A how to guide. Veterinary placements abroad.

“IF YOUR DREAMS DON’T SCARE YOU, THEY AREN’T BIG ENOUGH.”

After asking for blog post inspiration on my instagram account , here is a
HOW TO GUIDE: Getting work experience placements abroad.

(With the help of some incredible instagrammers in the online veterinary community.)

Securing placements at our local small animal practices can feel hard enough. Conducting a google survey of the local area to ensure that your email proposals have the highest chance of success, the worry of lacking previous experience to outcompete other aspiring vets, refreshing your email inbox in the hope that a response will magically appear.

So how on earth do you begin searching for placements abroad?

STEPHANIE’S STORY:

THE BEGINNING:

When I initially looked into overseas placements, I did not look for the location. Instead, I looked for placements with the animals I wanted to work with

I remember googling ‘elephant volunteering’, or ‘working with seals’.

It is good to note that there is a whole bunch of programs and websites that run specific programs for vets and vet students. This is so that you get all the information you want about your placement and the animals in regards to the veterinary industry surrounding them. Rather than solely gaining the understanding given to the general public volunteering.

GOOD CONTACTS:

To name a few locations that I know running these would be:
Elephant Nature Park
Wild Inside Vet Volunteers
Worldwide Veterinary Service
Globe Trotting Veterinary
and many more!

Doing this meant that I could do what I wanted to do with animals and worry about the location and getting there later

THE OBSTACLE:

The main issue with overseas placements is money.

So unless you are flushed with cash, I am not, it takes a lot of planning and saving.

I booked my placement in Thailand a year and a half in advance, and I was looking into it two years before the placement. All so that I had enough money for a deposit.

Having a budget and saving for your overseas placement will be worth it!

FOR AUSTRALIAN STUDENTS:

If you are lucky enough to live in Australia (or other locations), the government will actually loan you money to go on 2 overseas placement trips through university. This loan is then added to your HCES university debt and is paid back through tax when you reach the income threshold to pay back your normal university debt.
Here in Australia this is called OS-help –  I wish I knew about it before my trip to Thailand!

DO YOU RESEARCH:

The most important thing is to look into all options when wanting to do an overseas placement.

You could believe that you have an amazing placement lined up in Africa to take care of the animals, only to find out that it is only so other customers can poach them.

Do your research!

Talk to fellow students and see where they have gone. Seek out recommendations. Remember to check to see if the university can help with funding or scholarships for this.

HAVE FUN!:

But most of all have fun and enjoy it while it lasts.

Don’t let anyone put you off by saying “are you really going to go by yourself” because f*** yeah it is amazing!

 

HEIDI’S STORY:

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Another question was about money. 
With travel expenses, increased living costs, loss of working days (not an exhaustive list!). How can you afford to go on a placement abroad? 

FINLAND

I couldn’t in 2017, when I worked on a husky farm in Finland.

Although my journey to that placement is unique, it is proof that life can may just throw one at you. My first “proper” work experience placement opened the door to work in Finland. After a summer of volunteering in 2016, I was gifted a token to flights for 2017 in order to take on the challenge of husky farm life.

SWITZERLAND

Getting to Switzerland was a different story – Cheap flights.

I am currently packing for my next journey to Switzerland this February, £50 return with easyJet. Animals need care 365 days a year, but every place has its “off peak” month/s. A bonus is taking holiday pay off work for said placement. 

The answer to your flight problems:
sky scanner

“ALL THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IS THAT IT IS POSSIBLE.”

Put your wellies on

I often recognise that animals provide us with the key to unlock our front door on the days the all-consuming demoralising cloud of depression would leave us feeling trapped. Our four-legged companions can remove the barrier of fog in our minds, and lead us to the great outdoors.
Animals are my therapy.

Many of the benefits of animal therapy stem from the healing powers of being outside.

The outdoors are also my therapy.

So, what do I gain from the outdoors?

1. GRATITUDE

I cannot measure the profound feeling I experience when hiking in the Swiss mountains. Instead of attempting to quantify my success and productivity, I wholeheartedly appreciate the little things in life when enchanted by nature. The things that are free of charge from sunrise to sunrise. 

We are surrounded by it, and is not a fleeting time period of our life. It’s an escape, a refuge, a safe haven. Imagine nature as the secure foundation of our lives, strip back everything else, and you can continue to experience gratitude for being alive.

2. MINDFULNESS

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When the extra things in life can feel overwhelming, the basic foundations of nature ground us. You can simply “be”, surrounded by sights that make you grateful for the life you live. Stop and be captivated, there is no experience likewise. 

Mindfulness involves the other 4 senses too. Allow yourself to touch, taste, hear, smell, and see the natural environments without judgement.

Slow down. Switch off of your inner critic. Sense the wonders of life.

3. STRESS RELIEF

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Nature provides an easy escape from the academic rat race. The change of scenery from four walls and a pile of revision, to picturesque open spaces is an immense stress reliever.

The outdoors offer a chance to gain practical skills, to add another string to your bow whilst learning outdoors. Sequentially, this reduces the stake and mental intensity of textbook learning. 

4. EXPLORATION

Whilst others are being sheep, be the goat that takes the mountain sides.

Whether the outdoor offers you increased spontaneity is in the form of taking your muddy dog on a new route, or hiking in the sweltering heat abroad, always be a goat.

It is easy to be tempted to go off track, to explore new areas, to meet new people. 

Why is the outdoors therapy to you?

Living away for veterinary work experience

LIVING AWAY FOR VETERINARY WORK EXPERIENCE 

From medical procedures and kidding events during my stays in Wales, to slaughter house legislation- I have shared plenty of educational content on my work experience blogs.

What about the times watching horror documentaries with hot chocolates during kidding? Headstand competitions in the lambing field? Getting tipsy in Finland after work around the campfire?

The idea of staying away from home for a period of time for work experience can seem daunting. 

But DO NOT FEAR.

Your “hosts” may become second families, you can integrate into the household life and share wonderful memories whilst your sides hurt from laughing so much at inside jokes. 

By running through the placements I stayed away from home, I am going to share some non-vet highlights and funny stories.

1. LARGE ANIMAL VET

Panic! I was locked in the hotel at 4 a.m. by bolted doors when I needed to be out of the door for a routine TB test.
The vet was waiting outside, we could not be late to an appointment. Being 5ft 3 (1.6 m) I had to put my backpack on the floor to use it to jump from, to tap the bolt across with my fingertips. I persisted.
Heidi 1 Bolt door 0.

As the vet was located in a remote area of the Lake District, I had to walk for hours to buy Pepsi Max. Making friends with the sheep along the way, a morning without call outs was spent well.

2. LAMBING

Hopping off the quad for headstand competitions in one of the lambing fields. My childhood gymnastics years are long gone, but my competitive streak is not. I was determined to win.
Headstands soon became bursts of laughter lying on the grass. Just avoid the sheep poop.

I can’t forget about the unique lambing experience. Placenta thrown in the face whilst assisting births, the extra challenge.  I wonder what they must have taught the culprit vet students at vet school? Were they preparing me for weird situations? I will have to wait and see!

3. KIDDING

Who would have thought that the phrase “Clinging like a limpet” would result in a goat-fam walk to the beach to find my first limpets? Now a running joke, kidding placements are not 24/7 goats when you stay with such an awesome family. 

Cuddling up in a blanket watching murder mysteries with hot chocolates is how we liked to spend a night after a busy day on the farm. 

I am grateful for my goat family in Wales! Always looking forward to my next stay there. 

4. FINLAND

Where do I start? 

My first days were spent being trained by a fellow French guide who described the training documents as “sh*ts of paper”. Those sheets made me cry laughing. 

After eating plain pasta when I arrived, I was made aware that I will learn to love pesto and become pesto pasta obsessed. That is true. We must have eaten our body weight x10 in pesto pasta. In a physically demanding job, coming home to bowls full of carbs was awesome. Apart from the time I fell over with 4 plates of pesto pasta, and cried because it was the icing on the cake of stress. 

Supporting immigrants’ integration into the local community in Finland consisted of farm activities such as berry picking, but my favourite has to be quad driving. Driving the quad around the track with a few children clinging on to me for their lives, fun until the quad starts to smoke!

I will never forget my leaving meal in the traditional kota on farm. I brought two of my favourite dogs, Tähti and Tog, to celebrate with! We ate food cooked on the fireplace and I drank until I was tipsy… so no one believed when I shouted, “THE NORTHERN LIGHTS”. As I exited the kota to begin walking to the guide house, I saw the blue bands of colour. 
The response was something along the lines of me drinking too much. 
Imagine the others’ faces when they saw the Northern Lights on our arrival at the guide house! I was no imagining it. 

5. SWITZERLAND

Getting lost on a hike up to Harder Kulm was great. Why? Because I met 2 cool travellers, we finished the hike together and I celebrated with coke zero as they enjoyed a beer as we sat with a bird’s-eye view of Interlaken.  

So, when I arrived at Lauterbrunnen for the Mürren hike, and saw a fellow solo hiker, I asked for a photo taken in order to begin a conversation. I was eager to make friends with more travellers. We decided to hike together, by the end we had already organised a meet up in Interlaken which led to eating out together! 

My host, Vera, and I walked the goats around the town, creating small crowds of people playing with Florian the goat and taking photos. Celebrities of Interlaken. There are too many hilarious moments to share with Vera, but she has become my “Swiss mum”. I already have my third trip to Switzerland coming up in 2 weeks, in the span of 7 months. 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Veterinary work experience: Past, Present, Future

Past -> Present -> Future

Shock horror- attempting to take a more “go with the flow” approach to life in 2019 means I have no work experience booked.

Fortunately, the past few years of hard work have set a solid foundation for another exciting year of placements, to continue to immerse myself into the vet life.

Before committing to posting a monthly overview of my work experience placements in 2019, I thought that it would be helpful to share my past experience.

PAST

DOG DOYCARE CENTRE

(No photos, so here’s a cute photo with Stanley!)

BLACKPOOL ZOO KEEPER: ACADEMY STUDENT 

(Every Sunday for 3 months)

Just giving a tortoise a bath… as you do

KNOWSLEY SAFARI PARK: ACADEMY STUDENT

(1 week)

Feeling tall

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1)

(1 week)

Small animal surgery confidentiality = cute Maisie to fill the gap

DAIRY FARM / PETTING FARM

(1 week)

Moooove along

SMALL ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(1 week)

Here’s another space-filler! I have cared for 3 litters of pups at home.

EQUINE STUD FARM

(Every Sunday for 2 months)

Poop husbandry… how to handle + accurately do F.E.Cs

GENETICS DAIRY FARM

(Accumulated 5 random days)

Being 5ft 3 puts you right in the firing line.

HILL FARM

(1 day)

EQUINE VETERINARY PRACTICE

(10 days)

(Photo is actually from stud farm placement, vet confidentiality!)

BEEF FARM

(1 day)

A work of art – my first calf eartag

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (1) – GOAT SPECIALIST 

(1 week, staying away from home)





A random goat photo – I have lots of those! Vet confidentiality.

WILD BIRD HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

A very countryside photo

HEDGEHOG HOSPITAL

(1 day a week for 4 months)

Always making friends on placement

ABATTOIR (SLAUGHTER HOUSE)

(1 day) 

Exposure and education

LAMBING (2500 EWES)

(10 days, living on farm)

Yes, I pulled these guys out

LARGE SCALE GOAT MEAT FARM (Wales)

Living on farm. Total: 5 weeks in vet work exp. 5 day week maths!

(10 days during kidding
1 week in summer
1 week in winter)

Dream kidding team

LARGE ANIMAL VETERINARY PRACTICE (2)

(2 x 1 week placements = 2 week total)

An important aspiring goat vet milestone.
TAKING BLOOD.

HUSKY FARM IN FINLAND

(7 weeks)

Monitoring anaesthesia and stitching. When there is no vet nurses in the remote practice.

SWITZERLAND WORK AWAY WITH GOATS

(6 weeks)

Goats love me too

GOAT DAIRY FARM

A goat rotary parlour… AMAZING.

ULTRASOUND SCANNING LIVESTOCK

Early days for understanding the images, it is a learning process. Practice makes perfect.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION COURSE 

Waiting for the POP, if you know you know.

EDUCATIONAL FARM

(2 years)

Every child should learn about goats

PRESENT

Placement hosts have become second families, work experience has truly changed my life and shaped who I am today.

As 2018 drew to a close, I was over the moon to secure a full time position working in a kennels/cattery/stables. Full time work experience!

Outside of kennel assistant work:

GCSE tutoring
Learning to drive
Goat keeping

Work experience
Studying
ENJOYING LIFE
Travelling

I have a week in Switzerland booked, and hopefully a 2 day course at a local commercial goat farm soon. 

FUTURE

I would like to post a monthly work experience summary on my blog

Gain experience in a laboratory

Attend more courses

Spread the “Animals are my therapy” word

Here is to a wonderful 2019, with its ups and downs.

Heidi.

Dairy placement: I goat this, 13.11.18

“If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”

Not a pot of gold, but even better.

Goats were at the end of my rainbow.

Another day off work is another day heading to the goat dairy farm for work experience as I am eager to continue developing my understanding, skills, knowledge, and abilities, for a future in veterinary medicine.

Immersing myself into goat farming, I can see that the dream of becoming a caprine specialist is not a far-off fantasy. From the large scale milking of Saanens, and rearing Boers for meat, to the pet Pygmies, there is an increasing demand for speciality medicine.

Goats are not sheep, and they are certainly not small cows.
Goats are goats.

“I want to go about like the light-footed goats.” : Johanna Spyri, Heidi.

A Heidi photo update is a great opportunity to talk polled goat genetics, an interesting topic.

Polled is dominant allele, so is expressed in the homozygous or heterozygous state. However, homozygous dominant is linked with intersex does (genetically female) as the intersex linked gene is recessive therefore expressed in the homozygous individuals.

Heidi the goat is heterozygous!

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

Ensuring that the kids are feeding regularly is a very important job on a dairy unit, because after 12 hours, the kids (with a belly full of colostrum) are grouped into pens. They now have human mothers!

There is a critical time period after kidding, during which the kids can absorb immunoglobulins. After 12 hours, the kids are extremely capable to begin learning how to feed from the teats and enjoy life with their small friends.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

Identified on the farm as a problem most prevalent in the multiples, due to limited space in utero, I was taught how to aid the correction of contracted fetlock tendons. (Tendons connect muscle to bone.)

For some kids, I flexed the hoof upwards repeatedly to carefully stretch the tendon to correct hoof placement on the ground. 
However, more severe cases require splinting for support above and below the joint. A splint was secured with vet wrap, over the soft cotton layers to ensure comfort. 

“Here we goat again”

Another opportunity to milk the 1,500+ goats on the rotary parlour.

With smaller fat globules, and less lactose, goats milk is a great alternative to cows milk. Found in the small intestine epithelium.  lactase is the enzyme that hydrolyses the glycosidic bond in lactose to produce glucose and galactose. If an individual does not produce sufficient amounts of lactase, the lactose is not digested and causes discomfort as it passes to the colon. Diarrhoea results from the lowered water potential causing water to move into the colon, and the bacteria breaking down the lactose release gases. 

Goats milk is also delicious. Have I sold it to you? 🙂

Switzerland part 4: Weekend break

Second family in Switzerland 

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Switzerland feels like home, the mountains make my heart happy.

After spending a summer in Switzerland, Vera (my host) became my adopted Swiss mother and the goats felt like my own. A 2 hour flight from Manchester to Basel is a great excuse for returning to my happy place for a long weekend. 

It was like I had never been away. Arriving at 12AM, I was greeted by Vera at the door and followed my Heidi signs to this: 

This is a reinforcement of everything happening for a reason. The mutual love of goats brought us together, but I never expected to feel like family.  

I will always endeavour to stay with locals on my future travels, to be immersed into the different cultures, and to avoid the tourist traps.
Hotel tourists sometimes miss out on the authentic experiences, often the most interesting experiences. (Although I can appreciate that this is not everyone’s cup of tea).

Time will pass and seasons will come and go

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Experiencing Interlaken in the Autumn is a whole new experience. You no longer have to play “the floor is lava”. The blanket of fallen leaves on pathways is a new hiking challenge, not the intense sun rays. (Time is also running out for the important branch collections for the goats!)

2 ladies jogging beside the river with goats is something you do not see every day!

Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing

Unlike England, escaping from the grey weather requires a simple excursion. Hop onto a bus up into the mountains, just 6 franks from Interlaken to Beatenberg. Fog sea, or fog soup (Nebelsuppe), depending on how you perhaps perceive this phenomenon. 

England could take a leaf out of Switzerland’s book when it comes to public transport. Always on time. Even if there is a period of time between connections, I am either captivated by the surrounding nature or amused by the locals’ animals. 

I gained a new perspective of Niederhorn. Instead of gliding above it during a 2 hour tandem paraglide, I took a cablecar and hiked back to the tourist centre of Beatenberg. The Swiss mountains never fail to take my breath away. 

Awe-inspiring. 

Feeling overwhelmed by the mountains, I sat and cried. It was a cathartic moment. In these moments, “being” is enough. Any extra is a bonus. I am trying to go forward without expecting anything from the world, no longer feeling like a victim. I can be miserable feeling constantly unproductive and unfulfilled OR I can embrace my journey for what it is because life is not a race. No expectations = no failures, just great effort to achieve great things (whatever they may be). Switzerland feels like home, I feel content in the mountains. An unpaved path brought me here, it was not part of a strategic life plan.

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Lessons from goats

Welcome to the wonderful world of goat keeping. 

Members of “goaty friends” have shared their main lessons from their caprine companions.

Step 1 to goat keeping? Before searching for the ideal goat?

1. THINK FORT KNOX

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“How to build secure fencing.”
“Fencing is never high enough or strong enough.”
“Fence well before the goats arrive so when they check out the fence they feel trapped right from the start.”
“Can’t go over it, go under, can’t go under, go through… teleport.”
“I’m pretty sure we somehow managed to buy flying goats.”
“If the boundary is safe you can relax.”
“No gate is low enough to the ground.”
“My goats have taught me how to slide through a gate without barely opening it at all.”
“No fence is high enough.”

What about the “goats eat everything” statement?

2. GOATS LOVE FOOD

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“Everything is edible.”
“Food is temporary.”
“A goat can spot a food bucket at about half a mile.”
“That they can love each other so very much, or hate each other with a passion, especially around food.”

They certainly keep you occupied

3. ATTENTION

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“What you think is sufficient pats/cuddles is never enough & that it’s fun for them to jump on your back”

4. BRAINY GOATS

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“That they are very intelligent especially for their own ends.”
“They watch humans and mimic them to learn how to use stiles.”

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

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“Learn to think 5 steps ahead of them!”
“Don’t plan anything!”
“To have eyes in the back of my head.”

BUT it isn’t all fun and games…

6. GOATS KNOW HOW TO PUSH YOUR BUTTONS

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“Patience!”
“Never underestimate their ability to come up with a new way to cause you agro all with an innocent look on their faces.”
“Never trust them when they look innocent, the amount of tops I have with holes in as the goats had a nibble before I realised!”
“Trust your instincts!”
“They’ve taught me Swear words!! I didn’t know I knew so many till i started milking goats.”
“How extremely intelligent and utterly stupid they can be at the same time.”

7. PREPARE FOR MESS… they are kids after all

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“Always have a spare set of overalls. And wellies. And socks.”

…Especially when it comes to kidding time

8. YOU HAVE GOAT TO BE KIDDING

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“Kidding will occur at the least appropriate or convenient moment. You’re screwed.”
“Queens of the herd are forever (or at least until kidding season).”
“You can wait and watch a goat kidding for hours and nothing but the two seconds you nip for a wee it’s all over!”
“The “Go and make us a coffee, she will be ages yet!”” 
“Deep snow on the ground? No water? Power out? Congratulations! You have a 100% guarantee at least one goat will have quads today.”

They teach us some serious stuff too.

9. LIVE IN THE NOW

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“They have taught me you are never prepared for the worst.”
“…whenever I get caught up in the past I go to the goat shed and remind myself to live in the now and take care of what I can take care of now and let the rest go.”

The finale…

10. MAN’S BEST FRIEND? GOATS.

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“That life was incomplete without them.”
“That you can never have too many goats.” 
“They are very understanding and patient with people who have disabilities.”
“I have had mine since May and am totally in love.I didn’t know they play as much as they do.So beautiful.I am in love with them both.”
“My love for them & what they give back! can’t imagine my life without them! I have a 6 year old gg I’m her fifth owner what I was told about her I thought what have I done purchasing her but they tell you the truth! I wouldn’t be without her!”
“No two goats are same, all have their own quirks and traits. Can be testing at times but 100% worth it.”
“How loving and funny and clever goats are.”
“They have taught me how much an animal can love both each other and the humans around them”
“They’ve taught me how to be a crazy goat lady.”

Switzerland part 3: Life lessons

Summer 2017

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Last year, I shared my top 9 lessons from a summer working with 200 working dogs in Lapland.
I had only envisioned gaining great husky handling and farm fixing skills. I was oblivious to the general necessary life lessons that I would be boarding my return flight with.
You can read the truly life-changing lessons
here

Summer 2018

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Fast forward to spending my Summer of 2018 in Switzerland.

2 weeks in England has given me time to reflect, continue to explore spirituality, apply the teachings.

Enough time to collect my thoughts.

1. “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.” – Albert Einstein 

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Meet my incredible host:

Vera

Living in a farmhouse with goats is my dream, for Vera it is reality.

Of course, living with 2 goats is not the social norm but Vera taught me that if you do not fit in then you are doing the right thing as you have a high level of determination and mental strength to proceed despite facing conflicting views.

From laughing until our sides hurt from our inside jokes, to having enlightening conversations, I have learned so much from such a wonderful woman. 


“Go with the flo”

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Embracing spontaneity adds colour to an otherwise black and white monotonous life.

Aspiring to live a life in which fulfilment is not achieved by a rigorous daily schedule. The only thing that can go to plan is the here and now, the moment we do have control over. 

The ultimate paragliding experience cannot be planned weeks in advance, NOW is the only time I knew we were going to run off the mountainside and glide through the air, the single moment of appropriate wind to take-off.

Kiko body, kiko mind

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You may even make your own language during a work placement abroad!
Whether I was going on a kiko hike, that Bruno is a kiko goat, that Vera makes a kiko bike tour. Kiko means strong.

Be kiko. 

In Interlaken, I truly appreciated the strength of mind required to be content with life during moments of peacefulness and nothingness. The backdrop of the Alps constantly offered a sense of tranquility despite moments of hustle and bustle on Höheweg.

What I mean by that is having the constant drive and need to be productive, be active, learn, alone does not constitute the strength of an individual. Being alone with your own thoughts requires great strength that should not be undermined.

Whilst house-sitting, I could spend time sat in the sun with the goats. I pushed aside the compelling need to be reaching 30k, 40k, even 50k steps a day, and simply embraced the only thing in my control – the present. 

Home is where the mountains are

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As a goat-keeper named Heidi, Switzerland was calling me. I did not know what to expect, but I was adamant that Switzerland would be my next adventure destination.

From the challenges set by the steep mountainside ascents, to forming the perfect background for appreciating the serenity of the “now”, I learned that being located in a mountainous region made me feel genuine happiness.  

Just add a traditional Swiss dress, and I am the real life Heidi doing cartwheels in the mountains.

You never travel alone

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“Hey, please could you take a photo for me?”.

“Sure, please could you take my photo too?”.

There.
When travelling, that is how a friendship can start.  


Get lost on a hike? Kind people will lead the way, join the group and have a laugh.

I lost any apprehension to start conversations with “strangers”, I said hello to every passing hiker, I talked to dog owners about their dogs. Realistically, with the extreme reactions being statistical outliers, being ignored was the worst thing that could happen. A chance I took, I conversed with interesting people with interesting stories.

Even when I reached Basel airport to travel home, whilst waiting for the plane, I heard about a man’s life in India and his grandchildren in Switzerland, a lengthy talk meant that neither of us were alone waiting for our flight. 

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

 

Switzerland part 2 : Happy hiking Heidi

Situated between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, my first week in Interlaken consisted of many breathtaking hikes. From peaceful strolls along the Aare River to the painful steep incline of reaching Harder Kulm – a summer to improve my navigational skills!

Iseltwald: Find the goats

After a short walk to the Interlaken Ost station with my visitors card in hand, I simply hopped onto a free bus to Mühle, Iseltwald. Gazing out of the window across Lake Brienz made the 20 minute bus journey fly by. Winding around narrow roads on the mountain-side, I was amused by the bus horn that ensured no head-on collisions with oncoming traffic. 

“Don’t walk onto the highway!!!” – words of warning from Vera, my host in Interlaken.
The journey up the mountain required walking on a busy roadside before a steep hike to the animal sanctuary . Imagine my sense of relief when I heard a goat bell!
It became a running joke to survive traffic on my ventures out of Interlaken.

A dream- the animal sanctuary overlooked the lake of tranquil emerald water.

My legs certainly appreciated the smooth descent into the picturesque village of Iseltwalt. I find goats wherever I go and I had a great selfie opportunity with the ibex (wild goat) statue. I plan to return to Iseltwalt to visit the Giessbach Falls along the Riverside path.

However, I did not anticipate the blazing heat exceeding 30 ºC, I returned with unforgettable memories along with a lovely sunburn. 

Interlaken walking tour

Joining The Interlaken Free Walking Tour one evening was a no brainer! 2 hours with a local expert guide to learn about the history and culture of Interlaken with travellers from around the world. Thunderstorms could not stop us having an educational entertaining exploration of the town.

I was introduced to the ibex, the wild goat with majestic horns to outcompete any Golden Guernsey goat.

Lake Thun: multiple days

Having explored Lake Brienz, Lake Thun was next to tick off the ‘to hike to’ list.

A top tip: walk alongside the meandering Aare River so even incompetent place-finders like myself can never get lost en route to the lakes. Again, I enjoyed spotting some of the local livestock and feeling like Doctor Dolittle. I returned on a few occasions to visit the cattle and sheep.

Maybe I did get a little lost… but you never know what is around the corner.

I stumbled upon Weissenau Castle in Unterseen. Following the gloomy staircase up the ruins was a brilliant decision, I was surprised to find a hidden platform to capture the most incredible view of Lake Thun surrounded by mountains.

Another unexpected moment was when I reached the edge of Lake Thun a tourist was perched taking photographs of the impressive landscape, a photo opportunity for a solo hiker.

Spot the Pyramid of Niesen in the distance. 

Harder Kulm

“Hard” for sure.  The 8 minute funicular ride is often opted by tourists to reach the 1,322m high viewing platform over the 2 hour steep ascent.

Competitive and determined, the 2 things an amateur hiker needs to be to reach the top during a heatwave. A lesson from working on a husky farm in Finland – never underestimate mental strength in comparison to physical strength. I knew that my face would be the colour of my T-shirt by the time I had reached the top.

No surprise that I misunderstood the signs along the trail and hiked too far up the mountain than the viewing point. Always creating additional challenges for myself!

Everything happens for a reason.

After asking hikers for directions we ended up talking about England, our travels, goats, university… we reached the viewing point together. A group photo, drink in the sun, and taking the funicular down the mountain was the ultimate reward. 

 

Lake Thun hike in storm

Thunderstorm! Another hike to Lake Thun. 
Note to self: avoid all trees during lightning.

 After a few days of intense heat, the rapid release of rain was a relief – typical Northern England weather anyway. Walking during the storm was relaxing even with the funny looks from tourists for wearing shorts.

St. Beatus Caves

Another hike to appreciate the wonders of Lake Thun.

I took a more scenic route on the 8km hike to St. Beatus Caves, avoiding the busy traffic and sharp bends of the roads. After following the river to Neuhaus I hiked a section of the picturesque Pilgrims’ Path (Pilgerweg) which was clearly signposted.

An impressive guided tour, a not so impressive 5 CHF coke zero. I will never forget to take my water bottle with me around Switzerland again.

Mürren

Interlaken Ost – Wilderswil – Lauterbrunnen – Grütschalp – Mürren – Gimmelwald – Stechelberg – Interlaken

Whilst the cable car to Grütschalp was not the idyllic mode of transport I envisioned, the hike to Mürren was an incredible day of walking. An alternative to the expensive ticket for Jungfrau is viewing Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau from Mürren.

Shout out to Sarah from New Zealand… after asking Sarah to take a photo of me in Grütschalp,  we hiked to Mürren together and had the best time!

“Find life experiences and swallow them whole. Travel. Meet many people. Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys. Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.” – LAWRENCE K. FISH

I advise other solo travellers to speak to strangers to make new friends even if you are a fellow introvert.

LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!