Name any Austin landmark or tourist attraction, I’ve probably been there.
The Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue, bats over Lady Bird Lake, bluebonnets in Spring, Mt Bonnell, Lake Travis, the Texas Capitol, Redbud Isle, Hamilton Pool, Bremond Block, Devil’s Cove, The Broken Spoke, The Continental Club, Zilker Park, St. Mary’s Cathedral, The Drag, Austin Bike Zoo: I’ve photographed them all and many more.
Over a 1.5 year period, I spent part of every weekend taking thousands of photographs of more than 100 locations around Austin for my photo book entitled, “Austin, Texas: A Photographic Portrait.”
During that time, not only did I experience the Austin that I was used to seeing in my everyday life – I also discovered other sides of Austin as I stepped outside of my comfort zone and endeavored to capture a more complete picture of the city in order to produce a book that all Austinites can relate to.
While working on this project, I noticed that Austin today is a city of beautiful contrasts.
Here in one metropolis you can find modern steel and glass high rises down the road from a Cathedral of Junk, world-renown fine dining restaurants next to humble but equally revered food trailers, and beautiful street murals in the same neighborhood as the museum that houses the world’s first photograph and a Gutenberg Bible.
Austin is a place where beautiful greenbelts run beneath futuristic condos and elevated highways, where the word ‘weird’ is used as a positive descriptor and where shorts and sandals are normal attire even at the most posh venues. Austin is a big city that has defied the odds by retaining a small town charm and has somehow avoided many big city problems. At the same time, even though not a mega city like New York or LA, Austin is a place where you find people in tune with the latest ideas – where artistic and creative people flock to and where entrepreneurs and business people thrive.
I haven’t always been a huge fan of Austin – I moved here from Atlanta, Georgia in 2002 to work for Dell, knowing very little about Austin or Texas.
My first impressions of Austin were that it’s an exciting city where people are genuinely happy to live. I also noticed that Austin is a place where people respect each other and nature, take time to smell the roses, and enjoy a very high standard of living. I was taken aback by the amount of pride people had for their home – people here love Austin and want to tell everyone about the city. Coming from Atlanta too, the negatives of heat and traffic were non issues because it’s so much worse back there ☺
I marveled at Austin’s downtown, where people congregate in the historic district during all hours of the day. I was pleasantly surprised that unlike so many other cities, you could walk downtown at 3AM and not only feel perfectly safe, but you could get a decent meal on the street at the same time.
Sure Austin lacks some of the world class museums and national sports teams of other cities. True it doesn’t have world famous landmarks like Big Ben in London, Christ the Redeemer Rio, or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I too love visiting places like these – I’ve been to dozens of big cities all over the world, photographing and eating my way through their busy streets – but after a while it’s too much.
After a couple of weeks travelling I long for the relaxing, laid back, and friendly atmosphere without pretense that Austin provides. I’ve come to appreciate too that Austin has most of the benefits (including food and fun things to do) of a huge city anyways, without the hassle of long commutes, high prices, and long lines.
As I have lived here longer and become more integrated into Austin’s various communities – I’ve learned how friendly Austinites are and how easy it is to meet people here. I’ve met so many genuinely nice people through vibrant Austin photo, foodie and tech communities that have taken root in Austin.
To make an increasingly long story short, in my 9 years here I’ve gone from completely clueless about Austin to a full convert to the “I love Austin” camp and I’m now a huge supporter of the city.
In closing, Austin is an amazing city that has an amazing energy to it. You can tell what a good thing we have going here by the praise that out of towners shower upon the city when they come visit. I love this city as much as anyone and it’s my hope that the 175 photos in my recently published Austin photography book (which I consider my ode to the city) do the city justice while showing the world many of the best things about Austin.
More from Peter’s photo shoot can be found here.
It took living in Spain when I was in college to learn an important lesson in geography: Here is no better than there, and there is no better than here.
Growing up in a rural town in Southwest Missouri, I couldn’t wait to get out. When I boarded a plane with everything I needed for a year abroad in a pack on my back, I felt like I was finally on my way to a better place where I’d find culturally advanced people who would stimulate my mind and challenge me to be a better person.
I definitely found that in Alicante, Spain, but I also found frustration in what seemed like an archaic society where everyone was always late and few of my peers believed that if they worked hard enough, they could be or achieve anything they wanted. (They don’t call it the “American dream” for nothing.)
Spain taught me more than I could have ever expected about the country’s language, cuisine and history, but the most surprising lesson was a personal one: To find joy wherever you happen to be.
I feel like to be able to choose to live in a place like Austin, where I don’t have to try very hard to find joy, but what a privilege it is to have a choice in the first place.
Every place has its ups and downs, and Austin is no different. Sure, we have a creative community that supports artists and local entrepreneurs, which is what enticed me to move here in the first place. We have the world’s best barbecue and breakfast tacos and iconic spaces like Barton Springs and the Cathedral of Junk that you won’t find anywhere else in America. I’m especially proud of the uber-supportive food community, which allows food bloggers, writers, chefs, artisans and farmers to take risks and find new ways of doing things. (See: Food trailers, Austin Food Blogger Alliance, Meaty Monday Madness, et al.)
But no place is perfect. We can hold ourselves and our cities to high standards, but it’s important to embrace the flaws or else you’ll spend your life picking them apart or, in the other extreme, pretending they don’t exist. After all, we’re just a few weeks into what will be at least three full months of an excruciating heat and drought that will make 92 degrees as a high in September feel like fall.
As more people who have a choice choose to move to our fine city, traffic, housing, schools and just about everything else is going to get tight, and we’ll all have to adjust our livelihoods around it, whether we like it or not.
Who knows if I’ll get finally get fed up with the heat and housing prices and move somewhere else. Who knows if we decide to move closer to my parents so my kids can grow up around their grandparents. Who knows if I’ll fulfill my dream of moving my family back to my beloved Spain for a few years.
I do know that I’m going to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of wherever I find myself, no matter if it’s Austin or Anchorage.
On tattoos on my wrist and ankle, I have two reminders to help me keep this all in perspective: “aquí” and “ahora.”
I live in Austin, but more importantly, I live here and I live now
Hailing from the Missouri Ozarks, Addie Broyles expanded her cooking (and eating) skills on the West Coast and Spain before settling in Austin, where she is the food writer for the Austin American-Statesman.
Addie is a leader in the Central Texas food blogging community, which has more than 200 food blogs by her last count, and has been named one of the top food writers on Twitter.
In Relish Austin, a column and food blog for the Austin American-Statesman, she writes about everything from farmers to food tattoos, blackberry pie to barbecues.
In her spare time, when she’s not chasing after her two young sons or fiddling around in the garden or on a sewing machine, she blogs about women and food on The Feminist Kitchen.
The University of Missouri graduate was recently named by Tribeza magazine as one of the top 10 people in Austin to watch in 2011, and the Austin Chronicle picked her as thetop food celebrity in the city.
See more of Addie’s photo shoot here.
At Least Ten Reasons
I’m from New England originally. I moved here to go to business school in 2004 and never left. When I told people I was moving to Austin, I heard two diametrically opposed comments. It was either 1) why would you EVER want to move to Texas? or 2) Austin is an awesome town. 100% of the time, the people in camp #1 had never been to Austin, and those who had been to Austin were in camp #2.
I love many things about Boston and Maine, but there’s something about Austin that makes me feel at home. The second I moved to Austin, I knew: this is home. There’s this feeling about Austin that is not easy to pinpoint. Part of it is this immediate sense of community. Most folks are from other parts of Texas or other parts of the world, and most are here to stay. People are here to create roots, raise their families, and make permanent friends.
There is also a great food culture. The Keep Austin Weird theme is all about buying from and supporting local businesses and that includes eating local. I am not a big fan of large food chains. I like places where the person preparing the food loves what he or she does. When people love to cook, you can taste it. There are some great high-end restaurants in Austin, and I’ve eaten at a few (like Parkside & Wink.) What I crave, though, is the real Mexican food like at Taqueria Aranda’s on Stassney, the crazy tacos at places like Torchy’sand Taco Deli, the food trucks that have the wacky and the international, and that amazing pizza from The Backspace and my favorite, Home Slice.
But, with a husband who’s a former chef, and my own passion for food, baking and cooking, the core of my love for Austin is the availability of food. With several competing high-end grocery stores, (my favorite being Central Market), and so many farmers markets around town, you can’t swing a stick without hitting one. In addition, there are two growing seasons, and best of all, Farmhouse Delivery. There are people passionate about fresh, whole food everywhere in Austin.
Other reasons I love Austin:
- Smart, fun people live here – with great entrepreneurial spirit. This translates into people doing interesting things and helping others in the process.
- Town Lake and the Greenbelt. Austin cares about parks and outdoor activities, and the nature trails are just one more thing to love about Austin.
- You can still get to the other side of town quickly. Ok, rush hour aside, it takes about 20 minutes to get just about anywhere else in Austin and the surrounding towns.
- Composting and recycling is the norm. Ok, maybe not composting as much, but people don’t look at you sideways when you mention the composter in your back yard.
- Yard art isn’t odd. People with yard art live next to people with traditionally manicured lawns and they all accept that as the weird, Austin, norm.
- People are nice. People in Austin are friendly. They genuinely care and want to help you in your endeavors.
Austin is an amazing town with some awesome people. I love this town and I’m sure this post doesn’t begin to express all of the great things about it. What I do know is that I am one of lots and lots of people who love this town for many of the same reasons I love it as well as many of their own reasons.
See more of Heather’s photo shoot here.