There is one place in the world that completely captures my heart for it’s majestic beauty, clean, fresh air and rich culture – Switzerland. I was first caught in the trance of the mountains in 1998, when Lee-Anne and I backpacked around Europe for 9 weeks. The first time I rode up the mountain in the cog train, I almost lost my breath when we came out of the forest and saw the mountains. Les dents du midi – the teeth in the middle – is the name of the range that first caught my attention. I ended up spending 12 days at a hostel in Gryon, that faced these mountains. This image of the mountains was burned in my brain.
Six years later, my first marriage had ended, my contract with Hershey’s was coming to an end and I no longer had anything really keeping me here in Canada. My sister had already been living in the UK, in Cambridge, for a year. With bleak and un-exciting job prospects on the horizon, I booked a one way ticket to the UK to visit my sister. I still remember looking for jobs in Europe on the internet, and also having a telephone interview with Village Camps in Switzerland, while on my lunch hour at Hershey! My plan was to visit my sister for 10 days and then book a flight home.
The day before I left, I received a phone call from Switzerland. Somehow, I had managed to land a job teaching French at their summer camp in Leysin. Leysin is on the same mountain range as Gryon – and I would have a view of those beautiful mountains every since day. I must be very convincing because at that time, I had no French teaching experience, and besides being a TA in University, I also had no teaching experience. I certainly had negotiation experience though and landed my dream job for that summer.
When I look back on how my Switzerland and overseas adventure began, it certainly involved taking some decent risks. I had a little money in savings, a one way ticket, an 8 week job and no plan. It ended up turning into over a 2 year voyage, with 7 different jobs in 3 different countries and truly one of my experiences of a lifetime. As I continue to re-read The 4-Hour Workweek, I realize that I have already experienced a portion of what Ferriss is writing about. And there is certain a part of me that would like to do it again, albeit with Dan and with more cash flow, so that I could spend more time doing the things I really loved in Switzerland, such as rock climbing, powder skiing, hiking and just relaxing in the mountain air.
To my friends in Switzerland, I hope you are having a beautiful winter and enjoying the fantastic on and off piste skiing. Perhaps I will revisit Switzerland in a future post. Ah, who I am kidding, of course I will. It’s something I think about every single day since I last visited for the summer of 2007.
What place has had the most profound effect on your life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.