Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making this Home: Bicontinental Living & Creating

If there was a 'daily double' in blogging, this might be it. It also might be what Yankees in the US like to call a 'two-fer'. This post is both a Living Colors post and a Corner View post. This week's Corner View theme is 'green' and, more specifically, 'your relationship to the environment'. I figured I'd interview Katie, from Making this Home. Katie is a fellow American expat living in Germany (well, sometimes!) and I think you'll enjoy her lighthearted approach to living green as much as I do!

Katie collage web

Hi Katie! Thanks so much for joining us today! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you're living right now?

I'm American; my husband is German. We split our time between a 480 square foot apartment in Berlin, Germany and - get this - a house made out of hundreds of recycled tires in the Rocky Mountains. We ride our bikes just about anywhere we can, eat our vegetables, and have an enormous passion for seizing life. We love to fly airplanes, and no matter what we’re doing, I’m usually journaling about it.

out west collage

So how does living between two continents work? You don't strike me as the type to have her own jet, matching luggage, and multiple international properties! What sort of lifestyle DO you lead?

I always figured that the only people who could live in two places had to be really rich, but that’s not true at all. You’re capable of creating the life you want. In our case, it involves two very different worlds and a whole lot of simplifying. We’re very frugal. I cut Martin’s hair, don’t use a dryer, bike to the grocery store - all of that kind of stuff. Plus we live in really small spaces, so rent and utilities are low. We don’t have to spend much to furnish them. In fact, the place where we live in the US is completely furnished save our bed and desks. We save and save so we can buy airplane tickets; it’s our biggest expense.

Ok, so you don't have your own jet, but it sounds like you would maybe fly one! How did you get into flying?

Haha - you’re clever, Juliette. Martin and I are both pilots - it’s true! Aviation has been a huge part of Martin’s life. I was happy as the co-pilot for years. It’s a lot harder than driving a car. You have to understand physics and mechanics.... which I do NOT. Or at least I didn’t. I got the itch. Learning to fly became my full-time job last summer. But I did it.

collage flying

I mentioned to you that the Corner View series theme this week is "green" and "your relationship to the environment". Has living abroad affected your relationship to the environment, and if so, how?

Modern aviation is incredibly fuel efficient when you break it down per person in the plane. The problem is that flying abroad involves so many miles, so the fuel burned adds up and aviation gets a bad rap.

So each time we arrive in our new place, we’re determined to better ourselves. I joke that you need a PhD to understand the recycling system in Germany. I love it! I love that electricity and water are expensive in Germany. In my hometown in the US, you pay $32/month for all the water you could ever want. Taps just run and run. My parents raised us to conserve. Life in Germany taught me that water and electricity are resources that are not infinite.

As for flying...
Martin is always calculating answers to my questions like “How much does it cost in electricity to run the dishwasher once?” (psst... it’s far cheaper than hand washing!) It costs the same for us to fly many places as it would to drive in the Rockies since we can hop over the mountains in a plane. Commercial flights today are unbelievably fuel efficient. When you divide the fuel use per person, driving can’t even compare. The problem is that our commercial flights are 3,500 miles. It’s the distance that adds up.

Ok, so let's talk about your shop, Gadanke. I mentioned it briefly when I introduced you, but what's the philosophy behind your creative work? Does being green fit in here, too?

Celebrate your story. We all have stories, and they’re all so very important. From baby books to travel journals, I want to create pieces to help draw out those stories.

I'm passionate about the environment, so I think it makes sense to use recycled materials in my journal products. I use a lot of 100% recycled papers and paper alternatives. I also like to buy materials from small businesses and local companies that aren’t outsourcing cheap and ill-treated labor.

*Juliette's note: Gadanke is actually a play on the German word, 'Gedanke', which means 'thoughts, ideas'. Pretty clever for a journal shop with German roots, isn't it?

journal collage 3

They say that to run your own business you need to be passionate about what you do. What events made you decide to open your own shop? and what drew you to journals?

You don’t ever have to be passionate about your work. But if you want to succeed and be happy, you should pick a career you’ll be passionate about, whether you work for yourself or not.

Several years ago, my husband and I were visiting my hometown to celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday. NPR's StoryCorp was in town to invite people to share their stories while a loved one interviewed. My dad and I thought it could be a really beautiful opportunity for my grandma to share some of her stories.

I created a list of prompts and questions for my grandma - much like the tricks I had learned for my journaling. My grandma and I practiced a little over a bowl of ice cream, then stepped into the recording bus.

The problem was my grandma couldn't remember it all.

Later she tried writing her story about college and meeting my grandfather. You can imagine how much she struggled. Too much time had gone by.

My dad turned to me and said, “Katie, I need you to write about what life is like for you today.”

It was actually the documentation process during my flight lessons that led me to Gadanke itself.

journal collage 1

How has running Gadanke and Making this Home changed your life? I think a lot of people think of blogging or running your own business just ups your levels of stress, but I tend to think there's a lot more to it than that!

Well to start, I didn’t feel alone in Germany in the first few months. I’m constantly approached by expats or networking with other expat bloggers (like you!). I’m making friends. I’m also sharing my discoveries with An Expat’s Guide to Life in Germany, which has helped hundreds of others preparing to make the (scary!) move.

journal collage 2

I know that working hard and playing hard can be quite draining. What keeps you inspired and makes you want to keep going with the alternative lifestyle you lead?

I go on a lot of walks. They revive my enthusiasm with the simplicity of the mini journeys.

journal collage 4

What are your Top 6 anybody-can-do-it 'green' tips?

1. Buy recycled tissues, toilet paper, and printer paper.

2. Wear your clothes a little more; run the washing machine a little less.

3. Eat a few vegetarian meals every week.

4. Include more local foods in your meals.

5. Spend money at businesses that make greener choices.

6. Speak up when local businesses, clubs, and your church are using styrofoam and plastic dishes. Urge them to switch to real dishes or paper. Want to know my secret weapon? If they’re religious, I say, “You know, if Jesus had used styrofoam plates at The Last Supper, those plates would still be sitting in the landfill.”

Thanks so much for joining us today, Katie! For more 'green' corner views, check out the sidebar at Jane's.

If you'd like to read more of Katie's story, check out her blog. To see more of her journals, check her shop*.

*Never know what to journal about? No worries; Katie's journals come with lots of prompts to keep your thoughts flowing and pen moving!


Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

What a great interview- I read every word and now I'm going to go check out Katies blog and shop!

Theresa said...

Wonderful. I love the part about sharing your story. I interviewed my grandmother one evening after she began spontaneously telling her life story in such detail. Luckily I got out the video camera and got it all on film...

Grey Lemon said...

Great interview! I love Katie's stationery and travel books, going to visit the shop!

Amie McCracken said...

Wonderful interview! I can't wait to see her blog and shop. I must talk to someone who lives in both my home Rockies and Germany!

le blÖg d'Ötli said...

That's a great post, so rich ! It's quite a novel. Thanks.

tanïa said...

Wonderful and interesting interview! Also had the idea to interview my grandma some time ago...after reading this I should do that as soon as possible!

likeschocolate said...

Great post! See you next week

♥ w o o l f ♥ said...

i have loved this post. thank you.

Susanna said...

wow a whole green story!!
was nice to read this!

Lucy said...

This was so interesting to read!

Katie @ makingthishome.com said...

Thanks so much for this interview, Juliette. Our next interviews... well those just need to be in person one of these days!

Don said...

What a wonderful green post! Thanks.

Juliette said...

Katie, I couldn't agree more! We'll have to meet up sometime when we're both on the same continent! =P

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