In February, when Grant first proposed the idea of Switzerland for a few months, I had no real expectation for what the time would hold. In the following 6 weeks, we packed our bags, got passports for the girls, found care for Kellydog, lent my car to my sister-in-law, and had friends who were remodeling their home housesit for us. Everything kind of fell into place and with so much going on in such a short period of time, the adrenaline was at an all time high with little time for introspection.
In April, after a short trip to visit Gigi and other family in New Jersey, we made our way to Switzerland (via Portugal) and instantly the emotions were high -- what were we doing?! Who picks up and leaves the country (alas, for Grant's job) after the two years we had - between Emery's premature birth and subsequent screenings/therapy and Grace's kidney surgery last December (we also had moved to California less than 2 year prior, buying a house and settling in). On one hand, it was kind of crazy. On the other hand, it was absolutely perfect.
Our time here has been a beautiful balance between travel warrior weekends taking us on adventures around Europe to beautifully boring weekdays exploring the playgrounds of Zurich. Monday-Thursday the girls and I explore the amazing playgrounds of Zurich, visit the Lake, and occasionally hit some playgroups or storytimes at the local library. Mostly, it is just the three of us spending hours upon hours making lego towers, playing playdough until we lose all the clay in the grass below and picnics in magical places new to us. Poor/lucky Daddy has travelled almost every week, racking up on passport stamps but also not getting the relaxed downtime we have enjoyed.
Our weekends have been absolutely magical, making it the best summer of my life! While I was more than well-traveled before we came upon this adventure, travelling with my girls has changed everything. No longer is it about the places we are going, rather the journey. Seeing their jaws drop in awe as we travel through small mountain towns by train, listening to them sing in the back seat while we road trip, or seeing the pride on Grace's face when she packs her own bag for the airplane - these are the moments that life is about. We have all learned lessons in agility, curiosity and gratitude this season.
A year ago, but especially 2 years ago, I never would have imagined travelling so far away from Grace's Kidney specialist (we have had one break through infection that required solo mom not just going to the kinderhospital but also obtaining appropriate medication from Germany...) or Emerson's physical therapist. In reflecting on Emery's therapy this year, so much of it was hoping she would walk -- never imagining she would climb, run and swim through Europe with a contagious laughter - the greatest joy my heart may ever know.
This morning Grant and I woke up early and while the kids played, we chatted about what we will miss about living here. Our lifestyle is number one: I love living in our apartment- having the kids all on one floor, less space to keep clean, renting means fewer to-dos, etc. I also love having less stuff - we have been so creative making bracelet beads from straws, using boxes in every which way possible, and turning everything into a "tool" for our playdough. Not having a tv leads to 3-hour long Disney Danceoffs and we have had more tea parties than the Madhatter. I'll miss our carless community and the peace of mind of safety for my girls as they learn to ride bikes basking in the Swiss Sun next to fields of wildflowers with trains hissing by. I'll miss the amazing playgrounds - there to challenge our kids not just take up space. I'll miss the amount of time we get with Grant - although he is travelling so much, he hasn't had so many late night work events that take him away from family dinner time so regularly. Dinner followed by exploring new parks that take us into the late evenings (the sun sets at 10 here) has been pure family magic.
Of course, there are things I am excited to get back to - first of all, my friends! Anyone reading this knows I tend to make friends pretty easily, but I haven't really made any close friends at all, it is pretty sad. For the most part, we have travelled so much, it has made cultivating relationships hard. Coupled with the fact that we are only here for 3 months, I understand no one wanting to make a temporary investment in the crazy American family who moved to town, admittedly we haven't made much of an effort either.
I can't wait to get home and cook in my big, organised kitchen - complete with gas (cooking on electric has been an education), my beloved crockpot, garbage disposal, and garlic that actually tastes like garlic (it is very very weak here). As my double stroller doesn't fit down the grocery aisles here and we have no childcare since Amelie left the week we got here, I had to do all of my grocery shopping online at CoopatHome which was awesome as I could search in English.
Speaking of delivery, I thought that would be what I missed most - on demand meals from Munchery, same day delivery from Google Express and Amazon - but I haven't bought a thing except for groceries since we got here and it has been liberating (for my psyche and my wallet!) With delivery laws in Switzerland preventing anything that isnt Swiss made from being shipped (without a huge tariff) I haven't shopped online or really spent money on anything but experience -- where as back home there were daily boxes piling up outside our door. #guilty
I'll miss the ingrained sense of servitude for our planet and others - recycling isn't a big thing here, it is expected and everyone just does it - everywhere - without a reminder. There is a pride, without being prideful, in caring for your community - parks aren't filled with trash, and the expectation to care for your possessions is evident -- something even granola California could learn from. I'll miss the laughter of little children playing outside our windows, and of adults toasting with friends - our community is so active here with echoes of joy bouncing off our concrete building.
While I am sad we only have two weeks left of European exploring (two road trips planned - one through Germany, one through Switzerland) before we go, the lesson of family travel is our souvenir. I love travelling with my family. Just the four of us exploring the world through a new lens of love and appreciation. There is nothing better in the world the travelling with them and I can't wait to bring our travels back to the states as we explore California with a new sense of vigour.
Regrets? Sure we have a few - I really wanted to explore more of France with the girls, but we can do that next year. I had hoped we would find an outfit or two for each of us to bring back as a momento, and also wish we would have brought our fancy DSLR camera so we would have at least one quality family pic from the trip - oops! I also intended on learning German, but when Amelie quit I had to cancel my German class and I think I know less now than I did before we arrived, as everyone speaks English with me, likely because they hear me talking to the kiddos before we get up to the counter. Loud Americans :)
As we open our Calendar to July, we count down our last two weeks here in Switzerland before heading to Virginia/DC for a few days until finally reunited with Kellydog, friends and family back in California the 21st. The next few weeks will be busy, but if they are anything like the last 3 months, I know they will be beautiful. We fully intend on coming back next summer - which gives me time to get planning for more planes, trains and automobiles!
Have a great 4th weekend, you know we won't be taking our freedom to travel for granted this year!