The pandemic has changed a lot for all of us, but there are a few things I’m grateful for. Finding a home is one of them.
When we moved to Nickelsdorf, a small village at the Austrian-Hungarian borders, it seems like a great idea. I remember a beautiful day in the middle of May as we stood on a green meadow that was to become the building lot of our house. The view was so peaceful. Fields of gold wheat inhabited by hopping rabbits stretched until an eye could reach. The sky was blue; the sun was shining. In distance, huge windmills stood like graceful towers. I believe the day was so clear that we could even see outlines of the Alps on the horizon. The peacefulness descended on us and we knew that this is where we want to build our home.
Even the practical side of the adventure aligned perfectly.
The village is only thirty minutes from Bratislava and about a forty-five minutes drive from Vienna. Also, we would be not even half an hour from an international airport. We would escape the business of the city; yet, we could easily take advantage of cultural, entertainment, and other opportunities that only a city can offer.
It made sense economically. We would spend one-third of the price a house would cost anywhere near the city. We both work from home and commute was not a consideration. And we would be not too far from grandparents (but not too close either! Love them dearly!)
We hired an architect who designed our perfect home. After we had moved fourteen times, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted, and the architect made our wishes and plans a reality. He helped us build our perfect house. We were even fortunate enough to hire a construction company that delivered without major hiccups and on time (I’m not kidding; I know that finding contractors with reasonable planning and time management skills is unheard of). A dream! The move seemed ideal!
And then we moved. And the dream ended.
For me! For the longest time, I felt we made the biggest mistake. After living all my adult life in big cities, I couldn’t settle. There was nothing to do. Literally nothing. The ideal setting, that I fell in love with at the beginning, seemed boring immediately. The picturesque sunsets behind our house became an everyday occurrence. Okay, I love them, but it all became quite common. I also quickly realized that the once beautiful towers of windmills are not there to complete the landscape. I mean, I’ve always known that, but the constant wind is hard to get used to.
Every time I wanted to do something- cinema, yoga class, theatre, shopping- in my free time, I had to drive. Even a writing session in a coffee house meant to take the car keys and drive somewhere. I couldn’t walk anywhere. I could actually. I could go for a walk in the fields—which is always very nice and breathtaking. But if there was a purpose, it needed to be reached in the car.
I longed for the sounds of the city.
And the relationship dynamics of a small village! Everyone knows everyone. Gossip is the primary hobby. Newcomers, like us, are tolerated, but not embraced with open arms. In the beginning, I lived in a state of cultural shock. I may sound like a snob and maybe I’m one, but the older generation of farmers has a very different lifestyle and outlook on life. And the younger generation is gone or if they stayed, they follow in their parents’ footsteps. There are people here, of course, who are kind and I’m glad I’ve met them. And there are other newcomers and some of them became friends. But I didn’t feel at home. Not immediately. Not after a year, two, four. I enjoyed our house. I kind of settled.
I knew I couldn’t just call our move a mistake and move elsewhere. My sons started school here, they found friends, and they started calling this place home. My husband, who travels a lot for work, loved it here. It became his oasis of calm and relaxation.
I associated my reluctance to root myself in this community with my nomadic nature. I love traveling and I started planning shorter and longer trips as my coping mechanism. We would travel at least three to four weeks every summer. I would take solo trips. I would jam our weekend schedules with getaways, adventures, and travel. I accepted that this would be my life. One foot in Nickelsdorf and one always somewhere else. Never rooted.
The pandemic has changed it.
Under the lockdown, I was forced to stay put. An unexpected opportunity to appreciate what I have because nothing else is possible. It didn’t happen in any conscious way, with a mindful effort. It just happened. I realize that I’m looking forward to my walks. I also got time to finish a few home improvement projects. We settled into a domestic routine that I enjoy.
I miss a lot of things, but I no longer consider driving to get them as a nuisance. We couldn’t drive anywhere for a while, so doing it became a treat (and a company of audiobooks makes up for the “lost” time). Without packing, unpacking, planning a trip, and managing our schedules while I’m gone, I could appreciate how my three men are happy here and their contentment spills over to me. I’m grateful for what I have and I’m certainly grateful that we don’t live in a city, trapped with only a balcony or a mini backyard to step out to. Here, I feel free. Despite my personal freedom being hugely affected by the pandemic, I don’t feel constrained.
I miss traveling a lot. And I know that I will reintroduce it to my life as soon as possible. And maybe my nomadic nature will reappear and once again I would feel trapped here. I can’t know now, but it feels that some roots are firmly set in the ground finally. I don’t know if I spend the rest of my life here, but I know that the pandemic taught me to appreciate my home.
What good things have you experienced during these troublesome times? Leave a comment.
If you want to catch up on my other ramblings and discoveries life has brought my way, read here.
I love how real your writing is. No exaggeration. No hype. Just raw. Great!
Thank you for sharing your pandemic perspective Katarina! It has been a learning curve for each of us in our own way. Having the time to sit with myself and not take on distractions has been a valuable part of my pandemic time. I feel like I’ve had the time to get to know myself again after many years of busyness and outward focus. It’s helped me get clear about what will make my soul happy and now I’m working on the mental model to make it happen. The hard part is setting myself on a path that I will be able to stick to in the long run when the outside world comes creeping in again. 🙂