Discover more from The Pleasure Principle
Escaping Your Comfort Zone
The Travel Bonus
Everything you do in a foreign country is a challenge, especially if you don’t know the language. We jumped on a commuter train from Zofingen, where my husband competed in a grueling duathlon, to the lovely city of Zurich.
On the way there, no one looked at our tickets, and I thought: What a trusting and honorable country! On the way back, however, a female conductor asked for our tickets, inspected them, and told us we were in first class and needed to pay more. We told her we’d made a mistake and we d be happy to change cars. But no. She was adamant. We had to pay 10 Swiss francs more. “You’re being inflexible,”I protested, and she responded, “Not at all. I could charge you 50 francs more.” (No wonder the car was empty!) We paid up.
The next day in charming Lucerne, we were in our rental car, an astonishingly comfortable and inexpensive BMW, big enough for Mark’s bike. We parked in a municipal garage and took in some sights. We got back to the car and inserted our ticket into the slot at the exit machine, which promptly spat out our ticket. The barrier remained in place. This happened again and again. A line of honking cats had formed in back of ours. Sweat broke out on my brow. Finally, a woman jumped out of her car and explained: we had to go to the pay station 20 meters away, insert our ticket and credit card, and return with the validated ticket to where we were. That worked.
Never again, I thought, mopping my forehead as we drove through Lucerne. Next time we’ll go with a tour. The tour guide would handle all the details: booking the hotels, choosing the activities, arranging the transportation. The logistics were simply too difficult for us to handle. After all, we were supposed to be on vacation.
With this resolve (which I later dismissed), we drove to Interlaken, where everyone spoke English. After a day, we drove to the tiny Alpine village of Murren and our next hotel . . . or at least we made a few attempts. It eventually became clear (our guidebook was equivocal) that there was no road to Murren: we would have to park and take a cable car. We grabbed a few essentials from our needlessly heavy suitcases, and after some searching for the right track, we were soon aloft.
It was great to travel light: there are no cars in Murren, and we strode to our hotel triumphantly.
The same view from our balcony, at dusk and at dawn
I couldn’t sleep that night and wondered what we’d do the next day. Oh for a tour guide! Then it occurred to me: we could go paragliding (not to be confused with the more dangerous hang/gliding, where you zoom alone, achieving speeds of 50 and 60 miles per hour).
The idea of paragliding both thrilled and terrified me, but the pilot’s wife told me he routinely took their children, 4 and 6, for rides. That helped calm me down. I walked with the pilot and his red and yellow sail, neatly folded into a large pack, to a high meadow, where he strapped me into gear much like that used in zip-lining. Together, we ran down a small incline. . . And then we were up and away.
We caught thermal breezes and went up and down. We glided by cliffs and meadows, forests and waterfalls. It was 20 minutes of utter bliss: a “peak experience,” as one of my sons later quipped.
Afterwards, rapturous, I returned to the cafe, where Mark awaited his turn. At this point, after something exciting and scary, I would usually smoke a joint to calm down and relish what I’d done. But cannabis is basically illegal in Switzerland, so I hadn’t bought any. This was another way of escaping my comfort zone.
Instead, I ordered a beer. It was fine.