In 2011 , just a couple of years into my new Swiss life I wrote a little blog about what I had learned from mountains and here’s the updated version of that. Important to remember here that until I found Switzerland I’d been a die hard Aussie beach girl, (including being a Surf Lifesaver!), from an island who’s highest mountain is just over 2,000m and which is often reported as the country with the most dangerous animals.
Arriving to a land locked and ‘safe from wildlife’ country (albeit with beautiful lakes) meant I had to find an alternative way of getting outside and surrounding myself with Mother Nature. Early on a colleague recommended I learn to ski to avoid the grim and grey depressive winter fog. And so ski I did, learning at the ripe old age of 37 how to throw myself down slopes and après-ski. It was fun but it didn’t quite give me what I was looking for.
The thing that made me feel more at home in Switzerland than anything was hiking into the depths of the alps, on my own, spending hours without seeing a single soul, and arriving back home at the end of the day - still alive. It took me forever to figure out why doing this in summer rather than winter makes me feel especially nostalgic and it was only last summer that I realized it’s the smell of cut grass. This smell, a childhood memory of my dad mowing our eight acres or or my mum shoveling hay for the horses transplants me back to our family home in Queensland.
Now it’s been a decade that I’ve been in and out of Switzerland with my humanitarian life. At the end of last year I even bought a little mountain hut high up in one of the sunniest alpine villages, still a working village so I can smell the hay, the animals, the farm life and feel nostalgic for my Australian childhood. And in that decade I’ve hiked a lot of those high mountain trails, even run some of them and they have given me so so much.
Me in the mountains is me as my best self in my best moments, feeling deeply connected to ‘the source’ (whatever that means…..) Time in the mountains gives me incredible confidence in life, in being alive and those mountains have taught me a lot of really important stuff - lessons I am continually applying to the rest of my non-mountain life. Here's some of what I learned so that when you have the choice to stay in bed or get up and get into the mountains (or nature or wherever you are the best version of yourself), you might just choose the better option.
The planet is a gift to be loved, respected and protected - there is no ‘Planet B’
There are things in this world a lot bigger than any of us
I don't need to know everything before I start
Life holds surprises around every corner (including marmottes, chamois, 4000 meter views, wild strawberries, Daniel and his Tibetan yaks)
I'm not meant to understand everything in this life (including why there is a Tibetan yak farm in my village)
Staying connected to the planet is as essential as breathing for me - this is my bliss
Following the seasons and the changes in nature helps me understand life and cultivate patience
Confidence grows bit by bit but it also needs to be regularly filled up - exploring new trails is part of that
It's ok to trust your instincts but sometimes you have to learn them first
I'll always feel way better when I finish, even when the hills have broken me, than if I never started
Life doesn't have to be filled with words, silence is its own language
Staying with the tough stuff (including steep mountain ascents) generally yields better results than trying to escape
You shouldn’t always follow the most obvious path if you want to find bliss
Nature is our infinite teacher
So if you’re feeling lost or stuck or small or low, go find your mountains and get connected. As John Muir said, ‘…most people are on the world, not in it…’, but when we get outside, we choose to be part of our world and that feeling of belonging, of responsibility for what’s around us, has the power to lift us up, make us larger than life and place us back on our rightful path. And if you happen to find your path crosses some of those Swiss alpine trails, then I’ll see you there :-)