How Vienna Taught Me To Take Advantage Of Everything

A year ago, I fit my life into two suitcases and took off for Vienna.

VIENNA
PHOTO OLIVIA MOLINEUX

I knew almost nothing about the city, knew no one there, and didn’t even know how to say hello in German.  Though that sounded crazy to my family and friends, it was exactly what I wanted from my experience.  I wanted to not only go outside my comfort zone, but to completely expand it.

When I first arrived in Vienna, not having people to hang out with and not wanting to go outside in the cold resulted in one too many nights of watching movies in bed, talking to friends from home, and complaining about my ‘roommates from hell.’  I soon realized that the only person who could make the situation better was me.  So I set off to scour the Internet (frequently checking city calendars) and guidebooks to make a list of every museum, all the best restaurants, every landmark, concerts, and anything else I could find that looked interesting in Vienna.  I was determined to do everything and spend as little time at home as possible.

VIENNA
PHOTO OLIVIA MOLINEUX

For me, the key was having a routine.  Every morning I woke up at six in the morning to go running through the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, or through my neighborhood (a great way to explore). I would grab breakfast at the Naschmarkt, bike to work on the city bikes, bike to school, and then go to one new cultural event or place, even if no one wanted to join me. Finally, if I didn’t find a new restaurant that night, I came home to teach myself how to cook a new recipe. I learned to love eating meals by myself at restaurants… the waiters would always sit and chat and give me great recommendations of things to do in the city.  It’s impossible to get homesick when you’re always busy and having a great time.

I found incredible hidden places, learned how to get cheap opera and concert tickets, and I now know the city like the back of my hand.  I also made anyone I met help me with my German, which made me feel a lot more comfortable exploring the city alone.  If I heard about anything interesting going on, I was there without question.  During the spring, a group was renting two large boats and sailing around Croatian Islands.  I barely knew them, but as soon as I heard about it, I signed up and had an amazing time doing something I’ll probably never get the chance to do again.

VIENNA
PHOTO OLIVIA MOLINEUX

Running through palace gardens while the sun is rising, biking to a job where I can barely understand most people, and finding things in common with the man at the Dr. Falafel stand (his falafel sandwich is the best lunch in the city) may have once sounded like things I would have been terrified to do. But now, they just sound like part of the daily routine I miss tremendously in my favorite city in the world.  In 2012 I learned how to take advantage of everything a city has to offer and learn that any place can feel like home.

VIENNA
PHOTO OLIVIA MOLINEUX

Olivia Molineux

Olivia grew up in Danville, CA. Her secret travel tip is indulging in street food which is often the best food. She can never travel without a pair of comfortable shoes. City bikes are her favorite travel discovery, "while living in Vienna, I loved biking around the city for hours. It was the perfect way to explore and burn off calories from all the Viennese cakes."

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