I’ve been living in Europe for five months now, and it took me five months to go on a trip that sparked a fire in my soul reminding me why I’m here. Don’t get me wrong, the opportunities and experiences I’ve had are amazing, but a lot of the travel I’ve done has felt rushed. I’ve been to Innsbruck, Venice, Prague, Salzburg, Luxembourg, Metz, and Krakow, but none of those trips felt quite like my most recent trip to Switzerland.
Maybe it was the last minute decision – leaving no time to think about anything other than where I was going to sleep, maybe it was the company I had showing me solo travel isn’t something I need as much anymore, maybe it was the rental car providing absolute freedom without stress of transportation, maybe it was the lack of activities – the only goal was to hike, or maybe it was the quiet/isolated mountain town with no tourists.
Whatever it was, this trip officially holds the top spot of my best trip since living abroad.
My roommate was planning a trip to Appenzell for a few weeks to visit her friend from back in the states, and she extended the invite to my other roommate and I. My schedule doesn’t usually come out until a week in advance, so I didn’t know if I’d have the dates off until the week she was planning to go. The moment I saw I had the two days off, I booked a room in an Air B&B and mentally prepared for two days of hiking in the Swiss Alps.
Appenzell is only a three hour drive from where we live in Bavaria, so my roommate and I left after work on our Friday to maximize our time off. We arrived in the evening, settled into our places of rest (we stayed in different places), and met back up the next morning around 10. The weather was rough our first day, but we didn’t dare waste the opportunity.
It was raining and cold, but thankfully I’m used to cold and wet hikes.
Our plan for the first day was to summit the Ebenalp, 1644m into the clouds. Before starting our ascent we stopped to walk around the Seealpsee, an amazingly beautiful and moody alpine lake. The cloud cover provided a mystical feel, like a scene out of Lord of the Rings. The lake made a circular loop, but there were small electric fences around it to keep the cows in.
We didn’t learn how to pass through them until the second day, and when I tried to move one of the fences I shocked myself.
After waking up all my nerves we decided to walk halfway around the lake and turn around to start our ascent. Mostly because I didn’t dare touch another electric fence. The rain started to slow down as we turned around to start our ascent, which was perfect timing because I was starting to get really cold. I lost feeling in my fingers, which isn’t hard to do (holla Raynaud’s), so I was welcoming the incline to come for some blood flow.
The three of us ended up separating on the hike, moving at our own paces which was great. I settled into the middle and focused solely on putting one foot in front of the other. The hike wasn’t overly strenuous, but it was a decent climb. It was an easy path to follow, but there were still trail markers along the way that were fun to look for.
The first 3/4 or so of this hike is in a wooded forest area with tree covers blocking the views of the surrounding mountains. Once the canopy of trees opened up the clouds started to clear providing an expansive view of the valley below. We stopped for lunch at Aescher Gausthaus, a restaurant built into the wall of the mountains.
There are a few rooms in the restaurant people can sleep in, but most people stop here for the food.
Let me tell you all…the food was divine. I mean loose your mind divine. I had goulash for the first time and spent $24 on it, but it was worth every overpriced penny. Actually it was so good I wouldn’t say it was overpriced at all. It was hearty, flavorful, WARM, and fresh. Plus, I was on a mountain in Switzerland overlooking the alps so I could have been eating chalk and would have enjoyed it.
I am still dreaming about that goulash, and this is coming from someone that doesn’t eat red meat nor typically enjoys the flavor of red meat. We sat at the restaurant for a good hour enjoying our pitstop before the last 20 minutes to the top. The staff was incredibly friendly, and our server was accommodating to my food needs which always helps me feel less anxiety when eating out with food sensitivities.
The rain had completely stopped, but the weather was still ominous. Despite feeling like a soggy rat I was on cloud nine. Give me a good overcast and chilly day and I feel like I can hike Mount Everest. My body has become extremely sensitive to heat, and I thrive when it’s cold. We made our way the remaining distance to the top, where we spent an additional 30-45 minutes in awe of our surroundings.
I would have enjoyed a bit more visibility at the top, but I was thankful that it cleared as much as it did. I couldn’t help but sit and stare at the endless rolling hills and thank God for this amazing weekend getaway. I am thankful for my roommate, and her adventurous spirit, and for her invite to Switzerland.
After our hike we walked around the tiny town of Appenzell, before heading back to my roommate and her friends barn house Air B&B where we grilled over an open flame. I bought chicken, they bought brats, and we literally made a fire in a cave like rock pit where we cooked over hot coals. I’ve never made chicken that tasted so good.
A belly full of food, a heart full of joy, and a spirit full of adventure, I went to bed that night fully content. I learned on this trip that I am needing more human interaction than I thought I did, and after spending a majority of the last five years alone (by choice) I am seeing (and feeling) the value of being with others.
The key is finding people who provide a genuine connection, a friendship with substance rather than just an acquaintance.
Isolation is comfortable for me because it’s easy. It’s easy to avoid rejection from others when you don’t give them the opportunity to reject you, but humans are meant to be social. While I still plan to do things alone, I’m going to start emphasizing the importance of spending time with others. Thankfully I have a small handful of friends here (I can literally count on one hand) that I feel a connection with.
If all else fails, I can always spend more time with the locals.
Stay tuned for the second part of my trip to Switzerland, including my roommates short video compilation.
Q: Do you prioritize quality connections with others?