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I don’t even know where to start with this annual review of 2019 – a year that has taken turns I never saw coming, but somehow brought me back to myself, and cleared the way for future success.
It’s been hard, and harrowing, and heartbreaking, and I hope, the making of me.
I tried to think of creative ways that sharing the story of this year could be useful to you guys reading it – income reports (blergh), lessons learned (bit sanctimonious, no?) or just going month by month breakdowns, but I don’t think that serves anyone other than my ego and maaayyybe the stickybeaks amongst us all.
Ultimately though, white knuckling my way through a huge year of change and growth is the story. The story that I hope and have to trust will serve as the ‘beginning’ chapter of the next steps in my career and life.
I started working for myself, transitioned out of my burnout period and found that the most fulfilling parts of my life were never in the office anyway.
So here it is – the huge ups and downs of 2019. May all its bullshit lead to a better 2020, a fresh new decade, and clearer, happier, calmer living.
January – March
The first quarter of the year is like a haze in my head, the final 3 months of my executive leadership role at TourRadar, where I’d been asked to stay in my management role, leading a team of 75 sales agents across the globe in peak sales and stress period.
I was ragged. Burnt out but pretending I was fine. (Narrator: she was not fine.).
Looking at my photos from this time, there is only evidence of weekend coffee breaks, cupcakes, brunch and ice skating.
All I remember is enduring, preparing as much as possible for the person who would take my place, feeling like a ghost already in my own body and position at work. It was, on reflection, horrible and never ending.
But! Outside of the work things, Stefan and I found weekend adventures and activities to keep moving, keep busy – we skated at the ice rinks of Vienna, we took little mini ski weekenders to Hochkar in the surprisingly excellent ski conditions.
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The best reward for excercise in winter is the promise of warm hot chocolate afterwards! Ice skating is one of my favourite ‘excercise hidden as fun’ things to do in Vienna – the Eislaufverein in the city centre has gorgeous surroundings and plenty of space to make a fool of yourself ⛸😆 It’s €8 entry for adults on Sundays, €1 for locker storage and absolutely priceless to have six year old children race past you as you slip and slide along the edges of the rink 🙈 We had fun though – have you tried ice skating in Vienna?. . . #wien #vienna #austria #igersvienna #visitvienna #viennanow #living_europe #1000thingsvienna #wienliebe #viennacity #welovevienna #visitaustria #viennawurstlestand #topviennaphoto #vienna_online #lovevienna #viennablogger #viennaonly #austrianblogger #wonderlustvienna #communityfirst #igerswien #igersaustria #discovervienna #viennagram #slowtravel #slowtravelvienna #slowlivingvienna #tbapresets
In February we had booked a blissful 2 week ski trip to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, that was so necessary by the time it rolled around I wept in relief.
February was probably my darkest time of the year – I always struggle with it because of weather and the length of winter, but with the seemingly endless work struggle and uncertainty over my future, 2019 February was a complete write off. I didn’t publish a single article on the blog. Pretty sure I was also sick right up until we went skiing.
I struggled hard is what I’m saying, and that holiday was my salvation.
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Feeling incredibly lucky and grateful for a week of being outdoors every day, tricking myself into excercise through skiing and being able to come to the most beautiful parts of Austria to enjoy a holiday 🇦🇹 🏔 It’s hard to ignore that mass tourism is impacting the local life here though – the sheer number of people coming to the region for ski season means farmhouses are now mega hotels, food prices are triple what they are in Vienna and you hear more Swiss, German and Dutch accents than Tirolian. It’s a complicated topic as the industry drives a lot of cash to the villages – but you have to wonder what happens to the families, the generation of millenials who want to make a life in their hometown but are driven out by rising property prices and unaffordable cost of living due to tourist demands? We’re chatting with lots of locals this week to try and find a solution, and in the meantime are embracing slow travel concepts to support local businesses and choose activities with positive impact on local life and culture where possible. Every little bit helps! . . #lovetyrol #tyrol #austria #feelaustria #discoveraustria #exploreaustria #igaustria #myaustrianadventure #austrianblogger #igersviennaontour #serfausfissladis #radgirlstravel #mountaingirl #tirol #igersvienna #littlelocaladventure #slowtravel #slowliving
I learned to ski properly (with my heels firmly in my boots – apparently I’d been skiing on tiptoe somehow for years??).
Stefan and I dodged the apres ski party culture and revelled in blissfully hangover free mornings where we could simply ski, be outdoors, challenge ourselves to new slopes and spend time together.
This was also the period when I decided to shift the blog focus to Slow Travel & Living in Austria – a move that had been happening anyway in my own travel habits, but gave me a lot more focus and motivation to continue with useful articles and purpose moving into the year.
It meant I could share more of what I believe is necessary in the travel industry and make decisions based on those values.
April – June
Felt like freedom.
Like I had been skydiving in turmoil for months on end in freefall chaos, and all of a sudden somebody pulled the parachute ripcord on my life…and I could float, and enjoy the view, and be still, finally.
As part of my negotiation to a new role at TourRadar, I was able to take a months break in April, to recoup and recover and make a clear delineation between a leadership role and the new position in the HR team that would start in May.
It was so so necessary for my mental health.
I did maybe the most indulgent thing of recent memory and had to take a lot of encouragement from Stefan to do it but…. I booked myself a weeks holiday, alone, by the beach, to do absolutely NOTHING.
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Gone swimming 🌊 🙌🏻 ☀️ . . . While I love my life in Austria, I can’t pretend I don’t miss the beaches and seaside living of Australia. My heart can take a maximum of 6 months without real salty seawater and then needs a hit of the energy, sun and sand that you can only get from swimming in the ocean. So this week I’ve run away to the beach, alone for a week, to reconnect, to top up my freckles and vitamin D, to find the little beach kid within again 😊 For all y’all in couples, tell me – do you enjoy travelling solo every now and then? . . (📸 from a trip to the gorgeous Calanques of Cassis a few years ago!)
It was so indulgent in my mind, that I didn’t even post from there!
That week on Las Palmas, on the Gran Canary islands was the beach, sunshine, alone time I needed. To slow down, to see the impact of mass tourism first hand, to lie down, and read, and be in the sun, and sleep well and do nothing for myself for maybe the first time ever.
I felt guilty booking it.
I felt guilty going alone.
I felt like a cog in the mass tourism problem going to an adults only resort hotel that was clearly designed in the 1990’s to maximise budget holiday bookings.
There was a lot of questions I had visiting, and a lot of problematic, deeply ingrained issues in the destination.
But the ocean, the sand, the little tapas bar I found to sip wine and local meats and chat with another British woman travelling alone was bliss.
I took a cooking class from locals and learned (and promptly forgot) how to make local dishes and the fascinating history of Las Palmas.
I explored alone on public transport. I ate tzatziki and bread on a Spanish colonised island surrounded by terrible, terrible British pubs and cheap discount holiday stores.
And I swam. Did morning yoga in view of the ocean. Saw the sunrise and felt the salt and sand on my skin, finally.
It was a gift, it was a challenge, and it helped heal my heart.
I’m still to write about it, but the trip has now settled around me and I think I’m ready for some home truths to be shared in 2020. I hated booking a package holiday – but you have to know what you’re critiquing, and trying it for myself made it clear why these kind of holidays still exist.
Then, on an absolutely irresponsible whim, my best friend organised a trip to Copenhagen for a weekend with a bunch of old friends.
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Copenhagen, you got me 💕 . . . I almost didn’t come on this insanely short trip. It was too last minute, too stressful, too irresponsible, too selfish and not really environmentally responsible to fly twice in a week. But in the end, seeing old friends, soaking up the vibe of this incredible city and eating ALL the good food has been worth it. The thing with slow travel is that it shouldn’t be about being ‘perfect’ all the time – that’s unrealistic. It’s better for all of us to try and make small changes, better decisions, share our knowledge and efforts with others rather than adhering to an unachievable ‘ideal’. So this my perfectly imperfect quick trip to Copenhagen to see lifelong friends and get a taste for living Danishly. What I know for sure is that I’ll be back to discover more – this place has completely stolen my heart!
It was beautiful, and friggen delicious and I was probably in the absolute worst headspace for a trip with high school friends.
Slipping into same old conversations and ideas of ourselves, who we used to be, old dynamics, when I’d spent so much introspective time thinking about who I wanted to become next.
In all honesty, I was probably a total pain in the ass on that trip. Where the group wanted to party late and drink in bars until 4am, I was up at 7am strolling city streets, taking photos, itching to get to the next site and experience as much as possible.
The need I have to organise, to do as much as possible, to ‘make the most of things’ kicked into overdrive, as everything else in my life felt a leeeeetle bit out of control, so even though we had fun in the cold, and saw some cool shit, on reflection I felt bad about the way I couldn’t unwind or relax most of the time I was there.
We had great chats, and one of the best meals of my life together, found funky wine bars, but I was going through so much upheaval, I think I made it difficult on myself and my friends, unfairly so.
I fell hard for Copenhagen though, and want to take Stefan back there for a foodies trip as soon as my business makes some real money! Again a destination I haven’t written about, because I was so cringey about my behaviour I couldn’t…but you guys will be getting the full foodies guide soon. #2020goals
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This time last week I was so excited about visiting a new country and city that I bounded out of bed at 7am (after a night of too much wine) to catch the early morning light and local life. If you told me in my twenties that I’d enjoy being up early for anything I would have laughed in your face 😆🙈but now when I travel I want to savour every single hour 😊👵💕So I’m that annoying friend who’s up early, maps in hand, grabbing coffee for the group to get out the door before 9am because otherwise what’s the point of wasting time? Raise your hand if you’re THAT annoying traveller friend 🙋🏼♀️ !! If you’re the poor soul who has to put up with the over-enthusiasts add a 🙅🏼♀️ in the comments below – would love to know how many fellow travel nerds we got here!
My absolute highlight of May though was the #PropelGraz conference, where I connected with incredible creators, was totally bewitched by the Mediterranean vibes of Graz and finally felt like a professional in my blogging world.
It was a revelation and confidence booster right when I needed it, and I think helped turn my year around, from a mindset and professional perspective.
I connected with industry experts, learned the actionable steps to be better at my job and was so thrilled to explore more of regional Austria.
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The sweet details are what caught my eye in Graz. A wizened, smiley woman walking her dog peacefully below the iconic clocktower at sunrise. Clusters of friends huddled around rickety tables with spritzers in hand at on a warm, dusky Friday evening. This bike leaning against a fragrant hedge with historic backdrop, looking timeless in the middle of a busy day. How to describe a special city like this? Here in Graz, you can feel the sunny Southern vibe is different from Vienna – warm and welcoming. It feels like the winding alleys and hidden courtyards are inviting you to keep exploring, turning one more corner to find the next foodie place. The details will delight you, and keep you seeking more….until eventually you find your own way to describe your magical time here 💕 . . . Weekend in gorgeous Graz sponsored by @visitgraz as part of the wonderful #propelgraz event!
The Propel conference is returning in 2020 to Vorarlberg and I hope it will be just as enriching to all who attend (fingers crossed I can return too!).
By June I had my mojo back again, and took the stunning train ride to Südtirol to enjoy the Traverse bloggers conference in Trento. A perfect blend of Austrian style in Italy and one of the best large travel bloggers conferences I’ve ever attended.
With my confidence returned, I loved exploring the slow travel options in Trento and look forward to returning for more trips throughout the next year – Südtirol is awash in stunning experiences, food and emerging travel spots.
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Bare feet, hearts full, looking over the wild panorama of Trento, Italy 💕 Was going for that artful kinda ‘wistfully looking over the mountains’ lewk but it was so windy and the view so stunning that I actually just got swept up in the energy and excitement of having the valley laid out before me. So the photos were meh but the moment was 👌🏻 There’s a cable car to get here that runs on a strict half hourly schedule (do NOT be a dingus like me and turn up just as a gondola leaves because you will have to wait 30 minutes!) and up top there is this huge and ridiculous lookout point to frolic upon. Most importantly, there’s a tiny apertivo bar tucked atop the hill to cheers to your success in reaching the heights of Trento 😊 TELL ME: do you prefer artfully posed pictures or the raw ‘80’s style spontaneous shots?
July – September
Summer in Vienna was really lovely, we spent a lot of time at Ganselheufelbad, had some indulgent dinners and bid a sad farewell to our beloved local, Zum Blauen Esel, by drinking some of the best wine of my life with truly excellent humans.
Hopped around Vienna’s heuringer’s, cycled along the Danube, found some of the best contender’s for greatest ice cream in Vienna. Oh and just one or two other small things –
Only went and finally launched my podcast!!!!!!!
Speaking with industry legends about life, work and travel. A dream a longtime coming – season two will be happening in March this year!
Went to Russia!!!!!! FINALLY!!!
Explored on a whirlwind trip with my family and fell head over heels with the destination and people. Stefan and I are both obsessed with Russia and Central Asia travel and cannot wait to explore more.
Personally, it was a slightly tumultuous summer, with some really excellent high’s and some challenges, mostly with family, but also with figuring out how the hell to turn this blog into a business.
Questioning where to focus my energy, and what path to follow to make sustainable success – summer was definitely a ‘working it out’ phase.
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Seven years together…💕 . . . We got married for a visa 7 years ago, after knowing each other a total of 8 months. We’d spent maybe two weeks total face to face in that time, the rest was long distance as I waited out my 90 day schengen banishment.Everyone talks about ‘the wedding’ or getting married as if it’s the end of the story, ride off into the sunset. But marriage…it’s almost an unsexy word right? But we don’t talk like ‘old marrieds’ we just…build our lives together. And it’s not all goopy pictures and date nights – it’s hard work, and fighting over how to cook potatoes, negotiating money and how we can still have holidays between visiting international family, and battling mental health together and changing jobs and knowing how you like your tea and sucking at chopping apple slices in *just* the right way. It’s knowing each others weaknesses so you can be their strength. It’s doing life together. I’m still so grateful to do it with this guy, even if he hates selfies and photos. Here’s to 70 years more of wedding anniversaries 😊💕 **psst checkout my story highlights for ‘our story’ to get the full rundown on getting married to an Austrian** 📸 thanks to @camilla.steiner
In September I truly cherished the flexibility of working part-time, it meant I could spend a few precious days exploring Vienna and chatting with my Aunt visiting from Canada, and with close family friends and their daughter when they booked a last minute trip abroad in early October.
September was where I realised how you spend your time is the trick, and the freedom to adjust your priorities, and spend time with family and loved ones is a privilege beyond all others.
October – December
The downhill slope to the end of 2019 – and this is where the doozies started to hit.
From the minor changes to the mega, the end of 2019 hit me like a truck.
Got myself a fringe in October, after obsessing over the #curlyshag look for weeks and loved the 80’s vibe of it all.
Adored the autumn light in the crispy cold mornings of Schönbrunn.
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The air whispered chill against my cheek, the palace slowly revealing itself between the sunrise and autumn leaves 🍁 I was more enchanted by the secret garden where one of my favorite coffee spots in summer lay shrouded in sunrise autumn mist. We’re not done with autumn morning light pictures yet!
Was thrilled to speak at the first European Women in Travel Summit in Riga, in November, and realised that mentoring, public speaking and sharing my hard-earned travel know-how is what I truly enjoy most about my career.
And lawdy lawd thank goodness I had that confidence boost and connected with like minded business women and learned so much in Riga, because in December I was unexpectedly made redundant from TourRadar.
From the company I helped build for six years, the Monday after the Christmas party.
It was an end-of-year kick I wasn’t expecting, and placed all the other ‘big life plans’ Stefan and I had been working towards on hold and in doubt.
We’d started saving for a deposit on an apartment, were looking into getting my permanent residency for Austria, were finally coming to a place in our financial lives that was feeling secure.
When you’re an immigrant, losing a job can put all other sense of security in doubt. So I spiralled into fear and doubt, alongside heartache at leaving a workplace and community I’d given my heart, soul, blood sweat and tears for multiple years to build.
I was angry, for days, and hurt at how it had been handled so unprofessionally in terms of communication. And then I decided I couldn’t – wouldn’t – carry that anger, that negative feeling into my new year, new decade.
What was done was done, I and my fellow colleagues who’d been made redundant couldn’t change that decision – the only thing I could control was what happened next.
So I negotiated hard, then left it all behind me, to start a new year entirely self-employed.
A clean slate. A helluva lot of experience gained, and the determination to do things on my terms, build my own version of success in 2020 with everything I have learned and gained over the last 6+ years at a successful travel startup.
We fled Vienna immediately after for a cheap, quick ski break. Again, excercise, outdoors, being in the mountains was the salvation I needed, though I had no idea when we booked it just how much it would be necessary!
Oh and then I got sick for the last two weeks of the year with a cold and spent the entire Christmas and New Years at home in bed binging Amazon Prime and eating butter chicken takeaway 😂🤷♀️
Because self-care can sometimes be hibernating, nursing your bruised heart, and letting shit go so you can start fresh.
2019 kicked my ass in a lot of ways, but I think the lessons I’ve learned will serve me in the year ahead.
I’m still incredibly grateful to be living in Austria, which has a solid social support system thanks to years of Socialist governments, that means losing my job doesn’t have to mean losing everything.
I’m excited to be able to embark on building my own business, and more importantly, to have the time to spend with my loved ones, to support my friends and community.
That to me, is the lesson 2019 was drilling back to me over and over again – what is your version of success? What work do you want to do in the world?
Goals for 2020
I’ve done a LOT of work on trying to clarify my personal and professional goals for the New Year.
Questioned myself, this blog, my purpose, my friends and worked through the incredibly helpful Firestarter Sesssion by Danielle de la Porte to gain some clarity.
In some ways that kind of work is never done, but cutting myself loose from the definitions of self and success that I’ve stuck to over the last few years has given a new kind of freedom to succeed and soar.
For 2020 I thought my word of the year would be ‘abundance’ but in just the first few days, the word, the instinct that keeps coming up, that keeps resonating and propelling me to action is ‘Community’.
Nurturing this blog community.
Finding an apartment that allows us to keep our connection with our community here in the 15th & 14th district of Vienna.
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Hunting down my next glass of wine 🍷 It’s sturm and heuriger time in Austria!! The first harvest of young wine is in and ready for the tasting- ‘sturm’ is very young, sweet wine and is deceptively delicious. More like juice than wine BUT BEWARE ‘sturm’ literally translates to ‘storm’ and if you drink more than 2 glasses that is exactly what your bowels will swiftly deliver 😆🙈So taste a glass but then switch out to regular wine or juice 😉 I’ve managed to spend the last two sunny weekends skipping through Vienna’s vineyards and don’t intend on stopping that streak – swipe to see our girl band album cover from last weekend in the vineyards of the 23rd district 😆😊 Even if you don’t drink it’s worth taking a stroll to perch at these picturesque wine taverns and soak up a quintessential Austrian experience. Put this one on your list!
Supporting my community back home in Australia through a Bushfire Fundraiser Relief effort.
Building out my community of creative travel entrepreneurs to support each other.
So the driving force of my year ahead is service to my community. In work, and in living.
There are concrete tangible goals along with that, goals that are actually lighting me up inside to finally do the work on.
- Release for sale my digital Slow Travel Guide to Vienna. It’s almost almost ready, and this is a dream I’ve had for a long long time. I cannot wait to share it with you guys!
- Mentor & advise Creative Travel Entrepreneurs utilising my experience to elevate others. Which is why this is happening….
- Host a Vienna Retreat for Creative Entrepreneurs, showing them the local side of life here, and supporting local businesses in the process.
- Explore more of regional Austria with Stefan, to find & curate more slow travel experiences that people (like you!) would enjoy
- Spend my time purposefully – cooking, reading, relaxing, exercising regularly. LIVING in my life, not just watching it speed by. This takes intention, and focus but I’m committed to building a more sustainable lifestyle.
- Find a cracking Genossenschaft apartment in our preferred districts 12th-16th (anyone with hot leads please hit me up! Will be detailing the process for you guys as it is tricksy in Vienna)
If I can pull off those major goals, then life would be pretty excellent in 2020 and I can serve my community in doing them. I think that’s all that we can ask of ourselves in the New Year, surely?
I hope your year is shaping up well, and would love to hear from you in the comments below what you’re focussing on for 2020 – here’s to a successful, satisfying year for all of us.