Remember that person in High School who had everything? That person who seemed to live the perfect life. They were rich, attractive, popular, incredibly smart and oddly better at computers than you. If you are anything like me, you were not that person but did secretly have a man-crush on them. Now imagine if years later you were innocently pursuing your bucket list and then one day, out of nowhere, you stumbled upon an entire country full of these people. Readers, I present to you Switzerland:
(Click the photos to make them larger)
I strongly considered titling this post ‘I Hate The Swiss’ but that really just isn’t true. I don’t hate them, I am just incredibly jealous of the reality they have created.
Last week I found myself at BCN, Barcelona’s main airport, with yet another plane ticket in hand. I now have a habit of playing a reoccurring joke on myself. Instead of doing the “responsible thing” of researching before I travel, I pick a destination (in this case, Lucerne, Switzerland), buy the cheapest airfare I can find (Hipmunk.com), book a hotel or hostel (Hipmunk or Kayak) and then just go. This always results with me smiling as I land in a new country and wonder what currency they use and what language they speak.
Many people that I have talked to fear travel because they are afraid of the unknown. I feel the opposite and am actually more often disappointed by the sameness I see everywhere than I am surprised by the new. I know that every major airport in the developed world will be laid out essentially the same way and that most hotels will offer essentially the same conveniences. Once those anchor points are covered, the rest is easy.
I spent my first day in Switzerland on trains. It was actually quite amazing. As I passed the Alps on my right, I wrote the copy for my startup’s homepage. The scenery put me in a fantastic mood and as a result my writing turned out great. In case you were wondering, the cure for writers block is gigantic snow covered mountains and pristine lakes.
I arrived in Lucerne and was instantly concerned about the prices. I had noticed that when I booked my hostel that prices seemed high. I have been fighting the Euro with my weakening Dollar this entire leg of my bucket list journey and the Swiss franc really wasn’t any better. That night after wondering around I found a quaint restaurant with some locals and ordered something random on the menu (I couldn’t read anything on the menu). It turned out to be a variation of macaroni and cheese, hashbrowns and some kind of soap. That meal along with a beer ended up costing me close to $50.00! Later in the trip, I walked into a Macdonald’s to get some context for pricing and saw that hamburgers were 12 CHF. That is almost $13 USD! Wow, apparently heaven is only reserved for the wealthy.
I spent the rest of the day exploring the city, chatting with locals and striking up conversation with other tourists. Everyone was incredibly friendly and I felt at home in that foreign town.
The next day I did some light work in a cafe and then met up with Daniel, one of my readers who lives in Switzerland. He had read that I was heading to his country and very graciously offered to show me around. Daniel is an extremely smart marketer and really just a great guy. We had a lot in common and read most of the same blogs and books. I love when I get the chance to experience how small the world really is.
We spent the day eating, drinking Swiss beer and exploring the city. We talked life, travel, business and marketing. There is an interesting lag between adoption of technology and culture trends between Europe and the United States. This was especially present in Switzerland and Daniel and I discussed the many ways that he could take advantage of this. I think he has a huge opportunity in the German speaking market.
Eventually we hopped on a Ferry and then onto a gondola. It was time to officially cross seeing the Alps off of my bucket list. We traveled by funny-train-thing (real name) up the side of a large mountain for about thirty minutes. As we rose in altitude, the view got increasingly amazing.
At a little more than a mile up over Lucerne, Switzerland, we sat down at a restaurant and reflected on how lucky we were.
With physical things it is easy to tell when your life is cluttered or when something is broken. You simply have to open your eyes and choose to let it in.
With the mental world, this already hard task is made even more difficult. In the middle of the night, you can’t stub your toe on a thought like you can on a toy or piece of electronics. You can however stub your happiness on thoughts.
For me, the most important part of travel is the reformation that it forces upon us. In a world dominated by routine and forethought, travel force-feeds us new perspectives. Be it making you feel tiny in the presence of the Alps or feeling financially insecure in a surreal economy, travel promotes different ways of viewing yourself. This isn’t just the point of travel. For me, achieving new and more universal perspectives is the point of living life. It is the reason I am here.
My next trip is to Munich. If you are there, feel free to contact me. I’d love to buy you a beer!