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How to work 9-5 and travel the rest of the time

A full-time job shouldn’t stop you from satisfying your wanderlust. The Local spoke to Travel After 5 blogger Alline Waldhem to find out her tips and tricks for travellers who only have 25 days of annual leave.

How to work 9-5 and travel the rest of the time
Photo: Alline in Lisbon, Portugal

Feel like your day job is thwarting your travel plans? Keep telling yourself you don’t have the time (or cash) to take a trip? Where there’s a will, there’s a way, says travel aficionado Alline Waldhelm.

“It’s really a mindset. I love to do it and, on average, I travel somewhere once a month. In the summer, I fly every single weekend.”

Alline, who is originally from Brazil, caught the travel bug when she first visited Germany 12 years ago. It’s a trip that changed her life; she resolved to live in Europe one day and sure enough returned several years later to study in Munich before settling in Vienna.

“I always really liked traveling to Europe. When I was living in Brazil, I managed to come four times before moving to Munich to study German,” she tells The Local.

Click here to discover more #LifeChangingPlaces

Photo: Alline in Budapest last year

Although she works full time as a financial analyst, Alline doesn’t let her job get in the way of her adventures. In Austria, she explains, overtime is discouraged so it gives her plenty of time and the flexibility to take a flight on a Friday evening and return on the Sunday night.

“It’s actually really manageable,” she says. “For me, it’s so important to have these breaks. Of course, you don’t disconnect from your life in two or three days but that’s not the point. There’s so much to explore; you might be physically tired but it’s a mental break and you go back to the office on Monday with a lighter mood.”

While she reserves the bulk of her annual leave for travelling back to Brazil, she still takes a couple of weeks over summer to plan a longer trip. This year, she’s heading to Costa Smeralda in Sardinia – “The beaches are unbelievable and I want to explore more parts of the La Maddalena archipelago” – before spending a week in the south of Portugal which she describes as “full of history and culture, welcoming people and delicious food.”

Photo: Alline in Sicily during summer 2018

Where to find travel inspiration

When looking for new places to travel, Alline often turns to her most trusted resource: her friends and ex-classmates who are scattered across Europe. Or, if there’s a specific city or country that she is keen to visit, she’ll follow news sites like The Local or Time Out to keep up with local events. She’s also an active member of Facebook groups like European Travellers #WhereToNext? that are dedicated to travel tips and inspiration.

Join The Local and Lufthansa’s Facebook group for travel tips and inspiration

When Alline is feeling really adventurous she’ll use a feature like Skyscanner’s ‘Everywhere’ search to find the best deals on cheap flights. It’s how she stumbled on a great return flight to Larnaca, a pretty port city in southern Cyprus, last Christmas. Often, she starts with the destination, whether it’s a recommendation or her own find, and then pads out the trip once she’s booked.

She believes it’s still possible to ‘get off the beaten track’ even if you only have a couple of days to explore. In her experience, the best way to do this is to not plan too rigidly. Instead, pick a couple of things you really want to see or do and then play the rest of the trip by ear.

Photo: Alline in Lake Garda

“I try to be spontaneous. I really enjoy arriving in a city and just walking around and seeing what people are doing. I don’t plan every minute because usually you can meet someone and they suggest something to do. Leaving your time open means you may run into something more interesting or discover something different along the way.”

Find out how to discover your own life-changing place

The best advice she can offer full-time workers who are keen to travel more is to think logistically when booking flights and hotels. For short weekend trips, Alline mostly sticks to Europe and limits flight time to under a couple of hours so that the journey itself doesn’t eat too much into her precious exploring time.

The same goes once she’s touched down at her destination.

“Take London, for example, there are five airports and some of them it takes hours to get from the airport to the city centre. So I always find the airport that is closest. If it’s a small saving but it means I I lose an hour getting to the hotel, that’s something I won’t do.”

Alline adds that although you may be able to find a nicer hotel further out of the city “it’s not doable” when you only have a couple of days. Instead, she advises staying somewhere that may not be as plush but is more conveniently located. This way, you won’t “lose time, which is very precious on a short trip”.

Finally, she says: “Always be half ready to travel”. Alline always keeps a bag packed with the essentials like her passport, camera and tripod. This way, it only takes half an hour to pack so she can set off at short notice.

“If you have these things in your suitcase, you won’t forget anything. Everything is in the same place, half the work is already done.”

Alline’s top travel tips

  • Keep a bag packed with all your travel essentials

  • Check flight comparison sites to find new destinations 

  • Ask friends who live locally for insider tips

  • Look to Facebook groups and local news outlets for inspiration

  • If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, take a ‘bridging day’ to turn it into a four-day weekend

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Lufthansa.

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AUSTRIAN TRADITIONS

Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

Catholics celebrate the first Sunday of Advent this weekend, and Austrians are ready for the season with crowns, demon-like creatures lurking, and a winged baby that brings children toys.

Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

The Christmas season is definitely full of events in Austria, a country where 55.2 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, according to Statistik Austria data from 2021. The season starts early, as Christmas markets open by mid-November, and lasts until January 6th, when Austrians traditionally bring down their season decorations.

There are also many specific dates and local traditions that can seem endearing or absolutely terrifying. For example, in early December, a nice man with a white beard brings tangerines and chocolates to good children. 

But before he does, his “assistant”, a nightmarish creature with horns and carrying around loud chains named Krampus, goes to the houses of children who misbehave.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria

Christmas markets are open to all from mid (sometimes early) November, and Austrians traditionally flock to the spots for their yearly share of glühwein, punsch and typical food. The cities also light up with Christmas lights and decorations, and the season is one of the best for Austrian tourism, especially in the capital Vienna. You can see HERE a list of all the Viennese Christmas markets in 2022.

Don’t want to miss out on any traditions? Here are the dates for the Austrian Christmas season:

Advent Sundays (November 27th)

The fourth Sunday before Christmas is also known as the first Advent Sunday – it starts the “season of Advent” (or the season of “Arrival”) and many Austrian Christmas traditions.

This year, the first Advent Sunday is on November 27th.

Austrians will typically celebrate by baking Christmas biscuits and cookies, putting up some decorations and, most notably, preparing an Advent wreath (Adventkranz) that will hold the four candles of Advent. 

Then, every Sunday until Christmas, a new candle will be lit, counting down the time until Christmas. Some families will join in a celebratory meal and might even sing carols (including Silent Night which is actually Austrian).

Adventskalender (December 1st)

Another way of counting down the days until Christmas is with the traditional Adventskalender – those can start on the first Sunday of Advent. However, the commercial ones are typically from December 1st until December 25th.

There are countless calendars for sale and usually, for each day, the person gets a typical “present” that the person receives. Usually, it’s chocolates or sweets (more religious ones will contain a bible verse or a prayer), but nowadays, you can find Adventskalender of almost any theme – including for dogs.

READ ALSO: Eight unmissable Christmas experiences in Austria

Barbarazweig (December 4th)

On December 4th, Austrians celebrate St Barbara’s Day or Barbaratag. In 2022, the date also falls on an Advent Sunday. 

For Barbaratag, some people in Austria will cut small twigs and sticks from cherry trees or forsythias to decorate a vase at home. There is a superstition that if the twig blossoms before Christmas, the family will have good luck or someone will get married. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Participants wearing masks featuring the character of “Krampus”, a half-goat, half-demon figure punishing misbehaving children during the Christmas season. (Photo by Peter Kneffel / dpa / AFP)

Krampus (December 5th)

This might be one of the most unusual and surprising traditions (if you have never seen it before, that is). On December 5th, a horned, scary anthropomorphic devil creature visits the homes of Austrians and scares children who weren’t good kids during the year. They are also said to scare away the dark spirits of winter and are a very traditional part of local folk customs.

There are many Krampuslaufen (a sort of Krampus parade) in Austria – not all on December 5th. In them, people dress up as the demonic entity with chains and torches. 

READ ALSO: German Advent word of the day: Der Krampus

Nikolaus

Krampus is actually a companion to the much more friendly St. Nicholas, an entity that looks quite a lot like Santa Claus. 

St. Nicholas comes during the night of the 5th to 6th of December and rewards the well-behaved children with tangerines, sweets and peanuts. This is why your Austrian neighbours might leave their boots outside on that evening – Nikolaus fills them up with gifts and sweets. 

He has a long white beard and wears a religious vestment that is white and red, similar to a bishop’s vest.

READ ALSO: Posting Christmas presents from Austria? Here’s what you need to know

Christmas Eve and Christkind (December 24th)

If you think a lot has happened already, then imagine Christmas Eve. This is when the actual celebrations happen (not on the 25th). The shops will close early, and families will gather to decorate the Christmas tree – yes, it’s not uncommon for Austrians to follow this tradition of only decorating the tree on December 24th.

They also meet for Christmas eve dinner, which can vary greatly depending on family traditions and Austrian regions. From raclette to roasted geese or cold meats, much can be served during the evening. 

Another thing that might sound strange to foreigners is that there is no Santa Claus or Father Christmas in Austria. Instead, it is the “Christkind” (literally Christ Child, or baby Jesus) who brings the presents on Christmas eve.

READ ALSO: Where to find international food in Austria this Christmas

He looks much like a Cherubin and the children are told that he brings the presents, rings a bell and lights up the Christmas tree. 

The whole experience may seem curious to those watching for the first time: kids are lured into a separate room and the adults run to get gifts from the secret hiding places, set up the scene, turn on the tree lights and turn off other lights. Some then ring a small bell and the children are surprised to learn that they barely missed the winged baby who brought all the gifts.  

Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day (December 25th and 26th)

Though the evening before Christmas is the most important, Austrians continue to meet up during the next day and the 26th. 

Lunches and dinners are shared with loved ones and there is some more gift exchanging during those days. If they live in the mountains, they might go skiing on Christmas Day and later, as well.

READ ALSO: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

Three wise men tree ornament

Epiphany is when the three wise men find Jesus in the stable. Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash

Three Wise Kings Day (January 6th)

Finally, the Christmas tree and the decorations are left until January 6th. In Catholic belief, this is when the three wise kings came to visit baby Jesus with presents. 

Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar might literally visit Austrian homes. They then leave their mark: their initials and the year written in chalk above the house door, the K + M + B sign that is often seen by the doors of people in Austria.

January 6th is also Christmas eve for Orthodox believers and is celebrated by many people in Austria.

Austria is a small but very diverse country with countless traditions, especially during Christmas time. Did we miss your favourite one? Let us know by emailing us at [email protected] or leaving a comment.

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