“I have not jumped as Baumgartner (an Austrian paratrooper and base jumper who has established the record of the highest jump in freefall, ndr) from a space capsule, yet the whole world has seen me. I am doing something, that is out of the system, but at the same time it is something, that takes place inside of it, in the middle of this society. It is a tangible and, in a way, also an adventurous fact”. In Leonie Muller’s words there is all the wonder of a young woman (23). Since a few months she has become, against her own will, a planetary symbol for all the young people “in search of freedom”.
Everything begins from an occasional argument with her landlord, after a request for a rent raise. Untenable, as was unthinkable for a young woman in search of independence also going back home. So she begins to think how to live, and finds an creative solution: to move from one train to another, to wash in the bathrooms inside the wagons, and to pay visits to relatives and friends. Initially there were just a few of them, but now the clamour of her adventure has opened doors for her in every city she goes to. The monthly plan of the German railways costs 300 dollars, and, basically, has no other expenses.
In the meantime, she continues to study Communication Science, and her own story is turning into her thesis. Surely, she is not a straggler, as everyone can see, but a young woman who is demonstrating how ephemeral things, that holds back many young people, – incapable of sacrificing even a play-station, to imagine a life spent building relations, meeting people, studying, investigating, and having a lot of fun – are actually a cage from which one can come out. Watch out: this is not a crusade against technology, but a recovered desire to discover the world, a reordering of what human beings must consider to be their priorities. Therefore, little or nothing is destined to ephemeral commodities, the necessary – to ensure survival, an a lot – to interpersonal relationships. A slap in the face of consumerism.
Leonie, a student at the University of Cologne, had grabbed her computer, books, and got on the first train. Then, one destination after another, she has started a public diary on her blog (tyatravel.com), where she describes the incredible regularity of life. “I feel really at home on trains – she says – and I can visit many friends and cities. It is as if I were on vacation all the time. I wish my story inspired people to question their own habits and things they regard normal. There are always more opportunities than one might think”.
Just a few words, but they are illuminating. And fame has arrived out of the blue: “As a student in Communication Sciences, I am familiar with the power of the media and the viral dynamics of the media world. But I am not one of those who is in a group of people, tells adventurous stories and the funniest jokes in search of ovation. I am rather one of those who withdraw from a huge crowd, sits in a corner, opens the notebook, observes and writes; the kind of attitude that is alternatively interpreted as presumption or shyness.
“One might think – she says – that the media have nothing else to write about, since it is summertime, and that this is the reason why they are interested in this project. A plausible suspicion, but it is a matter of fact that my story sparked curiosity in Peru, Spain, Australia, Great Britain, Indonesia, France, the United States, Russia, Singapore, Hungary, and many other Countries”.
She is right. Hers is not merely a summer story, but a life-lesson. An experiment, not a final choice, but it shows how we can detach from those clichés that prevent us from changing our lives. In the minds and hearts of young people, but not only in theirs…
Translated by Ecaterina Severin