Tag Archives: Switzerland

Switzerland: An Unplanned Adventure To Remember – Guest Post

Switzerland: An Unplanned Adventure To Remember – Guest Post

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! 

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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…

LOGISTICS

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!

ADVENTUROUS ANDREA

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.

ACCOMMODATIONS 

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.

MONASTERY LIVING

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!

BOTTOM LINE

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!

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xo, Ksenia

www.breakfastcriminals.com

Instagram: @xenia_lova, @breakfastcriminals

A Look Back at 2013

A Look Back at 2013

Now that twenty-thirteen has officially come to a close, I can look back on it. I ended last year’s review post by saying, “I am so excited to see what 2013 holds and I plan to live it to its fullest!” I am thrilled to say that I have truly fulfilled these words! By far, 2013 was my most adventurous year yet. The year contained way too much awesomeness to cover in one post, but here are the biggest highlights…

I graduated from university! After spending a lovely three years living in the southern state of Tennessee, I received my degree in psychology. The mountains, forests, and people there will always hold a place in my heart.

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Graduation day

I backpacked in Costa Rica! On a whim, a friend and I took our one-way tickets and met in Central America. Seventeen days were definitely not enough in the country and I look forward to returning. The diversity of the landscapes is beautiful – it was great to be somewhere with beaches, forests, and mountains!

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Nosara, Costa Rica

Playa Pelada, Costa Rica

Playa Pelada, Costa Rica

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Sunset & horseback rides in Costa Rica

I moved to Europe! At the end of August, I packed my possessions, printed yet another one-way ticket, and headed off to Europe. I spent three months living in the countryside and then in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland. My goal was to immerse myself in the country and I did just that. I formulated amazing friendships, discovered my favorite cafés, and truly felt at home in the city. I miss it dearly and have every intention of continuing my European romance.

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Bern, Switzerland

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La Sarraz, Switzerland

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Lausanne, Switzerland

I abruptly paused my Eurotrip – When I headed off across the pond, I didn’t have any date of return. Though I had no specific trip-length, I assumed it would be somewhere between one and three years. I had my flight booked to go do exchange work on the lovely island of Cyprus, when I made a big decision… I had gotten news that my uncle was about to pass away. I then started thinking more about the fragility of life and how not all my family members would be around at this time next year. After finding an incredibly cheap flight from Switzerland to NYC, where my immediate family was spending Thanksgiving, I made the decision to forgo my Cyprus plans and surprise them there.  Genuinely, my ego fought me hard on this decision. I had thoughts pop in like, “Wow, I was supposed to be here way longer than this. I wonder what people will think of my early return…” But then I centered myself and realized the only thing that matters is following my authentic truth. Though my trip is now on pause for a little while, it was completely worth it to spend the holidays with my family and be here with them during times of loss.

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Lake Geneva, Switzerland

I surprised my family in New York City - My parents and my little sister, who lives in California, were convening in NYC for Thanksgiving. Without knowing where I would stay for the week before their arrival, I purchased the ticket. I then started reaching out to friends in the city and was amazed how the Universe provided for me. A friend who I had not seen in years so kindly offered me a place to stay. Though we didn’t get to hang out much, due to his busy work schedule, I had an amazing place to stay right near Central Park! I was there for a week before my family arrived – I’ll be uploading the videos of the surprises here soon. After their arrival, I stayed in the city for another week and met some amazing individuals. Through Instagram, I got connected with Ksenia from Breakfast Criminals and Harry from A NewYorker Travels. I spent time with a nomadic Irishman, who reached out to me through CouchSurfing, and a lovely yoga teacher, who I was introduced to by a friend I made in Switzerland! I was also thrilled to finally meet Laura of Traveling Jersey Girl. We explored Central Park together and had so much fun getting to hang out in person. She is seriously such an angel and I highly recommend checking out her travel blog. Following my pattern of one-way tickets, I bought one to NYC and was totally open to staying there for a while. However, the Universe had a different plan and when I found out I had an immediate job offer in Ohio, I found my way back to my hometown. Currently, I’m working and saving up the money I spent during my impromptu trip back to the US.

Central Park, NYC, NY

Central Park, NYC, NY (Photo Credit: A NewYorker Travels)

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Grand Central Station, NYC

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After surprising my little sister!

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Wonderful friendships forged in NYC

I concluded my 2013 by spending a fantastic evening with a girlfriend in Columbus, Ohio! We decided to go all out and do the whole shebang at the Renaissance hotel downtown. It was a such fun and I’ve adored really getting to know her these past few months. I’m all for promoting my friends, so be sure to check out her studio, L-Yoga Flow, if you’re ever the Columbus area.

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New Years Eve 2014

Twenty-thirteen is going to be a damn hard year to top, but with new adventures already in the works, I’m incredibly excited to see what 2014 will be like! What I know for sure is that I’m going to be surrounded by amazing people, travel to exquisite places, and continue on my path of spiritual expansion.

Sending you all so much love and light and wishing you a happy new year!

My Bittersweet Love Affair with Switzerland

My Bittersweet Love Affair with Switzerland

I’ve fallen in love with Switzerland and now it’s time for me to go. I first laid eyes on the country three years ago and it was love at first sight. The snow-capped mountains, lush hills, and cities full of rich history captivated me. Though I only spent a few days in this beautiful land, I knew I had to return.

In August, I took my one-way ticket and came back to see if the initial thrill could turn into something more. Without a visa, I knew I would only have three months here, but figured that would have to do. I quickly settled into life in my little, Swiss village.

Every week that passed brought more experiences, more people, and more love into my life. Now that I’m preparing to leave this wonderful country, I feel myself wishing I had more time here. While I savored each vibrant sunrise, person I met, cuisine I tasted, wine I sipped, and laughter I shared…I want more! There are so many views I didn’t see, forests I didn’t explore, city streets I didn’t walk, and people I didn’t get to meet.

Just as when one wants to prolong time with a new lover, my mind has been filled with ways I could return here and continue my stunted romance. When I first arrived I was more reserved. It took time for me to open up, but now I want to explore this country fully. I want to know its flaws, strengths, nuances, and secrets. I want to learn its languages and memorize the city streets and mountain trails. But sometimes things aren’t meant to continue, at least for right now. Sometimes, the shortness of an experience is what makes it so sweet.

I’m sure when I’ve gone I’ll experience the common signs of romantic loss. I’ll sigh wistfully when my love is mentioned, I see a photo, or any random thing that reminds me of bygone times. I’ll long to hear the familiar lull of French-speaking voices (even though I rarely knew what anyone was saying), smell the scent of freshly roasted chestnuts wafting through the streets, and have my breath taken away by the beauty of the sun setting over Lake Geneva. But I know what will overpower this longing is the appreciation for having experienced all these things in the first place.

My romance with Switzerland so recently begun and now it’s quickly coming to a close. But as with all love affairs, if it’s meant to be, it will be…

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10 Things I’ve Learned About Switzerland

10 Things I’ve Learned About Switzerland

Today marks my one week anniversary of arriving in Switzerland. (In case you didn’t know, I bought a one way ticket and will be here until the end of November!) In honor of this mini-anniversary, I will share 10 things I’ve learned since being here.

1. Not only do lights turn yellow to indicate they will soon turn red, they also do before the light is going to turn green!

2. It’s very safe and trustworthy – many people I met didn’t worry about leaving their garages or homes unlocked.

3. At many gas stations, you pump and then pay!

4. In the villages, there are self-serve stores! I was shocked to walk into many little stores and only see a place to put the money that you owed for the items that you were taking.

5. Traffic violations are incredibly serious here – think getting a speeding ticket for going just 3 kph over and getting your license taken for a month when speeding 20 over.

6. In a lot of bathrooms, there are two separate buttons for flushing (depending on the deed)!

7. Traffic lights are not located on the opposite side of the road.

8. The Swiss really appreciate their quiet time. It’s banned to do loud work after 7 pm and on Sundays.

9. Everything closes early…very early. Shops start closing as early as 6 pm in little towns and you can forget running errands on Sunday. The weekend streets are bare by midnight, even in some of the more popular destinations.

10. A lot of cars take diesel and not gasoline. (I had to find this one out the hard way…)

 

Off on my adventure!

Off on my adventure!

Hello, Switzerland.

Hello, Switzerland.

Near to Lausanne.

The perks of living in the countryside.

The perks of living in the countryside.

The beauty of Lake Geneva.

The beauty of Lake Geneva.

 

Thoughts on My Upcoming EuroTrip

Thoughts on My Upcoming EuroTrip

I now officially have under two weeks until I depart for Europe! The Saturday after next, I will be boarding a plane to Geneva, Switzerland…and I have no idea when I’m returning to the US.

I’m filled with such a mix of emotions! Obviously, excitement and anticipation are coursing through me, but there’s also a twinge of sadness when I remember what I’m leaving behind. In the moments when the realization that I’m finally leaving “hits me,” I find myself giggling, teary-eyed, and wanting to jump up and down all at the same time.

Despite my excitement, the fear-based part of my mind is coming up with “what if?” scenarios. “What if this wasn’t the right decision? What if I should’ve just gone straight to grad school? What if I should’ve bought a return ticket instead of a one-way? What if certain members of my family become ill or pass away while I’m gone? What if something “bad” happens? What if my friends back in America become angry with me for missing all the weddings, birthdays, births, and graduations? Worse, what if they forget about me?” When my mind starts going down this rabbit hole, I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and look inward. When I still my mind and really settle into myself, I realize it’s none of the things I listed above that actually scare me. What really scares me is loss of control…the elusive unknown. While I would guess that most of my friends would describe me as spontaneous, there’s still a part of me that grasps so tightly to this false sense of control.

Rigidity causes things to break, while flexibility allows things to thrive. While I am a believer in the Law of Attraction, I find it funny how we are convinced we have such control over life and try so hard to hold onto it. I have this visual of a person clinging tightly to the “stable” trunk of a tree, yet failing to notice that the tree itself is floating down a river. Going down the river of life is ineludible, but how we navigate it is up to us. We can either struggle against it by kicking up stream, or we can go with the flow.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s not to live by the “what if” scenarios. I constantly encourage friends to just leap and remind them that the Universe is there to catch them,  post inspirational Instagram photos telling others that things are being orchestrated on their behalf, and share Facebook statuses telling people to follow their dreams. Now, it’s my turn. It’s my turn to trust. It’s my turn to embrace the unknown. It’s my turn to leap into life!

Vlog: Travel Update

Vlog: Travel Update

Hi, lovelies! A lot of people have been inquiring as to my current game plan for Europe. Here’s a quick update on my plans!

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  • During late July and early August a few girlfriends and I are trying to arrange it so we can travel around together! The biggest hinderance is finances! Any tips on ways to make/save money on the road? We’ll be using www.helpx.net, www.couchsurfing.com, and staying in hostels to travel as cheaply as possible. 
  • At the end of August, I will move to Lausanne, Switzerland to be an au pair for a spectacular Spanish family! This is a great opportunity, because I adore Switzerland and would love to brush up on my Spanish. Although I will be doing some traveling on the weekends, I will be saving a lot of the money I make to put it toward further travels. Additionally, I’ll have to be putting a portion of it toward student loans.
  • The last week of November will mark the end of my Swiss living. That means I have December to travel around and hang out with friends…
  • If you are around wherever I am, I’d love to meet up! There’s a small possibility that my parents will try and come over and visit during this time. That would be great, seeing as I have no idea if I’ll be spending Christmas alone in a hostel (I doubt that would happen, though, as I have a knack for randomly meeting new friends!)…
  • In January, I will move to Torino, Italy to become an au pair for another beautiful family. I am thrilled!  I will stay here for a least six months.
  • After Italy, I will hopefully return to Switzerland for another three months.
  • Then…who knows!

Lost in Zurich

Lost in Zurich

ImageIn May of 2011, I boarded a plane for my first European adventure. Despite not sleeping a wink on the plane, I was full of energy when I stepped foot into Zurich, Switzerland. It was still daytime there and I had a full day day of me! After getting settled into the hotel, we all changed clothes and prepared to explore the city. The group I was there studying psychology with ended up separating. The two groups of energetic American co-eds split ways to experience our respective guided tours. My friend Michelle and I stuck close together and chattered continuously. This is where my ease with being in foreign environments came into play…

ImageAll of a sudden, Michelle and I realized that we were with the wrong group! We laughed about how distracted we had become and looked behind us to see our original group crossing a bridge. We quickened our steps to try and catch up to them and hurriedly crossed the bridge. The group walked around a corner, but we were gaining headway and it didn’t really concern us. When we rounded the corner, they were gone! We spent the next 15 minutes fruitlessly searching for the gaggle of students. It was as if they’d vanished into thin air. Image

I decided the next best option would be to find the hotel we were staying in. We figured it had to be within a couple miles of us, so we started asking locals for directions. Every Swiss person I’ve encountered since then speaks multiple languages, but for whatever reason, no one we approached could understand our plight!  Well, they may have just been laughing at the silly American girls…

It was when Michelle started to get concerned that I had a beautiful realization. I thought to myself, “We are in Europe! Specifically, Zurich, one of the safest places to be. It is 23 °C outside and there’s no rain!” I wondered why the heck we were spending our time being flustered, instead of enjoying this experience. I convinced Michelle to enjoy a drink with me, at a little outdoor cafe by the Limmat River. We sat there for awhile, chatting and people watching, before continuing to search for a group.

 Amazingly, we saw our trip guide across the street. We flagged him down and were able to reunite with our group. While our professor was quite displeased with us, I still look back at the time I was lost in Zurich with great fondness. We were able to see many historical sites, explore the city, and even watch a game of chess!

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Cafe in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Outdoor chess game

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Zurich, Switzerland.

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Lovely garden!

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Exploring the city.

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Retrospect

Retrospect

While procrastinating on completing my studies today, I was pleased to re-discover a video I’d taken during an early-morning jog in May of 2011. This rudimentary filming was done in the foothills of the Alps, near the border of Switzerland and Germany. Being still jet-lagged and running around at 6:30 in the morning wasn’t exactly conducive to a fully awake video…

I hope you’ll be able to look past my sleepy eyes and gravelly voice to witness me falling even more in love with Europe. If someone had told me during that trip that, not even two years later, I would be planning a trip to Europe with no definitive ending point, I would have had trouble believing it! I felt this ineffable enchantment with Europe from the moment I stepped off of the plane in Frankfurt. It’s hard to explain, but it almost felt as if I was home. Even when completely lost in Zurich (I’ll make a post about this soon!), after only having arrived a few hours prior, I felt completely content.

Releasing my need to constantly plan and be overly futuristic has been such a blessing. I encourage all of you to open yourself up to the natural journey that life will take you on. I am so excited to see where my coming adventures take me.

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”
― Eckhart Tolle

P.S. “Traveler” = tourist/student-ish

Vlog 1: I need your travel advice!

Vlog 1: I need your travel advice!

I’m planning my trip and I’d love your help!

What do you guys know about…

  • Travel tips (especially on being a solo female)
  • Trip preparation (visas, packing, work permits, travelers insurance, etc.)
  • Money saving ideas
  • Best places to exchange money
  • Cheap places to visit
  • Navigating public transport systems
  • Interacting with locals (Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Czech, Greece, and Croatia)
  • Getting a cell phone that works across various countries
  • Avoiding theft
  • Shipping and receiving mail
  • Random tidbits of information

Hello world!

Hello world!

Well, this is my very first blog…ever. I’m definitely looking forward to having a place to record all the exciting things I encounter!

For many years now, I have wistfully spoken of all the places I hoped to travel. Heck, I even made a “Travel” board on Pinterest dedicated solely to pictures of everywhere I wanted to go! I would longingly flip through friends’ albums of their adventures abroad and wonder if I would ever have a chance to experience life so fully… Now, it’s finally happening!

During the past four years, I lived with the mindset that I needed to get into a top grad school program and immediately begin after graduation [this spring]. I had internalized this idea to such an extent that the prospect of deviating from it in the slightest seemed unthinkable! After speaking with some close friends about the matter, I came to see that I wasn’t as confined to that path as I’d thought. In fact, I wasn’t trapped at all! This realization opened up so many possibilities!

I have now set my intention (I’ll upload my video on setting intention as soon as I’ve figured out the set up on here) travel around Europe, starting this spring. I am thrilled that my dreams are finally coming to fruition and can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you!

-Andrea

 

With my lovely friend Bekah on the ferris wheel of Vienna.