Austrian Travels – Part 1

I made it to Graz! So here’s an update on my time in Austria so far.

I thoroughly enjoyed my week in Vienna. It was the tourist/sightseeing part of my trip, and I definitely feel I did it justice. I enjoyed exploring the various museums (Kunsthistorische, Neue Burg, Romermuseum, Jüdische Museum), I went to the peak of St Stephen’s Cathedral and the dome of Karlskirche, the Hofburg Palace and the Vienna Opera house. I delighted in exploring old bookstores and cafes and side streets and shops. I feel like I know Vienna (at least the city centre) as well as I know the CBD of Brisbane back home. I’ve learnt how to navigate the underground train system, and I even know where the best wifi and cheapest bread rolls are in Stephenplatz. Also, I have seen and patted so many dogs!

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Me. Rugged up. Cold.

I’m adjusting to the temperature change and all the lifestyle habits that come with it. I am now used to layering up with jacket, beanie, scarf, gloves and boots before stepping outside, and the inevitable un-layering that happens when I enter somewhere warm and cosy. I’ve learnt how to wind my scarf so my neck, ears and nose if needed are all protected from the wind. Unfortunately wearing glasses doesn’t help – metal sits verycoldly on my face, and the lenses tend to fog up quite regularly! But I’m making the most out of being able to use all my winter gear, and even enjoying finding new ways to layer clothing for the warmest effect.

I still find it amazing to be in a place, a city, a country with history that stretches back through the ages. During the week I visited an underground chapel in Stephenplatz. It is the only underground chapel in Europe. Built in the 13th Century, the construction of the St Virgil’s chapel  was most likely part of the redevelopment and expansion of Vienna funded by the ransom paid by England for Richard the Lionheart. Then chapel had vanished from view for hundreds of years, and was only rediscovered when the underground railway was built in Vienna in the 1970s! To be in a place that can trace the roots of it’s story back through our collective consciousness like that takes my breath away and makes the inner history geek in me just completely freak out with joy.

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Palace? Opera House? No, this awe-inspiring building is a museum. It was so pretty I almost cried. 

I’ve had some serious geek moments on this trip – the nice thing about travelling alone means doing the things you want to do and seeing the geeky nerd things you want to see. The not nice thing about travelling alone is that there’s no one to witness these geek out moments and laugh at my total state of excitement with me. But walking through the Imperial Apartments at Hofburg palace, seeing the violin owned by Mozart’s father, going to a museum that looks like a palace, spending hours browsing bookstores and shop windows and museums -seeing real Egyptian artefacts and statues from Rome and suits of armor from the Renaissance – my history and literature heart is pretty happy.

This morning, to end my week in Vienna spectacularly, it snowed! Not very heavily, but enough. Then my bus to Graz took me through snow laden mountains and past snow covered fields and frozen rivers and frost tipped trees and it felt like I’d been transported to a magical world of white. I understand now why people write poetry about snow.

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This is not a drill. This is real snow.

Over the next three weeks I will be blogging over at AIM Overseas (the organisation I am doing my program through) as one of their official bloggers. As always, I’m posting photos on my instagram if you want to keep up with my travels.

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Taking Flight

Do you remember how a few months ago I wrote this thing about traveling alone and how scared I was feeling?

Well, I leave for a month overseas, alone and independent, at the end of this week.

That happened very fast.

Family and friends will be only an email away – but that’s still a very long way away.

I’m not as scared as I was. But I’m also a lot more prepared and ready. I’m packing and making lists and printing documents and getting myself together. It’s down to the pointy end of planning for my adventure.

Even now I’m mentally listing the itinerary I need to finish, the sim card I need to test, the decisions about which jacket on the plane I need to make and when I should do my final load of washing.

It’s all on me. I’m responsible for myself, and for making this trip work. If I forget something important, I need to solve it. If I get lost, I need to ask for help. If I freak out about something, I’m the one who needs to calm myself down and come up with a plan.

I’m excited. I’m nervous. I still have moments of panic, of oh-my-goodness-what-have-I-done. But I’m ready – or as ready as I will ever be before actually stepping onto that plane and taking flight into the air.

Already planning and preparing for this trip has helped me grow in a lot of different areas – researching and planning, managing my finances, and of course, filling out paperwork. But in all seriousness, I’ve talked to insurance companies and organisations and applied for scholarships and grants and done things I wouldn’t have had to do otherwise – and I haven’t left Australia yet. I am sure in the next four weeks I will be required to do many more new things, intimidating things, things that push me out of my comfort zone – things that are good for me.

I know this trip will make me more confident, more capable and more independent. Those are all good things, right? But I also know this trip will make me more grateful for home, for stability, for my day to day normal. I’m excited and keen for the adventure, but I’m also looking forward to coming home, having learnt new things and gained new perspectives.

So while I am gone I will do my best to be brave and smart and resourceful and organized. I will soak up every moment of adventure, every new experience, everything about being in a different country by myself. I will do this knowing that home is a safe place to come back to, with people who love me and routines that are simple and not scary.

But maybe the occasional scary thing isn’t so bad.

P.S. While I am away I will be blogging over at AIM Overseas (the organisation I am doing my program through) as one of their official bloggers! I will also be posting photos on my instagram if you’re interested in following my adventures.

Intentions

I don’t really do New Years’ Resolutions, but I do like the idea of setting deliberate intentions. Even if they’re a few days late. Even if they’re not new intentions, just more focused and better defined intentions. More intentional intentions. More forgiveness. More thankfulness. More courage. More kindness. More focus in everything I do. More focus in choosing what I do, and choosing to not do everything.

I want to have an open heart and a focused mind. A creative spirit and disciplined routines. Maybe I want an impossible balance, but I want to find the ways to live out my life that bring out the best in me, so I have the best of me to offer to the people around me and to God.

I don’t think you can promise to change overnight, or switch track and direction just because the calendar changes. I do think you can make choices every day, whatever the day, that add up to show the direction your life is heading in – away from these attitudes and habits or towards these attitudes and habits. Your life will keep rolling on the track you are on whether you pay attention to where it’s heading or not. So you might as well pay attention.

A smart person I know in real life blogs over at St Eutychus, and wrote a long, detailed blog about these kinds of resolutions – these kinds of intentions that slowly shape your life. Here’s a part I liked from it. If you have the time, read the whole thing here.

“Sometimes we’re pretty small when it comes to our sense of what can be achieved through making these seemingly small habitual changes. Sometimes our focus is just on what we can change about ourselves. And that’s boring and inward looking; and perhaps it’s also ineffective if, perhaps, the best way to change ourselves is actually to look outwards and ‘offer ourselves as a living sacrifice’… What was on your list? Eating healthy (yeah, that’s on mine too). Exercising more. Sleeping more. Doing bits and pieces from the lists above when it comes to how you fill your head… that’s all good stuff. But it’s a bit lame, and probably much the same as everyone else. What should our list look like if we’re becoming a ‘new self’? What does it look like not to focus on ‘self-improvement’ but ‘self sacrifice’ that’s both ‘in view of God’s mercy’ and in some sense a ‘view of God’s mercy’; a demonstration of what it looks like to be transformed into the image of Christ. The new you, as a Christian, is a pretty big deal…  but it’s not a thing you build by yourself, it’s an act of God that happens in us as our ‘worship’ changes.”

Changing track isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to happen overnight. It happens as you live worshiping Jesus instead of the hundreds of other things we could worship instead. We live into the new self, easing in day by day, habit by habit. You don’t have to give up when you wobble for a moment. It’s about the overall intention and direction your life is heading – towards Jesus and all that living a life following him means, or away from it, towards other things. Each choice you make feeds into that progression of the story of your life.

So I am choosing these things this year. Forgiveness. Thankfulness. Courage. Kindness. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. I am choosing Jesus, again and again. I am setting my feet and my face and my heart in his direction and walking steadily onwards, whatever the cost.