Two months have passed since we returned from our American tour, and here we are, leaving Berlin again for our first little one-week trip to the South of France. When we left home last weekend to head to the airport, our children were a bit concerned and asked whether we would be leaving for three months again. It is in those moments that I realize that our tour has marked them, too.
I would have never thought that three months on the road in the US would make such a difference. But they do. And this life changing experience has been continuously with me every day since we got back home. We have had many follow-ups with various people, among others a dear visitor and new friend from Chicago stay with us in Berlin and give a Campfire Talk at the firm. The connections we renewed and built on our three months tour are strong and alive.
At the same time, we are all getting back to something like normal. The fact that our children have started school helped us get back into a structured day and picking up our professional and social lives again. But I miss our time on the road, in particular the soothing green of the Pacific North West and the great wide open further east, the big rock formations and the solitude. My good friend Ben sent me a few miniature camper vans to help me keep the dream alive.
When people ask me what I liked most about our trip I tell them three things:
One is the precious time I shared with my family.
At some point, and I believe it started on Bainbridge Island, we dropped all the extra luggage and just focused on one another, naturally, living through the day, enjoying each other’s presence, living in the moment. I noticed when we returned to Berlin that I was able to look into my children’s eyes and hold that look, thinking that all that mattered in that moment was just that. The little machine in the back of my head which constantly runs movies and play-scripts was just turned off. And I try to keep it off when I am with my family. I can sense that after several weeks back in the game, its impatient conductor tries to get back into the driver’s seat.
Two is the distance to my firm and my profession.
Over time, I came to realize that this law firm I started a couple of years ago is not the center of the universe and that the world continues to spin without me being involved. This would not be my perception without the firm’s team who during my absence grew together, took over responsibility and ran the show. From a managing position, I conclude for myself that going away for some time may just be the decisive move to ultimately build a team.
Another aspect of this distance is the distance to the legal profession itself. My concluding remark for myself after the three months in the US was “love, not law, is the answer”. The current culture of alternative dispute resolution is not where it should be. Arbitration has turned into a big dispute resolution machine allegedly more effective than court proceedings. But what I really see is that arbitration has become a club of lawyers and that the connection with the users is weakened. I have moderated hearings since I’ve been back where lawyers oppose one another aggressively in an unpleasant atmosphere. I have said to myself that I do not want to accept that as a status quo or as a way of doing things, but that I want to change it; that I want to create pleasant dispute resolution environments; that I may want to introduce new techniques in dispute resolution that allow for a constructive instead of destructive dialogue. I have already talked to a few “magic” people about these ideas. They share my perception and encourage me to move forward in this direction. We will see what happens.
Three is that I just did it and took off.
I just left for three months and traveled. Yes, we had a plan. And yes, I combined my trip with professional activities. But in the end, most of it just happened. As does life. And it is good to see that many things just occur and that they become special because you live in the moment attentively; that you create room for new experiences and new impressions. But that all that is only possible because you take the initiative and because you don’t let your life run you.
I truly hope that I can safeguard these three major reflections and that I can continue to live in this spirit. Besides the fact that it makes everything so much easier, I sense that they are a constant source of inspiration and creativity as well as of new opportunities.
And with this my friends, I will let my American guitar rest for a while at least as far as this blog is concerned. I’m sure that with time more thoughts and reflections will come about that this trip has triggered, and there may be new opportunities to pick this blog up again. We will see.
I wish to thank all that have followed and supported this journey for all their assistance and kindness and for showing so much interest in this little family tour and our stories and thoughts. It has made it clear to me once more that humanity lives on sharing in the first place.