I saved my progress on my Quark file and closed the program. It was time for lunch. I was starving. I was typically late to breakfast, so there wasn’t much left. I was also having trouble adjusting to the local diet. A stale croissant and smear of Nutella didn’t feel like enough. We fetched our bikes from outside the chalet and started down the winding roads, over the milky water of the Kandersteg River, past the pitched roofs with bright flower boxes and white trim, looking more like gingerbread houses than any homes I knew.

Peddling and coasting through the twists and turns, we made our way to the local swimming pool. There, we ate quick a picnic lunch before a swim in the crisp water. The pool was packed, a full lunch crowd. Afterward a swim, we dragged ourselves out of the water and lay motionless on the green grass, limp to the world. Nap time. My nine-to-five brain could not even comprehend two-hour lunch breaks and mid-day swims as “normal” activities. Surrounded by the Swiss Alps, crossed nearby by cow paths leading to higher pastures and cheese sheds, I was lounging in the grass and learning about work life balance, letting it soak in, in a way I would never forget. We worked later into the day, but the restaurants didn’t even open until late. Everyone expected to stay at the pub or at friends’ until late in the evening. There was nothing to rush off to after work, so why sacrifice the best part of the day just because of of a job?

There was work to do, but it didn’t detract from your life, it didn’t deprive you from a bicycle ride through town or a mid-day swim in the Alps. This is the feeling I’ve been trying to get back to ever since I was 21 and spent three weeks working at the International Scout Camp in Kandersteg, Switzerland.

Writer, researcher, observer