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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Water and Mountain People

Canadians are water people. We gravitate towards it on our holidays. Whether the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean or one of the many fresh water lakes you will find us flocking towards it. We swim in it, ski on it, lay around it, look at it, fish in it, dive, snorkel and wind surf. Cabins are built around it for family getaways, and house prices soar if there is a view of it. You get the picture - Canadians love their water.

I have to admit, it took some time for me to adjust to life here in Vorarlberg. Although the Lake of Constance is minutes away, people here simply do not expel the same amount of energy enjoying it as say Canadians would. You see, Vorarlberger’s love their mountains.

Living at the base of a popular hiking area, I spent months marvelling at the number of people heading up the mountain every day when weather permitted – which is virtually all the time. I was invited countless time to “walk” and “hike” and for climbing lessons in the mountains. Beautiful restaurants are nuzzled in remote mountain areas. Spas, festivals, cafes, ski resorts and so on. Life here is in the mountains.

Tough adjustment for a water loving Canadian. I just didn’t get it. You see in Canada we don’t really do a whole bunch in the mountains – some hiking, skiing of course, but for the most part it is best used for access to the less densely populated lakes and rivers. The reasons for this are many, however when I share with friends here in Vorarlberg they do not understand why we refrain from the lifestyle they so enjoy. Although we do some mountain-ish activities, we also respect the fact that within the forest walls reside bears, cougars (the man eating kind), coyotes and all sorts of predatory animals. Trails are less blazed and people are few – it’s simply different.

Having called Vorarlberg home for the past 10 months I can honestly say that I have come to appreciate the lure of heading to the mountains. No matter what sort of physical challenge I am in the mood for, I can find it in there. I can also find the solitude, simplicity and peace not always readily found at home. It’s a grounding experience.

As an expat, I have come to appreciate that our roots, our culture form a fundamental part of who we are. I was naïve to the extent that this actually exists. But I have also learned that although Canadian, I am also a Vorarlberger (albeit a newbie one) and that means something too. Water may be a part of who I am, but this whole mountain thing is now too.

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