That. That photo right there. That’s exactly what I imagined when my husband came home in October and told me we were moving to Switzerland. As I squealed with joy, I pictured snow capped Alps framing a pristine lake with a café in the background serving strong coffee, fondue and macaroons. We were moving to a Swiss-chocolate-covered paradise, a gateway to amazing travel all over Europe.
I know that travel fantasies rarely live up to reality. The complications of settling in a foreign country can overwhelm the magic. Our move to Switzerland was no different.
There was the expected stuff that happens even on the best of trips – shockingly high prices for food, an unfamiliar city, lost luggage. Beyond that was the adjustment period. The simple daily tasks that I didn’t give a second thought in the States like buying groceries, driving, getting the mail suddenly required gargantuan effort. I couldn’t read the labels on the jars – does that say capers or green peppercorns? – or figure out how to operate my microwave. And no matter how many times I put my clothes in the dryer, they came out damp.
The effort I expended wrangling with appliances at home was nothing compared to the anxiety of trying to communicate out in the world. Going to the grocery store was suddenly like being in a play. I rehearsed my lines in my head as I walked into the store (“Wo ist die Backpulver, bitte? Wo ist die Backpulver, bitte?”) and prayed that I would understand what the person said back to me. And heaven help us if they went off script. I’d get the sweats and reach for, “Ich spreche nicht Deutch,” feeling embarrassed and relieved at the same time.
Periodically this kind of crap overwhelmed my day and drowned out the Alps, the quaint cottages and the historic clock towers. It made me kind of sad and homesick. Then about a week ago went down to Lake Zug for my 10-mile training run.
I had run less than a half mile when this view smacked me in the face. It literally stopped me in my tracks. I stared at the morning light playing off the mountains and the water. It looked like the first day of the whole world.
In the face of all that beauty, the damp clothes and uncooperative microwave and the scary grocery store clerks faded into the background. It was a gorgeous reminder that I only have a single year here, 365 days to soak up as much as I can.
When I’m stooped and gray and can’t find my teeth, I won’t look back on my year in Europe and remember my fussy clothes dryer. I will remember stunning views, amazing art, historic buildings and delicious wines. So I’ll be damned if I give the clothes dryer — or any of these minor annoyances — any more of my precious time.