Today is the other day that I knew would eventually come, but I didn’t expect to feel quite the way I do as I sit in my window seat and look at the Swiss countryside fading beneath me.

This is the end of the first of three trips I will make to Europe over the next year.  But this is the only one that I have done largely on my own, without my husband or a particular traveling partner beside me.  I have chosen where to go when and with whom.  I have figured out train schedules and fares, restaurant menus and tips, and places to sleep and visit.  I have made friends with Germans and French people, Spaniards and Swiss.  And I leave this Continent with more of a sense of self than I had when I first stepped foot here back in that warm April day in Barcelona.

I learned, for starters, about the sorts of things that irritate me, both about myself and about others.  Traveling brings out people’s rough edges, those things we can safely set to the side when we’re at home.  I learned that my edges revolve around my fears and loneliness.  If I feel lonely or isolated, I tend to get more quickly annoyed with others than I ordinarily would.  And if I feel afraid or threatened in any way, I have a hard time admitting it to others or dealing with the war that wages in my head over shoulds and shouldn’ts.

I went for a long walk last night by myself through the vineyards and paths of Rivaz and the surrounding Swiss villages.  I was indeed alone, but I felt like I was on a walk with the Creator of it all.  I took my time strolling around, watching the incredible sunset over the Alps reflecting its colors on the surface of the water.  I could feel my tired body getting more tired by the minute, but I pushed myself further and further.  If there’s anything that I have learned about myself, it’s that I can indeed be pushed to limits that I never would have approached before– I can survive narrowly being pick-pocketed, I can figure out how to get from one place to another (even in a language I don’t speak!), I can power hike up a mountain to enjoy a quick but life-giving view, I can not let a rainy day ruin my enjoyment of beauty.

After this flight lands in Newark, I’ll be greeted by my husband who has been busy packing the belongings we’ve accumulated over the past three years of marriage.  In three days, we will both graduate as Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.  And in a week, we’ll be turning over the keys to our apartment– the only home we’ve known together– as we embark on the next adventures laid out before us.  Peter will be traveling to Israel and Palestine.  He’ll then travel to Germany, where, in one month, I will meet him for another month of travel.  I am eager to return to the U.S., where my husband and family call home, but I know that I leave a piece of my heart behind in Europe.  I hope that I can find it when I return.

Until then…

Adventure seeker on an empty street

Just an alley creeper, light on his feet

A young fighter screaming, with no time for doubt

With the pain and anger can’t see a way out

It ain’t much I’m asking, I heard him say

Gotta find me a future move out of my way

I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now…

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I have now split off from our larger group, and I am traveling with two friends– an engaged couple who I adore.  The only thing that is proving difficult is that, after almost three weeks of travel, I am really missing my husband, and their love is making me lovesick.  But I suppose that it is actually a blessing, to love and be loved… and to miss it.

Fortunately, we have landed ourselves along the Swiss Riviera, which is, without doubt, the most breathtakingly spectacular place I have ever been.  Behold:

Yes, THIS is the view out the window of the home I am staying in for the next few days in the little village of Rivaz, a village rich with vineyards and water sports.  I’ve been to the French Riviera, and I’ve gotta say that, as of now, it is way overrated in the realm of Riviera-ness.

The Swiss Alps are graced by the gentle embrace of clouds, and the sparkling Lake Geneva reflects the purity of the sky with perfection.  It’s the kind of water that I imagine even I could walk on.

Knowing that a place like this exists makes me re-evaluate the reasons I choose to live in the places I do.  There are people who live and move and have their being in places like this.  And, once I’ve seen it, I can hardly imagine living in a place that doesn’t have this sort of beauty inspiring my daily life.

And yet, I can’t escape my knowledge that Switzerland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world.  How can this be?  How can people be surrounded by this kind of glory and lose hope in life?

Perhaps I’m too quick to judge.  I still have a few days in this country before heading back to the States.  I have a feeling that a place like this has much to teach me, not only about the beauty of this earth, but also about the humans who indwell it.

I’ll keep you posted…