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

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Category: Adventuring Page 2 of 4

A380 Business Class Boarding Pass

adventuring deluxe: Emirates Business Class in the A380

When I speak of “adventuring,” it is often microadventures I talk about.

Going bivouacking somewhere you’d usually not sleep outside, trying to run-hike what would amount to an ultramarathon, moving through the night… That sort of thing.

But, it is also other things that tell something of the world we live in, help us make ourselves more at home in this world.

Like airplanes?

[vr url= view=360]

What matters is just that we approach these things with a spirit of adventure.

Otherwise, we tend to not even notice them as something to do/experience rather than set aside as the usual and boring we already know.

Our recent trip to / family visit (and wedding celebration…) in China ended up, well, ending on a nice serendipitous case of such an adventuring that I had hoped for, but only ever in the way one hopes to win the lottery…

I really wish I could tell you – and therefore, know for myself – how to get upgrades to business class.

Alas, even with scores of travel hack websites around, most tricks don’t do anything if you are not a US-American flying on a US airline offering lots of different ways to earn bonus miles on an associated credit card, for example.

Those airlines fielding more complaints than anything, Emirates having offered good rates and a 30 kg checked-in baggage limit (and operating great planes – the A380 is the best I know even in economy class), that was our airline of choice for this summer’s trip to China.

Last leg of the flight back, Dubai-Vienna, we simply seem to have got lucky.

So, things went ‘adventuring’. Deluxe.

Emirates A380 Business Class Lounge

Emirates A380 Business Class Lounge

#ItsGreatOutThere. Where You Are, Everywhere [Sponsored Post]

All those picturesque Instagram photos, adventurous Youtube videos… Depending on who you are, how you are, they can be tremendously inspirational or terrifyingly demotivational.

Those great outdoors, they aren’t often that great where we are. Or at least, they don’t seem that way.

You don’t need the Cascades or the Grand Canyon, alpine meadows or tropical forest – or, for that matter, picturesque cities and perfect conditions – to be active and discover that, in fact, it’s great out there.

Disclaimer: This post is part of an Outdoor Blogger Network campaign, and I’m getting a (small) payment for it… This does not influence the article as I maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site*.
And it’s one of the best campaigns I’ve found so far and am happy to participate in, given my focus here: I write and speak about these things, anyways…

For me, this campaign is particularly interesting because it puts the spotlight on the great outdoors, but it also made me more aware again of the ordinary outdoors and what makes them great, anyways.

I used not to like where I have been living for most of my life, particularly its outdoors.

Sure, I was running around here as a kid, but it was just the normal thing to do and it wasn’t a place to venture far, discover wilderness, have great experiences.

In fact, it seemed awful.

In all the “nature,” it is such an industrialized landscape. It’s windy just about all the time, and uncomfortably so. It’s flat and boring. There are plants I’ve developed an allergy to.

And then, I go out.

I have been venturing farther and farther – and gone the same circles for years – and discovered more and more. I’ve been out in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, with the sunrise, into the sunset, and through the night.

I’ve come to like it.

Stormy Sunset

It’s still great out there also when the “there” is a different place.

The mountains offer very different challenges, with all the climbing making things harder, but the views and the diversity of the ups-and-downs also making things easier than the relentless flat roads one can find here.

The bamboo forest and beaches of “my” parts of China, let alone the Great Wall, make for exciting views and an easy sense of adventure.

Haikou Beach Running

There is still a satisfaction in coming back to a place that may not fulfill ordinary standards of greatness, but that has come to be more truly home – and another place to say #ItsGreatOutThere, here, as well as “there” far away.

I hope you’ll join me. #BeActive

*Read the Outdoor Blogger Codex for more information on blogger transparency.

The campaign It’s Great Out There doesn’t only run posts like this and its hashtag, there are also other parts of it you may be interested in – and profit from. Check out the It’s Great Out There website for more info.

Helicopter in front of Höllkogel

Taking Off to a Different View

An opportunity taken, the familiar landscape of the Höllengebirge seen from a different perspective…


Going to the Traunsee, up to the Feuerkogel – given how often I’ve been there, it seems like a walk around the neighborhood.

We don’t usually know our neighborhoods quite as well, aren’t as fully at home in them as we’d like to think, though – and when we get a chance to see them differently, their fascination immediately comes back to us, in ways we have forgotten about.

Most of the time, I’ll tell you to go for the psychology of different views:

Just go again, keep an open mind, learn more, and you’ll see and notice different things.

The weather changes, the seasons change, you change in your feelings and your knowledge, your views change.

This is how I do it myself. Most of the time.

Then, though, I got a note asking who’d like to help out handling the provisions for a mountain hut. A mountain hut I’ve gone past a few times on the way to the Höllkogel. A mountain hut that has to get those provisions by helicopter.

And the perspective on my common stomping ground changed, because I literally took off to a different view…

… and then, after a few hours of heavy lifting to get all the provisions in their proper places (and it was a lot of stuff, not the least of it the beer)…

… and finally, it turned out that the helicopter was stationed at Salzburg airport, meaning that there was a chance to fly along the Höllengebirge mountains and the area northwest of it…

… and over Salzburg itself.

Feste Hohensalzburg by Air

I had seen (and visited) Hohensalzburg castle a few times before, but never seen it like this, and I had stayed close by the airport before, but also never approached it and landed there.

After delays we’d had due to bad weather, this little adventuring came close on the heels of the Hochkönigman Marathon Trail race. That made it all the more tiring, but it was another one of those things where seeing a chance and taking it was well worth it.

Special thanks, therefore, to Daniel from the Rieder Hütte and to the crew of HTM Helicopter Travel Munich

htm helicopters

… and the question to you, my dear readers:

Do you let opportunities slip by, or will you take them as they come?

Stormy Sunset

Adventuring around Arche Noah, Schiltern

May 1 has been a while ago, but with an annual activity in a not-prominent but interesting place, I’m still thinking of the little at-home-making adventuring I did around that time.

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Bivy on the Sarstein

Sleeping High under a Blood(less) Moon

So, there was that “super moon” and “blood moon,” and I felt like adventuring under the moon again.

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(OR Helium) Bivy under Stars

Stories of Sleep on a Mountain

Last Saturday saw another edition of the mountain marathon around the Traunsee lake (Bergmarathon Rund um den Traunsee). Around the time I would finish that whenever I participated, I had instead arrived in the area, prepared food and gear, and was headed for the mountains.

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Parkour. At Home in the Anonymous City.

Better future lives – but also futures of mere survival – seem to take place in rural areas, while the cities are left to rot and ruin.

At best, in utopias, cities are creative and efficient conurbations, but keep people in their cocoons of technology and in a state closer to convenient slavery than self-chosen lives; at worst, they are foreseen to become dangerous ghettos.

Either way, the city remains antipodal to nature, wilderness, the outdoors, and any sports that can help us rediscover our being bodies and living in places.

People who think like that obviously haven’t seen enough of parkour.

DSC_0975Parkour, yes, that “sport” where young people jump from rooftop to rooftop, the elegant and artistic attempt at getting from point A to point B in the city in as exciting – or efficient, or direct – a way as possible… and the discipline / sport / practice that has often appeared in just those kinds of movies that show the dangerous and decaying city.

From 2005 to 2008, I did field work studying the “tribe” of parkour practitioners via participant observation, in Vienna (Austria) and Riga (Latvia), like the cultural anthropologist I was academically educated to be.

Now that parkour and the related freerunning have become a more established, if still stranger, part of the (“sports”) landscape, and as I am writing for the public (rather than trying to join the ranks of the academically constipated), it is time to look back at parkour, and forward.

It is all the better a time for that, perhaps, as Christopher McDougall’s “Natural Born Heroes” (see my review of it here) has put a spotlight on parkour.

The Challenge(s)

Of course, parkour did and does attract some young people through insane stunts presented on YouTube, but they typically seem to be disabused of such notions very quickly when and if they go to traceur’s (parkour practitioner’s) meetings where they encounter people with more experience.

Additionally, even basic moves turn out to be challenging enough for the beginner (and still being practiced a lot by the advanced), anyways.


They are often easy (as in, not highly technical), but take quite enough of a different approach from everyday walking to be challenging. After all, how often do you use your hands or get down on all fours, jump and balance on various surfaces, let alone get your ass higher up than your head in a jump or vault, when you are just out walking?

One issue has been notorious, though: Parkour, if done strictly, does not do the somersaults and similar flashy moves that attract many – and make them go right on to freerunning which does whatever strikes the fancy, the flashier the better (or so it sometimes seems).


As many of these things go, online discussions about (or in strict parkour circles, against) flashy moves and competitive approaches – Hello, Red Bull Freerunning Championship – tended to get rather heated.
And in actual practice? In “real life,” people of both camps mingled and had few (if any) problems with each other.

What is particularly interesting now, years later and with the focus on at-home-making, are two factors in parkour, of fitness and of views.

Parkour and Fitness

P1010062One, as pointed out in discussing McDougall’s Natural Born Heroes, is that parkour is one of the best examples of a practice that isn’t a sport, isn’t for fitness in the common sense, but makes all the more fit.

It is not bad for endurance and only too good as strength training, and it works on both in order to be able to move between places, be they at the same level or higher or lower.
It all seems so useless and like child play in today’s world, but it is among the most fun and, should anything untoward happen, useful things. The skills it gives are just those we tend to be missing, and the ones most needed.

Imagine you are on vacation on the coast and a tsunami rolls in, and you will want to be able to get to higher ground.
Imagine your house catches on fire, and you’ll want to be able to get out quickly – let alone, help others.
Just think of aging and of how many seniors break their hips because they are neither nimble nor good at balancing, and you may appreciate what parkour focuses on…

“Etre fort pour être utile”

It’s all about function a normal body should be able to perform (and as argued before, we need to focus on function rather than, to give the particularly problematic example, on weight). If it basically looks like child’s play, an adult should be able to do it even better, no?

Parkour Paths…


Secondly, starting the practice of getting from point A to point B, not in the way of the automotive GPS-enabled driver or the subway-using pedestrian but as an agile body moving through an environment on his/her own power – and it certainly doesn’t have to be an urban jungle, parkour came out of more natural environments – develops a different view.

Especially in urban environments which are “normally” just moved through on designated paths, each for particular types of movement, it is a fascinating experience when you start picking out new possibilities all the ledges and handholds and bars and steps and sundry other surfaces would offer for alternative paths, up, down, across, and over.
It makes you see the city anew and in different ways that arise very quickly and grow as your abilities do.

Not a bad experience to make and have…

Running among the Ramps

Trails of Spring 2: Wild Leeks in the Leitha Mountains

In Austria, and particularly its east, I’ve lived for the longest time. So, it is just natural that I’d think I know this place and find little of interest in it anymore. Jaded and inured to the charm…

Running on the Pannonian Plains

And running on the Pannonian Plains does have its distinct charms

To make myself really at home here and remember that there’s a lot I don’t know and can yet explore further – not to forget, to have the fun of doing so – it helps to find contrasts.

For one, there is that nice contrast between spring – with a topping of snow – further into the Alps and the rather more advanced turn to spring at lower elevations, in the east.
(This year though, interestingly enough, I couldn’t honestly say that this is quite how it is. In the lower parts of where I go in the Alps, the fruit trees are blooming at the same time as in the Pannonian east…)

Of course, there are always the cycles to get at home in and to see again, in their new iteration.

There are the circles I run in and always see somewhat anew, whether that should be because something out there has changed with the passing of time, or whether it is because I have changed, seeing something differently, knowing something more, or getting faster or slower.

Pannonian Circles

Pannonian Circles

And, turning from winter to spring, the wind gets slightly – and sometimes, much – warmer (we hardly ever have no wind here), and it’s been time to see the wild leeks emerge again… and to use them.

Running among the Ramps

Running among the Ramson

This, too, has become quite a theme as my interest in food (not least with has become stronger.

These wild leeks used to be what the poorest of people would have eaten, and what anybody who was anything didn’t want to be caught using (or so says my 93-year-old ‘aunt’); like so many things, they have turned into a spring delicacy that is found on restaurant menus same as in supermarkets, in sausages same as in breads sold in the spring.

Amusingly, considering the carpet of these wild leeks one can find in the Leitha mountains (Leithagebirge) – and actually, also where I go in the Alps – they also sell at rather high prices.
If 100 grams are 3 Euro, then what I sometimes step on, as need be, when I go running through those forest paths must be hundreds of Euros worth…

Leeks, Leeks, More Leeks... and Big Foot Between

Leeks, Leeks, More Leeks… and Big Foot Between

My running there still ranges somewhat widely, along the ‘mountains’ whenever I can, as a big part of the fun is getting into this area designated with the same word as mountain ranges in the Alps, in some select trail segments almost looking the part… but mainly being nothing much more than hills.

Yet, it can offer different views than other places there – another kind of contrast – again:

Still, running here when the leeks have emerged looks little like a classical training run on which time and distance matters the most; it gets slower and delayed whenever the fancy – or rather, the amount of food to be foraged – strikes.

Then, rain jacket and running vest also suddenly find themselves being used not to protect from weather extremes but to serve as wild leek carrying system; the 3L volume is tested well ;)

OR Helium Jacket, Salomon Sense 3L Vest - Leeks Delivery System

OR Helium Jacket, Salomon Sense 3L Vest – Leeks Delivery System

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

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