Why has it taken me so long to write a retrospective about our amazing year in Switzerland and Europe? Maybe it’s just run-of-the-mill procrastination, but I suspect it’s more that talking about it being over still makes me sad. PapaHatch’s year-long sabbatical allowed us as a family to take a time out from our regular life. It had its challenges, for sure, especially for the boys, who were dropped into a local school, immersing them in a barely-familiar language and among kids who have known each other their whole lives. The struggles built character and resilience of course, and they returned to the U.S. with excellent French skills and vast travels under their belts. And in addition to living in a gorgeous medieval Swiss town and traveling to an amazing array of European destinations, our year also allowed us to spend so much quality time as a family, cementing memories of what we experienced together.
During our year there, I remembered how much joy I get out of planning travel and have since built a business that brings me a lot of happiness. Inspire World Travel is my company and my mission, so I get to relive and share many of my favorite destinations and experiences and enjoy the excitement of researching new ones all the time.
Personally, PapaHatch and I have placed a priority on trying to extend the high quality of life we enjoyed in Switzerland. For example, PapaHatch hasn’t eaten lunch at his desk since coming back to the U.S. He really valued the Swiss cultural practice of taking time out during the business day to have real breaks. In Switzerland, the morning coffee break is a given, lasting about fifteen minutes, consisting of a cup of coffee, a small piece of chocolate or pastry and – most important – light socializing. For lunch, colleagues tend to eat together. PapaHatch especially appreciated this time for improving his French skills but also feeling welcomed and integrated into the community. Finally, the Swiss enjoy “les quatre heures” – the 4pm snack/coffee break. While these breaks seem almost antithetical to the American work ethic, we are convinced that they actually increase productivity and without a doubt quality of life.
In Fribourg, PapaHatch and I got into a habit of going on long walks together several times a week, and since returning to the U.S., we have made a concerted effort to continue. Spending that much time together has been great for our relationship, but there is also a certain extra magic about the combination of time, exercise and fresh air that is greater than the sum of the parts. I often mentally retrace the steps of our blissful Swiss walks, imagining that I can hear the cowbells bounce off the Prealps, stopping to pat a local sheepdog and raising our heart rates by walking across a scarily high bridge over the Sarine river.
While we don’t have a cathedral and 15th century turrets out our window anymore, we do see our best photos constantly rotating on my screensaver (my computer is in a public area in our house). They have the power to transport me back to hiking in Cinque Terre, sipping mulled wine at a Christmas market or diving into the Adriatic in Croatia. We frequently end up reminiscing about our Swiss friends or a particular experience after someone’s eye catches one of the pictures floating by. These images bring me pleasure all day long. We also practice our French when we can (not enough though); Ernst even Skypes regularly with one of his Swiss classmates.
All this is to say that while I am very nostalgic for our magical year, I have also tried to distill what made it so wonderful and bring some of it into our everyday lives back home. We try to be mindful of the natural beauty of where we live. We have slowed down to appreciate our family time by not allowing technology at the table and eating as many meals together as we can. We consciously appreciate the daily kindnesses of people here.
And best of all, we’ve already booked our plane tickets back to Switzerland for next summer. I can already hear the cowbells.