I’m back from Austria, and slowly settling back into normal life (whatever normal life is). I learnt a lot while I was away, about travel, about education, about history, and about myself. I learnt a lot of skills, not just while I was away, but in the process of applying and preparing for my trip. Here’s four things that my trip to Austria taught me how to do.
My trip to Austria taught me to make decisions
Decision making is hard for me, especially when under pressure. If you’ve ever asked me what movie I want to watch or what food I want to eat you probably know this. So, all the decisions involved in a trip like this seemed intimidating. If I thought picking travel insurance and choosing between flight options was bad enough, wait until I landed in Vienna with a budget and a whole week to myself.
I will admit I got off to a shaky start. Choosing which museums to spend money on, where to eat lunch, whether to invest in another pair of boots (always invest in another pair of boots) was overwhelming. There were phone calls home, where I just needed to verbalize and bounce my options and thoughts off someone else.
As my time in Austria went on though, I got better at making decisions for myself – even without having someone to run it past first. I decided which meals I wanted to spend money on and which I was happy to have instant mashed potato in a cup for (what a great food invention by the way). I could decide that yes, this museum experience or going to the top of this tower was worth the money to me, and no, I didn’t want to do this particular experience, even if it was something other people might enjoy.
My trip to Austria taught me to save and budget
It wasn’t until I was preparing for this trip that I truly learnt how to properly save and budget. To save, I needed more money coming into my bank account than was going out of it – significantly more. To know if that was happening, I not only had to keep track of what I was earning, but also what I was spending, and what I was spending it on.
I also learnt to value things – not just their monetary value, but their value to me. Was continuing to spend money once a week on a coffee at my writing group a worthwhile investment? To me it was, even if to others it might have looked like a waste when I was trying to save.
But I also learnt how little I needed to spend to survive – and how much I had been spending that I didn’t need to. I learnt to say no to things I didn’t actually want to do, because I needed to save the money for other things, like food in Austria. I learnt self control, to avoid impulse spending and to make decisions wisely about where I wanted my money to go.
While I was overseas, I learnt to keep track of each euro, and to stick to my weekly budget. I learnt that if I went over budget now, it would mean missing out on something else later. Practice in managing a tight budget has been a really useful exercise for me. I am really glad I have learnt how to do this now, as I’m hoping I can apply the same skills here at home to save and budget more wisely than I did pre-Austria.
My trip to Austria taught me to do the things I want to do
This part might seem in contrast with what I just said about self control and spending wisely, but another key thing I learnt was to do the things I wanted to do – even if they cost money. Even if they were unconventional to what others might have wanted to do. I learnt to make the most of my opportunity (who knows when I’ll get to be back in a European country on my own with money and time?) and to see things and do things and have fun.
My favourite museum was also the most expensive one I visited, and I almost didn’t go because of the cost. Was it a lot of euros? Yes. Was it worth it? Most definitely. I hate to think I would have missed on the Art History Museum because of the price. It was a magical experience and worth far more to me than the sum of money I paid to go in. That day I had a cheap lunch to balance it out – and I didn’t regret for a moment, not even as I ate my bread roll and cheese on a park bench in the cold winds of Vienna.
I had good experiences in Austria, and most of them cost money from my limited budget – but that’s okay. I didn’t want to let that hold me back, which is why I had spent so long saving and budgeting beforehand. I can honestly say I don’t regret any of the things I spent money on in Austria, because I focused on experiences I wanted to do and things I wanted to see. Is everyone going to be as excited as I was about going to an underground chapel from the 12th Century? No, but that was no reason to not pay the entry fee and go enjoy that medieval masterpiece.
My trip to Austria taught me to balance priorities
I wasn’t just being a tourist the whole time in Austria – I did have classes to go to and reflections to write and assignments to complete and an exam to study for. Balancing these commitments with the fact that I was in a foreign country for a limited time and wanted to see things was difficult at times. Do I go out and eat (more) goulash with bread dumplings, or do I stay in and write another few hundred words of my essay?
Often it meant being prepared and deliberate. We had a weekend trip to Vienna, which I knew was going to be jam packed and would leave me very tired. I didn’t want to a) be trying to get uni work done in Vienna or b) trying to get uni work done the night we got back. So I was prepared, and did work in advance. Then I got to enjoy Vienna without stressing about the work to do.
(Did I do this right all the time? No. But I learnt eventually).
This trip has taught me a lot, from basic adulting skills to the ways I need to grow as a person. There are other ways to learn all these things, it’s true, and for many of them I am behind the curve, but this trip is what did it for me. For that I am grateful.