My name is Josh Walker and I’ve spent the last 26 years of my life looking at the Pacific Ocean from the beaches of California. On October 27th, 2017, I moved to Salzburg, Austria and now spend my time looking out at the Salzach river. My friends and family ask me with a confused tone, “Australia”?
“No, AustrIA. eeyaaa...”
This is a bit of my story about how I ended up in the Alps:
Never in a million years would I imagine myself living in a tiny mountain town in the middle of Europe. But after 3.5 years of working at Red Bull Media House in Santa Monica, I got a call from my boss to join the international team in Salzburg. I thought about it for a bit and did the math; single, no debt, digital video work, opportunity to travel my buns off, ski, ride mountain bikes. The situation checked out.
I packed up 237lbs of my stuff (107.72kg, as I’d soon have to figure out) which consisted primarily of camping gear, a mountain bike, my skis, two surfboards, clothes, skateboards, and some art and trinkets that remind me of home and my friends. I’m a simple guy, I just like to do a ton of sports. Once the goodbyes started happening, it got pretty real. Then, with a zip of my last bag, it was time to ship out.
I’m pretty well travelled for a 26 year old, but I’ve never had to settle down in a foreign country. This was daunting. Immigration paperwork, foreign bank accounts, taxes (the taxes here are brutal), Austrian work contracts, foreign language barriers and stiff German attitudes…I definitely was not in Carlsbad anymore. The transition challenged me to think on my feet in ways I’ve never a had to. Navigating cultural nuances became the daily norm. Just figuring out how to take the damn bus from A to B was a bigger challenge than it should ever be. A few missed buses and a couple of cultural faux pas really set me in my foreigner place, and this was to be expected. But damn, it was tough starting from scratch.
Before I left, I was in a comfortable rhythm: I’d workout in the morning, ride my Honda Ruckus to work, surf in the evening, and get into loads of shenanigans with my friends. Weekends were filled with camping excursions to Mexican surf spots, riding bikes, going out at night in Venice...seriously, it was the good life. So why leave all that?
Someone wise once said, “comfortable is not always comforting” and after 4 years of an exciting life in LA, this idea started to hit home. I wasn’t being challenged at work anymore. I was surfing the same waves. I was slipping into the same SoCal routine that I grew up with, and the stagnation would tap me on the shoulder from time to time to let me know that it might be time to try something new. That gentle tap turned into an aggressive nudge, and I’d catch myself daydreaming of quitting work and driving my car up and down the west coast of the US chasing waves and trails. But this was just running away from a cushy life. There was a deeper sense of growth I was after and I was keen to find it. So when the idea of a European work adventure came about, and the thought of living abroad with the sole purpose of expanding my digital video work experience on an international scale, while looking out an office window with the Alps as my playground, I knew this is what I had to do. But, it wouldn’t happen without leaving my best friends and the Pacific Ocean - my sanctuary - to ship out to a tiny mountain town in the middle of nowhere. I struggled with this idea for a while.
At first this new life was rough to get used to. But once the administrative stuff sorted itself out, the situation became real and I started to feel a sense of belonging. I had my temporary citizenship card, bus routes uncovered themselves, and “hallo” and “danke” sounded a bit more natural coming from me. What I didn’t realize is that I had even started to challenge the fundamental habits that have guided me for my entire life. I no longer had the comforts of my old world to lean on. At first, this vulnerability was heavy, but then it became a sense of energy and excitement. I started unlocking new habits, ideas, perspective, points of view. I went from working with a bunch of Los Angelenos to sitting at a meeting table with 20 people, 18 of which were from individual countries. My day to day discussions were rich with cultural variety and this concept was EXACTLY what I was looking for. The funny thing is I couldn’t have planned for this if I tried. It all just came to be.
I’m still fresh into my experience abroad, but I have no doubt that I will grow so much by being exposed to the newness as I already have. At the end of the day, I have a blank slate and I’m keen on #movingforeword wherever the adventures take me. Hopefully this serves as a bit of inspiration for anyone looking to jump into the unknown and try something totally new. You never know what’ll happen if you don’t…