Today I share with you my adventures in Mayrhofen, Austria. It was an incredibly memorable trip filled with beauty, adventure and self-discovery. This adventure is quite personal and I want to take you with me to enjoy the immense beauty I witnessed and the lessons I’ve learned there.
THE INTERNAL BURN-OUT
“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
Looking out of the small window of my studio apartment, into the gray city streets filled with cars, people rushing about, my heart was aching for nature. I spent a good few months consumed by work, doctor appointments and then home- on constant repeat. My mind was a chaos of unruly negative thoughts and I needed something to snap me back into place. I needed internal cleansing.
And there is only one place I know that cleanses my soul and mind in a transformative manner- and it’s the mountains. Mountains are where my heart is. Anyone that knows me is aware of that because I won’t stop talking about them. When I’m in places surrounded by mountains and forests, I feel at home.
I craved the snowy landscapes, warm sweaters and an excuse to carry on drinking mulled wine, even though it was way past Christmas. But that’s not all. I also wanted a challenge.
BUCKET LIST DREAMS
I picked up the very neglected ‘bucket list’ I wrote years prior and looked if any specific places/ activities spoke out to me. Snowboarding. Yes, I remember that dream. I’ve always wanted to try it, ever since I was a kid. I would tie my feet with ropes onto pieces of wood or damaged skateboards and pretend I’m gliding through the mountains. How can I do it though?
The doctors’ voices rang in my ears, their unsympathetic tone as they told me my injury will probably lead to a wheelchair. That my life will never be the same, that the activities I used to enjoy need to be abandoned. For the sake of my health, for the sake of my future which in their words was indefinitely leading to a full knee replacement and a wheelchair. I felt angry and devastated about that.
Now in hindsight, I know better than to trust their opinion. Seeing many other specialists has given me a better understanding of my injury and my limits. But at this point, everything felt impossible. Doubting thoughts penetrated my brain, but my stubbornness over-ruled.
I WILL SNOWBOARD DOWN ONE SMALL HILL. That was my goal. I can’t let the opinions of other people dictate my life. I need to become more in tune with my body and find out my own limits. So, I began training every day for 3 months. I biked, and worked on my leg muscles, getting them nice and strong to minimize the impact on my injured knee. The flight was booked, and I was ready to go.
FLIGHT TO AUSTRIA
My excitement was keeping me awake so by the time the plane landed I haven’t slept for 20 hours. I got incredibly irritated and my eyes felt like they were being glued shut, that’s until I stepped out of the plane. The STUNNING mountains views were surrounding me, with clouds hanging low, halfway through them. I teared up with joy, all the frustrations and tension melting away from my body. Then I got some coffee and the biggest cinnamon bun I ever tasted, and all seemed good in the world again.
Driving through the snowy landscapes, I couldn’t take my eyes off the bus windows. I found out that nature gave me a little treat as it hasn’t been snowing for months at this point. This was the first day of unpredicted snowfall, and everything was covered in a magical blanket of white just in time for my arrival. Oh, how grateful I am.
Arriving at the chalet, I felt like I was in one of the fairytale books I read as a small kid. The wooden rustic aesthetic, the picturesque paintings with big windows revealing forests and mountains. If that wasn’t enough to get my tipsy off happiness – the complimentary mulled wine and cake sure did. I went to my assigned room and was in absolute awe over the pretty views from my balcony. Standing there breathing in fresh, cold and crisp air- the clouds decided to shift and reveal a previously hidden- massive mountain straight across from my balcony. When I tell you that my jaw dropped!
TOWN & BOOKING GEAR
The cheapest way to ski or snowboard is to bring your own equipment. However, with me being a complete noob at snowboarding – I decided it’s the best to rent. I booked the gear, mountain passes and also 3 lessons from snowboarding instructors. It was pricey. But I’ve come to a conclusion that this is a price worth paying to be able to cross one thing off my bucket list and also prove to myself that I can still do things I’ve set out to do and create MY OWN limits in life.
Walking around the charismatic town of Mayrhofen, I checked out some shops and restaurants and bought myself some tasty Austrian chocolate and other snacks.
THE MOUNTAINS & FIRST SNOWBOARDING EXPERIENCE
Ski lift carried me through the clouds until I was completely surrounded by Penken mountain views. The laughter of children filled the air, snow creaked underneath my feet and the crisp fresh air, kept me fully awake among the sharp mountain views and fearless skiers speeding past, taming those mountain beasts! I am home.
The first lessons covered the basics and how to fall properly. I find it’s such a nice metaphor for life. Learn how to deal with your downfalls, train your body and mind on how to do it right- so that you don’t hurt as bad when it occurs and are able to pick yourself up quicker. And that’s on healthy coping mechanisms!
Regardless of how easy the basics were, I definitely struggled. The hesitation and fear I felt, overwhelmed my body, constantly getting scared I will injure myself further. I kept practicing on flat ground and trying to get used to the movement of my knees, dictating where and how fast I’m going. I fell on my butt a lot, while the fearless 7-year-olds sped past me showing off with their snowboarding tricks- hats off to them! It is hard!
RECHARGE ON TOP OF MOUNTAINS
After an eventful lesson, it was time to recharge. I headed to the nearby chalet which served warm food and drinks. After ordering a German bratwurst with potatoes and sour kraut, I enjoyed the mountain views surrounding me. Then I drank the best hot chocolate- I tasted in my life so far with freshly whipped cream. Shortly, however, it started snowing and I moved inside the chalet. Then wooden aesthetic and a fireplace made me feel all cozy and relaxed. That’s until I made my way down to the toilets and almost had a heart attack at the stuffed animals creeping out of a corner.
Stepping out of the chalet, the scenery has completely transformed. I couldn’t see the vast mountain landscapes anymore, just white. Although it’s nothing new to me, I still get amazed by how fast weather changes in the mountains. The snow was heavy and that has made it more challenging to practice due to reduced visibility. I put my snow goggles on and carried on for a few more hours until the sun started going down. I spent the entire day on the slopes, determined to manifest my dreams into reality.
BRAND NEW DAY
The next couple of days were very similar. I came back to Penken because it is one of the most beginner-friendly mountains in the area. And continued practicing. This time my instructor was a young man, who was also teaching a 9-year old (which in all honesty- didn’t need much teaching). Their energy was like one of 2 brothers. I found myself constantly amused with their remarks and enjoyed tips from the very talented 9-year-old boy.
The atmosphere was so laid back, I found I put less pressure on myself and could relax more. I stopped counting all the times I’ve fallen. I listened to my body more. Took breaks when necessary. I felt myself gaining more control over the board and tried to get used to gaining speed.
These hours spent learning and practicing were only interrupted by food and coffee breaks. I’d sit down in snow or on the benches outside and enjoy warm cups of coffee. The cup, warming up my frozen hands, the flavor of coffee awakening my senses. Striking interesting conversations with fellow travelers. Admiring the mountains, studying every sharp ridge, the pine trees scattered everywhere. Seeing the sun disappear behind snow clouds, in episodes of heavy snowfall before the sun comes out again. It was like magic. I’d come back into practicing because in the next couple of days I would attempt to go down quite a large steep hill and prove to myself that the impossible doesn’t exist.
Tune in for the next part of the Austrian Adventures.
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See you again,