Its not how it sounds, really, I swear! Ladies and Gents, its been a blissful, busy, bright and brilliant three weeks off. I got my itchy feet out of Vienna and returned to an old love – the Road. That enticing mistress of adventure, uncertainty and joy that I thrive on.
Officially I gave up my Topdeck job last year, after two incredible seasons – moving on to my new life in Vienna and consequently a new, grown-up, real life job. Topdeck was my employment-ex. The much beloved, always wistfully mentioned, ‘dream job’. So when the email came through three months ago, asking if I wanted to do just one cheeky trip…well what’s a restless girl to do?? Topdeck & Trip Leading have been the ‘what if’ spectre hanging about in the back of my brain and secret chamber of my heart for months and I had to find a way to get it out of my system. Not only for my own sanity, but to really and truly start my life here in Vienna, I needed to shake the feeling that I was ‘missing out’. Essentially banish my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for those who don’t speak the slang of Youths these days!).
A short and sharp 11 day trip was the answer – not so long as to cut into my annual leave, and just long enough to hit all the high points of a good solid lap around Europe. The itinerary? Paris – Lauterbrunnen-Venice-Munich-Rhine Valley-Amsterdam. Two nights everywhere except Munich and Rhine Valley where we had one night each. Stunning.
A small visual guide to what I got up to in my spare time. As in, when not managing 46 mostly drunk/hungover hilarious and fun loving passengers that had a fairly tight itinerary to see 9 countries in 11 days!!
Paris – I hired a bike and rode around the sights, stopping in at Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop for a few treats – hipster bliss!
View over the Trocadero Gardens and some old, iconic structure
This is the Eglise Dom where Napoleon is buried, he’s a subtle kinda guy.
Switzerland. Got my inner Austrian on for a hike up the Grunnenwald, I must be integrating better than I thought because I actually enjoyed this kind of excercise!
Up close with some local cows, not as friendly as expected
View of Jungfraujoch Mountain from little Cafe Hut
Italy – Skipped the hot, sweaty crowds wandering the sunny streets of Venice and caught up with some old friends beside the pool. Heaven.
The coolest place to be in Venice – on water. View is from Accademia Bridge
Munich – Beers in Hofbraühaus. Apparently we were having an excellent time ‘cos I have no photographic evidence of this!!
Rhine Valley – managed to take the optional River Cruise down the Rhine River, sipping beers in the sun with some of my favourite passengers. Incredible countryside!
Oh, this was the view from our Hostel room in St Goar, which was, ahem, a Castle.
Amsterdam – Got into the facepainting spirit and night then enjoyed my free day bike riding, visting the newly opened Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandts Night Watch AND got some gifts in the Heinekin Museum. Winner!
National monument – Dam square, Amsters
Brugges – always the final day slog, but this time around, we were on time, relaxed and oh so happy to have such a wonderful last day together.
Final city stop, treated myself to a lunch in the main square. Job well done.
The result? A perfect trip. I honestly could not have asked for a better group, easier itinerary, nicer driver or happier experience. It was the universe gifting me one last hurrah. What I came to realise though, was that as great as the job is – I’ve moved beyond that lifestyle. The thing I love most about it is sharing the excitement of travel with young people who are equally interested and keen to learn more, see more and enjoy everything about their journey. That includes the partying nightlife alongside the historical stories and architectural marvels. I love getting people excited about travelling, sharing their experience the first time they see the Eiffel Tower, or taste Italian Gelato, or try and lift an authentic Stein. Its other traveller’s enthusiasm and joy that I love, above and beyond the job itself. Which means, I’m finally ok with leaving that Job and that life behind.
I have one delightful group of people to thank for this…these guys:
Adorable group shot in the Netherlands
That madcap bunch of people made my trip unforgettable. I am so greatful to have such enthusiastic, excited passengers who were up for any-and-everything! Calling any one trip a favourite is impossible, because each and every single one is special, but this will, I think, be memorable as the final fun one!
Like any good relationship, Topdeck made me grow as a person, figure out who I really am and what I really want. It challenged me, made me happier than I’ve ever been and more exhausted than I ever could have imagined. It was at once uplifting, traumatic and hugely satisfying -sometimes all in one day. To anyone even considering a change of lifestyle or career I can only say DO IT if you have the strength. Its not easy, and its not always fun, but it will change you for the better. It taught me to be selfless, to savour the small moments you get for yourself, to be more helpful, to be thankful everyday for every opportunity. It will always be the most significant ex for me, because it changed my life so completely. I left Australia with a one way ticket, on the hope of getting a job – I really had no idea of what I was in for. Three seasons later, I’m living in Austria with the love of my life, I’ve experienced the best Europe has to offer – counting Rome, Florence, Berlin and Paris as my office – and made friends with the most incredible people along the way. Lucky? No, I worked damn hard for it. Grateful?Hell yes, and always will be.
For now though, I can say (with 98.99% certianty)that my Trip Leading days are done. I’m putting down my roots here in Wien, starting new challenges, and finding a new way to share my love of travel – online here with you guys, and soon, out in the real world with a new venture that’s shaping up to be pretty exciting! Mostly though, this is for myself and S, to banish all talk of ex-loves and truly begin our new life here, together.
The new beginning…
Its been a while guys, and my only legitimate excuses are…Xmas, returning to Australia, exhaustion and jetlag. Apologies. But really, nothing happens on the internet between xmas and New Years right? Right.
So, my trip home was wonderful and confronting and cathartic and busy and emotional and difficult and delightful and all manner of things that i’m not ready to write about just yet. I need to let the dust settle a bit and see how I feel upon reflection. Overall it was great, but I‘m happy to be home too.
And thats the big news. Vienna is starting to feel like home. Flying into the (tiny) airport didn’t feel like another adventure, it felt like a long exhalation. The sigh of relief you get when you know your own bed is near. So needed after 24 hours in an airplane, especially when preceded by 3 weeks non-stop of trying to see everyone and reconnect.
I‘d been worried that coming back to Austria would make me more homesick for Melbourne, knowing what I was missing – the sunshine, the familiar haunts, the brunches, the beaches – it would maybe throw Vienna into sharp contrast. But Vienna has its own attractions and it doesn’t feel entirely alien to be here anymore. We’re building our own lives here and in some ways that’s really liberating. Going to Melbourne I’d put a lot of pressure on myself to see everyone, to reconnect, to show S the best of the city, to maintain everything with all my friends and meet other people’s expectations. Here I feel a lot more freedom to do things at our own pace, on our schedule and have that bit of space away to create our own world.
I guess that’s not entirely fair on ole-Melbourne town. A 3 week visit after 2 years away is always going to be high-octane and unlike living day-to-day in a city. Still. My ‘real life’ is here for now and strangely, it doesn’t seem strange at all.
The big contributing factor that I am ever so pleased to let you know is – I finally got a job. Full time employment. Reality. BOOM. It was confirmed right before we left and I start tomorrow. Official role is Business Travel management with AMEX working for the UN and affiliates. I believe our particular section will be booking for the OSCE. Either way its exciting. And in English! Career development! New office! Lovely people!! Amazing opportunity! I really couldn’t imagine any better position to find my feet here. I’m so relieved, so excited for new challenges and SO happy that S no longer has to bear the burden of all of our finances in the New Year.
The real difference though is that my gypsy life is officially over. Topdeck gave me a world of opportunity, the greatest adventure, wonderful friends and amazing experiences and memories. I truly will always be grateful – its the job that changed my life. I’m definitely going to miss it, especially seen as i’m returning to a regular desk job after two years of relative freedom and travelling. Will be interesting to see how I survive. The timing feels right though and Topdeck has said the door is always open, which is lovely.
So, this is me, on the precipice of real, adult, grown up, relatively normal life – here’s hoping I survive!!