My life with travels began at the age of 19. First stop was Portugal and since then I have been diagnosed with an incurable state of wanderlust. But why is traveling so important for us as human beings? And what have I learned so far? Read along to get the answers.
Switzerland 2008. My second adventure abroad began on a cold afternoon in February, and as I waved goodbye to my family in the airport I had a hard time hiding the fact that I was a little bit nervous. Nervous about what the future would bring (maybe I already knew I wouldn’t return again after the promised 6 months?!) and a tad bit melancholic about leaving my parents behind. Nevertheless, it took me less than 10 minutes to adjust to my new lifestyle as I checked in and went through security at the airport.
As I arrived in Geneva Airport a new chapter took its beginning. I was young and curious – and I had a boyfriend waiting for me. We were to set up a life together, but first I had to go through 5 months of French course and student life in Montreux (1 hour from Geneva). It was a time full of new impressions and first-time experiences, and I got to meet so many people, whom I still think kindly about today. My days in Montreux were spent practicing French, hanging out with new friends and exploring the beautiful surroundings of Lake Geneva. Solitude was a feeling I had never really been acquainted with before (well, at least not in a larger scale), but during my first year in Switzerland I got to taste what it feels like to be lonely – in a good way. Solitude isn’t always bad – in fact it’s needed for humans in order for us to get to know ourselves and understand our surroundings – and it’s definitely unavoidable if you’re traveling solo.
I quickly realized that I wasn’t ready to go back after 6 months in Montreux, and so I extended my stay with another 6 months in Geneva, which is located in the French-speaking part of the country. Here I quickly managed to built a life with my boyfriend at the time, and sometimes I even forgot that my family and childhood friends were located in another country. It’s funny how easy one adapts if necessary; Switzerland rapidly became my second home country and that’s still how I see it today. I learned to speak proper French (or at least proper enough to live and work without complications) and after 6 months I found myself well-integrated in the expat community. I still have good friends whom I met during this period.
The writer Anaïs Nin once said; “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls”. This quote became my mantra as I realized I was up against something much bigger than just a sabbatical year. 12 months had passed since I left the safe grounds of my childhood home on that cold day in February, and I finally understood that wandering wasn’t necessarily a sign of weakness (not all who wanders are lost!). In fact, it can be used as a life-long inspiration and guidance.
I often missed my family and friends in my home country, for which reason I went home as often as I could. Nevertheless, I was madly in love with the freedom and options I was given abroad, and I still have a hard time settling down to one place for a longer period of time. While this might sound like a burden for some, it’s a gentle reminder to me – a reminder that I can and should never give up traveling and exploring. There will always be something (and someone) waiting.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls”
I lived in Switzerland for a total of 3 years, and I can honestly say that these years will always be amongst the best in my life. Whether I was skiing in the Alps, working as an au pair in several international families, leasing my very first car or teaching English to Swiss pre-school children – these experiences will forever be a part of me and I can only urge others to do the same. It’s never really to late.
To be continued….