You know that you’re hooked on Europe when a weekend spent “at home” instead of travelling feels like wasted time. In search of more adventure and some time away, I boarded an overnight train from Florence to Vienna on Thursday night, spending 11 hours squished between strangers and clutching my backpack, trying to sleep intermittently, and waking up – in awe – traversing the Austrian mountains. I believe that this itch to move around is what the Germans (coincidently) call wanderlust.
Although I am doing my entire sophomore year abroad and had previously done a short trip to Copenhagen on my own last semester (I met up with friends after one day), this was my first real solo travel experience, and by my standards, it was pretty spontaneous. I admittedly knew very little about Vienna before booking the trip a week beforehand – but the city’s name had entered my mind seemingly at random, and once I had read a few blogs and scrolled through the ‘Vienna’ tag on Pinterest, I was sold. Packed with cafés and cozy brunch spots, vintage and thrift stores, and dozens of world-renowned art galleries, it turns out that Vienna was everything I was missing from back home, although still very much defined by its own unique history and culture.
My chance happening upon this travel destination was a lucky one. On the first morning that I spent in the grandiose Austrian capital, I met a man who owned one of the world’s best vintage stores, known for catering to clients like Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs and inheriting the clothes of former-Princesses, who spent fourty-five minutes teaching me about the history of Austrian and German designers after I told him that I was a fashion student. Next, I spent two hours at the Leopold Gallery where I was greeted by a collection that featured all (not hyperbolic – all) of my favourite artists of the 20th century, from Gustav Klimt and Rene Magritte, to Cy Twombly and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all on one floor, in harmony with one another. The powerful show on display left me gasping with joy on more than one occasion and I am not sure if I have ever felt so moved by a gallery before. Barely halfway through my first day in Vienna, I felt as though fate had met me somewhere between Nachsmarkt and the Museumsquartier and decided that this was to be a particularly special weekend for me.
Putting myself out there and making my own European adventure was a deeply rewarding experience and I have come back feeling recharged, reinspired, and proud of myself for making it happen. As in my previous post about Lucy from A Room with a View, what my progressive travel experiences have taught me thus far is that when you reach out to the universe, it will respond to you. Nothing happens on its own. Patience, openness, and effort pay off.
As the end of my European year looms in the horizon, I am feeling bittersweet about going back to North America. While the promise of being settled in one place sounds like the relief that I crave, I am also going to seriously miss my days spent looking at original works by Botticelli at the Uffizi, watching sunsets over Waterloo Bridge in London while listening to The Kinks, climbing the Eiffel Tower, and experiencing the first warm breaths of spring in Burggarten. But while these experiences have been specific to their locations, they have something universal in common – the same unbridled curiosity captured by the German word, wanderlust.
Some people believe that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ but I also believe that you have to take the necessary steps that will put things into place. Happy memories are out there but you have to find them… and in the immortal words of Billy Joel, “Vienna waits for you” – whatever your personal ‘Vienna’ may be.