The Importance of Noticing Details and Being Present

Details are so important. I live my live surrounding them. As an anxious person, there’s nothing more important than details. As a traveler, nothing should be more important than details.

But sometimes it’s really really hard to notice details when you’re travelling. It’s super easy to get caught up in looking at all the big things that everyone else is noticing. I mean once you lock eyes on the Eiffel Tower, you can’t really focus on anything else. Or at least, it’s really hard to focus on everything else.

I have come to love details the most. They’re my favourite things about travelling. All the big, amazing things are incredible, but the small things keep me learning. They keep me surprised and renewed and in love with where I am. They keep me present.

And being present is the most important part of travelling, because not only do you remember what you see, but you remember what you feel. Being a naturally very observant person, this probably comes more easily to me than a lot of people. You get a deeper meaning from everything that is happening to you. Unfortunately, you will probably miss it more because you formed a deeper connection.

A really good way to notice details and remain present is to journal, and journal about everything. Even if you don’t feel like what you’re writing is an important contribution, write it in there anyway. You’ll thank yourself later, I promise. Write about everything you see (draw it if  you can!), but go deeper. Also write about how it makes you feel, what you smell, what you hear, what you learned.  Even the most seemingly trivial details will make you laugh, cry, cringe, and remember when it is over. And take pictures! or videos! even of the most stupid stuff!

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You won’t just remember that it  was raining when you were on the train to Germany, you’ll remember the way the rain drops looked and the sound they made when they hit the train windows. You won’t just remember the cute little cafe, you’ll remember the big fat orange cat that sat on the stone steps and watched you as you walked by. You won’t just remember eating pastries outside your favourite bakery, you’ll remember how the sun looked shining on the awnings, how the architecture of the building opposite looked, and how the summer breeze carried the smell of bread all the way down the street. You won’t just remember low tide in Venice, you’ll remember standing on the steps that are usually covered in water, the smell of the algae, and the sound of the waves.

Nostalgia // Vienna

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I just keep picturing myself walking through Volkgarten. Or sitting on the steps of the Kunsthistorisches. Or walking home in the rain with my groceries. Or strolling along the river.

I almost cried when I came across a picture from outside my Ubahn station. I can remember all the sights and smells, and the same man who sang there every evening at the same time.

They’re good memories, from probably what is the best period in my life thus far.

But I guess that’s what makes it so sad to think about them?

I’m not going to lie, it was actually quite hard for me to look through all my pictures for this. I try to avoid it as much as possible, or I get very emotional. But I’ve been missing Vienna like crazy recently (well, all the time. But it feels like more right now.) Anyway, these are some of my favourites that I rejected from previous blog posts. I don’t know why I rejected them, because they are still beautiful. Even if you took a picture that was completely out of focus, you cannot take a bad picture of that city.

Where I’d Rather Be, Vienna

Vienna is like my European home-away-from-home. (Hopefully one day I will simply call it home.) I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, dreaming of being there and doing all the things I love. Getting pastries and coffee from the bakery, going to the Kunsthistoriches museum, speaking German. Standing in line for €3 opera tickets, people watching outside of Stephansdom, sitting on a bench in Stadtpark. Honestly there’s no place I’d rather be right now.

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Schonbrunn Palace gardens
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Schloss Belvedere

 

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Kunsthistorisches museum
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Stephansdom
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One of my favourite gelato places

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Austrian Parliament

Favourites #6 | behind the scenes London & Vienna

Sorry It’s been so long since my last post – it’s been an intense summer thus far, so I’ve been taking a break and re-prioritizing, not to mention getting over jet-lag and culture shock. Now that I’ve absorbed my whole trip and gotten (mostly) used to everything again, I’d like to share some photos of what my trip was like beyond my travel diary posts. Here are some of my favourite behind the scenes moments that I think best represent what my travels were like.

London

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This was what our group looked like throughout most of London
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This was what I looked like throughout most of London
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This gorgeous liquid got me through London

Vienna

 

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I ate way too many Austrian pastries, I have zero regrets
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I went to an opera at the Vienna Opera House one evening
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some notes from class – this was a study trip
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Me, very excited, at the UN headquarters Vienna

Wow I’ve only been home for two weeks and I’m ready to go back already. I should really stop looking through pictures.

A Farewell to My Favourite City

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Vienna,

I’m very very sad to leave you. You’re my favourite city and I couldn’t ask for a better home away from home. I left and when I came back it was like I’d never been gone. Don’t take this as a goodbye, because I’m definitely coming back- hopefully to stay for a long time. I fell in love with your history, your art and your architecture a long time ago and I’ll never forget everything I learned.

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You’re a magical city, and I was happy to be a part of that even if just for a month.

Thank you.

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Vienna Week Three

We are ending our third week in Vienna, which is super hard to believe. On one hand it seems we’ve been here for two years, while on the other it feels as if it’s gone by in two days. While obviously neither are true, I think I’ve spent my time here well. Plus we still have one more week in this amazing city, though it fills me with sadness that I have to leave at all.

But before we leave for free travel again this weekend, here’s a recap of my third week in Vienna.

Class

This being a study abroad trip, we spend most mornings in class. I really really enjoy class because we learn all about the city of Vienna and Austria’s history, which as I’ve mentioned before is so interesting (and long). And of course we study art as well, which I what I love and want to study so it’s icing on the cake. There’s also something about learning in a room full of people you’ve been travelling with and therefore have grown to love.

Central Cemetery 

Central Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in the world and the second largest in Europe. And it is huuuuuge. More people are actually buried in the cemetery than live in Vienna. It’s a very cool cemetery in that it’s a cemetery for all religions, no one was excluded for their beliefs. Many famous people from Vienna or that are important to Vienna’s history are buried here, though many weren’t originally and we’re moved here. Amoung many, I saw the graves of Beethoven, the Strausses, Brahms, Schubert, and Mozart’s memorial (no one actually knows where Mozart is buried, he’s in a mass grave somewhere unfortunately). It was a very interesting trip, there is so much history behind the cemetery walls.

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Jewish Walk

Vienna has something called Gedechtniscultur (Culture of Rememberance). Anything and everything from street signs to plaques along a sidewalk are used as ways yo honour Holocaust victims and remind people so that it will never happen again. Right down the street from our apartments is a glass case in the sidewalk. It is filled with 462 keys to shops and apartments along the street, each one labeled with a name tag of the Jewish person who owned it and disappeared during Kristallnacht. It is not uncommon to see small golden bricks replacing a cobblestone on the sidewalk, engraved with a Jewish person’s name, the date of birth, date and place of deportation, and date of death. It was a somber walk, but it was one everyone needed to take.

Schloß Belvedere

Belvedere castle was completed in 1730. This visit was fascinating because our guide explained very well how Austrian history ties in with the progression of art, and how they influence each other. The Belvedere has many works of art from the Baroque period to Gustav Klimt. I was very happy by the end of the tour, because I got to see works by Klimt (including The Kiss), Schiele, and even a Munch.

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View from the Schloß

Yeah it was a great week.

Literally a Fairytale

… or Hallstatt, Austria. 

This weekend was a little crazy. First free travel weekend on the program and I travelled around 2 countries and 6 different towns, and saw many many mountains. Amoung those 6 towns were Munich and Königssee, and Hallstatt.

Hallstatt is a charming little town sandwiched between mountains and the Hallstätersee. It’s been around since about 800 BCE. It’s so probably the most charming little town I’ve ever seen.

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It’s also very tiny, and took about 30 minutes to walk the length of the town. But that only contributes to it’s adorable village-ness.

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It was fairly easy to get to, considering it’s location and our location in relation to it. It only took one short train ride and a 7 minute boat ride. And of course the first thing that greets you are the amazing colourful houses.

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I’ll take one in every colour please.

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Flora & Fauna & Royalty

Vienna’s history and buildings are amazing, but this week we’ve been seeing a lot more flowers. A lot more.

Of course, everything here has historical/cultural significance, so even those flowers tell some kind of story.

Kahlenberg, Vienna Woods

Vienna basically has everything, including mountains and a forest. We went for a short jaunt up one of the small mountains (Kahlenberg) and got a lovely view of the city from the top.

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Kahlenberg was the home of St. Josef’s church, a cloister, and a vineyard (at least portions of both are still there). At several different points in the hill’s history, the royals decided name changes were in order. So, this small mountain has been called Schweinsberg (originally, after all the wild pigs thay used to live there), Josephsberg, Leopoldsberg, and Kahlenberg. During the Siege of Vienna, the King of Poland launched his attack on the Turkish army from this mountain. After enjoying the view, we went into the woods.

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Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace was the hunting lodge and eventually summer home of the Habsburg royalty from 1569 to 1918. It’s had a bit of a tumultuous history, just like the royalty who resided in it. The palace has seen about 400 years of history, and the rise and fall of many Emporers (+one Empress). It’s  too much to document here (but look it up it’s super interesting).

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Schönbrunn Front Courtyard
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Back Courtyard
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View of the Back Courtyard from the Palace

No pictures were allowed inside, sorry.

Now, for the flowers.

People flock to Schönbrunn to see the history of Vienna and the Austrian Empire, but just as many come to see the lavish gardens and beautiful flowers. And I mean hundreds and hundreds of flowers.

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For a person with a slight fear of bees, it was a pretty scary place.

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Clearly the Habsburg royalty enjoyed a lavish style of living, even in the gardens of their summer home; and even that has a story behind it.

Vienna Week One

I’ve just realized today that I’ve been posting pictures of things I’ve seen and random bits of writing, but not actually what I’ve been doing. I know my friends from back home would like to know what I’ve done. As this is a study abroad trip, most mornings are spent in class and then the afternoons are spent touring a museum or church and seeing what we learned about in class. However, there’s always a sight to see during free time, or pop around the corner to get gelato. And honestly, just the trip to the grocery store and back is so gorgeous. We’ve completed our first week in Vienna (which is both exciting because it’s Vienna and sad because I’m one week closer to having to go back to the States). So here’s a post containing the highlights of what we’ve done in Vienna so far. Plus some history- yay for you!!

The Römermuseum

Vienna’s Römermuseum is all about the ancient history of the city. Yes, Vienna is ancient. While it was settled around 800 BCE, Vienna’s early history gets good when the Romans took over. It was established as a garrison town called Vindabona in 1 CE, near present day Danube River (which is now district one on today’s city grid). There are actually some really cool Roman ruins to see in the city too. I didn’t take any pictures inside because I was too busy taking notes, sorry.

Stephansdom

Stephansdom  (St. Stephan’s Cathedral) took centuries to complete and the first version was built in 1100. This towering cathedral in the center of the city has seen much, from the plague to a fire during WWII bombings. The Steffl (spire) is 450 feet (137 meters) high, and there are a quarter of a million glazed tiles on the roof.

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Kunsthistorisches Museum

Over the course of their 600 year reign, the Hapsburg monarchs amassed a huge collection of art. While some used to be housed in the Hofburg palace with the royal family, the Kunsthistorisches Museum is now home to thousands of paintings (largely Renaissance), sculptures & busts, and Hapsburg royal family relics.

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Gänsehäufel

We had a free day Saturday, so we decided to spend a few hours at Gänsehäufel. It’s a small island in the middle of the Danube (Donau) River. There’s a pool and some volleyball courts, grassy expanses for sunning oneself, and beaches along the river. Also large amounts of geese (as the name suggests) and even some swans. It was nice to have a chill day to stick my feet in the incredibly clear water and get a great view of downtown.

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Around Vienna

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“Comfort”

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One thing that has been made clear to through all my travels is this: it takes dragging you out of your comfort zone to make you realize what is constant and steady, what you take for granted, and what is superfluous.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life lately (when am I not), but more specifically what is superfluous and what is constant. As some of you may know from previous posts, I am constantly aware of superfluous items and I try my best to live without them. However since this trip, I’ve been thinking about the superfluous noise I put into my life. All the things that don’t matter, but I make a big deal out of it anyway; and all the things that are constant and do matter, yet I take for granted. Travel has a way of forcing you to reprioritize.

I know now that I desire to live slowly, learn a lot and love as much. In America at least it is largely about doing as many things as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. Because of this culture, life passes in a blur. It’s so centered on what comes next and what comes next and so on. It drives me crazy that this is how I do things, that this is my “comfort zone”. I just want to live intentionally, in every way possible. Maybe that’s why I love travel so much, because you have to be intentional about what you do and how you do it. I’m not exactly sure how to put it into words.

Sometimes I feel like I have two halves of myself fighting inside me. One half urges me on to intentional living and travel, the life I want; while anxiety tugs at me, begging me to return to “normalcy” and my “comfort zone”, even if I hate it.

And is it comfort or is it just habit?

It’s so incredibly easy to return to habit or comfort, or the comfort of habits- but it’s not always for the best. I want to be what I dream of being and do what I dream of doing. I’m a firm believer that if you’re not happy about what you’re doing or being, then you have the power to change it.

Comfort is no good reason for standing still.

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