Why We Travel, Lessons From Life In Switzerland

Switzerland is like life on steroids.  The mountains are stupid beautiful and gnarly as your heart desires.   Turquoise blue lakes drowned the verdant countryside in startling color and white-tipped, saw-toothed peaks line the background.  It reminds me of a coloring book, photogenic scenes splashed with the most outrageous colors you can think of.   And the food!  It makes me want to take up culinary school and put an end to all my popcorn dinners.   The diversity in such a small country, not only in landscape but also in culture, history and people has me completely enthralled.


I’ve been working the week days and exploring on the weekends with my buddy and boyfriend, Pascal, a native French-speaking Swiss.   I mention the language on purpose because even when we go for a bike ride around the nearby lake, we cross through German-speaking villages where even he has trouble asking for more than, “where’s a bathroom? / who sind die toiletten?”

Setting up shop to work for one month in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, I wasn’t sure I would be struck with the same sort of life realizations that have come to me while traveling “work free” in parts of South America and other developing nations.  Like the reminders that we don’t need all our toys to be happy.

Sure, there are the same every day conveniences here (and probably a few more that I’ve grown accustom to), but there are plenty of differences and “out of comfort zone” moments to gain new perspective and added zest for life!

– How Do You Say ?
It has struck me throughout my entire stay here that in a country almost a tenth the size of the state of Montana, where I live,  you’ll find people speaking 4 different languages with the confidence of speaking their native language in their native country.  Many of whom, know little more (if any) than the basics of communicating with the other three.  It’s something we don’t really encounter in the U.S (especially Montana).   We might be a melting pot, but everyone comes out expected to speak English.

So, while people here aren’t chit chatting with the grocery store clerk (because maybe he/she doesn’t speak your same language), there is a kindness I see and a willingness to try to understand or try to speak the other’s language.  Much more civilized than the just yell louder method!  And, more motivation to learn a different language!

– Community
Not sure if it’s a Swiss thing or a Pascal thing, but gathering for meals with friends/family or even the neighbor is a bi-weekly event.  Someone cooks the dinner; the other brings the wine.  And, there’s always time for an apéritif before sitting down to eat.  I live alone and sometimes eating is more a biological requirement than a time to unwind and reconnect.  These evenings have taught me the importance of slowing down and reaching out to connect with those around us.

– Think Creatively.  Mixing Old With New
One of my favorite things about being here is seeing how they mix old (like 17th century old) with new, mostly in regards to architecture and home design.  I’ve seen old horse troughs used as shelving, gorgeously weathered wood beams out on display, and boldly colored window shutters adding a funky modern flair to the standard facade.   Just like the bright-colored weavings in Ecuador and Peru get me thinking about color,  Switzerland has me thinking re-salvaged parts. Reuse. Recycle.

When you travel life is suddenly filled with things that are new and strange.  Even a trip to the grocery store becomes an adventure in and of itself.   And, this is why we travel.  It stirs us awake.  We return home invigorated by life, no longer phased by the small stuff we used to sweat.  And, hopefully, with a new understanding of life outside of ourselves.

Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. – Gustave Flaubert

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