I grew up reading fantasy novels. One breed in particular appealed most to me. I loved stories about normal humans who get transported to a mystical land. Maybe they were searching for the back of a mysterious wardrobe, or perhaps they answered a classified ad that listed a magic kingdom for sale. Or maybe they just happened to get on the right roller coaster at the right time. Anyone remember that cartoon from the eighties, Dungeons & Dragons? You know what I really hated about that show and other “whisked away” stories? How the main characters were often desperate to get back home. As the reader, there was nothing I wanted more than to enter a land of fantasy, so it annoyed me to no end that these characters were taking their luck for granted. Hang up those ruby red slippers Dorothy and party with the Munchkins instead!
When the prospect of moving to Germany was first discussed, I felt like I was finally given my chance. I would travel to a strange faraway land where I couldn’t speak the language and where the cultural customs would leave me baffled. Best of all, I would do so in the name of love. As you know, I ended up moving to my fantasy world without a single thought of how I’d ever get back. I won’t pretend that it was nothing but carefree adventures from there on. Sometimes I broke down, or I cried, or I got angry. I too longed to go home, but then I would look again at my surroundings: Berlin! London! Paris! These and so much more at my doorstep! For the most part I loved it all too much to quit. I was not going to be one of those people who hurried back to the real world. Why were those stupid kids in Dungeons & Dragons so eager to trade their magic powers for homework? Idiots.
And yet, here we are. Late last year, Dungeon Master told me he’d found a portal that could return me home again. Well, not exactly, but close enough. An opportunity to return to the U.S. presented itself, and I found myself nearly salivating at the prospect. This hunger caught me off guard, but I couldn’t deny it. I wanted it. Bad. But why? Germany is the better country. I’ve felt that way for over a decade now. The health care system works. People are taken care of. I’ve never seen poverty here like I did in the States. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but it’s a lot rarer. People rarely fall through the cracks here. A public transportation system that spans the entire country, a great recycling program, gay rights that—at the time—were years and years ahead of my own country… The political system is superior and even the groceries are cheap! It’s easy to live a good life in Germany, and we did.
Perhaps that’s the problem. Everything here is so damn reasonable. I’m not saying Germany is perfect. History’s greatest example of humans losing their sanity took place in this country. But when it comes to the wacky and weird, those news headlines that are impossibly ridiculous, then it’s hard to beat the good ol’ U S of A. It’s not difficult to believe that anything is possible there. The United States is a dream factory. A fantasy land. Maybe I’ve gotten the story wrong this entire time. Maybe, twelve years ago, I traded one magical world for another. Only one way to find out. Today I say goodbye to Germany. I’ll miss it dearly, especially the people, but I’m certain about this decision. I’m tired of being a stranger in a strange land. I miss the days when I was dating a goofy foreigner, and not the other way around. I’m going home. To where exactly? We’ll talk about that some other time. For now, let’s play Where’s Waldo? Keep your eyes peeled next time you’re in public, my fellow Americans. Maybe you’ll see me, walking down the street and staring at everything with newfound wonder.