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Looking for Annie

Solving the Case of the Missing Adventure Blogger

One question has been haunting me the last few months – no, the last year. It’s the reason this particular adventure blogger stopped writing and went missing:

How do you go back to something you used to do, used to BE – when that person no longer exists?

Looking for Annie - Macedonia Climbing
Where’s Annie?

It’s been a while, a long while, since we went off-grid at the border from Croatia to Bosnia Herzegovina. It’s been months since I made the, unconscious at first and very deliberate later, choice to step away from TheBotBeyondTheBrainz. And while I stepped away from it all, we lived in our green, self-converted van, our baby sleeping, eating, driving next to us on our way through the Balkans, to Turkey.

It wasn’t just the lack of internet and data roaming, our decision to not get a new SIM card for every single Balkan country we were passing through that stopped me from writing (though that was the initial excuse). It wasn’t just the fact that I wanted to be, and remain, nowhere but in the present moment rather than think about what to publish. That I didn’t want my – our – days interrupted by story posts and video curation.

At the core of it was a question, one I was running from, one I knew I had to answer.

Who am I becoming, and who have I become, now that I am a mother?

I didn’t write very much last year – at least not anything thoughtful. I kept a travel diary, religiously so, but what was going on inside of me almost never found its way on the pages. I climbed though. I saw my baby learn to crawl on our crash pad in one of the most stunning, isolated bouldering areas I’ve ever had the serendipitous chance to uncover. I swam in the Mediterranean as I watched my baby stuff her face with sand in Croatia, Albania, Greece, and Turkey. I spent nights at campfires with strangers who soon became friends in the woods, by lakes, in the mountains, next to the last wild river of Europe and wondered about this very question. They all shared their thoughts with me as we watched fluorescent algae glow in the dark of crashing waves, as our eyes followed fireflies floating through the undergrowth. I knew once I’d found the answer to my question, I’d be able to write again. The words would come, and I would return. The person you’d all known before would reappear. But the pages remained blank, and I stayed silent. And I continued to stare at a question I couldn’t answer, not as long as I was searching for the answer in all the wrong places.

The trip continued. We took our stroller to run through every city we visited, until we reached a point where the sidewalks were too small/ancient to take Nea out for stroller runs anymore. We visited more car mechanics than I care to count on two hands, spent nights in a village dedicated to mathematics and philosophy (of all things), learned new languages, watched our baby ask for hugs from people on the subway and take her first steps in a Swiss chocolate factory. We arrived in Berlin an emotional mess (okay, that might have just been me) and tried hard not to fall over as we wobbled back into a life outside of our van and inside of a house, with daily routines and tasks and work and a very-much-not-kid-friendly kitchen. (Pro-tip: If you’re going on a long van trip with a baby, maybe make sure that the apartment you return to is also… toddler-safe. That includes replacing the open IKEA bookshelf you stacked on two beer crates in the kitchen, with glass jars and cutlery delightfully accessible to curious toddler-hands.) We both went back to work almost immediately. I don’t think either of us remembered what our PhDs had been about that first month. Time passed – and as it did, the cobwebs in our brains (figurative and literal) slowly went away.

On the trip, we could pretend that of course we weren’t living the life we used to before. We were on a trip after all, and we were mostly alone. No one to care for the baby while one of us trained for underwater rugby, and the other went on marathon runs through the mountains on her own. The car needed so much care. There was always food, water, electricity – so the usual adventure logistics – to find, to organize. There was no time.

So we also told ourselves this was exceptional. The new “For-The-Moment”-Normal. Once we returned to Berlin, we’d live our life from before. We could begin training and working and writing again – as best as we could with the little sleep we were getting, the little time we had available for it. Nothing had really changed after all, especially not the two of us. But if that was the case – why did my pages remain blank, even after we returned to Berlin?

Maybe, very simply, because I was asking the wrong question. I kept trying to figure out how to become the person I used to be again, how to do the things she did, instead of asking:

Who am I now, and what does that mean?

I try very hard to keep my writing as true and genuine as possible in the moment. In writing as in life, I mostly prefer to stay silent than say something I don’t really mean. There’s enough noise in the world out there – why add my own? I couldn’t just return to writing adventure stories as if nothing enormous had happened to me. I felt uncomfortable, even repulsed, by the idea of writing as if my life was just as before, but with a baby on the side. It wasn’t my truth.

The truth is that things are not the way they used to be. And I no longer want to pretend they are. The changes in my outer and inner life have created a new person that I cannot deny. Whereas I used to have seemingly endless amounts of energy that felt like I could blast off senselessly into every idea, every project that excited me, I now crave focus. Earthquake-like, my priorities have shifted, and between who I once was and now am lies a trench I can see, but no longer cross. Even if I could bridge that trench, I’m not sure I’d cross it. My new life is precious, and this new person I am becoming is beautiful, too. She – I – may not be able to run a half-marathon at the drop of a hat, but damn, can she smile bright these days. I may have had to decline a trip to Hardangervidda, and may not be fit enough to climb the goals I used to set myself – but I get to experience my daughter learning how to climb herself. I get to watch her run, learn how to jump, and show her the beauty of cycling in the pouring rain.

New life… new adventures.

My life is not only about me anymore – and that is a phase of life worthy of embrace, too.

Here’s the thing: You can claw your way back to remnants of that life, eking out a living on the myths and legends of who you used to be; invest all your time and energy into solving the problem of how to go back to the way things were.

Or you can step into the river of change – and flow with it.

I am no longer who I used to be. That person no longer exists.

But I still am, right here, right now.

And I’m finally proud to share the adventures of this new, and very different life, too.

1 thought on “Looking for Annie”

  1. One of the few stable things is that both who you were and who you are (becoming) are very amazing humans. 😉 Looking forward to read more about new Annie!

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