Lungern, Switzerland, November 2011.
The last time I felt at home.
I checked out of my hotel and caught the next train from Luzern.
I was the only one who got off the train. Lungern, although nestled halfway between a bustling tourist-friendly town and Mt. Pilatus, among many other popular Swiss Alps destinations, is tiny and has no attractions.
There was a walking trail from the train station to the town. I found myself heading toward the dreamy emerald-colored water.
My travel backpack and duffle bag were even more burdensome than in the previous weeks (I had walked miles in Dublin, Paris, Barcelona, and Nice with the same bags), so I had to take frequent breaks. It was a nuisance, but a wandering traveler has no other choice than to carry his baggage.
The trail wasn’t exactly a sidewalk; it weaved steeply down a hill through backyards, gardens, and fields. The town was very quiet at this time of day and probably at every time of day. Once I made it to the lake, I found another trail.
I walked almost a mile along the water. I saw a little peninsula with a great view of the lake and the Alps. That was where I headed.
There was a man fishing nearby in a small boat who happened to be leaving his spot; I was going to have the space for myself.
The view was breathtaking.
There was a lone bench shaded by a few trees with falling leaves. It was mine. The peninsula was all mine.
I had no clue what to do with all of this – it was too perfect. I put my bags down, sat on the bench, and tried to soak everything in.
Part of my being seeks its own Walden Pond. Completely separate from civilized society and all the “noise,” I can think more clearly. Tranquil, natural beauty makes me realize how little I really need. It also gives me hope that, if nature can achieve something this magnificent, so can I. Maybe I don’t want to be completely self-sufficient, but I do want to break free from the strangleholds of society. All I want is to be unencumbered by the superfluity that is thrown at me.
I took a few pictures but found myself unable to encapsulate what was right in front of my face. I thought a place like this would give me clarity, but it only made me more confused.
I took the long walk back up to the outdoor train station and found myself alone for almost an hour until the next train arrived. The cows grazed a few feet in front of me, their bells ringing loudly. A crisp breeze was blowing through the valley. Straight ahead were a few more houses, which gave way to slowly inclining fields, which turned into green hills and mountains.
I looked closely to see a couple primitive trails through the hills, and I remember thinking how exciting it would be to hike those trails. A train on a separate track from mine briefly stopped. A single passenger got off and a car picked him up. I was too tired to think anymore, so I relaxed.
This is where I had my moment of clarity, not on the bench at my peninsula.
For nearly an hour, I had attained freedom. For the moment, I was free from all of my worries and anxieties. It was just me and the cows; the cowbells rang but the wind provided an ambient noise with which to dampen their otherwise shrill jingle.
This is where I felt at home. Not in a specific location. With few creature comforts. Not necessarily isolated from all civilization, but in an environment where the focus was on no one person or thing except nature in general. Peace. Beauty. “This is what I want.” That’s the only thing I wrote in my journal.
Then the moment passed, and I started thinking again.
I thought about what it would be like living in Lungern. “A large part of whatever it is that I am looking for is here,” I thought. But reality kicked in. I am in Switzerland. I have no clue what to do with my life back home, let alone in a pastoral setting in the mountains in a foreign country. What would I do here? Do I really want to live ‘far from the madding crowd?’
These thoughts were racing through my mind, yet an hour after I left, the Indian summer ended and the winter began. As I passed through the town for a tour of Mt. Pilatus the following day, there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground, and it was 40 degrees cooler. I couldn’t see outside at all. The perfect, serene, beautiful Lungern I had experienced was gone.
Was this some sort of sign? Would I really want to live in Lungern, Switzerland? Perhaps, but that is not the point. The point is, when I was waiting alone at the quiet train station, I was no longer detached from my surroundings. We’re all trying to figure out where we belong in life. We all want to know where “home” is. Some find it in a physical location; others have a more abstract definition. My home is where my mind is able to shut off. Where I can become one with my surroundings and not just be an onlooker. In the rare, usually accidental instances where I am not a tourist of life, I am at home.
I do not know what this means for my future, but I do know that I have endless opportunities to find my home and my calling if I stop thinking and start doing. I still have a ways to go before I settle on a life path; if winter comes abruptly, nothing is tying me down.