Skin and Bone

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My car’s broken down so many times it seems plain insane to just take off and drive to Switzerland. Yet insanity is something that’s never stopped me before. I adore the thrill of stepping out of my comfort zone and taking chances. Traveling has taught me that no matter how far I go, I will always find my way home so I might as well embrace the abundance of experiences that come from living out of a car. Summer is around the corner and I assume Switzerland will be warm so I pack up lightly, allowing more space for camping gear and plant-based food. I pick up my dear friend Marine before sunrise and we make our way to the train station where Cindy has been waiting for us. We’re finally reunited and as we cross the border and set foot in Switzerland, our adventure can begin.

I’ve put together the cheesiest, most out-of-date playlist and my friends cringe while I scream hysterically and sing my heart out. They get very little rest from my teenage anthems so whenever Patti Smith or Bob Dylan come up, I know they’re feeling grateful and praying these songs could just play on repeat. We drive all day until the sun eventually falls from the sky. By the time we reach our first destination, it’s all dark and covered in snow.

Our first night is harder than we imagined. It gets unspeakably cold at night so we all snuggle into each other and wake up way before sunrise. As the first few rays of the dawning sun reflect on the mountains, I jump out of my sleeping bag and scream to the girls ‘Let’s have breakfast later and grab our cameras now‘. It is so magnificent we see past our shivering bodies. I run around in my favorite dress, catching every ray of light. My heart feels warm. It is extraordinarily alive. Witnessing the sunrise and checking the surroundings, I can’t seem to stop myself from snapping pictures. My friends look like goddesses in the sun. They’re alive, too. I can feel their happy, breathing souls and I’m so happy I didn’t venture on my own this time. We’re all in this together, with endless possibilities and adventures waiting for us.

As we head back into our cozy tent and make breakfast, we all laugh over our inability to pack adequately. I’ve never been an expert in the camping field. Whenever I’d go camping somewhere, my best friend Ingvild would be the self-reliant one. She was so good with everything I would just look at the stars and dream away. Now I realize maybe it would have been a good idea to at least try and remember how she folded the tent up. After a few embarrassing attempts, ours eventually rolls back and we can keep going. We hike around the mountain and the higher we are, the more in awe we become.

Once we’ve made our way to the top, I put on a French song I love called ‘Partons vite‘ and start running around barefoot. My toes happily turn purple as they sink into the snowflakes but the sun shines so bright it’s never too long until they are warm again. I’m thinking the sun is the reason why I shine, too. I dance around clumsily and throw my arms in the air, feeling carelessly free. As I feel the warmth of the sun upon my skin, I just know I belong here.

I can’t always see the light within the darkness so the sun has become my medicine. It pulls my soul back into the light and out of the chaos in my head. Although I’m a firm believer in optimism and wish my head was forever free of all worries, it isn’t and there’s no use for me to pretend otherwise. We all try so hard to have a picture-perfect life, leading to comparison, jealousy and worthlessness, that we end up missing the whole point of living. Truth. Nothing will ever feel good to your heart unless it’s built on truth. Truth implies facing the depths of your soul with pure clarity. Therefore we need chaos as much as we need quiescence. And we need breaking as much as we need loving.

I’ve been living in truth for a little over a year now, and I’m still learning, but it has put everything into perspective. I went through the darkest of days, just like everyone has, but I have finally stopped fighting the pain. There’s no need for me to bury anything anymore for I have to let it all out if I ever strive to be free. And I do. I want freedom, healing and compassion. I deserve it. Meditation empowers me to grow and embrace my inner self. It teaches me awareness and true love. And these are lessons I carry with me everywhere I go. As we drive around Switzerland, I remind myself to be present. I take it all in. Daringly and wholeheartedly.

We drive through spectacular scenery. Our days are blissfully pure. We hike mountains and take photographs by the lake. We collect flowers and dance in the golden light. We cook food with our little camping stove and warm up with tea and chocolate. We stop in the middle of nowhere just for the sake of cuddling with cows. We’ve distanced ourselves so much from society we all get sick and bad-tempered that time we get stuck in traffic on our way to Appenzell. Once we arrive, it feels like we’ve stepped into another world.

Appenzell is a fairy tale village. Everything looks still. Except us three when we spontaneously decide to wash our hair by the river. I’m the first one to lay down on a bench while Cindy fills our bottles with fresh water. Marine is shampooing my hair and I’m starting to think it’s not so bad, until Cindy drops the freezing water all over my hair and face and I go screaming, while people pass by and probably wonder how we bizarre individuals were even allowed to come to Fairy Tale Appenzell. Once they’re done with me, I get up and I run to the river. I come back with filled-to-the-brim bottles and I smile sneakily because I know they’re next. We successively go through the joys of wild shampooing and howl with laughter.

It’s almost dark now and we need to look for a place to pitch our tent but it is all so tiny and full of family houses so for the first time ever since we entered Switzerland, we’re struggling to find a good place to camp. Seeing we’ve planned on hiking Schäfler the next day and we’ll most likely be gone before sunrise, we decide to sleep in someone’s backyard. We first have dinner then we set up the tent at night and have a short sleep. Little do we know, it won’t ever be restorative enough for what’s to come.

We wake up early and because we’ve become much better with taking our tent down and making it fit back into the bag, it takes us very little time to get everything done. We’re thinking we have everything under control as we start our early hike, our backpacks filled with cameras and vegan snacks. We walk for about two hours before finding ourselves in Seealpsee. It’s all very cloudy and misty, enhancing the lake’s spooky atmosphere, which Cindy adores.

I innocently suggest we head to Schäfler which, really, was my idea all along. Ever since I started planning this trip, I knew our adventure wouldn’t be complete without walking along this sharp mountain peak. The sign says it’s only four hours away and I get so overjoyed I manage to convince my friends to come with me. Only they have no idea what’s to come and I shall admit this now, I hadn’t either.

It gets incredibly windy and cold up there and there is absolutely no single soul except our own. The first few hours of the trail are quite upstream and leave us breathless. We finally spot another sign but it doesn’t make much sense so we pick out a path quite randomly, thinking to ourselves we can’t really be that far off the top. Hours later, after braving cold, slippery and snowy trails, here we are. Standing 6,000 feet above sea level. Cindy lays down and tries to warm herself up while Marine and I are so over the moon we get topless and start exploring the surroundings.

Marine’s body is exquisite. She’s all kinds of beautiful and I’m thankful she lets me photograph her. Her confidence and grace blend so effortlessly with the majestic mountain peak behind her. I’m in awe with her divinity and I get to create wonders until this tiny, self-destructive voice in my head gets louder and louder. ‘Why can’t you be like her? You’re a poor excuse of a vessel, Body. You make me miserable. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you‘. In that moment, Marine suggests I get naked too and I start laughing because there is no way I’m doing this. I love nudity, I think it’s delicate and pure, but my own body is something I can’t quite deal with yet. Then I look around me, standing on the edge of this mountain and all I see is beauty. It is everywhere. I’ve always been extremely conscious of our world’s magnificent aura and, I, belong in this big, wild world, so why don’t I feel beautiful too?

I am enough. I’m learning to feel utterly whole every single day but if I can’t embrace my body as a 25-year-old woman, then I’m a hypocrite. I’m tired of fighting and hiding my body. It’s been with me my whole life and it’s carried me through everything so it deserves more than constant self-doubt and insecurities. It needs love, this time.

So, I undress and I let go of all the masks I’ve been wearing. I am free. I’m terrified too, of course, but I try to focus on awakening my inner light. I can’t see it yet, but I really do have everything I need within myself. We all do, and it’s time we give our bodies a break. Our bodies are strong and resilient. They carry all kinds of stories, just as they are. Raw and beautiful. Scars, freckles, stretch marks, bruises. They are all evidence that we’re alive and breathing and what a marvelous thing it is to allow ourselves to live and grow older.

Going down the mountain, we’re hopeful it’s only a matter of time before seeing the car again. Only we have literally walked into emptiness and still have around five hours left of losing ourselves into Switzerland’s wilderness. The day is plain crazy, from beginning to end, but oh so exhilarating too. I live for these kinds of challenges. My heart is restless and always yearns for more adventures, more passion, more self-discovery.

As we reach the car again, our bodies are numb. We’re all so sleep-deprived and exhausted but we need to keep moving if we want to make it to our next destination before it gets dark. We’re singing in the car and reminiscing the insanity of our day and I think we’re all a bit delirious. By the time we arrive into the southern part of the country, it’s all dark and quite frankly dreadful. We spot scarecrows under the pouring rain, and dubious men disappearing before our eyes. We can’t tell if the place is genuinely unsafe or if the night and our weariness just made it worse than it actually was but it doesn’t feel right to camp there. So, out of the blue, we decide to drive back to the very first place we explored a week ago even if it’s located on the opposite side of the country.

Driving for six hours straight is agony, especially after having such a crazy day. I think about my camera tripod screw adapter I lost while hiking in the snow on our first day and I entertain my mind with the idea I might be able to find it again once we’re back there. I keep telling my sleepy friends I am just fine and they should fall back to sleep but as soon as they close their eyes, I snap myself in the face to stay awake. Cindy wakes up to this nonsense and begins to panic we might not make it to our safe haven, after all.

I try to stay as focused and responsible as I can, but there’s this one car on the highway trying to pass us which gets me confused so I veer off the road softly without turning my indicators on. Before I know it, I hear a big, muffled siren and wonder what’s happening. Then I see two police officers on the right side of the road waving at me so I figure maybe I should indeed stop. It’s 3 in the morning and I’m clearly worn out but as they approach our car, I think to myself ‘You need to hold it together. Don’t do or say anything you might regret. Just be cool‘. Cool. Right. How can you be cool after hiking Schäfler and getting arrested in the middle of the night while driving to some remote mountain? Should I tell them I lost my tripod adapter but I have a feeling it’s waiting for me somewhere in the snow and we’re in a bit of a hurry so if they wouldn’t mind letting us go, we’d be very grateful? – Please, officers? – Should I offer them some oatmeal? Maybe they’re vegan and they stopped us because they could tell we were wise, vegan pals. The police officer’s flashlight in my face brings me back to reality and man, we are in trouble.

It seems I was zigzagging in and out of lanes and that’s why they stopped us. They ask for our ID’s, and Cindy’s is Taiwanese so we’re quite uncertain about the outcome of this situation. The other officer, a female one, makes a few phone calls then comes back to us and says we don’t have proper ID’s. We explain to her they’re in fact legitimate, only they’re written in French and possibly different from theirs. Still, it seems like the lady is looking for a reason to take us back with them to the police station. She then asks me step out of the vehicle. The other officer blinds me with his flashlight again and says ‘What kind of drugs are you on?‘. I’m speechless. I’m not on any drugs. I don’t do drugs. I’m a nurse in a mental health hospital and I care for patients who usually suffer from these kinds of addictions. I tell him just that, but he doesn’t believe me so he asks me to close my eyes and stand with one foot off the ground. It’s almost 4 in the morning, for God’s sake. How am I even supposed to keep balance and have him believe me? The test goes on for over ten minutes until he withdraws from me to go and talk with his co-worker. Then they come back and condescendingly say ‘You can go‘.

We survived Schäfler. We survived creepy scarecrows and now we have just survived getting arrested by the Swiss police. I stop the car not too long after because I really do need to sleep this time. Then we keep going and finally, at 6 in the morning, we arrive in our beloved Seebergsee. We immediately unfold our tent and in a matter of seconds, we’re all fast asleep in our sleeping bags. We wake up shortly after midday. We’re all so happy to be back up in our favorite place. As the girls peacefully awake, I decide to go hiking again. I think about my tripod adapter I lost but the snow has melted by now and maybe it can still be there, somewhere, up there. The girls think my adapter is long gone and I know they’re more rational than I am but no matter how gigantic the mountains around me are, I start going anyway.

I hike methodically, trying to remember the way I took last week and looking everywhere around me but my adapter is nowhere to be found. Part of me hasn’t given up yet, and that’s when I see it. All tiny and covered in mud, but here it is. I have found it in the immensity of the mountains and in that moment, there clearly is no better feeling. I start running down, dancing awkwardly and falling quite a few times but getting up again and happily dancing my way down the mountains. Once the girls see me, I pretend I haven’t found it and they feel sorry for me until I open my hand and they stand gaping.

Our last day in Switzerland is something out of a dream. Camping has become so natural and in a way, Seebergsee feels like our home. Time stands still while we snap photographs. Cindy captures everything on film like a secret sacred memory. Marine absorbs the lake’s beauty in all serenity. And, I, grow a little stronger, and a little braver. Embracing my body and thanking it for all it’s got me through. As I stand wholly naked on this mountain rock, I feel so infinite and spirited I promise my heart to fall in love with its reflection. I promise to cherish, nurture and grow kinder to my body for it’s my temple.

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2 thoughts on “Skin and Bone

  1. This is one of the best blogs I’ve ever read. The way you can bring life and character to your words is inspiring. I was able to be there in your adventure. It seems a liberating way to live. The pictures brought it to life even more. Stunning scenery behind pretty ladies. Now Switzerland has moved up my travel list. Stephen

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