The plane lands, and I am beyond terrified.
Welcome to Berlin. In the arrivals zone stands a tall man kitted in cargo shorts and gripping a crumpled sign announcing ‘CityTravelReview’.
This is not where my adventure begins. Eight months ago, an email landed in my already-overflowing university inbox. For a month, said email sat gathering virtual dust as I scrolled past countless times. On a particularly slow day in Western Bank Library, I decided to open this message as a ‘productive’ break from my own work.
Inside this email, CityTravelReview was promoting a study gap/travel internship for anyone interested in writing, travel, publishing, photography, fashion, architecture, food, drink…which sums up pretty much everyone I know. You work as part of a close-knit team in order to produce and publish your own travel guide on all Berlin has to offer. This involves striking the perfect balance between research and writing, history and future, fun and a lot of hard work.
After a short telephone call with the Edinburgh-based coordinator, I was sold. In June 2019, I headed to Manchester Airport by myself for the first time ever to catch my flight. This first step is a pretty standard experience for many people, but as a short-sighted, 5ft lady I probably made this into a bigger deal than it really needed to be.
Over the month-long period I was in Berlin, I managed to: swim in an indoor pool with underwater techno music; attend a street carnival with 85 floats celebrating 85 countries across the globe; grab a front seat at an underground burlesque performance; visit Berlin’s mile-long open-air gallery built from the fallen Berlin Wall; capsize over a paddleboard; eat a lot of German sausage.
At the same time, I participated in rigorous workshops where our team were encouraged to criticise (mostly in a kind way) each others’ writing alongside the opinions of an internal travel reviewer. It was sometimes like the harshest seminar I have ever attended. It was mostly great for sharpening my own writing style. There was always a great mixture in review topics from inland lakes, historical monuments, and shopping centres to hot-dog stands, photobooths, and whiskey bars.
Up until this point, I had never travelled out of the UK by myself. The team I was with were internationally-based and were amongst some of the most sincere and intriguing people I have met. Despite attending German classes for four hours a week, I am now a more proficient speaker of French, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Scottish slang than of German. It also turns out that when a lot of people reach their twenties, LinkedIn replaces Facebook as the place to stalk potential new connections and boost your own career prospects.
The budget balancing for this trip was both easier and more difficult than expected. Echoing my three years at uni, I began the first week with fancy lunches out at cafes not dissimilar to The View and Coffee Revolution. By the week’s end, I was on packed lunches with dry sandwiches and a slightly soggy banana. Home away from home, you could say. Living in the UK, it’s also easy to forget that galleries and museums in other countries can be quite pricey; I ended up selecting only the few I really wanted to see. The clubs there also trump Sheffield prices five times over: 25 euros was the most I splashed out for one particular techno night (it was definitely worth it!).
Through this blog, I speak mostly to those people who know they’d really want to try something like this but just need that final little push. On a related note, don’t ignore every email landing in your inbox: it could turn into an adventure you never expected.