My name is Kit Cloutier.
Here is our story:
I have been in Germany now for nearly nine months. While I am just about fully settled into my new life, the thought still comes upon me on occasion:
„How did I get here?“
As a Canadian student, I had many plans for the future that I was working hard to achieve. I had moved from Calgary back to the East Coast to attend university. I had a boyfriend and we rented a house together. We were shaping our lives as young adults in a very Canadian way. As the fall semester ended, the stress of the university balancing act began to weigh on our relationship. In an attempt to save our fraying connection, I suggested a last minute trip to Carnaval in Québec city. At first my boyfriend was hesitant, since I was suggesting to simply pack up the car and drive 7 hours through Maritime snow drifts, just to enjoy some maple syrup and warm Caribou shots from ice glasses. Luckily, his Canadian and Francophone pride outweighed his initial doubts and we set off early the next morning.
Not having very much money, we decided to try our luck on Couchsurfing, by sending members of the site messages checking if they had any space for two travellers from the East. After about 100 messages, the answer was a resounding „no“. It seemed the city was filled to capacity for the festivities. Upon arriving in Ville Québec, we parked the car and walked around the old town in search of cheap room. A fluke cancelation afforded us an excellent room for a reasonable price with a view of the famous Chateau Frontenac. We had a great week of tobogganing, split pea soup, clacking spoons, dog sled rides, walks by the mighty Saint Laurent River, and of course, pictures with the jolly Bonhomme mascot of Carnaval. But creeping under the surface was the feeling that our relationship wouldn’t last much longer. We were both quite certain of that.
Nearing the end of our trip, I received a strange email. It was written in terrible English by a gentleman asking if we might have room in our car for a passenger going „direction East“. He explained that he was staying with Couchsurfing hosts we had contacted and they suggested he write us, as they knew we would be heading back to the Maritimes. We agreed, and arranged to meet this traveller the morning of our departure.
Once in the car, the three of us began chatting through his bumpy English to discover he was from Germany and was spending a year in Canada, crossing its vastness west to east by getting odd jobs where he could. We talked about travel, music, language and discovered we actually had a lot in common. I invited him to a small concert in middle-of-nowhere-Nova Scotia the following weekend. He obliged and dropped his plans to see the Bay of Fundy in return for this experience. After hours on the road and a pit stop at my house, I said good bye to the boyfriend and continued on to Halifax through white-out conditions and a meter of snow with the stowaway. I was planning on spending the week with my grandmother to prepare for my impending break up, and suggested that the German find somewhere to stay in the city until the show on Saturday.
Saturday came and I picked up the stranger whose name I couldn’t even pronounce and we headed down the back roads to a tiny village for a concert which ended up being in some guy’s basement. There, I met my best friend who happens to be married to a German women. My friend, Chase, and the traveler got to talking and did not stop until the early morning. They really hit it off, as if they had known each other for years. The following day, Chase invited us to his place on the South Shore to spend the remainder of the weekend with his wife and tiny daughter. After laughter and food, Chase’s wife and the traveler got to talking. As it turns out, they were from the same region and knew many people in common. We talked about the amazing coincidences as we went to bed. The following day, the German mentioned that he needed a place to stay, as the weather was too cold to camp and the Maritimes offer few rural hostels. I offered him an open invitation to my house, thinking it would be nice to have some company during the loneliness that was surely to come.
Together, we returned to my town, where my boyfriend was considering other living arrangements. We broke up the day after Valentine’s Day, and needless to say, I was distraught. Although he still lived in the house, he spent everyday and most nights on campus or with friends, so I was very alone during that difficult time, but for the company of the mysterious traveler.
About a month passed, and he and I became great friends. I showed him the secret places tourists miss as he looked for a job in town. A Friday night alcohol fuelled kitchen party was the catalyst we needed to start our relationship. Soon-there-after, my ex moved out west in typical fashion to look for work and the stranger I picked up in Quebec’s name grew more pronounceable and to me, he just became Laurin.
I spent that spring whizzing around Nova Scotia on the back of his motorcycle, camping in Newfoundland and discovering the beautiful region together. Before we knew it, the time had come for him to return to Germany. After a very teary-eyes farewell, I resolved to come to Germany after 6 weeks. I was planning on studying abroad in Spain the following fall, so three weeks in Germany was actually feasible.
I arrived in the Frankfurt airport on a cloudy August morning, absolutely terrified. I was greeted by Laurin’s mother and her decided lack of English. She then drove me through valleys of castles and deep green forests at the impossibly fast speeds of the Autobahn. I already felt connected to the place. Laurin arrived home from work that afternoon and we were overjoyed to see each other. For three weeks, I got to know the people of a tiny village, walked in the forest, played strange drinking games and was absolutely grossed out by what Germans will mix with their beer, but hey, it was a cultural experience! The time came for me to go to Spain. I arrived in Andalusia to a scorched brown landscape. Almost immediately, I yearned to be back in Germany with my new friends, the beautiful, lush hills and of course, Laurin. As I was just about to start university, I had a sudden change of heart, caught a bus to Madrid and hopped a Ryanair flight back to Frankfurt. When I got back to the village, I knew this was home. At least for a while.
So here I am, 8 months later, in a seemingly tiny apartment of a Fachwerk house, going about my daily life almost exclusively in my newly learned language of German, planning to resume my studies here in the fall. I have made many great friends and learned many things and have been shown a beautiful place, full of pride and spirit by the love of my life.
So as I walk over cobblestones through the courtyard of the castle, looking out onto the beautiful hills, I think back to my family on the coast and the life I had there. I can’t help but repeat the question: „How did I get here?“ The answer is simple: I followed my heart.