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!