.
Berlin is a rainy, windy, angry mess. I spend most of my time at the hostel sleeping, reading, and watching movies. The weather improves, and I get sick. I don’t take any photographs. I move into an apartment in Kreuzberg, right across from the water. I continue to hibernate. On my first (and sadly, probably last) real sunny day in Berlin, I go for a long walk around the neighborhood. I take my 18th birthday camera with me and shoot for the first time since I arrived. This is a sure sign that I’m starting to feel at home.
Ting Ting Chen