Selected to meet Dr. Yunus - banker for the poor

Thursday afternoon (four days ago) I got an email and Facebook message from Sven Heijbel of Global Focus saying that I needed to contact him asap. Rupi (my boyfriend) and me were just about the head from the countryside to Graz to do some sports, meet friends and I also had an appointment to try my soon-to-be-ready wedding dress. I tried to return Sven's call and soon thereafter my mobile ran out of battery. A few hours later when we had arrived in Graz I finally found a power outlet in the building of the public swimming pool where I’d planned to go for a calm swim. Sven and I finally managed to reach each other. He was in a meeting and only had time to convey a short message, “You’re one of eight young social entrepreneurs invited to a round table discussion with Nobel peace prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus on Saturday, 12 AM in Stockholm. You can’t fly here. Think fast.”

SMS monologue - last message: "Is the spot still open? I regret my decision."

Do I need to add that my hour in the swimming pool was nothing but calm. I felt excited, honoured and slightly perplexed at the same time – how could I possibly pull this off!? My initial reaction was that I wasn’t ready for such a meeting and after a few hours I called Sven to turn down the invitation reasoning that the schedule was too tight, but that I felt very honoured being invited. Also lurking in the back of my mind was the expensive train tickets and simply the notion that I wasn’t ready for a round table discussion with a Nobel laureate.

Rupi and me were invited to spend the night at my wedding dress designing friend, Alexandra Pötz’s place. We sat down on the balcony to enjoy a glass of wine and some Austrian anti-pasti. Alexandra’s boyfriend, Andreas Reiter’s reaction to me turning down the invitation was harsh, “What were you thinking? How often are you invited to meet a Nobel peace prize winner?”

He kept asking me this the following 20 minutes. Finally I had to admit that I probably turned down the invitation because I was afraid. I felt that in one or two years the invitation would have been perfect. Andreas went on telling me what he would have done and Rupi and Alexandra also gave their views. I started to realize that I’d taken a crazy decision based on fear for the unknown. Something I always try to encourage others to avoid. Now I’d fallen into the trap myself!

My stomach, heart and brain were in serious conflict. Suddenly I felt that I badly wanted to go. I wanted to get this experience - it was simply awesome to get the chance to meet the most prominent social entrepreneur on the planet. Perhaps it would lead to something, perhaps not - but I was more than willing to take the chance. I sent Sven an SMS asking him if my spot was already given to someone else. A few minutes later I couldn’t stand not knowing so I called him. The place was still free! I was going after all. 1 AM I booked the train tickets and then I tried to get a few hours sleep.

On my way from Graz to Stockholm - eating Styrian cherries and writing on the master's thesis.

12 AM sharp – exactly 12:00 – after 28 hours on train through Austria, Germany, Denmark and Sweden I arrived at The Hub in Stockholm. The train ride was unusually eventless and I had lots of time to sleep and work. This was the first time I went through Europe by train and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Interesting that it would take a round table discussion Muhammad Yunus for me to meet my own fear and also try something new – the more sustainable way of travelling. Patterns are hard to break sometime. It can be difficult to walk the talk – but on the other hand – with great friends it can also be the easiest thing.

Read a summary of the meeting here. I definitely got some new insights.

Thank you Rupert Pessl, Alexandra Pötz, Andreas Reiter, Michael Bauer-Leeb, Gayathri Rathinavelu and Anna Tenfält for your input and support! I’m an experience richer and somewhat taller now thanks to all of you! ♥