There was no one in the hostel room, so the only thing that could be heard was our laughter. The giant smile across my face hid behind the new laptop that Deborah let me buy. The bed was rock hard and causing me back pain, but it didn’t matter because I could feel the warmth of her body next to mine. On the screen in front of us was a list of all of our potential new homes. Our flight to Berlin was the next day, and we still didn’t have a place to live. The empty feeling in the pit of my stomach was unease, but I chalked it up to the excitement of all the immense possibilities.
The sad truth is that we would be living in hostels until we found our new home in Berlin. The next day’s flight brought us from an easy comfort zone of around $4.25/night/person to a land of at least $20, but probably $30. Everything will be fine, I thought to myself, but the fear would sometimes creep up my spine and into my skull. I would think about the reading I had done. There aren’t a lot of homeless people in Berlin, when compared to American cities, but with rental prices kept artificially low and high levels of bureaucracy surrounding the industry, there was fierce competition for every habitable flat. I thought it would be hard for newcomers to the city, and I was met with a resounding confirmation from each Berliner I spoke with. Some people said we were coming at the worst time of the year to find a place (of course), and it might take months. That simply wasn’t an amount of time we could afford.
Landing in Berlin
The plane landed in the dark, and we decided to spend our first night on a cold metal bench so we didn’t have to leave the airport. I left Deborah and walked out alone with my own thoughts,
looking for water. We were both dehydrated. Walking out of the airport, my eyes immediately landed on two over-sized German men hurling insults at each other. I felt for them. I was frustrated, too, but more about the prospect of paying a crapton on hostel beds until we could find a flat to live in. To add insult, I walked an hour lat at night, and there was no water save the $4, 10 oz bottle at the airport, which I reluctantly bought.
The Next Day
Deborah and I stayed positive! That morning began a new day, a new chapter in our lives, and the public transport into the city was 1/5 the price of the same thing in London. We waited until around 11 to make sure we could check into our hostel. Check in time was 3, but it’s pretty normal to check in early if there’s space available. I once checked into a hostel at around 5am the morning before. Hostels are pretty chilled about that kind of stuff.
Except, not this one.
Even having payed €50, they denied us entry! Then, the (apparent) manager raised his tone as soon as we asked to store our stuff somewhere. That, also, wasn’t free. So, we sat in the corridor. After a night spent at the airport, Deborah began drifting off on the couch, but before she could even close her eyes, the manager raced over to shake me. “Falling sleep here is not allowed!” he exclaimed in German and then repeated in English. At this point, I knew he was just kind of a dick. I later overheard a team meeting, but it wasn’t so much of a meeting as it was a chance for him to talk down to and even yell at his staff. I actually felt pretty bad for them.
We ran out of time until our flat meeting before we were allowed to check in, so we ended up paying way too much to store our bags anyway. The walk over was a bit sobering, but we had fun talking about how crappy the hostel was. Welcome to Europe, I guess.
I knocked on the door, and the person who answered was not at all what I expected. The photos we had seen looked like they were taken with an old Nokia flip phone. Forgive me for thinking the tenant would be an old man. Bakarr was (is) young and awesome, and he owns an iPhone. The apartment was fantastic, in a great location, fully furnished, and the best part: he was not a landlord, just a tenant, so we didn’t have to bother with the formalities.
We met a cool guy who would simply take our money in exchange for a place to live.
The way to develop decisiveness is to start right where you are, with the very next question you face.
– Napoleon Hill
One problem that has always plagued me and even causes “research paralysis” as I call it, is indecisiveness. Being informed is a good idea, but continuing your search passed a certain point is an obsession. This research paralysis has plagued many big decisions and once cost me 12 hours just to save $10 on a flight. We were done researching. We were done second-guessing. We were ready to move out of the hostel we had already wasted €70 on.
We put an offer on the table.
6 months up front, move in in two weeks, no bank account, no credit check, no proof of German income, no deposit. If we could get him to agree that day, we wouldn’t have to spent another day in the hostel, and we could use the savings on a round-trip flight to London.
He took it.
On the walk back over to finalize the deal, the cement seemed a bit bouncier, the graffiti seemed a bit artsier, the air a bit fresher and the Kebab, of course, was just as delicious as always. Bakarr set out a classic German brunch of meat and cheese on the hand-crafted wooden table set in our new kitchen. Laughter filled the flat as the champagne flowed and we talked about what an incredibly quick decision it was.
In the space of about 48 hours, Deborah and I had bussed across Thailand, flown from Bangkok to Berlin, saw one flat, snagged it, bought our flight to London, and flown on through
As the brevity of our trip to Berlin set in, a smile crept over my face. The research paralysis felt at least momentarily vanquished, and my biggest desire of being a decisive person seemed one step closer.