Repat: Would visits be enough?

July 30, 2018


Ugh, yesterday I was missing Zurich so much. My heart actually ached throughout the day, and on several occasions, I had these flashes and glimpses of being there that felt completely and totally real. It was a new and different type of missing than I've ever experienced and it struck me for its depth and intensity. Normally, when I miss Zurich, I miss my old life. I miss living in our sweet apartment and being a new mama to a young baby (and toddler) and all of the things that go along with that phase of life and motherhood. But yesterday was different. Yesterday, I missed what Zurich means to me. I longed for both the grandiose - the very city itself, the lake, the exquisite, luxurious feeling that only Zurich can produce; and the mundane - using my Supercard in Coop and collecting stickers for this promotion or that, my favorite brand of bacon, the whirring sound the tram makes when it pulls away from a stop.

As I allowed my longing for Zurich to wash over me, I realized that deep down, I had sincerely hoped that we would forget about Zurich by deciding to stay here. Life would be so much easier if we just bought a house in Spokane and set about securing a rock solid, stable situation for ourselves here instead of setting our sights on living the expat life again once I finish my graduate program in a few years. Spokane is just fine; there is really nothing to dislike. We live in a beautiful neighborhood with great access to nature. It's affordable, the schools are top-notch, our kids are happy and I am surrounded by family. It seems strange to still be longing for Zurich when we have now officially been back in the States a little while longer than we were ever in Zurich in the first place. Why can't we just forget it? I wish we could.

But I love and miss so much about Zurich. I long for magical summers at the badi, riding the tram every day and walking my heart out year round. I long for leisurely Sunday walks to the Botanical Gardens, going to the forest for wiener roasts over the fire in the fall, foggy November days and Conelli circus at Christmastime. I want Grittibänz in the bakery window in early December and Fasnachtschüechli stacked all over the Coop in February. Hikes in the mountains, alpine springs and most of all the feeling of being somewhere I truly admire. I see now that it isn't the amount of time one spends in a place that matters, but rather how deep the connection is that's formed.

It seems I cannot forget Zurich and go all in on life in Spokane, no matter how much I'd like to. I'm grateful to have the next three years here, but beyond that, I seem to have this bizarre ability to view my current life and impending crossroads through an omniscient lens, as if seeing all that is taking place now from the point of view of my 80-year-old self. I know full well that we may never get back to Zurich. I have not forgotten that living as a foreigner in Switzerland can be difficult and demoralizing at times. And I realize that going back will create as many problems as it solves. But the fact remains, my 80-year-old self will be greatly disappointed if I squander the opportunity to get out there and live my life fully alive right now.

To that end, I am beyond ecstatic to announce that I am going to visit Zurich in January for 10 days. My mommy group is having our annual spa weekend in the French Alps a couple days after I arrive, and then I'll spend a week in Zurich visiting friends and networking. I am already counting down the days! Then, next summer, J and I have decided that nothing will stop us from taking our kids to visit for a month. We've been away from Zurich for so long and it feels time to renew our bond and feel connected to the city again.

But it got me wondering, would visits be enough? What if we were to live and work here in total comfort and also spend a month or two in Zurich each summer? Sometimes in life we can't have exactly what we want, but we can find a happy medium.

I'm curious, are you living right where you want to be right now? If so, how did you make it happen? And if not, what keeps winning out in the priorities list instead? Please chime in in the comments below! I would love to hear your take on this.

(Photo via hiveminer)

Join the conversation!

  1. I have these same pangs for places I've visited abroad. I think it's the difference of life abroad that makes it so evocative to your unconscious. I will often be struck by an image or a feeling and try and trace it back to its origin--the sound of a road in New Delhi early in the morning, a Sydney cafe where we got raisin bread toast, the light in Paris. It's often hard to tell if it's something I experienced, or just dreamed about. Also, if I know if it's an actual memory, trying to locate it can be hard.

    I try and just be appreciative of these experiences, even if they invoke longing for the rest of my life.

    andrea

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    1. Those are good feelings to hold on to! I love the dreamlike quality of fond memories. And this is also a good reminder to travel more. It does feed the soul. xo

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  2. I really truly felt after a few months in Munich that I had found MY city. I had never felt that way about a place before, not abroad or in the US. I do believe that we can be happy in many places but I really believe that when we have found our city, we have to follow the calling. 🤷‍♂️

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    1. Yes, Emily, I'm with you! No more trying to beat this dead horse. My outlook and planning have changed. But I do want to be as in the moment as I can and enjoy this American life while I've got it!

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  3. You can always count on me to reply to these posts haha!! :D

    For me, I've always missed the Switzerland itself (more than certain memories) so, I can totally relate to that feeling. For me, it's always been the little things like laying on a picnic blanket by Zurichsee, the bookshops, the children singing in that giant Christmas tree, the markets, the mountain views, that relaxed Sunday feeling...wandering down Bahnhofstrasse. How exciting that you'll get to visit twice next year! I think having trips planned really makes things bearable when you're struggling.

    If i'm honest, I think there is zero chance of you forgetting life in Zurich. I think in order to feel settled in Spokane you genuinely have to enjoy life more in Spokane than Zurich. It can't just be because it's convenient or easy....this is your life! In my opinion, happiness has to be our biggest priority, otherwise what's the point? Should we have to settle for a happy medium if we know what we want?

    As to whether or not visits will be enough...I guess 2019 will give you your answer. We're not where we want to be but we do know what we want (at this point in time) with certainty, and we're determined to make it happen. I'm so looking forward to 2019!

    PS: the whirring sound the tram makes when it pulls away from a stop - what a lovely thought :)

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    1. YES! So excited to be visiting twice in 2019. Having that to look forward to really does make all the difference. I think I always missed the city, but the city from the perspective of having a baby or toddler in a stroller every day. Even when I went to visit with Theo in 2015, I had a stroller and he was just barely starting to walk. So when I think of being there with my current life and kids, it feels really different, and also wonderful and full of potential! I am enjoying Spokane right now, but I know my heart is in Zurich. Just as you said, zero chance of forgetting life there. And I agree, why settle for a happy medium when we know what we want. Thanks for always taking the time to write, Rhiannon! It means the world to me. xo

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  4. I guess what helps me is the knowledge that I often suffer from "the grass is always greener" syndrome. It had been a lifelong dream to live overseas, and the exact moment I'd given up on it ever happening through our most likely means (and subsequently became pregnant), that's when the orders dropped.

    Now, while I'm living in what feels like a dream, I often feel pangs of missing things about living in the U.S. -- namely being closer to family. But then I realize that if I were back there (and when I am), I'll miss many things about being in Europe. So then I just have to try hard to take a deep breath, stop basing my sense of self on the past and my hopes on the future, and really really concentrate to just be present and enjoy right now.

    If you're fortunate enough to live somewhere with all of the positives you mentioned above AND go back to visit your dream city every year, I'd say that's a pretty wonderful position to be in. And you never know what the future will bring. The best you can do is enjoy your present situation, do what you can to improve it in the moments you can (by taking your trips), and be grateful for the lifestyle that allows you to do so. If it turns out that's not enough, you'll find a way to get back when you can. :)

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    1. Oh, I know the feeling of thinking or knowing something is temporary all too well. You're 100% right that we just have to enjoy the present. And I love your attitude of gratitude. Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspectives, Katie! xoxo

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  5. After a grueling 3 day ordeal to get home from Zurich including an overnight in London, 18 hours of airport waiting time in Newark due to two cancelled flights (and getting stranded and having to sleep at a roach motel), I am probably not in the highest of spirits from our trip to comment--ha! But...

    One thing I realized when I miss CH is that I miss a version of my former life. A life that was much freer and easier because I had only one child that was my easiest child and lived the stroller life, which often felt like being on vacation. As cool as it was to be back in CH for 3 weeks with older kids, I feel like my life as an expat would be even harder should we return at this stage. It would no longer be our little world within the apartment, relaxed day trips into the city hopping from playground to playground. It would be all the day to day things with school age kids in a place thats not so easy to integrate into. Also I can see it would be very hard for us having a life there with our son who is a joy to us but very difficult at times. He would not fit the cookie cutter mold in Swiss school life like our daughter could. I cannot even imagine trying to live in an apartment with upstairs and downstairs neighbors, cajoling him into walking faster to catch the tram, getting side eyes over his loudness in the shops, etc. etc. Our Swiss born Eli was truly made for the Wild West : )

    I think for us summers are going to be enough. As much as I love so many Swiss and European things and ways of life, I was relieved to be home. It felt like a deep sigh and a contentedness that I have struggled to find for many years.

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    1. Oh, thank you for your honesty and insights! I'll be so curious to see how we feel about things following our long visit next summer. Coco is at camp right now, she's taking gymnastics and soon will start year-round swimming lessons at the YMCA. I don't overlook the sense of belonging and community we have found since we moved into our new neighborhood a year ago. I'm grateful to have three years to stop being in decision mode as my grad program dictates that for us. But I am curious to see what we choose at the end of it! All of your points ring so clear and true. Thanks for bringing them up. xo

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  6. Hi, Lindsey! So glad to find some posts to catch up on! Did I missed you tell us what you are studying in your graduate program? I just quit my Early Childhood job and will be an assistant teacher in an Upper El classroom at a Montessori school a little closer to home. They will also be paying for my Elementary training, which I will do over the next three summers, so I also have this feeling of staying put for the next three years, but after that, who knows!? If I am honest, one of the big reasons I am excited about having this training is that it could open some doors for living and working abroad again. As much as I miss CH, I don't necessarily want to move back there. Isaiah suggested Austria. Vienna would be dreamy! Anyway, I can definitely relate to that weird feeling when you realize you've been back in the US longer than how long you were gone. We only lived in CH for 2 years, so after being back in the US for 2 years, I thought it was so strange that I hadn't "gotten over" missing our life in Switzerland. It was a if that old break-up equation worked the same for leaving a place you really loved. If I was there for two years, then it should take 1 year of being away to get over it. Haha. Nope. It's like you said, the amount of time you spent living in a place is not what matters but rather how deep the connection was. Certainly I miss the (pre-kid) life we had there, but I still, 8 years later, really miss super mundane things about where I lived: riding my bike to the supermarket in the rain to get my shopping done while wearing a hideous rain suit specially made for riding bikes, the panic to get everything done Saturday night, bitching about how everything is closed on Sunday but going on a hike because there is nothing else to do and realizing the Swiss have got it right... I am excited to hear all about your trips there in 2019. We haven't been back yet at all, and I am dying to visit old friends. Finally, um, what is this amazing Mommy Group you have that goes to a spa in the French Alps???

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    1. Oh, goodness! This comment it so good and I almost missed it. I've been getting A LOT of spam comments. :( And Blogger used to email me when I got comments from you and a few others (maybe people who also use Blogger/Gmail?), but they've stopped doing that. SO - I'm glad I saw it! It definitely made me smile and nod and smile and nod and laugh. The Swiss do have it right on Sundays. Definitely miss those. I have more to share on the Mommy Group weekend, but it's just a group of women I was fortunate enough to meet while pregnant with Coco. We all bonded forever (same ladies I went to Ibiza with) and I feel so lucky that we're all still so close to this day. As someone who has moved a lot and never had a lot of enduring friendships growing up because of moving, it's something I treasure!!! French Alps actually fell through this year, but I think the back up plan might even be better. ;) xoxo

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  8. Hi Lindsey, I just left a comment over on your post about unfollowing Swiss Instagram accounts. And now I've just read this article as well. I am actually going for a visit this Saturday (Sept 15th). My first visit back was this past January. I went for 4 days, figuring a short whirlwind trip was best. I spent a day alone up in Flumserberg just sitting on a bench in the January sun and crying. It was wonderful to back and terrible at the same time. I cried for the first hour of my return flight to the States. This upcoming trip will be my second time going back and I anticipate that it will be as heart wrenching as last time. Yes, I miss friends, But most of all I miss my life. I miss all those things that you described and more. I know for me that visits will never be enough, but I'm so grateful that I at least get to do that. Wishing you a wonderful visit in January! Lisa Broccoli

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    1. Oh, Lisa! I went to our old neighborhood in Zurich the one time I visited (in 2015) and cried and cried for hours. I cried at our apartment, in our old Coop, at the tram stop. I get it. Why did you leave? I know that’s a loaded question for me and one I can barely answer, so don’t feel like you have to answer! ;)
      I hope your visit this weekend is amazing. I’ll be thinking of you! And thank you for reading and commenting. Sending so much love. xoxoxo

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