Life & Science

Now or Never - How Taking Risks Can Change Your Life

Winnemuth dpa

What do Sydney, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, Shanghai, Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Addis Abeba and Havanna have in common? Journalist and writer Meike Winnemuth has lived in every single one of them.

After winning half a million euros in the German version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?” two and a half years ago the presenter of the show asked her what she will do with the money. Winnemuth’s answer was not what you call conventional: “I want to live in twelve cities within twelve months.” And she had been to none of the places of her choice before. In most cases, she didn’t understand the local language. According to the freelance journalist, who works for several German newspapers and magazines, the main drive leading to her decision, was pure curiosity. Apparently, one of the most difficult things to adapt to was getting used to the uncompromised freedom she suddenly had: “In our world everything in life seems fixed, in a certain order, and unchangeable.” Winnemuth says, her journey opened up her mind for all the possibilities that life has in store for you.

Her experiences cannot only be tagged with adjectives such as funny, sad etc. – they were life changing. This was due to every city bringing out a different trait in her character and challenging her in various ways. About Mumbai she says: “I couldn’t get used to stepping out of my door and the first thing that I saw was poor children on the sidewalk, begging for money.” But there were other reasons such as the brisk correspondence with the followers of her blog (unfortunately she wrote in German only. Her blog, however, had more than 200 000 followers and was awarded a Lead Award in 2012, and stunning coincidences that even resulted in friendships: As she organized apartments for herself in every city that she visited, she came across renting one owned by Carl Djerassi, generally known as the father of the anti-baby pill and another eagerly awaited speaker at DLDwomen13.

A versatile writer – a versatile person

Winnemuth has always had a curious character, which is not rare in journalism; the kind of experiments she exposed herself to, however, is: She has lived on unemployment benefits for a month, has worn the same (model of a) dress for one whole year, and has got herself into shape for the New York Marathon in just three months. And the blogger does not intend to stop trying new experiments: The next year, she intends to live in twelve German cities, one month each. The greatest adventure up until now, however, stays her most recent journey. The book that she has written about her experiences “Das große Los – Wie ich bei Günther Jauch eine halbe Million gewann und einfach losfuhr” (the English translation roughly being “The Jackpot – How I Won Half a Million in Günther Jauch’s Show and Just Took Off”) has become an immediate bestseller after its publication in March this year. Although she blogged on a regular basis about her life abroad she says the book “goes one level deeper”: The author describes it as a more reflected and more orderly summary of her trip. “The return is always part of the journey”, as she specifies.


Her message to the world concerns self empowerment in general as well as women’s empowerment: “One of the greatest insights of my journey was that one doesn’t actually need a lot of money to do what I did.” As she kept working as a journalist throughout the year that she lived abroad, in the end, it was a zero sum game. That is what she wants to emphasize on when she will speak at DLDwomen13 – especially women struggle with taking the first step and letting themselves be immersed by an adventure. Her advice appears worth listening to: You can always achieve more than you think, just don’t be afraid of taking risks!

Meike Winnemuth will speak at the upcoming DLDwomen conference, taking place in Munich July 15 - 16, 2013. Apply for a ticket to this exclusive conference, tune in on the beat of our community on the DLDpulse and find regular updates on the DLDw13 programme and speakers here.

Mentioned in this article

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Meike Winnemuth
Author & Journalist
02 djerassi carr%c3%a9 web
Carl Djerassi
Stanford University
Professor of chemistry emeritus, Stanford University
Stanford University