UNTIE THE LINES – the decision

The arrows of the sun are falling through the window of the train and the monotonous rattling of the waggons running over the tracks seems like a lullaby that is trying to put me to sleep. But I am wide awake. My heart is ponding fast and my thoughts are doing circles in my head like a hamster in his wheel.

I am on my way from Varkala to Amritapuri, in the South of India. My backpack is stored above my head and there are two other women dressed in colorful saris sitting across me. The air is hot, sticky and my nose has definitely experienced nicer moments than this one. I don’t have the slightest clue what those two women are talking about. Hindu or Malayalam (I cannot even tell you which language they were speaking) sound so unfamiliar to me that I can only guess if a conversation I am overhearing is actually friendly or maybe a fight. The typical Indian wobbling of the head which looks like a “ehm, actually…no” but really means “yes” does not help to solve the confusion.


But that is not the cause for my excitement. I have taken a decision. Quite an important one. At least for me. For my life.

The last year I have been experiencing what my parents have always called “der Ernst des Lebens” (the serious part of life). It always sounded somewhat like a threat and I probably heard it the first time when I started to go to school. But usually it just meant that there would be a couple of more rules and duties, creating new challenges to find a way to break or get around them. Now, the moment had finally arrived: I had finished university with a diploma in Strategic Management and had my first “real” job. Life had become serious.


My job was exciting and I learnt a lot. I worked with the General Management of a medium sized company close to Hamburg in the North of Germany to assist them in defining a new business strategy. It was interesting to see the theory of university lectures becoming something real and I had the feeling I could contribute to the development of the new strategy with what I had learnt previously.

But even if it was a great experience to work there, to make my way up to become the head of the marketing department, there was one thing I could not deny: I sat in an office in front of a computer all day long, and working hours often stretched out into the late hours of the day.

At that time, I was training for a triathlon with my friend Anna, and going for a run or a swim in a close by lake during lunch time were my only outdoor highlights during the day. Time management became a big issue and I found myself running from one place to the other trying to fit in work, sport as well as family and friends, which at some moments led to a feeling of emptiness because I did not have the time to truly experience things with the time and presence they actually deserved.


I needed some air, some time to reflect and soon I found myself on a plane to Mumbai, with three months of time to travel and my job waiting safely for my return. The effect was as expected: I felt light and free, my thoughts spinning around in my head and I could just let them flow.

The sea has always had a magic force of attraction on me. The sound of the waves crushing onto the beach, the widely expanding horizon and the salty taste in the air. You automatically calm down, time seems to stand still and you feel at peace. When I read a book about a circumnavigation for the first time, my heart started rushing with excitement and my thoughts immediately drifted away, picturing myself on a sailboat out on the ocean. It seemed to be the perfect way to travel, even more than that; it appeared to be the perfect way to live.


Big dreams usually seem to be connected to big investments – financially as well as personally. Approximately two months before finishing secondary school, I dared to delicately do a small internet research about what was needed to do a circumnavigation. A short comparison with my bank account, my sailing experience and my handicraft or mechanical skills quickly let me drop the topic again and follow the path that already seemed to be laid out for my life anyways: to go studying and find a reasonable job afterwards.


Nearly ten years later I find myself with a group of other travelers, having some cold beers and chatting away about life and happiness in the warm and dark night at Varkala beach. And there it is again, my dream to buy a sailboat, to untie the lines and sail the world. It had never been gone, but I had carefully moved it into the back of my soul, guarding it safely, in the hope that one day I would have the guts to put it into reality. When this handsome Swedish guy said to me “Hey Nike, if you think that this is something that would make you truly happy, why don’t you just go for it?”, all of a sudden, everything seemed so clear. My conviction, that it would make me happy seemed reason enough to completely turn my life upside down and try it.


Back in my spartan hostel room, I ran through all the hurdles that I had previously seen that had held me back from chasing my dream. And I tried to look at them from a different point of view. A very selfish and egocentric one, I have to admit. I checked, if it was really me, who cared or worried about these things or if they were views, created by others that made me feel that I had to go in line with them. I fell asleep with a warm feeling around my heart, accompanied by a slight fear, because I saw a big change in my life coming up and I did not know where it was all going to lead.


The train departs, and all of a sudden, my destination is clearer than ever: I will buy a sailboat and UNTIE THE LINES. For real.


[written in Lüneburg, 29-12-2014]