I have sat down the write about Switzerland more times than I can count. And if I have to be honest, I am at a bit of a loss.
We have moved along pretty well thus far. We agreed that another Boston winter meant we needed a nice break so we renewed our passports and have been whirling through the world ever since. Flying to the southern tip of Africa and bouncing our way up through Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya. Discovering a new home in the Seychelles before galloping on through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bali. Wandering through England and Germany while finding time to talk about some current affairs.
And here we are at Switzerland. Here we have been for 3 months. We bounded our way through Africa and Southeast Asia and after just a few countries into Europe I am stuck.
This blog has been its own unique sort of journey for me. Traveling not quite so far from home, but deeper into myself as a writer than I have ventured before. Discovering a voice. Finding a rhythm. Feeling my fingers tracing familiar letters to build familiar phrases that spill forth familiarly, time and time again.
It has been, in a way, as enlightening and formative than the trip itself. Or at least that’s what I tell myself from little ol’ Boston. It works, some of the time.
And the challenge of Switzerland has been most interesting.
These places that I visited and cultures that I experienced and people that I met and flavors that I devoured, they were the joy of living distilled into an instant. They were life, true and honest. And so, they were easy to write about. Switzerland has not been easy and it has taken me many, many attempts to figure out why.
Switzerland was wonderful. A highlight in so many ways. So how could it be so challenging to put words to paper?
I stayed with my dear friend with the baggy red trousers. She worked and I wandered through Zurich. She took days off and we slept late and drove to hikes neither of us knew the name of.
We picnicked and wandered through wandering fields. It was casual and friendly and delicious and deep. We took day trips to further peaks and talked our way through miles of mountainside, having conversations more memorable than the eventual vistas.
We watched sunsets screaming red through the Alps, deciding that the early bird doesn’t always get the worm.
We ate cheese and drank wine until it seeped through our pores.
It was perfection, in a word.
And that is why it has been so hard to write about. I realize now, after months of thinking about this looming blog. This Switzerland, it was perfect. It was just too perfect.
My camera got tired. Around every bend in the road was a new postcard. Maria could be heard heralding the Sounds of the hills from just out of sight. The streets were full of toned athletes in tailored clothing with chiseled jaws. It was orderly and clean and efficient and organized and so very neutral.
I realize now, after writing about a new country week after week, that perfection does not compel me. Perfection does not draw words from my core. Perfection does not call out in my dreams and beg me to revisit, to explore deeper, to look further.
Switzerland was the first place I visited as an “independent teenager,” if that even exists. It was the first trip abroad where I felt the autonomy to walk down the street at night or leave the dinner table early. As such, it has held a precious place in me as this wild and wonderful country. But returning nearly 10 years later, I was met with something entirely different.
Switzerland was idyllic and patient and calm. There was no graffiti, no blaring car horns, no litter, no train delays, and at times it seemed there was no character. Switzerland was steady and consistent but lacked that grit that catches you and pulls at a part of your soul that lies a bit deeper.
Switzerland offered every thing you might dream of in a smooth vacation. Beauty abound, good manners, fresh foods, easy navigation, and clockwork organization. It was all of those things. All of those things you think you want, until you reflect back on your journey and those are the only things you can remember.
It blew me away, and yet it fell short.
It was one of the most beautiful places I visited, and yet it failed to captivate the part of my adult self that yearns for imperfection and idiosyncrasy.
There was nothing to grab hold of, no traction for my racing mind. There was no space for my imperfect self to develop imperfect ideas into imperfect bits of writing. It was just plain pleasant.
There were no delayed city buses forcing you to observe life around you. There were no raucous drunks or potholed roads or graffiti artwork to keep you on your feet, to catch you off guard, or to open your eyes to a different type of beauty. Nothing stirred, nothing challenged, and nothing gave reason to pause and question.
Switzerland was brimming with nature yet felt oddly vacant. Life felt contained and prescribed and unable to flourish and grow and behave perfectly imperfect. I felt foreign, not for my strange language and currency but for my recognition and understanding of my own flaws. I felt flawed for being there.
And yet, I will be back.