Friday thought #49 Money vs lifestyle

I’ve written about this before, but it’s a subject I think about a lot. Whether through choice or necessity, the vast majority of people work either very hard, or an enormous amount, and I would never criticise anyone for the lifestyle choices they make. Everyone is different and everyone has their reasons for the decisions they make. Right from an early age I knew that a standard lifestyle was never going to be for me. The thought of working in an office terrified me and I always leant towards seasons abroad or travelling.

I spent the summer between finishing school and starting university in France, which set the standard for the next 3 years. I think once you’ve had the taste of an outdoor, slightly alternative lifestyle, it’s hard to ever imagine going back to a ‘normal 9-5 job’. I found out that what made me happiest was being outdoors and being barefoot. Whether that was in the mountains or on the beach didn’t matter, it was the fresh air and the outdoors that I loved. I discovered that I was a simple person who didn’t need much, as long as I had the outdoors, I didn’t feel trapped, I was happy.

And I’ve never really looked back, I found ways to make it work in France, and carved out a pretty good life for myself as a teacher in Switzerland. I’m happy to work hard, and when I put my mind to it I think I do a damn good job, but leaving home at 6am every morning, sitting in a traffic jam and driving for over an hour each way just to get to work, wore me in to the ground. Wrong or right, I knew that I wasn’t happy anymore, so after a few years of this I knew I had a choice, accept it or change it. Many people do this for their whole working lives, and I admire them for it, it shows a lot more commitment and dedication than I will ever have, but I knew it wasn’t for me and despite how much I enjoyed my job, I knew this lifestyle was never going to make me happy.

So I chose to change it. Me and my boyfriend made the rather life changing decision to hand in our notices and move to Austria. We knew we wanted to stay in the mountains, but we needed something more, something different. I’ve realised that there are 2 types of people, those who seek the path of least resistance, and those who constantly seek something more challenging. Neither is to be criticised nor celebrated, as both are perfectly acceptable life choices, indeed I often envy those who choose to keep things simple, life is complicated enough without adding in extra issues like language barriers and trying to get your head around an entirely new country’s social system. But I’ve discovered that it’s those extra barriers that keep me going. As much as it’s a very tempting prospect on paper, I’ve had to admit to myself that I don’t want to settle for the easy path. An cruisey job which pays well sounds like the dream, but I thrive on new challenges, on throwing myself in at the deep end and on feeling a bit terrified.

Quitting your job on a whim and moving to another country is never going to be the best decision financially, but you need to decide how much money you really need and what is going to make you happy. My commute has gone from waking up before dawn and a 2 hour round trip in a car, to a 10 minute cycle along a river and flexible working hours. I’m so much happier and I’m so glad we made the decision we did. You only get one shot at life and sometimes you have to stick your neck out and take a risk. If it works, brilliant, and if it doesn’t, well at least now you know!

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Welcome to Innsbruck, Austria, where time and lifestyle take precedent over money…
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Friday thought #28 Apartment hunting – what matters and what doesn’t??

When looking to move to a new town, finding somewhere to live is an absolute minefield, especially when you don’t currently live in the place you’re planning to move to. Do you look to live in the city centre? Right in the hustle and bustle but easier to make friends and socialise. Or do you look out of town? Quiet, peaceful, more space and overall more appealing but with the knowledge that you may end up feeling cut off and out of touch. Should you live near work and avoid the commute, or live somewhere more desirable and travel to work? So many things to consider!!

It’s a big step upping sticks and moving somewhere completely new, and add to that a new country and a new language and your life suddenly becomes very complicated. However hunting around, comparing prices and studying maps of the area is a great way of finding your way round a new place. You very quickly get a feel for where you would like to be, what’s too big, what’s too small and far more importantly than what you do want, is to eliminate what you absolutely don’t want.

I’d say this can be the same for many aspects of life, if you can’t decide what you’re looking for or where you would like to be, consider what you’re not looking for and you will immediately reduce your options enormously. When looking at somewhere to live, for example, an estate agent’s website may display 300 potential properties in the city and surrounding area. No-one has time to trawl through all of these but by carefully considering your criteria you can vastly narrow your search, thus making the whole process much less irritating! But the big question is, what are your criteria? Being forced to think about it really makes you realise what is important and what is an unnecessary luxury. How many bedrooms do you really need? How often is the spare bedroom actually used? How desperately do you need a garden? What can you get rid of? How will your cat come and go? By adamantly insisting that you will only consider 3 bedroomed houses, are you missing out on some lovely 2 bedroomed places?

All useful questions, the answers to which are only considered when we’re forced to make a decision. But it’s a very useful exercise whereby you often learn something new about yourself. What do you really need, and what do you not? The answer is rarely what you first expected…

Friday Thought #5 The importance of stopping to appreciate your surroundings

My journey to and from work, as I’m sure is the case for many people, is long and feels tiring, especially when both there and back are in the dark. Sure my commute is for the most part along a motorway surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, but it’s difficult to enjoy even the most stunning snowy peak in the pitch black of winter mornings and evenings…! It’s totally my choice to live as far away as I do from my place of work so I am in no position to grumble, however, endless hours spent in a car, especially when you get closer to the international borders and cities, can really start to grate on you. The sheer volume of traffic, the angry and intolerant (and incompetent?!) drivers, and the traffic lights, oh the incessant traffic lights!

This tedium day in day out can really get to you, something which so many people can relate to, almost to the point where you feel like you are on auto-pilot, mindlessly covering the kilometres in order to get to where you need to be, and therefore ignoring everything around you.

En route home tonight, adding to the endless stream of Friday night traffic, I took a moment to stop and realise that I don’t always need to be in a hurry. The sunset was beautiful, the mountains were literally glowing, and so I pulled over and just sat, watching the beautiful scenery in front of me. It sounds like a cliché but I’d be interested to know how many people ever stop their daily routine to simply look at the world around them and reflect on how spectacular it is without even trying. We’re all busy people and have a million and one things to do every day, but it’s amazing how peaceful it is to stop every once in a while, pull over and forget that traffic. The World is a beautiful place…

Sunset over the haystacks
Sunset over the haystacks
Beautiful vineyards at sunset
Beautiful vineyards at sunset