I can’t believe it, but today marks exactly three years since I embarked on my trip to Vienna, Austria. In May 2011, I spent five weeks studying abroad (I use this term loosely as what I experienced was a deep immersion in design and architecture. No classwork, no credits. It was purely inspiration driven). It’s interesting because when I entered college, I never thought that I would participate in a study abroad-type program. It’s not that I didn’t want to...because I definitely did (London, Paris...anywhere in Europe sounded fabulous). I simply didn’t think that I had time to travel abroad (I was a double major, so I had double the requirements to fulfill) and I quite honestly didn’t think there was a program out there that perfectly encapsulated my interests. Not to mention that I wasn’t sure if I could handle living in another country for an entire semester or longer. It sounds fun in theory, but what if I get homesick or don’t like where I’m living or can’t handle the stress of classes...I worry about these types of things. And, of course, studying abroad certainly doesn’t come cheap, either. Despite all of this, however, during the spring semester of my junior year, I found myself faced with a dare. Even at this point in time, I still thought it was all kind of a joke. I never imagined that I would be able to go to Vienna...it just didn’t seem like it was in the cards for me. After extensive thought and what felt like a gazillion back-and-forth e-mails with my professor (I was afraid that the trip would involve bike riding and outdoorsy types of things, something which is definitely not my forte), I suddenly knew that I had to go. There on forward, it was just a matter of convincing my parents that this spur-of-the-moment trip was relevant to my interests (they didn’t quite see the connection between fashion and architecture/design). Thank goodness I came to my senses, because if I hadn’t then I would have missed out on an opportunity of a lifetime. Sounds cliche, but it’s so true.
I’m not going to lie, each year as May/June approaches, I always begin feeling a tad nostalgic because I know that there’s nothing that I can do (or experience) that will even come close to being as inspirational as my time in Vienna. The truth is, I’m not kidding when I say that I’m always in a Vienna-state-of-mind. Every day, Vienna somehow has a way of making its way into my thoughts. Maybe it’s because I’ve set the background of every laptop and digital device that I own to a stunning photo of the Vienna skyline or perhaps it’s because I follow at least three Instagram feeds that post daily photos of Vienna. Going beyond these subtle reminders, I wholeheartedly believe that Vienna has shaped me for the better. These days, I strive to surround myself with inspiration and only do things with passion. I can’t say that this is always true (sometimes there are things that I simply can’t be passionate about), but I fully realize that passion and inspiration are two non-negotiables that I can’t move forward without. Vienna has also taught me the importance of looking up – literally. Transported to a faraway place, I did what any other tourist would do: I photographed everything with an artful eye. Close-ups, extreme close-ups, framing shots...you get the idea. One thing I specifically noticed was that you can’t just focus on what’s at eye level. You have to look up, because there are always going to be interesting angles and perspectives that are waiting to be captured. If you don’t look up, then you miss out. Simple as that. While my current residence may be no Vienna, I still carry this mentality along with me. Photograph to document, to remember and to inspire.
Now that it’s been three years, I like to think about what I truly miss about Vienna. Part of me misses the most ambiguous and odd things...like taking a trip to the local grocery store (there’s nothing like a SPAR), the route that I took every morning from my host’s apartment to the u-bahn station to the Institute (or St. Stephens or wherever we were meeting in the morning), getting ice cream at Zanoni & Zanoni (so. good.) or just sitting in the park (Burggarten is my favorite). The other part of me longs for the extensive process of documentation that we practiced – all the note-taking, sketching, photography, lectures, our studio visits with industrial designers, graphic designers, artists, etc. While it may be true that inspiration is everywhere, sometimes I find it downright impossible to discover it here in the states. But, I do try. Creating this blog, curating my Instagram feed and re-blogging meaningful photos on Tumblr are my way of staying in tune with what inspires me. Practicing good design never fails, either.
Vienna, I’m so glad I met you, and I hope we meet again soon. Ja.