I’m sitting in a shared workspace inside a fancy Vienna hotel I know I don’t belong in. The old town is just over the river. I’ll go for lunch and dinner, galavanting across the seemingly ancient cobblestones of the old Jewish quarter like this is a totally normal thing I’m doing.
Because it is… And it isn’t.
Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought I’d be living a version of a dream I had in college. That’s about the time I had this thought I might enjoy living in Europe. Never mind I’d yet to visit the continent. But I knew they had trains.
Even when I finally did make my way to Europe in 2012, the idea of somehow living there seemed unattainable. I just lost my job and heavily chipped into my severance for my already-paid-for 10-day trip around Ireland.
I remember eating at a hotel restaurant in Cork. It was our splurge for the trip. After dinner, a multi-course tasting menu, I stood outside of the hotel. I saw the rates for one night.
“I’ll never be able to stay in a place like that,” I thought as I walked back up the street with my buddies to the hostel we were staying at with the toilet that sounded like a dying lawn mower whenever you flushed.
Years later, I made a point of staying in that hotel during a visit to Cork from Düsseldorf.
I often think back to that feeling of disappointment a decade ago outside of the Cork hotel whenever I get frustrated with something about living in Germany. Because although I’ve come to greatly prefer life here, it’s still a place on the planet Earth. It’s not the Garden of Eden, Shangri-La, or the crescendo of Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” (You know the part: I couldn't take it any longer, Lord I was crazed…)
But it is what I wanted. And I’m here, catching a short flight to the Baltics, taking the overnight train from the shtetl to Bucharest, or running around the trails from my backyard to Hydra.
So it’s moments like looking out over the Viennese skyline from a hotel or writing these words with a view of the Austrian countryside rolling by (I picked up the rest of this newsletter on the train to Salzburg) where I try to pause and feel the gratitude wash over me like the sun on a crisp, winter’s afternoon. I dreamt of, sought out, and made my home.
Berlin's beloved (and loathed) local dialect
Berliners have a reputation for being generally cold, outspoken and rude. It's lovingly called the "Berliner Schnauze", and how you feel about it depends on your perspective. Read all about it over at BBC Travel.
It's important to acknowledge both the fact that life anywhere has its mundane/challenging aspect but that if you are lucky and happy, that's a blessing too!