2020 Readings // The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

After changing so many topics and crossing some more days in the calendar during my holiday at home, I am happy to have used my time with a purpose and finished a new book – The Midnight Library. This was quite unexpected, as I was not looking for this type of topics and this author in particular.

I am happy to have run into his book and have let myself get captivated by his imaginary universe. Matt Haig places Nora into a depressive episode of her life, when nothing made sense for her anymore and she didn’t feel like succeeding in anything of her life – private and professionally. Her cat died, she feels lost and unsuccessful, lives on anti-depressives and has no energy to carry on or fight for something better.

Overwhelmed with regrets and ready to give up to everything, she finds a midnight library on the street where the time is stuck. Together with the help of the librarian, Mrs. Elm, she gets a glimpse of all the lives she is living in parallel and the different outcomes her decisions had. By opening a new book, she immediately got into her new life, happening somewhere in the universe, having a different job, partner, siblings, pet and being either famous or solitary.

She tries all the options she has in the library, thus discovering that her actual regrets do not make sense, as it depends on every other person how things develop further and not solely on ourself and our own choices. At the end of this night when she understood that there is no perfect life and only compromises and our inner approach on what is happening, the library burns in flames and she manages to rescue herself by writing down during the fire I AM ALIVE.

This is how she came back to her actual life, with a more open heart and willing to fight for what is left there and be present. She is happy her brother is alive (as she saw him dead in other lives already) and manages to recover after the overdose she took before stopping into the Midnight Library. An interesting book, with different possibilities and unexpected outcomes, as well as a nice and open dialogue Nora has with herself and the others around her. Matt Haig is a great Connaisseur of human psychology and touches every small detail in dealing with life crises and life lessons.

2020 Readings // Arianna Huffington – Media Visionary and Wellness Evanghelist

My stay in Romania gave me the opportunity to switch from German books to English ones and thus be able to understand more of the content I was reading. Just before Christmas I arrived in a huge library in Bucharest and let myself inspired from the English books I found there. As I was already familiarized with Arianna‘s path and this time a sort of biography was available on the shelf I took the chance the bought the book.

As 2020 has been a year of intensive readings for me and it keeps being so for the last days left, I was happy to add a new book on my collection and see if I can learn something while siting on the sofa and drinking coffee in Romania.

I can recommend the book for the people who are curious to find out more of Arianna‘s background, her parents, her family and the dreams that pushed her for the decisions she made. She inherited her father‘s passion for journalism and debate, learned from her mother to be persistent and find solutions and her sister Agapi was always there for her supporting with her love and creative style. Her two daughters came very late in her life, as she was 38, respectively 40 and even now in her 70s she keeps working 10 hours per day.

While there are many rumors about what she did right and wrong, there are also visible achievements she made in the media industry, not to forget that she coming from Greece, had a very strong accent and built her media empire Huffington Post thanks to her wit and persistence, social contacts and hard work.

I was particularly impressed by how her mother made it possible for her to be accepted at Cambridge, despite she didn’t even speak English at the time she (Arianna) told her mom about her dreams. Another particular interesting point in her life is her decision to abandon her boyfriend and put the Atlantic Ocean between them – then 20 years older than her, Levin – because she wanted to have kids and marry for the rest of her life and he wasn’t mature enough for it, only to be able to accomplish her dream 10 years later with oil mogul Michael Huffington and still go through a divorce later on.

Arianna wrote 15 books, reinvented herself throughout her careers, starting with the debates in Cambridge she loved to coordinate, writing autobiographies of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso, getting involved in politics and fighting on such topics, creating an online platform for bloggers worldwide and asking them to write for free and then selling it. Although she would have never given up to Huffington Post, as it was her third child, she eventually sold it and focused on Thrive – another platform focused on well being and spirituality.

Her life is an interesting example of hard work, determination, perseverance and strong persuasion skills and emotional intelligence in general. While she had to go through a burnout episode, she used the episode to later on create Thrive Global, write a book on the importance of sleep and create her new business.

2020 Readings // No Rules Rules or the story behind NETFLIX’ success.

During the second lockdown in Austria I had enough time to go through one of the books that I bought for myself and whose purpose was to improve my German language skills. Getting to understand the job market nowadays is and will always be a topic worth investing hours into. Things are chaning very fast and the mindsets and demands are different from one corner of the world to another.

While trying to look for various topics to entertain me and enable my fast, correct and fluent German, I saw Reed Hastings’ book on what makes Netflix successful. I bought it, curious to see if I can stay focused and go through the hundreds of pages put together by Reed and Erin Meyer, the author of the famous book “The Culture Map”.

While bringing a revolution in the entertainment industries and trying to reinvent itself with every new trend, Netflix managed to become one of the most used streaming network and combined original series with external ones.

It all started in 1998 when Reed started the online DVD rental service, because once he forgot to return a DVD on time and had to pay a very big fine. Over the time, the industry has changed again and again and as Reed is saying, what really helped the business survive was the overall culture of freedom and responsibility. this is a result of the 9 connecting dots he refers to in the book and are also graphically illustrated in the picture below.

While presenting small case studies, Reed explains why he decided to go for an approach or another, which benefits it brought to the business and how he decided to enable a competitive culture in his company by always firing the weakest employees – The Keepers Test. By keeping standards high and very talented people inside and increasing transparency and candor via feedback sessions, Reed aimed to reduce controls.

He lied a strong emphasis on innovation and enabled his employees to work through context, rather than controls. Also, whoever wanted to take more days off while finishing with the workload before the deadline was free to do so.

The culture candid feedback is what makes Netflix a bit different versus other companies. While keeping people stressed about the next feedback round, it also pushes the employees to speak up in a nice way about their colleagues and show them where they are wrong.

The book is full with interviews with current and past Netflix employees, written in a double perspective by Reed and Erin, together with Reed’s failures and the attitude of his colleagues in assuming that he was always doing the right thing. I can recommend the book, it has fresh insights and shows the entertainment industry from an inside perspective.

The Advent Challenge // Mönchsberg Lauf

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As Christmas is slowly approaching and this year has been for almost everyone a pure waste of time and opportunities, while also a long time to rest, wait, self-reflect and keep calm, we have thought together with my dear neighbour Nada Vasic to use the long time to rest and wait that we were offered by the authorities in order to create some morning routines, refresh our spirit, start the day with the right mindset and collect some money for a good cause.

Therefore, as of 1st of December until 24th of December, at 6.30 in the morning, Nada, myself and some of her friends have committed to keep the habit and go on a small mountain next to our building called Mönchsberg for a run/walk/call it visit if you want. We tried to cover Mönchsberg from different sides and enjoyed some very beautiful sunrises under the Salzburg Sky. Until 24th the invitation is open to anyone would like to join – please text me and I will put you in touch with Nada.

During this decade of days, we’ve managed to hold this habit and stay consistent in what we have aligned. I tried to join every day, except for 2 occasions when I had to rest. With this daily effort and Nada’s energy and determination, we have already achieved together 50% of the challenge and in parallel have collected some money. Nada will continue running while I will be flying home for holidays. The invitation to join her and help her collect money for this cause is still open and if you need more info please do not hesitate to contact me. If you would just want to donate money I will provide you with her bank account. I will also provide you with a proof of your contribution, as Nada will publicly release a list with the names of all the participants upon the donation.

Location: Mönchsberg

Time 6.30 a.m.

Duration: 1h

Activities: Running/Walking/Jogging/Talking

Every participant that joined Nada at least once had to pay 10€. The collected sum will be on the 25th of December donated to a charity in Salzburg that aims to help kids with skin problems.

On this occasion, I would like to thank Nada for her determination and consistency, great spirit and proven commitment to keep up with her goals. It is hard to meet such serious people who dare to have initiatives and stay consistent until the very last step.

More information about the charity where the money will arrive, here:

https://www.eb-haus.org/ueber-uns/eb-haus-news/2020/was-ist-ein-schmetterlingskind-anschaulich-erklaert/

The flight.

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You´ve been on this journey for so long, trying to convince yourself it is the right way to do for a sustainable future. You chose the hard path, confident that it´s going to pay off and ready to give your best in exchange of something. Somehow it turned out to be more than a rocky mountain for your innocent soul. Welcome into the forest – see if you can find shelter when it rains.

It´s already late, you barely made it to the airport and now you´re sitting in front of the security check, ready to let them scan you and give you the final go. They check everything, they do their job, you´re just another passenger for them, but for you this flight is crucial. You had to leave. You had to. It was the time.

You are so tired you barely notice who passes by. However, you pick up your stuff carefully and continue your way to the gate, as if the world wouldn’t exist. You don´t care anymore. You don´t feel anymore. All you want to do is go home.

You know you will be back. But absent for a while.

Wanderung around Fuschlsee.

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One of the most common week-end activities for the Austrian culture is hiking, going out and climbing a mountain or just walking in the middle of the nature. With so many mountains and lakes around, I am not surprised… Well, even if you are an ‘Ausslander’ and you live in Austria for a defined period of time, you have to do it. On a sunny day, with good company, you can have a really nice time and recharge yourself with energy for what comes next.

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Actually, it explains a lot why people living in Austria are fit and healthy in general. As there are so many options to spend the time outdoors, even the body gets used. If you combine these activities with a glass of Gruner Veltliner or Weisser Spritzer, a beer or an Apfelsaft, then you are ready to be officially ‘Austrianized’. Don’t follow my example, I enjoyed a Western Ice Coffee. 🙂

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But before you receive this title officially, there is one option to somehow get used to the Austrian vibe – going for a long walk (Wanderung) around the lake Fuschl. The walk itself is 11 km long and circles the whole lake, while offering you every here and there a restaurant, a bench to sit on or a terrace to have a cold beer. Regardless on when you start walking, do consider 3 hours as a minimum time availability in order to complete the tour.

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I recommend this place for those Saturdays when you would like to lay in the sun, with a pair of glasses and would consciously want to reflect on what is going on with you or has been recently. There are people of all ages, wishing to share the same good vibes and just sitting around them will chill your soul and bring peace into your mind.

One particularity of this lake is the beautiful colors it takes and the fact that it is surrounded by a castle. From a certain point you can admire the peak Schober (see picture below) and if you are into sailing, you can rent a boat and float on the lake for half an hour. There are many hotels and pensions around, so if the place convinces you to stay overnight, then you do have some options to choose from.

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Easy trip on a sunny Sunday.

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In a nutshell, Austria can be best defined by mountains and lakes. And schnitzel and many dialects. 🙂

Living in Salzburg comes with a couple of advantages. One of them is the very developed touristic offer. No surprise it is such an expensive city, but if your time allows you and you are flexible enough, there are three lakes to visit/reach by car/bus in a couple of hours:

  1. Fuschl am See

It takes less than 20 minutes to drive there, the lake is very nice and there is a very cosy coffee place I would warmly recommend – Coffee Schlick. During summer time you can also stay by the river and get tanned or just go by boat over the lake, as the waters are calm.

If you are a sporty person and like to do spend some time in the middle of the nature while burning some calories, then for sure at Fuschl am See you can give yourself such a treat.

You can walk along the lake and do a complete circle – the so-called Wanderung – there are peaks and lows indeed, but it is doable for everyone.

If you are curious to find out something new, then please be informed that the Redbull Headquarters are located there and if you want to immerse yourself in the brand´s world, you are free to walk around the office buildings – you can even get free WIFI.

  • Wolfgang See

I like this lake the most because of the artificial fountain and because of the perfect combination of lake and mountains. It is quite popular, there is a cable car driving on top of the mountain if you want to see a panoramic view and there are a couple of restaurants and shops that are worth visiting. The houses in the city center are nicely painted, according to the traditional culture of course and some of the messages remain in your head for some time… this is how you learn some more German.

The place itself has a good vibe, you can walk in the park behind the lake or go on a cruise – I did not have the chance to try the cruise yet, but I am confident that it will come soon…

  • Mondsee

Mondsee is not as sophisticated as the previous two lakes, in the sense that it doesn´t look too much like a resort to stay overnight and have some services included, but it´s nice for the view (again mountains and lakes), for its two-towers church and the promenade along the lake. As it is close to the other three lakes, it makes sense to walk the extra-mile. During summer time it is a nice place to consider for a hike as well, but I might tell you about it in a different post.

How often do you go away from your town?

Vienna for the week-end.

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As an expat in Austria, I gave myself the time and the opportunity to see what lies behind the road between my appartment and my workplace. Of course, there were week-ends when I had to choose a destination in order to help the time pass by, but there were also week-ends when I just wanted to run away from my new hometown and simply escape for a few hours, just to see something else.

I might say I am grateful for having landed somehow in Salzburg, although there were times when I could hardly made myself understand why it had to be this town in the middle of the mountains and not a more cosmopolitan one.

So, after almost two years living as an expat in Austria, I am happy to talk to you about one of my favourite destinations – Viena! I’ve been there recently and I can warmly recommend it for a week-end getaway!

Must see objectives:

  • Belvedere (The Museum and the Garden Behind) – famous picture: Gustav Klimt, Der Kuss.
  • Schoenbrunn Palace and the whole Garden behind
  • Praterstern – the amusement Park
  • Stephansplatz with the Dom

I was recently there, so in April and the weather was just perfect for sightseeing.

Hotels recommended, well-centered and with high quality services:

The Dream.

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Creating-the-Perfect-Landing-1068x601I was stuck in a country where I didn´t find my place – Romania. Therefore I moved to Italy. I loved it, I loved the sun, the food, the culture, but my heart wanted somewhere else. It just didn´t accept Italy. And Austria was always across the border and ready to give me another scholarship and a better chance. Coming to Austria felt like being home despite I was born in Romania. It was just there, all I had to do was just to go asap.

At that time there was one clear goal for me: get a job in Austria and move. Minimum requirements: learn the language a little bit, get an internship, take the risk, pack and embrace Austria. Living alone in your mid 20s shouldn´t have been impossible for someone who adores her independence and cannot trade her freedom for anything except from her salary.

And the time has come. It came after I closed all the chapters in my life: graduation, relationship and Italy.

In July there will be two years since I made this step and have no regrets for every single day I spent here. This was my dream and I made it happen. I lived in a village for one year, been commuting for two hours every day, spoke in English all day long and even took German classes after work. I joined an industry I had no idea about, was confused for months regarding what am I doing here and why am I spending my time here and even invested a lot of effort to figure out which should be the next step – if there was to be any.

Hah, not too bad for someone without any work experience but a lot of courage to give it a try. I just wanted it for me and didn´t care about any loses or consequences. Of course there were days when I hardly combined loneliness with hours of learning German. I didn´t accept anyone in my circle at that time, I was totally dedicated to my dream and there wouldn´t have been an option to share this chapter with someone else. It was too much mine. It was my project. My dream.

And the dream goes on, although for the moment the road is blocked with other people, other interests, too much noise and too less authenticity. Just like I waited in Italy, I will have to wait now here as well… When you know how hard you worked for your dreams which were yours and not someone else’s, the rest is just star dust…

Which dreams did you accomplish so far or at least started to work on?