There’s a pattern in my life of turning points. New things almost always start out rocky for me, which isn’t that surprising considering how much I hate change and depend on consistency.
But there will almost always be some moment, some event that turns things around for me. Where the line on the graph abruptly starts going upward.
My freshman year of college, friendless and shy, it was when my sister Olivia facilitated Matthew and I getting each other’s numbers. My first year of motherhood, it was when Ella first slept through the night. And for our time in Switzerland, it was when my little sister Caroline came to visit me.
I was not doing well. I had been nervous to go to Zurich for all the reasons it ended up being hard: language barrier, not knowing my way around, and raising a toddler in a new place were all hardships I knew were coming. But I did not expect the emotional toll they would all take on me. I felt hopeless, isolated, and frustrated with myself. I couldn’t believe that I was going to spend six months in Europe being completely afraid and miserable. What a waste.
Then Caroline came to visit. And of the two of us, I was the Switzerland expert. The responsibility would be on me to get us around and plan fun activities. I couldn’t let her fly thousands of miles (with a stop in Iceland, no less) to hang out in a corporate apartment.
A family at church mentioned Lauterbrunnen as a cool destination, with waterfalls from the melting snow on the Alps. Waterfalls that would be disappearing soon.
So my brain narrowed on that location and I set about planning our trip. That was normally Matthew’s job, I never really needed to know where I was because he knew. Nice of him, of course, but not so smart of me.
Lauterbrunnen was definitely a trial by fire. It took three trains to get there, all with narrow time windows and no margin for error, and it wasn’t the most stroller friendly place, with steep streets and rocky paths.
But it was perfect.
Of course, it was stressful and tiring and is there an 18 month old out there that can sit quietly on a train for hours? But it was perfect because it was a completely new experience. Not just that I had never been there but that I had gotten us there. It was my idea, my plan, my hard work. A previously undiscovered and unknown part of the world was introduced to me. That day, I saw Lauterbrunnen for the first time and myself a little clearer.
I think that’s the great thing about traveling. It forces you to take charge and to be independent, two things I didn’t know I could do or be. Only you can get yourself to where you need to go. It was great to have Caroline with me because it was like travel with training wheels. I had someone to keep an eye on Ella while I looked at the maps in the train station. I had someone who could distract her while I went over the route in my head a thousand times. I had someone else to push the stroller while I checked my phone for the nearest place to grab lunch. I had my sister to boost my confidence that I could do this again and on my own. I’m lucky that I had this experience at the beginning so I didn’t have to waste another day thinking I couldn’t do it. That I couldn’t make the most of this unbelievably amazing opportunity and make the most of myself. There are the official wonders of the world but Lauterbrunnen will always be the most wonderful for me for giving me that gift.