Friday thought #52 From Autumn to Winter in a matter of days…

Innsbruck is a wonderful place. Where else in the world do you have stunning mountains and all the nature you could wish for, within spitting distance of a city with all the amenities a person could ever need?

The seasons are changing fast here, the bright orange and yellows are out in force and the colder weather is creeping in, which means Winter is coming…! But not quite yet. Last week we managed both a via ferratta (climbing rock faces using fixed metal railings) and a ski tour within a couple of days. Perfect!

Heading up the wall
Heading up the wall
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In the cave halfway up, with Kematen, one of Innsbruck’s neighbouring villages below
Quite an impressive wall!
Quite an impressive wall!
No-one around, bliss!
No-one around, bliss!
Stunning ice formations at the top
Stunning ice formations at the top
A well beaten path and spectacular scenery
A well beaten path and spectacular scenery
Powder in October??! Who'd have thought?!
Powder in October??! Who’d have thought?!

Friday thought #51 Oktoberfest!

Having recently moved to Innsbruck, Austria, it seemed almost rude not to make the 2 hour drive to Munich for our very first Oktoberfest. It’s one of those mythical events that you always hear about and would love to go to, but never quite get round to organising. Well not anymore.

Lederhosen, dirndls, steins and checked shirts as far as the eye can see, Oktoberfest is nuts. It’s one of the busiest, craziest and most fun places I’ve ever been and I think a right of passage for anyone within reaching distance of Munich. If you want the finest possible example of national pride, then look no further. Stereotypes ahoy, Oktoberfest is Germany at its finest. The sea of traditional outfits is enough to make anyone smile, but what really struck me is how much fun people were having. Sure, litres of beer tends to alter anyone’s mood, but I’ve lived long enough to see how consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can have a rather more adverse effect on people. At Oktoberfest, EVERYONE is happy. People as far as the eye can see are squeezed in like sardines and space is at an absolute premium, but no-one cares, they are all there to have fun. I lost count of how many “PROUST”s we did with our new found friends, smashing our litre steins together in the middle of the table, but of the tens of thousands of people there, we didn’t hear one angry voice or witness even a hint of violence; such a refreshing change from your average booze-fuelled night out in a city.

Oktoberfest is simple fun done well. I couldn’t recommend it more highly if you’re a fan of  laughing, smiling, having fun and generally enjoying your life.

The 'Paulaner' tent
The ‘Paulaner’ tent
On the way in
On the way in
So many lederhosen...
So many lederhosen…
National pride at its best
National pride at its best
Fun for all the family!
Fun for all the family!
Be under no illusions that the food will be gourmet. Chicken means chicken (and nothing else!)
Be under no illusions that lunch will be gourmet. Chicken means chicken (and nothing else!)
The kitchen in one of the tents - expecting to sell a few chickens??!
The kitchen in one of the tents – expecting to sell a few chickens??!
PROUST!!
PROUST!!

Friday thought #50 First ski of the season – in September!

The title says it all really! It seems winter comes early in Innsbruck as the Stubai Gletscher guarantees skiing from October to June. A couple of days of heavy rain last week meant a good layer of snow up high so the lifties were kind enough to get it open a week early. Exploring a new area is always great fun, especially with very few people, fantastic snow and glorious sunshine!

We even found a little peak to scramble up, our first Austrian peak! Looking out over the Dolomites, with snowy peaks as far as the eye could see, I must admit I was feeling pretty happy about our move. The novelty of starting the ski season in September certainly helps! We finished off the day with tired legs and a Weissbier in the sunshine, excited about the winter to come…

A stunning panorama
A stunning panorama
Stunning
Looking across to the Italian Dolomites
Incredible cloud inversion, luckily we were above it!
Incredible cloud inversion, luckily we were above it!
So much to explore!
So much to explore!
First Austrian peak!
First Austrian peak!
We even found some powder!
We even found some powder!

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…

Friday thought #48 Impressions of Innsbruck

Apologies for the brief hiatus, but the last 2 weeks have been pretty hectic; myself and my boyfriend completely shifting our lives from the French Alps to the Austrian ones, and all the admin and stress that goes hand in hand with it. From furniture arriving to getting the internet connected, and from starting new jobs and learning a new language to most importantly of all, exploring our new home, there hasn’t been a lot of down time.

There will be a lot more to come on Austria, and the reasons for the move, but for now my first impressions of Innsbruck have been rather good:

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The all important Germanic beer at lunchtime outside a mountain hut. As a general rule I don’t even like beer, but Weissbier is different…
Just one of hundreds of secret, deserted and beautiful forest paths the mountains of Innsbruck have to offer
Just one of hundreds of secret, deserted and beautiful forest paths the mountains of Innsbruck have to offer
A local Flea Market; fascinating! It's incredible to see the junk people are selling. But I did manage to get myself a superb town bike at a bargain rate!
A local Flea Market; fascinating! It’s incredible to see the junk people are selling. But I did manage to get myself a superb town bike at a bargain rate!