finding your life aesthetic

Posted on August 31st, 2012

A few weeks ago I was in Vienna for a day, as part of a 38-hour haul from Greece to Denmark. And I had a great realisation.

When I’m in a new city I get enveloped by the aesthetic – the hair, the shoes, the subtle mannerisms, the turns of phrases – and find myself wanting to covet it, while feeling overwhelmingly lacklustre in my own “rustic” get-up.

This lady was very “Vienna”. She was very much thrown when I asked to photograph her with her al-foil doggie bag.

It’s an evolutionary thing. When you find yourself standing out from the mob, you get a survivalist urge to “buy into” the dominant vibe.

It’s a travel thing. The smells, sights and accents all feel so evocative. You get swept up in the new.

Well. I almost did, there in Vienna. Then I got a grip of myself. Vienna’s a good place for this.

At first I did my usual. I looked at the prim men in their crisp striped shirts and dapper spectacles with their neat hands and expensive tan moccasins. And the women with their curt little plimsolls and small limbs and cardigans tied over little shoulders and the contained way they sip at their coffees and peck at their pastries. I got absorbed by the way the quirky girl who I stopped to ask for “the best café to sit in for a few hours” blinked tightly as she answered me, with her bright fuchsia lipstick. And her kooky Mary-Janes.

I imagined their nice, tidy, un-dusty lives, listening to Mozart, eating strudel, sitting in parks and talking with their smart friends.

And I suddenly felt grubby and rustic and unkempt and big and clumsy.

If I were a buying type I’d dash off to the nearest Benetton and get me a cerise pullover. Instead I just stare and compare.

In France I want a good scrub and a striped red and white boat-neck tee. And to know how to eat a salad without flicking oil on myself.

In New York, I want to walk down cobblestone streets in black stilettos. And read important books in loft apartments.

It’s a travel thing. I have friends who come back from Bali with fringed dresses.

The quaint-yet-supremely-dour Cafe Pruckel in Vienna

But in Vienna it was different. I stopped and realised that while this aesthetic fascinated, it wasn’t me. Respect to all Austrian’s out there, but I find Vienna mild. I might even say dour. I sat on a step and felt what I felt. It was a depression. I can’t do mildness. I have friends who love mild climates, and soft colour palates, and pretty landscapes and subtle, refined cultures. My mum, for example, likes places like Vienna.

I’d just come from Greece, of course. The contrast was stark and telling. In Austria, there are pretty fields with clipped borders, lovely buildings, neat town squares, precise (but dour) cafes. It’s pretty and the aesthetic has appeal, but…but…even when the sun is out the sky feels so very close. That’s what makes me feel depressed.

By contrast, in Greece (and Spain and the south of France) I was so comfortable. The heat, the dust, the dryness, the way I could put me feet up at the table, eat with my fingers, double dip, hitch a ride, go into a taverna’s kitchen to chat to the chef for an hour and ride my motorbike without a helmet if I want. No rules.

Cote D’Azur: on a hot walk around the cap

The way I could wear a bikini top, a singlet and my green shorts and thongs every day. And not wash my hair – just let the salt build things up into a rather workable style.

And the sky…it goes forever.

This I realised was my aesthetic. I’ve had it for years of course. I just haven’t accepted it. I lived in Melbourne for almost seven years. I love the place, but the flatness, the cold, the insideness…it doesn’t make my heart soar. And I’m just not very fashion.

My aesthetic, I realised, while I sat on the step, will never be prim and neat and sleek and blow-dried and all “Donna Karen” and well behaved. I will never be bejewelled or made up or able to keep my sneakers clean.

I’m dusty and ….brown.

I walk into a room and within minutes I’ve mucked it up and made it… not messy…always practical and functional…but rarely pretty and polished. I don’t know how to blow-dry my own hair. I colour in my grey hairs with mascara if I have to.

I can pull off the polished look and do tidy when I have to. And I’ve always had to – for shoots in magazines, work in TV etc.

But like a chef who takes off her apron at the end of the day, I unpeel this polished aesthetic.

Not an astounding realisation. But a sound one, especially as I’m touring about looking for my next home, my tribe, where I belong. I think I’m getting closer.

Sometimes you have to work out what you are not to get closer to who you are.

Have you found your aesthetic? Struggle to accept it?

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  • http://svasti.wordpress.com/ Svasti

    Self-acceptance has so many layers! I am like this, too. A little unkempt. Not for me the pristine home with everything looking all zen and minimalist-like. Sure, I don’t own a lot of stuff and I don’t want to, but what stuff I do have? You’re going to see it.

    My kitchen is practical and tidy, but its clearly a working kitchen, not one for a magazine photoshoot. Same with my house, my hair, the way I dress.

    I live in Melbourne right now and I know what you mean. This city that so many others love, depresses me at times. Too concretey. Too cold. Too staid, despite all the hipsters.

    I don’t think its a bad thing. I know we women are supposed to vainly want to look the prettiest, have the nicest clothes and homes and so on. But I like things… a little rough around the edges. A little dusty and off-beat. :)

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  • http://achievetheimpossiblecoach.blogspot.ca/ Natalia

    Wow, you’ve been posting some amazing stuff. I’m starting to feel like a stalker but I have to comment on this. This really hit home with me. Just like you accepted your aesthetic, I had to learn to accept my way of being. I always felt a little down when I watched very put together women with their makeup perfectly done walk down the street. I would wow to be that like that, go buy all the stuff and clothes only to go back to my usual comfortable gear. I’ve accepted that this isn’t who I’m. Nothing wrong with either as far as I’m concerned but I seem to be missing the primp gene. This still makes my mom very sad sometimes. I’m much happier running around in shorts and tank top than strutting in a pair of stilettos. Believe me, I tried many time but it never worked. I used to think that I wasn’t feminine if I didn’t nice cutesy outfits with perfectly done hair and makeup; however, my opinion changed. I realized that it’s possible to be very feminine and adventurous regardless of what we wear. Great post Sarah!

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  • http://www.sparrowandsea.com Jess @ Sparow + Sea

    I suppose this explains why the clothes one buys when traveling never seem quite so great when you get home again!

    I have this feeling too. But not even just when traveling. Sometimes I go to parties or functions here, and as usual have put on the appropriate garb put still feel out of place. And for a little while, I feel envy that I don’t pull off polished glamour effortlessly, like (seemingly) all the other intimidatingly gorgeous creatures at said function. And I start to wish that I was the girl who had lovely finger nails and who got her hair trimmed at regular intervals and who was always on top of her eyebrow grooming…

    So then it is always a relief when, after a while, the initial pang of envy gives way to the realisation that i don’t actually *want* that. Like you said, it’s easy to get caught up in an aesthetic when you feel you’re the odd one out. But it is oh-so-liberating to realise that you are slowly discovering (or is it just accepting?) who you are and who you are not.

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  • Jane

    My favourite line – “I colour in my grey hairs with mascara if I have to.”
    At 40 I feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever, it’s so freeing to be yourself. I thought of you last weekend when a friend sent me a link to a Brene Brown talk on TED.
    Brene has a PHD in vulnerability, literally. She says it is the birthplace of creativity and innovation.

    Love your vulnerability…

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  • Mia Bluegirl

    How hilarious – I am the exact opposite in that I find vast skies oppressive! :) I’ve always lived in Perth but the Mediterranean climate freaks me out sometimes. The sky is… huge. Too huge and endless. I’d rather be indoors, snuggled in blankets, covered and deep. Needless to say, I adored Austria.

    Maybe its an Ayurveda thing. Kapha, maybe? Does it have something to do with being petrified of heights but more comfortable deep sea diving than on land, I wonder.

    I got called “proper” by an American the other day, as in posh, which unsettled me – til I remembered that I cover my tattoos for work, I match my high heels with my scarf/ lipstick/ cardigan, and I always wear glasses. I’m conservative on the outside. I always forget that. I blend in like a stingray in the sand and like to observe first, before I interact.

    Thank you for a really thoughtful post, Sarah! You’ve got me all thinky now. I can’t wait to read the rest of the comments too, the individuality in your readers always tickles me. :)

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    Kate Reply:

    Ooh, yes, Mia Bluegirl, well put! I’m in Perth too and I totally get what you mean. Sometimes all that blue blue blue is just too too too much and I long for Melbourne where I could wear boots and a scarf and not feel guilty about staying indoors! I’m getting more Perth as I get older but it’s funny I’ve lived here for so long when it isn’t really my aesthetic.

    You’ve put into words what has just been a vague impressions and thoughts in my head until now. Wonderful post, Sarah!

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    I think it IS a kapha v vatta thing

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    Chrissy Reply:

    I wonder what that makes me then? Because I live in Perth and LOVE all the things Mia Bluegirl describes – plus I totally hear you Sarah re the Mediterranean countries and being dusty and brown.

    I need to be warm. I need to be surrounded by aqua blues and sunshine. I need to not brush my hair (luckily I have long wavy blonde hair which looks great as “bed hair” as I cannot style to save my life). I need to have paint or linseed oil on my fingers and salt on my skin.

    Perth is close to meeting those – Ningaloo reef and Coral Bay come far closer

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  • Lucy

    I feel like this so often! Great post Sarah, I love living vicariously through your travel stories! Keep up the good work.

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  • Suellen

    Exactly, exactly how I feel traveling sometimes. Especially in cities where the people looked amazingly groomed and elegant. And I realize with my unruly curly hair and casual dress sense that I don’t fit until you find a place that you do…Croatia was my Greece.
    Enjoying your travels and posts.

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  • Bridget

    Sarah, you’re like my modern day guru! You manage to capture the ordinary and write about it with such beauty and depth. I can always relate to your words. :)

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  • casey

    Wonderful post that, like the others who’ve commented here, really hit home for me. I often feel out of place – not dressed well enough, I don’t spend vast amounts of money on beauty things etc. I lived in Melbourne for eight years and I never felt quite right there, which confused me because everyone else I know loves living there with a passion that I never experienced. I’ve been in Sydney for 18 months now and I feel completely at home for reasons I couldn’t initially figure out, since most of my friends don’t care for the city. These last few years I’ve begun to understand more about my ‘life aesthetic’ (such a great term) so this post was really wonderful to read at this point in my life.

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  • lizzy

    thank you for this. every bit of it. enlightened in the embracing, simple in the continuity. i adored your observations of different aesthetics and i adore you for your cozy, practical, sun-lit ways. i’ve been battling myself for some time, berating myself for my lack of poise and polish. for not being girlish enough. this being defined by my lack of ease with make-up application, not having a modelesque figure or knowing how to dress myself into looking like one, my love for fancy, delicate clothing that is always overridden by garments i don’t have to fuss over–if i want to climb a tree or roll down a hill, i want clothing that will take it, on every occasion, because who knows when the most welcoming trees or softest hills will beckon. i listen to myself as i defend and berate myself amongst other women, how i dishonour my own preferences, my own messiness and warmth. so, thank you for the reminder to extend grace to myself, to ‘get closer.’

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  • Naz

    I feel like I’m somewhere between these two extremes. Not quite prim and proper like those in Vienna and not so carefree like the people in Greece. I grew up with my mum dressing us up in frilly dresses and having to sit through many dinner parties hosted by my parents where my sisters and I had to be all proper and lady like… except that I always felt uncomfortable in those situations and couldn’t wait for the guests to leave so I could get out of my dress/skirt etc. On the other hand we also did things like hang out at the beach all day in our bathers and go home with sand everywhere.

    I grew up and lived in Perth for most of my life before I moved to Melbourne and now the U.S. Maybe that’s why I feel like I’m somewhere in between, not so fashiony like Melbourne and not so ‘relaxed’ a la Perth.

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  • Joe

    “And I suddenly felt grubby and rustic and unkempt and big and clumsy.”

    I know that feeling whilst sitting on a park bench in Lake Como having a bit to eat. I think the homeless there were better dressed than me….. :-)

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  • Steph

    I loved love loved this piece so much! I had to go to Italy to find my place, the aesthetic I knew was mine – where I could be physically elegant and emotionally messy. I come from Canada and I always felt out of place – in Canada one tends to be physically messy and emotionally neat. That’s not exactly what I mean, but I knew I needed the opposite of what I had.

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    emily hope Reply:

    I’ve come back to this post again and again but somehow only just now noticed this comment — the physically elegant and emotionally messy bit really struck me, I love the idea of this combination.

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  • Amber

    I loved this post Sarah. I feel like this a lot and it would appear that others do too! So enjoying your travels. Hope you are keeping healthy and well. x

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  • Alice

    you just helped me realise something. and feel okay with it.
    i need heat.
    i need warmth, i need sun, i need raw and i need free.
    i’ve lived in melbourne since birth with bursts of living in spain, mostly madrid, and now i ache for it so much my heart hurts.
    your posts have been off the chain hitting home lately, like little nudges at my soul, it’s awesome. thank you xxxx

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    Jayme Reply:

    I’m so amazed. Throughout Sarah’s post, I kept thinking that Madrid is the city that I ache for. The heat, the streets, the cement, the bustle. Then I read your comment and began to think – wow, she gets me, I wonder what her place is. That’s pretty awesome. Meet you in plaza de Santa ana?

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  • Fotini

    Sarah your posts are beautiful and full of soul and emotion. Thank you for conveying the beauty and the passion of the Mediterranean and it’s people.

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  • Lulu

    Great post – heaps to think about. Vienna is very ‘civilised’ in the true sense of the word – people go to live orchestral events weekly! And there’s no inch of land that hasn’t been retouched again and again and again – that also bothered me in London, I felt that the parks were an inch below street level as they’d been heavily trampled on for thousands of years. For me, it’s sea or sky – far horizons – which you often can’t get in city or landlocked country – you do get snow capped mountains tho in Europe (and NZ)! I love a bit of bush and certainly rainforests are gorgeous and smelly with their decomposing lifecycle evident to the senses but as far as climate and dressing… Mmmm, I like 4 seasons so I can wear all manner of things, albeit in a casual way – togs and jackets – whether on Bondi Beach, Melb cafe, New York Gallery, NZ tramp… Thanks for the post, I’m waxing lyrical now, lot’s to contemplate… PS. I loved seeing how stylish the Italians were – made me want to lift my game (and posture) in a really positive way!

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  • Sylvia

    Whatever about Melbourne, that is where one gains the love of a sky that goes on forever :)

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  • http://www.handmadeemporium.com.au Karina

    I’ve been deep in conversation with myself about this same thing, and the revelations are fascinating. I moved to the country to get in touch with my hippie again after many years of city living. But here’s the thing. After all those years of veg gardens, roaming chickens and chopping wood, I’ve discovered that all the wonderful people I’ve met just aren’t my tribe. It’s a wonderful environment here, but I crave trams instead of incessant car travel, the theatre, South Melbourne market, a jogging track I can walk to and being close to my family. All the things I thought I could live without. And I nearly moved to a warm climate to get away from the cold. So you’re SO right. It’s about the tribe, fitting in to your environment, feeling as one. It’s not about climate or a beautiful outlook or roaming chickens. Go figure.

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  • Grace

    I lived in north Germany for a few year and visited Vienna often. The order and way you NEVER break rules – like jaywalking, for eg, was a real challenge. My aesthetic, which felt fine if slightly arty at home in Oz, suddenly was BIG. Too vibrant, too loud, not enough nipped in at the waist coats and way too many flea market 70″s fake fur numbers. So, in short I get it! It took me time but being comfortable with who you are no matter where you find yourself is attractive to the outside world- even to the tight-lipped stare too long Viennese!

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  • Georgia

    wow wow wow wow wow! i loved this! i just got back (to London) from 3 weeks in Spain, France and Italy. I found my Bordeaux to be your Vienna – very my mum-ish, very un-me… i felt very untrendy, even when i was trying TO be trendy and realised i am NOT trendy at all! i loved Barcelona – the heat, the colour, the fact you can wear what you want and no one cares! I always wanted to be that little bit more trendy… but now I realise that i’m me… that’s good enough isnt it??

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  • Kate K

    Hi Sarah, I loved this post, and have been loving all the travelling ones lately. I think I only started reading your blog a couple of months ago, and to be honest, I had seen your newspaper column and photo in the past, and taken one glance and thought ‘Nah, this chick is way too polished and clean and mainstream media for me’. I hadn’t even given one column one cursory read – if that media profile pic is really not the you that you feel you are, then why keep it? Be who you are, also, you are pretty damn smokin in all the non made up, non studio photos, more so, I think. Happy travels!

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  • Kirsty

    Sarah, thank you darlin!

    This post really struck a chord with me.. I am one of those throw on a pair of leggings and a big sloppy jumper types rather than being perfectly groomed and smart. Yes, occasionally it’s lovely to really make an effort but day to day, comfort is of prime importance.
    Travel to hotter climates has always rejuvenated me.
    My aesthetic, likes nothing better than seeking warmth in a sunny spot, curling up and warming it’s bones (as does my dog). Swimming in (and walking by) the sea every day is my idea of heaven – chlorine pools just don’t cut it and the smell makes me feel ill. Living in Bristol is fantastic but the ever worsening UK weather has been really affecting me lately as I too have suffered with thyroid/adrenal issues for the last ten years. My hubby now has the chance to work in Southern California for a few years and we are both very tempted. Is the opportunity of sun, and a more laid back lifestyle a good enough reason to uproot & leave family and friends for a while? I think it might be… :)

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  • Mel

    Oh yes. Germany scared me, morocco’s wild freeness inspired and captivated to the point I returned to Scotland after being there and watched from the sky as I flew in, all the orderly cars and ached for it. You would love it. Marakesh and essaouira would knock your socks off. I really get this Sarah.

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  • http://authentic-human.com/manifesto Candice

    Really loved and totally identified with this! I get that ‘covet’ feeling about New York when I watch movies or flip through Elle magazine. I’ve really been enjoying your ‘Blue Zone’ posts.

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  • Justine

    Sarah your inspiring post HAS got me thinking too about my aesthetic?

    I’ve only just returned from 2 weeks in Switzerland which felt like a lost dream inside a Little Golden Book or Leggoland village. Stunningly beautiful but also surreal to the point where after a week I was seeking life, excitement, something, anything with an edge. Just not banal.

    I think I was actually relieved to return to north-west Italy where I have spent the past 2 months enjoying the med life, Italian language, comical Italians and some of the best food in the world.

    But it has also caused me to think more deeply about HOW every aesthetic really is always going to be *imperfect* – a compromise to decide what you can accept and live with/without. To live and work in Italy would be to exist happily amongst the inefficiency, corruption, patriarchal, nepotistic and gender-based social structures, languishing youth, and diminishing economic opportunities.

    Having lived in all 3 eastern Oz states, I suspect now that we may build our own life and obtain our own-sized sky wherever we are inclined to be and naturally drawn by way of aesthetic. I’m thinkin’ perhaps Melbourne with adopted med lifestyle and regular winter holidays to sunny sth europe could be the best of both. Still thinkin’…

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  • http://www.newagegranny.com Donna

    Great post Sarah! I don’t think there is one tribe for life. I think our tribe changes as does our aesthetic. I think as we grow older, we learn to accept ourselves and be ourselves. We learn that much of what we have struggled with over the years is really not important.
    Being yourself is sexy and liberating. I am a jeans and tshirt girl and I don’t like fashion, makeup and glam – it simply isn’t me.
    I don’t think we should lock ourselves into one tribe either – freedom is wonderful. To pick and choose and change your mind as often as you like.
    I also think all the travel in the world will only bring you back to one thing – yourself.
    Enjoy the journey :)

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  • Bridget

    Great post! Have never thought about it like that – but it makes sense…Have totally had that (same?) ick feeling of arriving somewhere like Vienna, feeling like a yuck tourist and wanting to assimilate immediately.

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  • Jackie

    Well put Sarah. I like to look clean and reasonably neat and try to choose clothes that flatter my figure but never at the expense of comfort. I just can’t enjoy anything when my feet are sore or my clothes are tight or I’m feeling cold. I just couldn’t be bothered with it as who you are is more important than what you look like, don’t you think?

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  • Rachael

    Sarah I can not even begin to tell you how much I real

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  • http://www.quietmind.com.au Sarah

    so lucky to be allowing all to just unfold .. finding your tribe out there in the big world. Relish and indulge and ponder (as you are) and .. all will be well. Im a Melbourne girl and while I miss the eternal sunshine of more northern shores, there are times .. just like today .. when the sky is a particularly vivid blue, and the jasmine are now flowering profusely and I am drawn very naturally to the fact that mother nature has turned the page to SPRING .. I even had my hands in the earth today .. a very natural reminder of changing seasons .. and the chance to clean and begin again. I realise that seasons are now important to me too .. the changing seasons and the journey they present.

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  • Ms Jane

    I lived in bryon for a few years (a lifetime ago) and came back to Melbourne as I missed having four seasons in one day! And I remember backpacking thru Europe in the 80′s and arriving in Italy and feeling like a scruffy hobo! Everyone was so well dressed and gorgeous. I had bleached white hair and everything in my backpack was black (so it all matched). So I went to Benetton and bought a yellow shirt. I must have looked like a giant bumblebee!!! Anyway I think you get to an age where you’re happy to be who you are and stop wearing other people’s coats. Vienna is very precise tho! Xxx

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  • rebeccaspeaking

    Yes, I know EXACTLY what you mean! Except kind of the reverse aesthetic. In places like the Croatian islands and in backpacker hostels I always felt too prim for my surroundings. I’d try to let it all hang out and be easy breezy like everyone around me but then I’d just get the photos back and look a mess. In places like Paris and just about anywhere in Italy, where it’s de rigeur to do a bit of makeup and wear enclosed shoes and all that, that’s where I felt my tribe was. I didn’t not enjoy being on the islands, of course, but aesthetically speaking I knew I wasn’t home. I was at home where people made a bit more effort. I know some people hate that and I wish I could be one of them, really I do, but there’s a perverse pleasure in realising you’re just that much happier with a swipe of mascara and some ballet flats. There are limits though – I too still find Austria just a LITTLE too stitched up for my doing.
    PS: French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu would probably refer to what we’re talking about here as our repsective “habitus”es. V academic but good way of thinking about it, if anyone is interested.

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  • http://www.east80.weebly.com ginger

    I thought I was the only girl on the planet who didn’t know how to blow dry her own hair. haha!

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  • michael

    Can relate re: the manicured appendages/Italian Casuals vibe. My dad is Viennese so both times I’ve been there as an adult I really wanted to like the place. Most of the time I ended up feeling like a bull in a china shop.
    I remember once nipping down to the neighbourhood bread shop in bare feet.. shock, horror ! Locals who know my father talked about this ‘incident’ for years apparently.
    On the other hand another time I was waiting to meet a distant relative at Sach’s, a Cafe famous for their Black Forest cake. I decided to duck into an anonymous looking chapel around the corner to sit for a few minutes. The gorgeous, understated stonework, artwork and woodwork spoke volumes about the former glories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and helped put my misapprehensions into perspective.
    Not a place I would want to raise kids or lose myself in a devil-may-care adventure but Vienna is certainly a city of many hidden treasures.

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  • Leonie

    I believe that the true you is not in the aesthetic that you choose for yourself. That is just your ego or image or how you have been molded to feel the most comfortable in. The true you is the consciousness that is behind all that, it is the one that is aware that you want to choose a certain way of presenting yourself in the world. It is not all the continuing thoughts of the mind but the one listening to it all and aware of the emotions the thoughts provoke.

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  • Jane

    It’s so much easier to commit to something when you know who you are, all the otherness seems to fade away, and then something else comes up and you become even more who you are, and on it goes… ahhh life.

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  • Jo P

    I absolutely loved this post, and keep coming back to this for both Sarah’s words and people’s reactions! I’ve often found myself travelling new places and getting an initial fear of not being part of “the tribe” – not sleek enough in Italy, over-dressed in Germany, scruffy and oddball in New York, and so on… Yet I always look at other people whose style stays constant, and admire how much they must know what they like and what works for them! I still feel like I haven’t quite found my aesthetic yet – but I do feel like I know who I’m not, and perhaps that’s half the journey.

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  • Rhea

    Dear Sarah,

    I really like your thoughts about “finding your tribe” and your place. I just think it is a pitty you did not give yourself the permission to actually find those places in Vienna. They exist, you know. And actually not too far from where you were.

    Can you really judge a city just by handing around for a few hours?
    Especially, since you did manage to get yourself in a place that even many locals including myself consider dour – I mean, why the hell would someone go to to the Prückl if 200 meters away are vibrant, young, urban beachbars, cafés and restaurants lined up along the canal… and there are various mixed, “wilder”, multi-cultural places in Vienna, you´d just have to venture away from the center which does, admittedly, have the feel of an open air museum – like many historical city centers.

    You can swim naked in the Danube, sit next to veiled turkish women and color-splattered artists at open air markets, go dancing at gritty techno clubs and so much more. You, however, managed to end up in one of the most boring parts of the inner city…

    Also, I feel like the way you describe the young lady (“listening to Mozart”) is just a stereotype in your head, but in no way reality. I have lived here for most of my life, and people like you describe them are an exeption, not how the majority lives…

    Do not get me wrong: feel free to find Vienna dour, boring, whatever. I just think that any city deserved to be truly explored before it is judged…

    PS: If you want something breathtaking, go west – the wild nature of the Alps is really different to the soft fields of eastern Austria…

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  • http://naturopathfionahogan.blogspot.com/ fiona hogan @naturoapthichealth

    Yes, SW, you’ve hit the nail on the head, well written. You are all truth to yourself and honest, well done. A lovely post that I totally resonate with, I feel at times I could’ve written it myself. Am I looking in a mirror? Only I can answer that. Enjoy finding yourself and eliminating what you’re not.X

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  • http://kympham.tumblr.com Kym

    I love this so much.

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  • Kristina

    I have to say that your judgement about Vienna is a bit unfair, as Rhea said, there are so many beautiful places you could have gone to. I totally understand what your blog post is about, but thinking that Austrians are strict (e.g. with clothes), or that they go to classic concerts all the time (WHAT?!) is the wrong way to think. Yes, it’s true, you wouldn’t want to go grocery shopping in your Uggs, but honestly I am living in Sydney and I can’t do it here either.

    I am Austrian (26) have lived near Vienna all my life and have been living in Sydney now for over a year and on the Gold Coast for another year before that. I feel that people have the urge of wearing the newest clothes and look better than anyone else all the time. Everyone wears so much make-up even when just doing their grocery shopping, which I have never experienced in Austria.
    The same goes with girls wearing short skirts and dresses (lots of make up, really dressed up) when they go out, whereas in Austria girls are comfortable just wearing a pair of jeans out in a club. I don’t mind either way, and I understand the feeling of not being comfortable in a country. This post though seems to me like stereotyping Vienna, you should have asked a few more people on the street or in shops where to go best. Vienna is known for the coffee culture and people spend hours in a Café, reading, chatting etc. It is a great way to spend a few hours in Vienna while you explore the city. Rhea has already suggested really great parts that should be seen when in town, including Naschmarkt, which I am sure you would have loved!

    Being Austrian I enjoy both countries, Austria and Australia. I haven’t been brought up by strict rules (don’t really know what some people here are talking about) and to be honest “rules” like being on time is just something I appreciate. Isn’t it nice when the TV program actually starts on time (and you won’t miss the last 10min of your recorded program), or the bus is on time, people you invite for a party are on time? That’s the only “rule” I can think of that we Austrian’s really value.

    I hope you get to go to Vienna again and get to experience some of the nicer parts, nicer people etc. It really isn’t as bad as some people write here! X

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  • Tim

    Hi Sarah,

    Started reading your blog about a year ago and the article “…in which I be me”, or something similar, started a chain reaction that has led me to writing this comment to you…..from Split, Croatia!

    So firstly, thanks for that article, and many subsequent ones since. I too have gone on a journey over the last year or so that has mirrored yours in many ways…the search for a life that makes sense for me, not everybody else. So then you need to look deep inside, be brutally honest with yourself and start figuring this out. There are some big life decisions in this process, like money, job, family, and there are simpler things like what kind of climate to live in. And of course hundreds of nuances too like in this article….the effect of travel and being like the locals.

    Your comments on aesthetics are so true, though this is becoming more of the “old me” as compared to a more “true to myself” me, if that makes sense. In being more real to myself, things like aesthetics that suit others and not me are more obvious now, it’s easier to look and like or admire or enjoy, but knowing it’s someone else’s gig, not mine. Equally, things that click are like a magnet and you can gravitate towards these. Flexibility is the key as things change! What’s attractive and important now may be but a step towards something else as yet unknown. That’s a sensational part of being on this journey.

    Getting on this journey for real is a liberating process in itself. Opening up to life’s possibilities is wonderful. Wondering where it’s all going is exciting. Do we ever get “there”? Maybe, maybe not (I hope so!), but already there are signs, for me at least, that we don’t. It’s the process / journey itself of continually moving towards something better that is providing a life anchor, structure, reason for being, motivation and joy.

    This is why your writings have been so enjoyable to read as you are expressing this process real time! Your ups and downs and discoveries and actions feels like you are putting so much effort into getting it right for you and your gift of allowing us into your world is beautiful. I hope it inspires many more to do the same!

    Here’s to more, much more!

    Kind regards,
    Tim

    Sent from my iPad

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    Justine Reply:

    Hi Tim

    Would u believe I am ccurrently in Split right now. I’ve just come into from a week sailing and had week in Dubrovnik (part of 4 mth holiday discovery).Would be great to chew fat of Croatia and its aesthetics with another like-minded Australian (Melb). Please respond if u have time today to meet up for a drink. Justine

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    Tim Reply:

    Hi Justine,

    Unfortunately have missed you. Thank you for the invitation, would loved to have caught up for a chat. Don’t the Croats luv a chat?!! Went to Hvar Island and now at Baska Voda where I’ll be for a week or so, then Dubrovnik….looks like we’re going in opposite directions! A 4 month holiday, wow that sounds pretty fantastic! I will just have to settle for my 6 week jaunt :) going to Sicily from around 1st October and getting to Rome about the 17th for 3 days if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Then it’s Sydney for me, so feel free if you’re in town. Cheers Tim

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