There is nothing more liberating and sentimental than the sound of a closing door that you will never open again. As memories are flowing by, you turn your back from that door, you hold your breath for just a second and you walk away. At that point you almost sense the change in the wind flowing by. You let go; and knowing and feeling this change is an incredibly empowering, intoxicating experience.

My name is Vitaly, and I don't have a permanent home. I gave up my apartment in lovely Freiburg, Germany in October this year — without having another place to move into. Admittedly, it wasn’t a spontaneous, life-changing decision. Months earlier I found myself spending a lot of time traveling — running workshops and speaking, doing front-end consulting work and writing, editing, art directing and prepping conferences from cities all across Europe. At the end of the day, I was spending at most 5–7 days a month at what my colleagues (unlike me) used to call “Vitaly’s home” — frankly, a place where nothing waited for me except a lonely desk, an empty refrigerator, a few pieces of cloth and a shelf full of books.

Freiburg im Breisgau, a lovely beautiful city at the very foot of the legendary Black Forest.

I didn’t find happiness in Freiburg. I didn’t find solace when I needed it. I didn’t find understanding when I sought it. I didn’t actually feel lonely, but I felt alone in that apartment, in that beautiful, gorgeous little city on the very foot of the legendary Black Forest. I did find calmness and a relentless drive to create and think and craft and design and produce and play and experiment and fail and try again, but it was utterly exhausting at times, whirling up my working hours from early morning to late nights. The city was beautiful and warm, yet at the same time it was just as lifeless, calm and silent, wherever I went to. I wanted to move away. I just didn’t know where to move to.

Once I shut that door, I had nothing but a packed schedule with a few talks and workshops for the next few weeks, laptop, a few international plugs and a perfectly sized luggage bag, weighing just around 24.5kg — as I found out in my research, the perfect weight to still be accepted by most international airlines. I gave away most of my belongings to a homeless shelter, including unnecessary clothes and things I didn’t use. I gave away the things that I couldn’t use to my parents, but also to my friends and colleagues who could use them. The rest was packed in a few boxes, along with my most valuable belongings: personal documents, papers, photos, diplomas, sketch books, conference lanyards and a few hard drives — all the cornerstones of my adolescent and adult life, marking significant events throughout my life journey; the things that define who I used to be, who I have become and what I care about deeply.

Seeing how all those unique cornerstones fit within one little cardbox was astonishing; yet now, months later, when I look back, there isn’t even one little thing that I miss or wish I hadn’t thrown away. My past remains within my memories and my character and my thoughts and my little cardbox; it’s the present and the future that I relentlessly explore with a drive which is as ignited, powerful and versatile as it has never been before. The sheer fact that I don’t have any permanent keys to any apartment or office is empowering and liberating. This abundant liberty can be scary and unsettling at times, but it amplifies your reasoning and your passion, and it gives you milestones to aim for, and it also keeps you on your feet and prompts you to settle down whenever you are ready.

Once you gave everything away, not much is left, except just a few boxes and an umbrella.

Putting together the luggage was an exercise of discipline and prioritization. Once you set a tough constraint to work within, you have to rethink what is really important, and put aside everything that doesn’t hold value for you. It’s a matter of looking at everything you’ve got under a magnifying glass, slowly, carefully, thoroughly, just because there is no way back. You have to decide what really matters to you. Getting rid of the things that you owned for many years and leaving them behind requires you to slow down, and to figure out who you really are.

I decided to run a creative experiment. No permanent apartment, one piece of luggage, and a lot of traveling — from country to country, spending my time with the people I care about, in creative environments, writing, editing, speaking, getting to know people I always wanted to meet, meeting people that I never thought I would get to know. Working from coffee shops and AirBnB places, in remote areas where I would find myself offline quite a lot of time — in just the right environment to get things done. Uninterrupted, undisturbed, heavily inspired by surroundings and the atmosphere around you.

I wasn’t alone. And, to be honest, it made all the difference. Having a person you care about so much close by shapes your focus. It drives you to places you’d never go, to thoughts you’d never explore, to experiences you’d never share otherwise. But it also helps you to stay afloat: to have a purpose and a goal right in front of you when you need it. And every now and again that focus — the reason, the point, the purpose, the end goal — pushes you to a working desk where you can spend an entire day sipping cappuccinos and getting work done — getting work done well.

That working desk can be pretty much anywhere: a little tourist station in a little Swedish village with 82 inhabitants and some of the best Northern lights on Earth, right next to a huge orchestra of fireworks across the Geneva lake, or in a little French restaurant just around the corner of the Parisian Montmartre. It really doesn’t matter where you are; what matters is whom you are with, and the experiences you share. Together. These experiences and conversations with people around are enormous catalysts for great creative work.

In fact, those last few months were the most productive and happiest months of the last few years of my life. I found more time to write and experiment with code. I started reading more again. I started writing more again. I rediscovered my curiosity in art history and stamps and calligraphy and cartoons. Traveling in trains, flying in airplanes, commuting in buses and waiting during layover times surprisingly were the times when I was most effective, and every now and again most creative.

Once you get into habit of working on the road, it’s becoming very difficult to procrastinate. In the end, even when I got detained by a police for a thorough security check, I found myself making good use of the time and, with a bottle of water, airport food and a lightbulb in front me, I was getting things done while waiting for the police verdict. Articles, chapters, workshop slides were all edited under those (eventually weird or, to put it differently, unusual conditions) in different cities, mostly in public spaces, usually with a cup of cafe latte right next to the laptop and an occasional piece of a carrot cake nearby.

I deepened my friendships and spent more time with people who I care about. I reestablished connections with my family. I explored unknown places and challenged myself to leave my comfort zone. And I never had so many valuable, rich conversations with fantastic, smart people within such a short period of time — people from our industry, but also random people you happen to meet in the cities, often by chance, and the stories they tell and the secrets they share and the memories that remain after those conversations. For me, it wasn’t about observing architecture or people though — I didn’t want to be a tourist; I didn’t want to be an observer; I wanted to explore and understand what living in a city is like for people who actually live there.

So as we were passing countries, we were looking thoroughly at the places where we could stay to live; just the “right”, affordable, beautiful places, with a good quality of life, good people, and obviously, good coffee, wine, cheese and a reliable Wi-Fi. Maybe this place doesn’t really exist, or maybe there are many places that would match those requirements, but by getting to know places and people and how they live, we might get just close enough to find a place that I would warm-heartedly call “home” after all. A place where you realize that it’s about time to stop, and settle down.

Freiburg → Vilnius → Bucharest → Oslo → Athens → Munich → Amsterdam → Paris → Freiburg → Kiev → Freiburg → Graz → Bath → Hamburg → Berlin → Malmö → Abisko → Rome → Moscow → Karlsruhe → Vilnius → New York → Whistler → Vancouver → Frankfurt → Saarbrücken → Hamburg → Brussels.

There are a few things I learned, a few things I failed at, and a few things I discovered:

Not everybody can afford being on the road all the time, and I was lucky enough to make it work just because I can get my work done from pretty much any place in the world. But maybe you can, too. Especially if you are freelancing, as long as you have a decent Wi-Fi and a lovely coffee shop nearby, you can keep exploring the world and the people crossing your path as long as you haven’t found just the right place where you’d like to stay for good.

Close those doors once in a while; prepare a plan B and move on; take the risk of seeing what will happen next. Nobody knows how it will turn out, but at least you’ll have it tried, and at least you’ll know exactly what is and what isn’t important in your life. And before you know it, once you’ve settled again, you’ll have gained a bag full of experiences, memories and hopefully authentic friendships that will stand the test of time for the years to come.

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