I left Innsbruck and made it to Vienna in time to head to one of the music stages and follow the rush of people to one of the main celebrations.  In comparison to the US, the fireworks started much earlier – huge displays were already going off at 10 pm and seemed to start, stop and start again.  There were also fireworks going off everywhere and people lighting large fireworks themselves.

There were 8 or 9 stages of music earlier in the day, so I’d taken the easiest subway route towards one, but following the crowds led me to the main celebration area.  This was still a few blocks away, so not as busy!  You could already hear the music a little though and spiced wine stands were all over the place!

I think I’d burnt myself out on spiced wine after my first time here because I hadn’t tried any in Salzburg or Innsbruck.  I decided to grab a final glass of spiced wine since it was NYE, but hadn’t realized the “Malibu” didn’t just mean the types of fruit used in the juice, but rather a shot of Malibu would be added!  It was pretty good, but not what I was expecting!  I debated keeping the cup, but decided my original Vienna cup was cuter and how many novelty cups do you really need?

It was interesting that people were still showing up barely before midnight, then the actual transition to midnight was barely noticeable.  I wouldn’t even have known if some drunk Americans hadn’t yelled out, “Holy shit man, it’s midnight!”  Then promptly busted a bottle on the pavement.  That appeared to be somewhat common here though as I saw several people throw their champagne glass and break it on the ground.  The only thing that really changed after midnight was that MORE people started to really dance in the area I was in, which was just slightly outside of the main party zone.

It was a little disconcerting to hear some sort of firework that sounded like an explosion a couple of times because I’ve never heard anything similar in the US.  I suppose that big gatherings of people do make me a little nervous given the attacks in Europe (and an attack actually did happen in Turkey 😭).  Fortunately, nothing happened in Vienna though, other than a high amount of smoke!

The next day, it was absolutely lovely to arrive in Paris to a light dusting of snow!  My home city has been hit hard with snow this year, which is really unusual, but down in the southern part of France, we haven’t had any snow.

Reflections on 2016
My timeline seemed to be full of people who were happy to see the end of 2016 and to welcome a new (and hopefully better) year.  At first, I was in agreement with the sentiment, but then I realized that I really can’t complain about what 2016 brought me.

It certainly wasn’t a perfect year, but at the start of 2016, I was at a loss as to what I wanted to do.  I knew I was ready for a change, but I hadn’t decided exactly what type of change.  One of my strengths at work is problem-solving, but I’d been in the same role for several years and wasn’t feeling particularly challenged anymore . . . of course, this could be a case of “be careful what you wish for” because I’m certainly challenged in my new role!

I also knew that I didn’t want to stay in Portland.  I’d wanted to leave to go to college, then wanted to leave when I transferred schools, but stayed both times for various reasons.  Portland is a nice place to live, but it wasn’t “my” place.  Every time I left on vacation, I was never really excited to go back and it was always a countdown to the next time I could leave.  I wasn’t sure if it would be different somewhere else, but when I had the opportunity for a “trial run” project in France, I learned that I didn’t feel that way when I came back to France.  Even with a limited social life.  Even with a very challenging project to finish.  Even in a tiny, sleepy country town.

I’ve been to Germany, Switzerland and Austria while I was staying in France and I enjoyed all of those trips and still have a passion for traveling, but I am always happy to be coming “home.”  I’ve had people discourage me from leaving Portland in the past by essentially telling me “wherever you go, there you are,” meaning that if you’re unhappy, it isn’t because of where you’re living.

I would have to disagree.

Not that I was constantly unhappy when I was living in the US by any means, but I did not like living in Portland.  I didn’t like the 200+ days of gray skies and dreary rain and the culture just wasn’t quite “me” either.  As much as I love my dear friends and family there, Portland never felt like “home” for me, even after 36 years of living there.

And that’s particularly striking given the fact that my independence is seriously thwarted by my lack of French and I’ve had to learn to ask for help (constantly).  Yet, I’m also incredibly blessed to have so many people who’ve offered their assistance, even if the most convenient person for me to ask is usually PB.  Can’t figure out how to get my trash pick-up started?  PB makes a call and my packet arrives within days.  Can’t understand the lady speaking in French about a delivery of some sort?  PB calls and my furniture will arrive that week.  Once he got over his initial grouchiness about helping me, he’s been incredibly nice about it, even calling the trash company multiple times, without me asking, after he received a busy signal the first time.  It certainly makes it easier to ask for help when people seem genuinely happy to do so!

I really like my sleepy little town; I really enjoy my co-workers; My house here definitely feels like “home;” I absolutely LOVE French cuisine and the sheer variety of dishes with loads of tasty veggies that are common here.  Even with the 2 hour train ride, it’s a super easy jumping off point for my International travels too and often quite a bit cheaper since Paris is a major hub for a large number of airlines (I’m headed to the Philippines in March and China in May).

In short, don’t run away from your problems, but if you genuinely feel that the place you are living in is not “home,” you may be right!  When people asked where I’d want to live in Europe, France was always at the top of my list, even if I sometimes listed Scotland or Ireland as well, thinking it was more “practical” for language reasons.

And if you have a dream place to live, make sure that people know!  When circumstances in my life changed, one of the first things that I did was tell the Senior VP of my department that if anything ever opened up in Europe, particularly in France, to let me know.  The response was that Belgium was much more likely, yet telling him I wanted to go to France is part of the reason that I was selected to help train here in 2015.  And the successful training is why the plant specifically asked for me to help when their Controller left.  And, of course, that project is why I was offered the job and live here now!

May 2017 be the year that you too chase your dreams!