[Women who travel] Uschi Obermaier

There are so many people (mostly women) I admire and who inspire me, despite the fact that I have never met them (and probably never will). Strong, independent people who do their own thing no matter what others think of them. People who find a way to stand up again, to move forward after a big backlash. People who travel.

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One such person is Uschi Obermaier. Growing up in conservative Bavaria in the 1950s, she went on to “live the dream of an entire generation”: Thanks to her superbe looks (she stripped down again for Playboy when she was sixty and still looked hotter than I probably ever will) and confident attitude, she became a sought-after photomodel. Longing to get out of her small minded Bavarian world, she joined the Kommune 1 in Berlin in the late 1960’s, where it was all about Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll (according to Wikipedia). Read more after the jump.

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Uschi Obermaier, 1969

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Music playing a key part in her life, she had affairs with some of the greatest musicians of her time, such as Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The latter would later say of her in his brilliant autobiography “Life”:

Her road is littered with guys who tried to tame her. They tried to tame something that’s untamable. She’s the best bad girl I know.”

Even though leaving Keith Fucking Richards might seem like a pretty incomprehensible decision to most of us, Uschi soon got tired of being an accessory to the Stones.

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Uschi Keith Richards

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While both her job and being on the road with the Stones did enable her to visit many places, Uschi was looking for more: She was tired of spending her life on airplanes, in limos, backstage and in hotelrooms, not even knowing which city she was in. So one night, she left Keith behind in Chicago and joined one of the other great loves of her life, Hamburg nightlife baron Dieter Bockhorn, back in Germany to embark on a roadtrip around the world.

In their luxurious hippie bus, they travelled the world for several years: They first travelled the Hippie trail, before moving on to the United States and Mexico.

In the end of 1983, her seemingly perfect life took a painful turn, when, in the span of one night, she found out Keith Richards was getting married and Bockhorn died in a tragic motorcycle accident. (Of course, not even this supermodel’s life had been all shiny on the inside, and even today she still struggles from her difficult relationship with her father.)

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Uschi Bockhorn

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All alone, with no money left, nowhere to go and a history of drug abuse, she could have easily fallen into pieces.

But she decided to get back up and, with the help of her friends, found her way back on track. Uschi says of herself that she has an incredibly ability to get out of seemingly hopeless situations. That loving herself and her life, believing in herself and setting goals for herself always helped her to move on. She is convinced that in life, one should always follow one’s heart and not get stuck in boring routines. She learnt how to leave her past behind in order to focus on the present – which also implies taking risks and getting out of the comfort zone from time to time. Even if you are surrounded by great people – in the end, you are the only one responsible for your life, so you better make the best out of it. And so she became a successful jewelery designer, has lived in California for the past decades and continues to inspire girls and women (and probably a lot of men, too) of all ages.

I just finished reading her third autobiography, “Expect Nothing”. And even if her writing isn’t super sophisticated, it’s still a pretty good read. One of my favourite passages of the book, because I identify a lot with it, is:

Doch auch wenn du Freunde hast, die dir über eine Krise oder einen Schmerz weghelfen und dafür sorgen, dass du auf der Reihe bleibst und dich nicht völlig verlierst, zeigt dir der Schmerz, den du da fühlst, immer nur eins: Letztlich bist du ganz allein für dein Leben verantwortlich. Kein anderer. Da gibt es nichts, da gibt es keine Verantwortung abzuschieben. Und in allem gibt es auch immer noch ein Fünkchen Licht. Selbst im tiefsten Dunkel gibt es noch ein Fünkchen Licht. Wenn man die Stärke hat, sich daran zu halten und weiterzustolpern, dann ist man gut dran. Oder es geht einem zumindest schon ein bisschen besser. Ich mag nicht ständig heavy sein oder traurig, aber das kann wie ein Sog sein, und dann treibst du dahin. Du musst dich wirklich am Schropf packen und wieder herausziehen und sagen: “Das geht jetzt nicht mehr, du hast jetzt genug geheult oder warst traurig genug. Das Leben hat noch andere Türen und Fenster.”

A few years ago, her life was also made into a biopic. Again, it might not be Oscar-material, but her story is simply so surreal and inspiring that I have been watching this movie pretty much once a year ever since it came out:

It’s so incredible what she has been through: Growing up in post-war, conservative Munich; becoming a successful model, joining the Kommune 1 and dating their lead figure Rainer Langhans; touring with the Rolling Stones, travelling the world in a deluxe hippie bus with Bockhorn; starting a second career as a jewellery designer in California and, most importantly: always getting back up again whenever life punched her in the face, while staying true to herself and her motto:

“Aim high, expect nothing.”

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