This morning I woke up to the bluest sky you could ever imagine, neatly decorated with some golden tree tops – the first leafs changing their color. The air was flirting with some first snow from the mountains… my brain immediately headed for the archives getting out the videotapes of some amazing ski morning spent at St. Christoph in the Arlberg some years ago.
This dreamy atmosphere went along quite nicely until I quickly looked at my calendar.
What did it say?
It did not politely say it; it screamed at me:
You. Apply. A**. 2. Chair. Now! (“that old cow!”)
Today, the compromise between my dream environment, my agenda, and myself was a quick bike run to the lake and getting the day started in a cafè that is on the way – to feedback on some UI designs so no one needs to wait for that.
So as I know some, if not lots of you, are contemplating shifting location to somewhere nicer now that remote work has become so normal or at least accepted depending on what and where you work, let me give you my first-hand experience from having lived ‘somewhere really nice’ for over eight years now.
For context: The “somewhere” is at the Bavarian lakes.
If I go on foot, the lake is 20 min. from my home (and office). By bike, it can be 10. By car, I can reach a whole variety of for some reason in different way beautiful places such as the Ammersee or simply the mountains such as Garmisch, Zugspitze etc.
We talk about walking out of the house to do some Nordic skiing, going for a spontaneous ski morning on the weekend, that kind of environment.
It’s great – and my husband and I chose it because, for us, it is. And still:
It is not as easy as you might think.
My husband even says sometimes it would be easier to live somewhere ugly and less inspiring. The reason: Because it allows you to focus in a much easier way. And I am inclined to say he might be right about this.
Sometimes it is like you would be on a diet and spend your day in a bakery full of amazing cakes.
Let me tell you why that is the case – and how to handle it.
What to expect if you choose to live somewhere beautiful:
The good news is it will be inspiring. Inspiring means: It will pull on you to get out there and enjoy it. The bad news is: It will be inspiring. It will also pull on your trousers to get you out to play even when the moment isn’t right.
So, it will be great and annoying because it will trigger you in moments when you simply have stuff to do. You might find yourself pulling out your hair to squeeze into your 24 hours what you feel should fit into it.
You will then have the problem that you can’t really complain about as that would be considered (and of course, IS) as a luxury problem. This leads us to…
3. Luxury Problems – and still: Problems
Just because your environment looks like a picture wall does not mean that ‘normal’ life is not happening.
Also, people can and will be nice – or assholes everywhere. People do not stop being assholes just because of cool surroundings, sometimes they seem to get even more assholy (think: value, money, greed…).
Life will still happen with all things good, bad, and ugly.
4. The clichè can be a problem – as well as your new ‘friends.’
Honestly, I had no f***ing idea of what weird reactions would come up just because of that place we chose to live.
It IS nice here in Starnberg; yes, at the same time, it is not like if you move there, you just get handed over that million-dollar mansion and a personal valet (I wish!).
People from Munich especially still completely overreact – so in the meanwhile, I might not mention Starnberg anymore, but something like “Söcking” – which is a part of Starnberg most will simply not have any context about. Actually, I know that around these lakes here, there are places that are much prettier (check out Machtlfing if you like to rabbit-hole), but for some reason, there is just that aura. Probably rooted back to when Ludwig was living here.
Also, it was pretty interesting to see how many close friends we suddenly had when we moved. We are talking about people mentioning they would be on the way anyway (6 hours drives), and the very same ones that had not been able to do the 2-hour drive between Mannheim and Bonn (considered super unsexy) now happily suggesting “quickly coming down” (still 4 hours plus).
Be careful: The choice of the location might get you into a brand aura that you need to learn how to handle.
5. Work is still: Work
You still probably will have to work, and let’s be realistic: work is just that – work. That is ok! It is work whether it happens in London, Buxtehude, some village, or close to the sea. It needs to get done, it earns you money. That’s the deal.
As always and as before, the work can oftentimes be fulfilling, and sometimes it will just be a pain in the ass.
I assume you’re a pro, so you’ll not be going to let that stop you from getting your stuff done. The distracting environment will have a certain probability of causing internal conflict as you might be sitting inside working on a pitch deck while outside the snow is screaming at you.
6. Now you have a Bigger Picture that says: Life is ok – even if it is not.
I can recall a scene in my first year when I had a shoulder injury caused by a reckless skier (yes, she drove by without noticing or apologizing) that indirectly caused other trouble, too. On Monday after that happened, my mood was pretty dark, and I went down to the lake.
I sat there and looked at the mountains, and the Zugspitze winked from the background of the Roseninsel.
Something inside of me just took a deeper breath (I do again as I think about it) and felt reminded that there is
There are bigger things.
Other things matter so much more.
This will become better again and, at some point, just a memory.
It helped me regain a perspective that says:
Overall, life is just amazing. It will be. Again.
The view and the surroundings here can do this for me – and if you find something similar (and I do hope you do), then go for it.
It is like a hidden resilience source you found – or have been given as a gift.
How to make sure it works
Make sure the ‘beauty’ of it is relevant to you
This might seem obvious, but surprisingly it is not.
You might be astonished to hear that here around the lakes and the mountains, I have met people that do not enjoy ANY of this: They don’t swim in the lakes, they don’t do any kind of winter sports, not even walk.
From my point of view: NOTHING that makes life worth living here.
I do not even get why they would live here, quite honestly.
So, if a moderate climate, warm waters, and mellow evenings count for you: Yes, this here would be the wrong place; it would mean nothing to you, not make you happy, maybe to the contrary.
Like in business, I would recommend checking in with what your priorities are (as in a SWOT), and adding to that a solid dose of what feels good for your mind, body, and soul.
The Instagram of other people and places might look nice, but how does it feel from the inside?
I.e. for YOU!?
Be aware that life is more than the environment and good looks
The great environment also will easily lose its charm if one or several of the other ‘big stones’ in life simply do not work out – worrying about how you pay the rent might still look instagrammable but probably feel extremely miserable.
Also, the culture and mindset of the people surrounding you there will probably play a major role in whether the good looks of your environment will feel good over time. I suggest giving them a really good look and feel into it – what patterns can you recognize? Are they what you want to identify with?
For example, I love the elder ladies and gentlemen here in the public sports community – they are just so down-to-earth, polite, and relentless in their resolve to stay fit – after all, they wanna go to the mountains tomorrow. I like that. There is another ‘bubble’ here of people I would not want to identify with; there probably always will. The positive group will be the one I keep an eye on, and as long as it exists, that is enough.
Try it out first, don’t overinvest
That “sex on the beach story”? Ever really tried? If so, you’ll notice that the sand is not as smooth as it looks.
I would strongly recommend test driving your beautiful place before you move there.
In our case, we did that simply by renting a holiday apartment in March/April. This is extremely ‘off-season’ for here around and we did get reality: Tobias was ill, I had to go to the pharmacy, just have a real everyday life and liked it even more for it. That is what made our intention clear – and we acted upon it.
There is no perfect. Like: Never.
No place will always be perfect, 24/7, all year long. There is always a trade-off.
For example, I love good wine – and at the same time, the area I am living in now would be the last choice for a vineyard. It is too cold, too extreme, and too close to the mountains. Exactly that location means that here we enjoy that kind of crystal clear air I love so much.
The two (mountain air and wine) simply do not go together – and that is ok.
I can still have a nice trip to those regions once in a while.
For my “every day”, the air and climate there would be too hot and moist – I just like the feeling of a clear head too much.
How to handle it in everyday life
Get yourself out of FOMO Mode
Now that you’ve moved there: Take it easy.
Whatever it is, it has probably existed for some time and will not suddenly disappear. Enjoy the space this creates.
Take small first walks, check out some neighborhood pubs, and make a list of things to do – over the next years.
Do not pile them up too early, too quickly.
Give yourself the time to get acquainted with the new environment, develop some healthy gut feeling about what is safe or not, etc. (lots of people moving to the great outdoors underestimate that, but in a new city, the same might easily account for), too).
During the week: Go for the small chunks.
The real magic is not in the whole days spent at the lake – I would not even want that. The magic is in the quick swim in the morning or evening. The magic is in the short walk and the view you got after really bad weather.
Weekend etc.: Make sure you get to enjoy bigger chunks
There are days when the mountains scream, “hey, come out here and play! Let the work sit at the desk it will be there when you come back.”
Of course, this is not a good and professional way of handling things.
Instead, I might come up with a deal that says, “hey, let’s get this stuff done in high-intensity mode and maybe quicker than ever before, so on Friday afternoon, I can at least then drive over into the mountains and have exactly that playing from that the mountains asked me to have.”
Dare to have a holiday ‘at home’.
Each weekend can be.
Be proud and enjoy the alignment that comes with it.
“Living the good life” is not necessarily a comfortable life, and this will probably be what you’ll notice first once you allow yourself to live somewhere you really want to live. Suddenly you’re rid of that one excuse and that story about how things would be so wonderful if you would just ‘already’ be there.
‘Cos the truth is: There’s always going to be something your life is not going to be perfect. This is how life works even if you live in an environment that is instagrammable pretty much 100% of the time. Life is complicated. Life is everywhere, also in beautiful places and any of the not so obvious but to some people beautiful places, and we have to deal with it: problems and challenges will only be over once one’s life is over.
Choosing a place you love, will not suddenly turn your life into a Disney movie.
But at least sometimes you’ll feel like it says in that one Bollywood movie:
Top of the world.