When in Berlin... Part 1. Letting Go.

2019 has been crazy travel-wise... And it all started with Berlin...

It's funny how you always think of yourself as one type of person - in my case, daring, wanderlust-obsessed, party monster - until a few years (or fifteen years, to be more precise) fly by with the speed of light, you turn around and realize that you would like to be that person, but, alas, you are not. Let me elaborate...

Something happens to us, women, when we have children. The daring part of our personalities takes a step back into the oblivion, and Mother Hen comes out - controlling, always having a schedule for 6 months ahead for an entire family and very-very-very much afraid of letting go and parting with her offspring even for one day. For some reason, 2019 so far has been a year when I decided to tell Mother Hen to take a chill pill. Over, and over, and over.

So where does Berlin come into the picture, you ask. Well, last November I received an invitation to come to a video game developer conference in Berlin where I could potentially find some future clients for us (when I don't ramble on about life, I run a translation agency that specializes in translating video games into multiple languages). We usually do all our marketing online, and that was the first opportunity for me to come out of my shell, so to speak, and meet some video game peeps in person. Mother Hen squawked that there was no way SHE could leave her family and fly across the pond, but luckily my husband Chris stepped in and announced that I absolutely had to go. So I charged the airplane ticket, hotel stay and the conference fee to a credit card - with Mother Hen incessantly squawking that thanks to my "frivolous" behavior, we will lose all the money we had managed to save - and started getting ready for the trip.

Life has a curious tendency to work out and create scenarios you yourself couldn't have possibly imagined. One evening, over a glass of wine, I nonchalantly mentioned to a few of my good friends that I was heading to Berlin in February and already in a week's time, two of them booked their airplane tickets, and I had not one, but two girlfriends joining me on my impromptu trip. You say, "Where do you get friends like that, Elena?' I say - I have some crazily awesome and awesomely crazy friends :).

Two and a half months flew by, filled with Christmas holiday madness, work - and lack thereof - and a multitude of responsibilities, and suddenly it was time to jump on the plane and go on an adventure.

My friend Shae picked me up from my house, where I, trying to no avail to keep my composure, said my good-byes to my boys, Liam and Max, who looked VERY bewildered (Mom is going WHERE?) and my husband Chris, cast a scornful glance at my baby girl Chloe sleeping peacefully in her crib, and got into Shae's car, fighting the omnipresent urge to run back into the house and announce to everyone that it was all a rather terrible joke and that in reality I was not going anywhere. As I was waving to Chris and the boys, and my home was disappearing from my vision, I started to sob uncontrollably, with Shae keeping a diplomatic silence.

We made it from Jacksonville, Florida, to New York's JFK, with no problem, and soon we were kicked back at an airport bar, sipping on our first drinks of the trip and staring at our green Transatlantic Aer Lingus airliner, which was going to take us to Dublin, from where we'd hop on one more plane to Berlin. Quite a journey. So I just kept on drinking :).

Even before we set out on the trip, I told Shae that I was terrified of flying. Something happened to me around 2014-2015 - where the little tummy-churning anticipation of adventure - akin to the one you get when you're about to ride a roller coaster, morphed into a petrifying sort of fear that had actually been preventing me from flying for 4 years. As we sat there on the plane, ready to take off and fly across the ocean, all my fears materialized, getting unbearably scarier with every second. The engines revved up, I cast Shae a pitiful "help me" look, and she squeezed my hand in silence.

And then the next six and a half hours followed, with me constantly drinking wine and constantly peeing, us flying through the sheer and pitch-black darkness of the Atlantic, us hitting that inevitable turbulence you always mysteriously hit about an hour off the coast of Ireland, me quietly crying and praying during the turbulence - and finally, as it always happens - us landing safely in Dublin Airport and me feeling ridiculous for having yet another in-flight breakdown.

Dublin Airport met us with never-ending corridors that kept on weaving and turning, leading the zombie-like, jetlagged passengers of our plane God knows where for at least twenty-five minutes. Finally, when we already started to believe that we were walking to Berlin, we ended up in a medium-sized lobby with glass walls and no central heating. Airport staff were wearing thick winter jackets and hats, and this was where we were supposed to spend the next three hours waiting for our plane to Berlin. I took one look at my sockless feet, and I knew that we were doomed.

The long three hours ensued, and soon Shae and I were covered head to toe with Shae's shawls, which she had so thoughtfully packed in her carry-on, looking more like Russian babushkas sitting on benches in my snowy motherland. And just when we thought that the endless wait was over, we were invited to go outside and wait for our turn to board THERE. I was so cold and tired, I couldn't even be mad anymore and only laughed hysterically when the shivering Shae arched an eyebrow and skeptically noted, "