Thank you, Fanny Pack

Two weeks ago, I sat with Charlie and Mona at a picnic table on a Berlin sidewalk. We ate bowls of soup and falafel plates and talked about where we were and where we were going.

Mona asked how I felt about leaving Berlin and I said okay. My six weeks in Berlin were, without a doubt, the best six weeks I've ever spent traveling. I'd sensed, during my week there in December, that it was where I needed to be. After that December week, I returned to the Spice tour GLOWING. Apparently.

People couldn't get enough of my vacation face.

"WHAT happened to you there?"

"You're glowing!"

"You look so happy!"

I must have been one pasty, gloomy MF before I went to Berlin.

That December week, I vibed out the qualities of the city that made it the right place for me and made sure I went back as soon as possible, for most of April and May, in my time off between the Spice Girls and American Idol tours.

And the fact that I was able to do that makes me want to do a little jig. Like right now. In this coffeeshop. Just pick up my skirts and start clogging away. Sike, my clogs are in storage. Anyway.

I knew, the whole time I was there, that I was doing the best thing for myself that I possibly could. Without an apartment in the States, I could put my money towards living in Berlin. I could have rented a room somewhere in the US, somewhere comfortable, and I would have been welcome to crash with many different friends in different places but I needed something different, more anonymous.

I didn't want to balance my routine with anything or anyone else, I wanted to make it up new each day. I didn't want structure, I didn't want a big safety net, I wanted solitude. Or as much solitude as one gets when they have panic attacks if they can't get online. I wanted to be straight up selfish.

Now, I LOVE the people I love, and I love traveling with others, and I don't want to be a monk and wear a hair shirt and chant in caves, but after that last year of a destructive, chaotic ex-relationship and moving across the country again and working eight months on the road, managing other people, I wanted to pay some serious attention to myself.

I know what you're thinking: Eat, Pray, Love. Well, shut up. It wasn't like that. Much.

It kicked ass to have a dear friend in Berlin and it was entertaining to meet new people but I still spent far more time alone than with others. And that was perfect. By the end of the six weeks, it was time to go. I was excited to get back to Cincinnati for the rainbows and unicorns that awaited me and that, too, felt abnormally ideal.

"Wow," I thought, "I've never been so happy to be somewhere AND as equally happy to leave." My feelings are usually more conflicted, the bitter outweighing the sweet or vice versa.

So when Mona asked me how I felt about leaving and I said I felt okay, okay meant calm and clear. I had good, strong feelings on both sides of the arrival and the departure. I told Charlie and Mona that I knew I'd be back and that made it easier. I also told them that I'd still probably tear up on the plane because I tend to get reflective when my feet are that far off the ground.

I took the long way back to Ohio and spent two days in London. "Here I am," I thought, "Eating deep-fried sausages. Whatever. Not emotional."

I said goodbye to Joanna and Alfie at the tube station with little sensation of leaving an old friend and a continent and a nice little chapter in my story. I do this all the time. It's cool. I'm cool etc.

WELL. I made it through the friendly namaste from the Air India flight attendant and the delicious curry and Knocked Up and Dirty Harry and it wasn't until we were flying over New York. The pilot said we'd be on the ground in 20 minutes and I looked out and saw the ground and BWAAAAH!

Someone started crying and completely ruined her makeup. And the reputation I'd been building as a savvy traveler. But I did as Cathy had ordered and walked off the plane with my iPod playing The Theme from Fanny Pack, the soundtrack to my return, and started feeling okay again.

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