I’ve had this deep intense burning for Europe lately that I can’t exactly explain. Although it’s only been 14 months since I’ve last been on the continent—on an adventure trek through Switzerland last fall—it feels lightyears away.
And then I came across SVV doing some stealthy Google mapping in our office. I got closer, and he revealed the fruits of his labors: the villa he lived in on Sicily for three years more than a decade ago is finally searchable via street view. And so I got to see—albeit, virtually—where he lived, a place he speaks fondly of often. And he also got that all-too-familiar dreamy, far-away look in his eyes: Europe Lust.
I always thought I’d make it back to Europe as a resident—somewhere, anywhere really. At this point in my life, I’m not so sure of that. So many things are changing and taking the two of us in other directions, leading us further and further from our once shared dream. (Though we do still have a glimmer of a hope of one day owning a beach house on Portugal’s Algarve shore.)
In a perfect world, one where finances and careers and proximity to family matter not, I would relocate to Switzerland. It’s got everything: world-class cuisine, incomparable landscapes, cosmopolitan cities, adventure opportunities in spades.
I first saw its beauty through the eyes of a backpacker way back in 2003 when I was taking a train around the western third of the continent. This time was different.
When you’re a backpacker, you see all the mainstream attractions; in the case of Switzerland, that’s more often than not Interlaken, Lucerne, Geneva and Jungfrau (all beautiful and worthy of visiting, mind you). But you’re at the mercy of buses and trains and other public transportation—you don’t really get to “off road” it unless you splurge for a fancy tour or rental car (which I rarely did).
Off-roading it was what this trip was about. We started our cross-country tour in St. Moritz, after taking the train from the airport in Geneva, then continued onto the Italian region: Ticino. We wound in and out of tiny towns that dotted the countryside (unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to write down their names…bad, travel writer, bad), popping into churches or stopping by a cafe for Swiss chocolate when we damn well pleased (read: often).
Having only ever been in French- and German-speaking Switzerland, it was a bit bizarre being in this very Swiss countryside, surrounded by soaring mountains and paying for things in euro (not francs) and hearing people speak rapid-fire Italian.
And as if Switzerland weren’t great enough, I was traipsing about with la creme de la creme as far as travelers go. Not a bad apple in the barrel; everyone was pleasant and adventurous and there for the right reasons. (You’d be surprised how many people I meet on the road who aren’t.)
And ones who appreciate a good fart joke or two, which let’s be honest, is a character trait I look for in a travel companion.
How about you: Do you get Europe Lust? What’s your favorite spot on the continent? It’s hard for me to say, as I have such a deep love for so many places—Scotland, Spain, Romania, Norway—but Switzerland definitely hovers around the top of the list.