at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Austria (Page 3 of 7)

Trails of Spring 1: Winter’s Last Hold at the Traunsee

The passion for exploratory living does, admittedly, profit handsomely from some studies in contrast.

My personal practice for that (as you, my dear readers, may have noticed ;) ) are trips to the Traunsee in the Salzkammergut, Upper Austria.

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Traunstein-Goodbye

Coming ‘at home’ From Afar

I’m back (at?) home in Austria, wondering if I’ve failed with the small (photo and writing) projects I started in and on Beijing because I’m not finished with them… and yet I realize that this is just one of those points where being somewhere else can actually bring you closer to a place.

Wiener Eistraum, RathausIt’s not this dream that “if only I were *there* rather than *here*, I’d be so happy and everything would be so great” that people sometimes fall into that I am talking about.
Yes, I know.
Where you are can be familiar and “at home” just as well as it can be that familiar hellhole you want nothing but to get out of – but so can any other place.

We have a natural tendency to think in such ways.
We get used to what we always see, tell ourselves that somewhere we don’t know would be much better, and end up liking or disliking both here and there based more on what we decide to focus on than all that’s really there.

This process plays out particularly well when it comes to foreigners in China, where a whole other level of exoticism or “going native” or criticism or you-name-it comes into play.

One of the constant debates among “China watchers” circles round and round the (im)possibility of knowing China when you are not living there.

DSC04819It just happens too often that some expert/pundit visits Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen and pronounces the power that China has become. Equally as often, experts or analysts sit in London or Washington and declare China’s impending collapse.

(Sometimes, a columnist even just has to read the China Daily to claim tremendous understanding – fittingly, on April 1.)

Meanwhile, “old China hands” live in the midst of all the chances and changes and challenges in the country and shake their heads over the naiveté of these pronouncements.

You may have noticed something similar when it comes to your own country, or even city or county:
The further someone is away, the simpler their statements about a place, and the more convinced they may often be about them.

At the same time, however, the opposite problem can also apply:
Being in the midst of a place makes one only too aware of all the nitty-gritty details of daily life, but less likely to look down deeply into the history of this place, or up and at longer-term trends and patterns.

When we are in a place we “know” (i.e., we have been for a while and know our essential ways around), we don’t usually even notice any sights that are of note to others from farther away anymore.

In Beijing's National Library

In Beijing’s National Library

This is what has always struck me about my China experiences (especially because it was the same pattern I then noticed about my attitude towards my native Austria):
Living there is great for the direct lived experience, indeed.

But the same direct experience also makes for so much focus on everyday things that happen and that need doing that there is little time and energy for anything else.

Only when I’m back somewhere else do I get to better libraries and more of an interest in understanding more deeply what I had been observing before. Not to mention the critical distance from which to try and see larger patterns, not just everyday problems.

It’s just this kind of a balance that is a back-and-forth between intimacy and distance, engagement and aloofness, that we actually seem to need in many a situation.

Even romantic interest doesn’t work without some degree of separation (at the very least, enough for interesting individuality); variety spices up life; the familiar becomes more interesting (and all the more comforting, often enough) only once it has been the unusual.

Wiener Eistraum, Rathaus

Wiener Eistraum – Nearby City, Overlooked Fun

It’s one of those typical “not at home” things:

The place where, or near where, you live is a place you may feel comfortable-enough in, or not at all happy with, but typically a place you don’t quite know as well as you may feel.
(Yet another example, also, of a feeling of truth that isn’t reality?)

You are not a tourist there, so you don’t feel the excitement of it; you have to go there, so you go the places you have to go and do what you need to do. And that’s that.

Case in point from my life: the Wiener Eistraum, late winter’s ice-skating rink in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall) just closed its 20-year-anniversary run last weekend, and it was only last week that I finally visited it.

For the first time ever.

Wiener Eistraum, Rathaus

I’ve not been able to go out running since then because the rented (wrong size) shoes took quite a bit of skin off my ankles, but it was worth it.

Not just was it the first time I finally went there, I went there with my wife.

She’s already rather bored from life being unexciting, and at the same time jaded with Vienna as the city where she has been going to university for a few years now – “Vienna just got announced the most livable city, again? So what?”

I have been in or at least near Vienna for way longer (feels like “between time”) and I am slow to jump into “fun” activities, anyways.

Seeing how temperatures have been rising, I rather notice all the energy that has to go into the cooling for the ice-skating rink and would much rather see the lake we have nearby freeze over again. That hasn’t really happened, and we certainly didn’t have everything required to go ice-skating there when it did, since my childhood years…

Good thing, then, that we decided to jump at the chance of having fun at the “Eistraum,” when we did, before it’s closed again.

Wiener Eistraum from above

First time ice-skating in a long time for me, first time ever for my wife.

So, I’m not going to show you what she looked like, she’d hate me for that – but she went from constantly holding on to the railing to moving along by herself within a pretty short time.

Good example, then, not just of the nearby opportunities we should probably make a habit of jumping at rather than under-appreciating because they are close by, but also of the things we can learn when we do so.

Look around, and I’m sure you will also find things to do and places to go, and with them activities to try out and skills to acquire and new things to learn, that you never got to just because they’d be close-by and seemingly always there, anyways.

Vienna Panorama

24H Burgenland Extrem 2015

Getting Home: From Beijing to the 24H Burgenland Extrem

We are, only too often, all too used to the peculiarities of modern life that we know as normal – and for that, we are in all the greater a need to actively make ourselves at home.

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Via Natura Ultra Trail Video

Back from the Bergmarathon around the Traunsee lake (once again), off to the OutDoor Friedrichshafen shortly, I finally put together a little video chronicling May’s Via Natura Ultra Trail (race report here, ‘high’ notes here, training – or rather, non-training – thoughts there). Instead of cutting together a Bergmarathon video, which will come later ;)

Procession on the Move

Exoticism, Just Out the Doorstep

“Home” hides the most interesting things behind the veneer of the usual and well-known; but the exotic lies just beyond the doorstep.

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Sonnwendfeuer-Feuerkogel

adventuring: The Fire of a Summer Solstice

From the physics of a wood fire to the chemistry of a star, we know so much today – or at least, we could learn so much. And yet, too often, we find ourselves not even at home enough to notice something as elemental as the changing of the seasons.

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Honey Moon

adventuring – A Mountain on the Honey Moon

One good part of making yourself at home in… your body, your region, this world: adventuring. Microadventures, as Alastair Humphreys calls them.

A Friday 13 with a full moon rising, a Honey Moon not seen in a hundred years, was just too good a time for an outing in this vein. So, in spite of the weather change to the worse moving in, I just had to get out – and I’ve come back with a few impressions (also see below the video) and pieces of advice for you:

And, in still image:

Still on through the Seetaler Alpen

Via Natura 100 Mile Mountain Ultra Trail Marathon

Writing the title as fully descriptive as the above seems an attempt to hit all the sweet key word spots of modern trail running – but how not? After all, this is – finally – the first 100 mile ultra marathon in Austria. And, it follows the uber-modern way of the MUT (mountain ultra trail) that Alpine trail runs have pretty much always followed…

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