Life Above the Clouds

Well, reader. Familiarity is finally starting to set in. I have each peak of the Dents du Midi mountain memorized. My legs are growing accustomed to the permanent ache left over from skiing and taking the “Stairs of Death” to and from the lower village. I know the ins and outs of my job like the back of my hand.

Yet thankfully…  this doesn’t feel like a bad thing.

It’s funny. Two years ago, or even two months ago, familiarity, habit, and routine were three words that would have sent me running. After graduating from high school I spent a year traveling across Canada and South Africa with a group of 36 young adults. During this time we were presented with a cool opportunity to participate in an activity that helps you to determine what your top values in life are.  At the end of the session, after sifting through hundreds of different options, mine were narrowed down to three: authenticity, love, and variety.

The last one surprised me. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. A craving for variety is what led me to take a gap year to travel in the first place. It’s probably also what brought me here to Leysin. I’m in constant want of more places. More people. More experiences. I say this without discrediting the places, people, and experiences that have made up my life at home. I love the quirky hidden gems of Waterloo, I adore my friends and family who have been with me through thick and thin,  and I wouldn’t trade my time in school or university for the world.

But everything can start to feel too comfortable. Too familiar. At home it can be easy to fall into routine, and routine antagonizes my search for newness. I become lazy. I get bored. Life goes on being ordinary.

Of course, in Switzerland many opportunities for newness present themselves: the multicultural student body and faculty constantly provide new life outlooks and insights, and there are school trips and activities planned on most weekends. But this constant busyness has been like an electric charge to my brain – it keeps me active and searching for ways to find novelty, not only in extremes, but in the familiar. I’m hiking new paths to see the Dents du Midi from different angles. I’m finding new restaurants (post Stairs-of-Death-descent) in the lower valley. I’ve helped to start a creative writing contest for the students at work.

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that one delightful february day where it was eleven degrees and we hiked to eagle’s nest without winter coats on

I don’t deny for a second that this quest for novelty is easier to embrace while I’m relocated, living life in a little Swiss town above the clouds. But it has served as inspiration for me to try and keep things up in Waterloo. To not get bogged down with routine. To remember to continually seek out new places. New people. New experiences. I know opportunities are readily available, but I need to remember to take the time to look for them.

All being well, I’ll continue to update this blog when I move back to Waterloo, and I’ll keep you posted on how the quest is going. Until that time comes though, here is what has been keeping me busy in Switzerland:

Two weekends ago Jessie and I were able to chaperone a school trip to Zermatt. We got some great skiing in, had a massive plate of fries for brunch (which has accidentally become an all-too-frequent ski day tradition), and stopped for a beer and some good conversation at the Brown Cow Pub in the town below. Written out, it sounds like a perfect day, and for the most part it was. But, in the name of maintaining total transparency with you, dear reader, I feel obligated to mention that not everything went smoothly: strong winds meant that whiteouts were frequent, we couldn’t see the mountains surrounding us for most of the afternoon (including the Matterhorn), and I concluded the day by making a spectacle of myself while walking back to the train station. I’ll spare the vivid details in an effort to preserve my dignity, but let’s just say the incident involved ski boots slipping, ski poles flying, and innocent passersby ducking. Despite the day’s shortcomings though, Zermatt has been one of my favourite day trips yet.

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a quick snapshot of zermatt between whiteouts

This past weekend was equally adventure-filled. I spent Saturday wandering the winding streets of Lausanne alongside Anthony, my fellow LAS faculty member and gracious tour guide for the day. We passed by a number of outdoor marketplaces, stopped by a very hipster cafe for lunch, and weaved in and out of a few different stores.

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the streets of lausanne

After a short break at home, I went with the school to Lavey les Bains, which is essentially a wonderland of indoor and outdoor thermal baths, saunas, steam rooms and sensory rooms. Aside from a brief, mysterious dizzy spell, my time at Lavey was incredibly relaxing, and I have every intention of returning there before I leave. Sunday was much quieter, thankfully, largely occupied by catching up on sleep, blog-brainstorming, and a rock climbing lesson on campus in the evening.

This coming weekend is one I’ve been anticipating since I arrived at LAS. Leo, another Waterloo co-op, is taking Rahul, Jessie, and me for an insider’s tour around his hometown, Milan. I don’t have the full scoop on the weekend itinerary yet, but I have a feeling it may involve going to see The Last Supper and a pasta-making lesson. If everything goes to plan, we should also be able to fit in a day of exploration in Venice! Exciting!

Stay tuned, dear reader, and have a wonderful week!

Emily

PS. Winter is a lot kinder in Switzerland than it is in Canada. I’m currently seated on the edge of my bed with the windows wide open, and the air smells like rainwater and clean sheets. This is what spring weather in the middle of winter sounds like:

  • Love Like This – Kodaline
  • Young Blood – The Naked and Famous
  • How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep – Bombay Bicycle Club
  • Angela – The Lumineers
  • Wildfire – Seafret
  • Ireland – Liza Anne
  • Coming Up Roses – Keira Knightly
  • Growing Up – Run River North
  • Hearts on Fire – Ed Sheeran and Passenger
  • Pierre – Ryn Weaver
  • Sympathy – Goo Goo Dolls

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