By Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.

How did I get here…and what the heck is “Freizeit”??

What’s in a name? Some are meaningless tags; inherent in some are vast warehouses of information. Can you always judge a book by the cover? In this case…perhaps!

Dame der Freizeit (dah-meh dair frai-tsait), translated into German is “lady of free-time”, or as North Americans would call it, “Lady of Leisure”. The name conjures up images of ladies lunching, playing tennis and donning ornate chapeaus. The type of person with much free time on their hands for self-care, pampering, and fabulous lunches with their equally fabulous friends. So how did this woman, a naturopathic doctor, and type A workaholic come to be a lady of leisure in Germany? Well, here is my story…

As a naturopath, my goal in life is to help my patients live the healthiest and happiest life they can. My treatment recommendations are often assisting my patients achieve balance in their lives. A balance of work, life, rest and play. More often than not, however, many of us, naturopaths not exempt, have a skewed relationship with the notion of balance. Putting work ahead of everything else. For myself, in particular, as a person who can also never say no, free time seemed like a fairy tale to me. A wonderful ideal that I KNOW is good for health, and very good for my patients; something I could eventually work towards. If I worked hard enough, had a busy practice, paid off my student debt, car, mortgage, office equipment, etc…then I DESERVED some free time. Time to relax and do all of the things I’ve always wanted with my life. Things like extensive travel, to broaden my horizons, and seek peace within myself. I wouldn’t have time for these things until my life was “settled” and my “business was successful” and I was “financially sound”. It may sound hectic and unachievable, but I don’t think it’s a notion that differs much from the opinion of most North Americans. Always striving for the “next thing”, always wanting better. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this opinion; self-improvement is a worthy goal, and helps us get up in the morning. However, before any of us is truly “happy”, we feel there is so much more to do and to achieve. By the time we accomplish all of our “goals”, our life is winding down, we blinked and 20 years have flown by. What do we have to show for it? Hopefully some memories and meaningful relationships, but if our life lacks balance, many of life’s more fruitful opportunities may have slipped through our fingers.

When the opportunity to travel to Germany for 3 months with my partner presented itself, my gut reaction was “Well, no…I have a practice to run, patients to see, I’m just getting busy, I have bills to pay…etc…”. Despite always wanting to travel the world, and truly experience another way of living, I was afraid to give up what I was working towards…But the more I thought about it, I wasn’t sure what I was working towards anymore…what were my life goals again? What would I want to say about my life 50 years from now? Would missing 3 months of work, in the grand scheme of things, really be that important? So, I decided to go! Now is the time, for me to learn and grow, and face my fears. Did I hear conflicting opinions?…yes…was I afraid my patients would not return to me after my leave?…yes…was I afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills if I took time off?…yes…but was I afraid of passing up this potentially once in a lifetime opportunity?…YES. I don’t want to live a life of regret, so off I went, and flew to Germany.

Upon arriving, one can clearly see the balance inherent in the German lifestyle. They absolutely take care of business, as their international reputation for hard work and ingenuity precedes them. However, they really know how to live life too. Often taking two-hour lunches, walking and biking everywhere, Wandern (hiking), casual beers or cake and coffee with friends and family; working to live and not the other way around.

So I’ve decided to use the time to live a life of leisure; to learn what I can from the German lifestyle, and to learn something new about myself. I am here to relax, learn from local doctors, naturopaths, and local German people about how to balance work and life, how to relax, and ultimately live a life worth living! I am also going to share this information with you. So you too can slow down a bit, and incorporate some “Freizeit” into your lives as well.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon