XPAT Spotlight – Interview with Austrian Innerweaving Coach Silvia Schroeder
California was never on her list nor one of her dreams. Contrary to so many others, whose most inner wish is to one day make it in California, Silvia Schroeder was happy with her life and career in Vienna and enjoyed every minute of it. If anyone would have told her then that one day she will call California her home, she would have just laughed.
But, life had it all planned out for her. After eighteen successful years in her coaching and consulting business doing projects for clients like the European Union and the Cancer Association, for which she designed a therapy camp to help the siblings of cancer kids, she suddenly felt the whole world collapsing on her.
Silvia, how did you end up in California? What was the trigger for you to consider moving here?
Change in life is not always intentional. Sometimes life is, in fact, pushing you in a very uncomfortable way to change all kinds of things in your life. And that’s what happened to me. A business partner I had in an elaborate European project struggled financially and wasn’t able to pay anymore. That impacted me a lot and I just couldn’t hold up my business any longer.
But, if that wasn’t enough my private life fell apart at the same time! Looking back I feel it was kind of like a landslide; or should I rather say an earthquake…! Everything was just collapsing, collapsing and collapsing! I just stood there coming to terms with what was happening: “It’s all just gone!” and…I suddenly knew I had to get out of there.
If we wanted to survive all that, I told my husband, we needed to make a huge change and start somewhere completely anew. There is a saying that you need to do something that you have never done before so you can really integrate change.
For me, that was going to the United States! I never wanted to go there. Anywhere else but the United States. In my situation, however, I needed something outrageously new.
Why California? Did you have any connections in California before your move?
No, I had no connections at all. I had never even been there! It was more like, “Okay if I get a visa then it’s a sign to go for it.” Even though my husband is an American citizen I didn’t expect at all that I would get my visa in just a mere seven weeks. Boom! Here was my sign!
So I sold everything. I closed my business. I just left everything behind. I needed to let go, just to survive.
How did we choose California? I guess by chance. We didn’t have any idea where to go. But a friend of mine connected us to his sister living in the Bay Area. We visited her and we just loved it there. The Bay Area just seemed to have the right vibe.
Did you have some kind of a plan for what your life was going to be in California?
Actually, neither of us had a job here in California. My husband is a creative director. So he eventually started working as a graphic designer for a graphic design department. But what concerned me, I didn’t have a job. It was really like starting completely all over. My mindset was, ‘whatever happens, that’s the way it’ll be’.
I felt very much that I needed something to heal myself first, however, something to reconnect to my inner self; to all, that has been torn apart. So by chance, a couple of weeks before I even arrived in California I found out about Saori, a special Japanese way of weaving. It’s all about: ‘There is nothing wrong or right’ …It’s just about following your own intuition, and whatever comes out during the weaving process, that’s okay. That’s just the thing it was meant to be.
I found a lady in Santa Cruz, who introduced me to this Japanese way of weaving. It helped me to rediscover myself. In fact, it felt like I have done this in my previous life! The rhythm of Japanese weaving is very peaceful and it feels like something is happening in our brain while you are at it. It’s like a ‘meditation by hand’.
What initial challenges did you face when you arrived in California?
It took me by surprise how much the change affected me initially. I did a lot of traveling throughout my life, so I thought “Ok, now we travel to California. Not a big deal!” The huge impact showed itself in such profound tiny ways!
The main thing for me was about the sense of belonging. Where do I belong to? Yes, there were some people I got to know, and, yes, in the beginning, it always takes a while until you find your way around in a new city. But, then you explore your new environment, and suddenly it hits you…you see some shops and their names mean absolutely nothing to you. You have no clue. Do they sell shoes here or just clothing? It’s those tiny things that suddenly become so important. When you are just traveling you have a different mindset, but if you want to live in a new place and really want to make it your home, it’s absolutely imperative to get yourself familiar with the area.
It was very important for me to find out what kind of community I was living in. Is it one related to my mindset? Related to my way of creativity and holistic thinking? And so on… So, initially, the blackboards in the coffee shops in grocery stores became our first source for connecting to our new community and making California our new home.
Did you reinvent yourself out here in California?
Well, I got very involved with the Japanese weaving process. After I bought my own loom I suddenly felt how weaving is helping my healing process. So this idea emerged “What if I could help others in their healing process, too?” Since I am trained in ‘Erlebnispädagogik’, a kind of outdoor therapeutic way of guiding people, I started to connect these two processes and formed a new methodology out of it. That’s where it all started and where my Innerweaving approach comes from that I use in my coaching business today.
It is interesting how people think in boxes. When they find out that I am weaving their first reaction is “Oh, ok, I get it. You are a weaver. Can I learn how to weave from you?” Then I need to explain to them that I do weaving as a healing art form. I am using it as a tool for guiding others into new solutions. As we weave together we work on reconnecting new patterns for a solution.
I help implement creativity into leadership and I am working with the leaders. Innerweaving offers lots of possibilities. It is a new approach of doing things, but it’s challenging at times to make people understand this new way of coaching.
With my Innerweaving I am also helping families to find solutions in family therapy. I work with kids, who get to know themselves better and find out who they are through this innovative process. Since weaving is so interactive, kids love it. And, there is also Event Innerweaving, which I offer at weddings, birthdays and also funerals for example.
What do you like about living in California? What could you do without?
The most important thing for me is connecting to people! Californians are just so much more open, it seems. I like how easy it is to start a conversation. However, you can’t always take it for granted that they actually mean it and follow through on what they say. How you are being approached, however, and how one relates to other people, is just so different here compared to Austria or Germany. I feel it’s easy to connect with each other here in California.
The drawback of the ‘easygoing’ is that Californians often seem to be very non-committed. “Let’s go and have coffee together!” is a serious invitation for me to connect and get to know each other better, but for a Californian, it might just be a nice thing to say.
Do you have any ‘Heimweh’?
I had a lot of Heimweh in the first three years and I just had to go home at least twice a year. But luckily there is social media these days, and Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and so forth are making life abroad so much easier. That’s the way I connect to my friends and family; and whenever I go back to Austria I am looking forward to seeing some of my former clients, who are waiting for me there so they can have a coaching session with me.
What’s your special expat travel tip?
Travel tip? That’s Jenner in Sonoma County! Oh my Gosh, it’s just such a gorgeous place, where the river and the ocean meet. You can sit there and just watch and enjoy this open endless space, and nearby you can see lots of seals just lying in the sand enjoying the sun at Goat Rock Beach. It’s a beautiful area, I can only recommend going there.
Thank you, Silvia, for taking the time to speak with us! It was a pleasure to hear about your life’s story. We wish you much success with your innovative coaching business!
Connect with Silvia and her Innerweaving business
Innerweaving – Silvia Schroeder
Website URL: http://www.innerweaving.com/