Note from Adventurous Andrea: I absolutely adore the way Ksenia and I “randomly” got connected! She’ll mention it below, but we met through Instagram and ended up linking up in-person while I was in NYC. She made me a delicious breakfast bowl, we chatted about travels, and shared our life philosophies. I am so glad that she had an exquisite time in Switzerland and greatly look forward to meeting again in person. Be sure to check out Breakfast Criminals for some delicious breakfast inspiration!
Switzerland: An Unplanned Adventure To Remember
A castle in Switzerland, hidden between snow-covered Alps, and surrounded by cheese factories – if you can think of anything that sounds more fairy tale-like, let me know. An owner of a book on Swiss castles, a cheese lover, and someone who was raised in Europe but hasn’t been back for years, I knew that it was time for a visit.
When booking the ticket, I didn’t know a single soul in Switzerland, yet this trip turned out to be one of the most connected, magical and eye-opening adventures in my 24-country traveler’s history.
Here’s what happened…
My parents had given me a ticket to Moscow, my hometown, to celebrate New Year’s eve with the family. I scouted Orbitz and Expedia to find a ticket with a stop anywhere in Europe that would cost as much as flying directly to Russia. The best deal was a stop in Geneve. Easy peasy, ticket booked!
A couple of weeks before my trip (which was a big secret, as I was planning to surprise my sister by showing up at her doorstep in Moscow), I met Andrea. In the most random yet coincidental way possible. Andrea was in New York to, in her turn, surprise her family. The second that I posted a picture of New York on Instagram with, duh, #newyork hashtag, she happened to be looking through pictures with that hashtag. She offered to meet up. While my friends thought it was weird to meet new friends through Instagram, I knew that this wasn’t a chance meeting.
Somehow, the charming Andrea had just come back after spending three months in Lausanne, where I was going, and had been so busy that simply had no time to plan my trip beyond the airfare. After 2 hours of fun conversation that went far beyond traveling, I had the most useful tips on Switzerland that I could have ever gotten, plus connections with people that made my trip that much more special.
I had saved up some AirBnB credit and booked a charming private studio that’s part of a bigger modernist chalet atop Mont-Pelerin in Vevey, a town between Montreux and Lausanne. The main house turned out to be free for the night I was there, and the incredibly nice owner let me enjoy it. If you’re ever in Switzerland with a group of friends or family, you MUST stay in this house. The view of mountains, lake, and clouds that seem close enough to bathe in, are like nothing you’ll ever experience.
For the rest of the nights, I was going to stay with family friends, and at a Buddhist monastery. Initially I planned to just visit the monastery, which I found out about from Andrea, but as soon as I saw that they have guest rooms, I was drawn to the experience of living in a holy place. All the way along I had thought that the the house and the monastery are in different towns, and that the move would require taking a train, but in the most amazing way possible, they turned out to be on the same mountain of the same town, Vevey.
When I think of a monastery, what comes to mind is seclusion and disconnectedness from the rest of the world (i.e. no wifi). I couldn’t have been more wrong! There was even a Wii in the dining room, which kids of the visitors played after meals.
While I came to Switzerland alone, there wasn’t a single moment that I felt that way. Everyone I met at the monastery made me feel at home with their openness and warmth. They allow any visitors to participate in holy ceremonies and share meals (delicious Tibetan and Indian cooking) with the monks and the students.
While not a buddhist, I am very curious about the Buddhist way of living. I was lucky to learn the concepts of the philosophy firsthand from its followers.
I feel that something deep inside of me has shifted through this experience. You know how they say that everything that we hear, think, feel or see affects us, even if subconsciously? In a way that’s hard to explain, I feel like the buddhist teachings of non-selfishness are deep engraved in me no matter where I go from now on. If there’s one main thought that I can share, it’s this:
“Chérir le soi est source de toute les fautes et chérir autrui et source de toute les qualités et bienfaits.”
“Cherishing yourself is the source of all faults, and cherishing others is the source of all positive. “
Buddhists believe that you can only focus on the good in others, and notice negative qualities only in yourself, but only to work on eliminating them. Simple, yet a profound thought that will shift your life into a positive realm in no time once you adapt this way of thinking.
MAKING CROISSANTS, SWISS STYLE
How can visiting a Buddhist monastery result in a croissant making class? One of the students at the monastery turned out to be a baker and a pastry chef, and we happened to plan going to Lausanne for the same day. He needed to stop by his bakery to make croissants, and told me that I could come along if I was interested. Is that even a question?! It had always been on my bucket list to go behind the scenes of a bakery, where it smells like heaven and only good things happen I definitely got my dose of Julia Child!
FRANKFURT: AN EXTRA ADVENTURE
While in Switzerland, I was hoping to have some good Glühwein (mulled wine), a European tradition that somehow never made it to the US. It never happened. So the universe orchestrated my return flight to be cancelled, which gave me a full day and night in Frankfurt, Germany. In one of its main squares, I stumbled upon a street market with local cheese, bread, beer, sausages and glühwein. Getting together at an outdoor market and getting drinks seemed like a perfectly normal way for locals to hang out even on a chilly winter day. Since I believe that the best way of getting to know a country is by having a local meal with local people, I grabbed a glühwein and a bratwurst and joined in, and it was a perfect finishing touch to my Euro adventure!
Never let anything stop you from traveling. Be open. Be curious. Learn new languages. Get lost in new cities. Try new foods. Be inspired. Have no schedule. Do what makes you happy. Get lost in conversations with people you just met. Forget rules. Be yourself. Believe that everything happens for a reason. Have an amazing year full of adventures!