The sun rises in the east, traveling westward among clusters of wispy clouds. Like a saturated version of a fairytale, the world encompasses a hand painted backdrop of craggy mountains and bouquets of buoyant wildflowers. Yet, this is no fictitious Emerald City. With each exhale, a little part of me is hurled into an unknown world. But with each gulp of misty, mountain air that floods my lungs, a little part of the Swiss Alps lives inside of me.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The only sound is the pounding of my hiking boots on the fertile grass, amplified by the ethereal mist that crowns the jagged peaks. Switzerland is a quaint chalet nestled amongst a labyrinth of bellflowers and orchids. It’s a sky set ablaze with pinks, blues, and purples. It’s the jovial hikers that greet me with broken English. Mostly, it’s where I learned more about nature than any textbook could ever teach me.
Our trek in Switzerland began in Altdorf and ended in Kandersteg. Reluctance was an understatement. Though I had so often pondered the idea of hiking the Swiss Alpine Pass Route, doing so was on the brink of terrifying. I voraciously read about Switzerland prior to our trip. I flipped through pages upon pages of garbled information, learning to value nature through another’s eyes. Rather than spanning chasms or traversing through winding trails, I spanned topographical maps and traversed through textbooks. I wished so fervently to arrive home, a seasoned hiker with tales of adventure and accomplishment.
Then one day, I reached the top of Surenen Pass, opened my eyes, and remembered how to live.
I hiked through steep valleys and rocky mountain passes, crowded with cows and crystal lakes. From town to town I trekked, resting in places like Altdorf, where William Tell demonstrated his brazen act of independence, and Meiringen, where the great Sherlock Holmes took his last breath. Gasping thin air, I ascended and descended with my mouth ajar. A cozy mountain hut always welcomed me with a steaming bowl of tomato soup.
As I focused my gaze past the splendor of the Swiss Alps, past the enchanted tufts of soft moss and airy snow, and past the small parades of giddy hikers—I’ve never felt more insignificant in my life. Though I may be able to recite a plethora of wildflower species in the Alpine Region, detect the severity of an oncoming thunderstorm, or write an essay on mountain ecosystems, I have never truly experienced the utter beauty of nature until now. Would my stories be told, or would they roll off of a ridge like the billions of pebbles that had done so before me? That is, if I truly had any stories to be told.
I let my preconceived notion of the world, people, and nature melt into the fluidity of the sunset reflection.
I no longer read about nature—I live it. I squeeze all of the juice out of it, and let it seep under my fingernails until the raw skin is numb and stinging. I value my trepidations rather than letting them deter me from venturing from my comfort zone. I embody the difference between alive and living.
In nature, no matter how unimportant or insignificant any component, be it the vacancy of the wind or the terrestrial sediment on the ocean floor, appears to be, they all serve a purpose. Though I may be as unimportant as the wind or as the ocean sediment, I too serve a purpose—to tell some spectacular hiking stories to my friends.
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