February 29, 2024

» “Have confidence to find what suits you”

“When you find what works for you, you have to stick with it – and not abandon it in favor of your comfort zone, even if it is not easy,” answers Irene van der Woude when asked what her life has taught her in recent years. The Dolsach native has ventured out of his comfort zone and out into the wide world several times since graduating from high school – but has never forgotten East Tyrol as a place of luxury.

“After graduating from HLW in Linz, I just wanted to leave,” she smiles. The choice was “the other side of the world”, i.e. either Australia or New Zealand. Eventually Erin decided to work as a babysitter for a family in Brisbane and later near Melbourne. Time had a huge impact on her: “Being alone has definitely made me more independent, and you have to make your own decisions – for me, that means listening to my inner feelings.”

Not only does Erin listen to her gut feeling in a metaphorical sense, she discovered the topic of nutrition through her Australian host family's mother: “I noticed that it was good for me to eat more of some things and less of other things.” The positive effects of conscious dieting on quality of life prompted Irene deepened her interest in studying.

She enrolled in the “Nutrition and Global Health” course in Copenhagen, where she spoke with Dolomitenstadt.at via Skype for her last homesick interview seven years ago. The young man from East Tyrol has lived in the Danish capital for about four years: “I really liked it there, studying was exciting and there was always something going on. “In the winter you just need a good social network and vitamin D drops,” she recommends.

In her spare time, Irene loves to be outdoors – in the mountains of East Tyrol or the hills around Graz.

Starting from scratch and building a circle of friends far from home takes effort, says Irene, “but it's also important to get involved in new and unknown things and get closer to people. Once you take the first step, everything becomes much easier anyway.” Openness and curiosity are definitely an advantage when going out into the big wide world on your own: “But even when you meet people you now see if I can do it.” I don't know myself at all, it's always interesting to talk to them.

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This changes your perspective on your life: “The backgrounds that people have are very interesting. This gives you an insight into what is happening in other corners of the world and what challenges these people face – whether private, family, political or religious.” “You often move a lot in your own bubble,” it helps when you take a step back and put things into perspective. Suddenly you feel grateful because you realize how good we actually are, even if everything doesn't always go smoothly.

During her studies, Irene also met her boyfriend with whom she converted the truck into a campervan after completing her studies. “The plan was to travel with the camper across Europe and perhaps further afield. We wanted to leave Copenhagen behind first.” However, the pandemic put a damper on their plans. “We started in the summer of 2020 and traveled to some European countries, but by late fall “Crossing the border became more difficult again and we decided to stay in East Tyrol for a while.”

The timing of the planned European trip with the camper fell through during the pandemic, which is why Erin and her boyfriend ended up stuck in East Tyrol somewhat unplanned.

“The planned shorter stay ended up lasting more than two years,” Erin looks back with a smile. “I love being in East Tyrol,” she says enthusiastically. “Nature is charged in a special way and is as natural as it should be.” She and her boyfriend were working in their parents' businesses during this period, “but at some point we decided that we would rather live in a bigger city at the current stage of our lives,” Erin explains.

I love being in East Tyrol, nature is charged in a special way and natural as it should be in reality.

Irene van der Wood

Graz was chosen three months ago, and from there Irene laughs across the zoom screen to Tyrol during an interview with Dolomitenstadt.at. “Graz is a really fun city, and you can get to everything by bike, just like I used to in Copenhagen. There's also a lot of cultural offerings, there are great concerts, exhibitions, workshops, etc. It's also very centrally located and it's not A round-the-world trip to East Tyrol. Despite the urban character, nature is at hand: “Just a little outside the city, you are the same in the middle of a gentle mountain landscape, these are not the wild mountains of East Tyrol, but they are also enchanting.

In addition to spending time in nature, Irene enjoys making pottery and growing vegetables and herbs, and has also attended several medicinal herbal courses: “I think it's really great that you can help yourself and others with knowledge about medicinal herbs.” She enjoys meeting new and familiar people and exploring her new home from all angles.

“I'm also still looking for a job,” she explains. Her goal is to work independently as a nutritionist. She was particularly interested in intuitive nutritional advice: “It's about a total life change, beyond thinking about diet. From my point of view, that's what makes the most sense. After all, changing your eating habits is only possible if it seems possible.” For you personally in the long run.” She still has to pass the final exam to complete her additional training, but this should be completed soon.

Erin describes her life as a puzzle with many different colored mosaic pieces, “which hopefully at some point will come together to form a complete picture.” Her dream is to use her various hobbies, interests and talents so that “I can inspire others and have a positive impact on people, just as those around me support and inspire me,” she says.

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Using your interests, talents and imparting knowledge to inspire others and make a positive impact – that's what Erin wants for the future.

Irene cannot currently say whether this will be the case in Graz, in East Tyrol, or in any other beautiful part of the world: “Going abroad again would be an option, but perhaps somewhere in Europe, where the geographic distance to… friends”. “The family is manageable and it's not a two-day trip,” she smiles. A return to East Tyrol should fit her career ideas. “I have a feeling that many things are developing in a positive direction. There are always young people who come back to East Tyrol and bring with them new ideas, and maybe I will be one of them at some point,” she laughs.

She tries not to have too many expectations and plans, “because that can drag you down if things don't go the way you imagined,” Erin speaks from experience. “On social media, you mainly see highlights, which are usually theatrical. Rarely does a piece of life appear to fall flat on your face and somehow come back up again. It's important to stay true to yourself and have confidence 'that you will find what It suits you and then you stick to it.”


Between 2014 and 2016, artist Linda Steiner and the Dolomittenstadt editorial team asked more than a hundred students of East Tyrol origin about their future plans and dreams. We called the series of interviews “Homesick.” Years later, we invite the people interviewed at that time to interview again in the second season of Heimweh 2.0. What has happened since then at this particularly exciting stage of life?