Welcome to Vienna! Let’s get down to business with Day 1/2…
I came to Vienna for many reasons. It’s exactly where I need to be right now – here’s why.
#1 is personal freedom and safety. Over the past 6 months, I have learned way more hard lessons than I would like to, and I want to restore my inner sense of peace. First and foremost I set out to find a place I can pursue my goals and projects and chart a new independent path for myself. I have learned a TON about life and myself this year – but I am ready to feel settled, at least for a little while.
Challenge is useful tool up to a certain extent. Then after a certain critical mass it becomes self-defeating. I am ready to be somewhere where I feel a deep sense of safety and zero concern of corruption, surveillance, injustice or other toxic institutions, authoritarianism, Stone Age laws, … you know, basically anything or anyone that stops me from living the life I need to lead. So that’s a baseline.
#2 is that Vienna is developed, but still affordable. This is not New York with its $3000/month rents, nor is it Zurich with its 35 euro pizzas. It’s also not rural Ukraine where I would be tripping over old sidewalks through clouds of cigarette smoke or a touristic island in Southeast Asia where I nearly get run over by a motorbike every 12 seconds.
Right now I am paying around $750/month all-in for a lovely apartment 20 minutes outside the city center, and I can find a great meal at a restaurant for 9 euros. I wanted a place with a high standard of living that was also still affordable enough.
#3 is the “inert” quality. Austria is a neutral place – politically, culturally, geographically – on just about every front, it doesn’t get more neutral than this. Literally zero people are out to get Austria, and the city of Vienna is an expression of its calm but cosmopolitan energy.
I needed a break from the sensory overdrive of the Middle East and even Asia. I am looking for somewhere I can focus and get work done but still be engaged enough that I don’t die of boredom nor overstimulation. Vienna is arguably a little boring, and that for me right now is GOOD – again, if I wanted to never get anything done, I’d be in Berlin or Montreal or Los Angeles. Whew.
#4, I have no history here. I have never been to Vienna, I have no friends here, and I have never really thought much of it before. To my surprise, even a search through Facebook contacts didn’t show anyone I knew living here.
Part of the adventure for me in life is generating new identities, routines, and friend circles. Vienna really is an entirely clean slate for me that I am excited to paint a new life on.
#5, that said, Vienna is still a relevant capital city. I am an urban man and I totally wilt outside of a city. While the romanticized dream of a small house in the woods or a rural town is cute for a few minutes or even a few days, I would go nuts being somewhere where a car is necessary or I cannot order Vietnamese food at 10pm if I wanted.
Vienna is sizable enough that it cannot be “finished” in 3 days, it is significant enough that it has cultural institutions and a wide variety of people and products, but it is also manageable and not a bustling “too much of a project” global metropolis like Beijing or Moscow.
#6 is good, reliable public transport. This is an absolute MUST that deserves its own line. I place a lot of value on being able to get around and I like to do so with as little annoyance and as much convenience as possible.
Trains and trams are my favorite because I can wrap my head around the map (which does not move!) and enjoy the freedom of popping on and off. The monthly transit pass at 51 euros is a total steal for all transport in the city, and I am reminded of the freedom I felt in Berlin with my same Monatskarte (which was way pricier) that I always had on me.
Without any formal ticket barriers, it’s fun to hop on any streetcar that slides by and see where it takes you (you do not need have your pass ready if checked). I am genuinely impressed but not surprised with the quality of transport here and the coverage that is included. One downside is that in this part of the world, taxis are killer pricey, but like Tokyo or London, this is not a “taxi city” – you simply do not need to take them.
#7 is walkability, cleanliness, and order. Just like trains are good transportation infrastructure, good sidewalks and pedestrian areas are just as important to me. Europe continues to take the cake in terms of building a world that is walkable and this is so freeing to me. Nothing worse than living in an area where a taxi or vehicle is necessary to get to anything for a little walk, or being in an area that is unsafe or not walker-friendly.
Moreover, Austria is a clean country and Vienna is consistently rated as the #1 most livable city in the world by many indices that measure urban design in terms of green space, public services, and quality of life in general. I like an orderly society.
While it is winter as I write this, the ambient factors of Vienna with little noise and distraction and pollution, are extremely appealing. The air quality and tap water are pretty much unsurpassed in quality by anywhere!
#8 is gay life and quality men. Vienna is no Berlin nor Amsterdam, nor is it the party centers of Barcelona or Mykonos – but it is still a very pro-gay and European-minded city which I appreciate more than ever.
As a gay man, there comes a time where the novelty of being in underground scenes can quickly wear off and you start to realize you deserve better than to be somewhere where everyone lives in constant fear or simply in the close. Or that it might be nice to meet a guy actually capable of developing some kind of lasting connection, you know, once in a blue moon. So far, I will say, I am impressed with both the eye candy and brain candy!
#9 is cultural quality and intelligence. Vienna has been the home of many academics, scientists, writers, and other cultural leaders since its early days. I am excited to learn more about these key people as I map my time in the city and see what cafes, museums, plazas, and other sights I find. There is something undoubtedly inspiring about being in a place which values intelligent forms of self-expression rather than focusing entirely on a consumption or touristic culture.
#10 is … I felt called to it. And following that inspiration matters to me most.