I’ve always believed that the 30s would be an amazing time for me.
Everyone says they are the best years of your life, that finally all that hard work you did in your 20s starts to catch up with you, that you get more instant respect, that you have more money and opportunities, that everything starts to balance out.
Which is why last week, on my own 30th birthday, I wanted to do something beautiful, something to welcome the new decade with open arms, something to kick things off right.
I decided that the best way to do this on a limited budget here in Switzerland was to hike up into the Alps, camp overnight at altitude, and wake up on my 30th birthday with a view of the mountains I love so dearly.
And so I packed up a bag full of warm clothes, a warm sleeping bag, books, and an ipod fully loaded with podcasts and somewhere around noon the day before my birthday, I started to climb toward Schilthorn for the second time ever.
Luna and I made our way past clacking cowbells and rustic farm buildings, across winding switchbacks dotted with clumps of pine and other greenery, over a long, green ridge covered in hoof-prints and full of dizzying drop-offs, across unsteady rock falls, and up a steep hillside to a pretty alpine lake just below Schilthorn.
Famished and happy, I set up my tent, stripped off my sweaty things and left them to dry on a rock, and put on some warmer clothes as the temperature rapidly started to drop and the fog slowly descended over us and the lake.
Luna wandered around on the rocks and over the spongy moss-covered ground, munching some dog food and grass alternately. I devoured the granola bar and snacks I’d brought. And we both braved a short onslaught of screeching tourists who didn’t seem to understand the breathtaking beauty of a quiet wilderness (and instead spent their limited time at the lake screeching each other’s names across the ridges and attempting to take photos of Luna and I with our tent).
Finally they left, the fog continued its downward swing, and my hands grew numb. I realized that we were in for a very cold night if we stayed there at the lake and made the quick decision to find a more sheltered and hopefully less cold camping spot.
I re-packed the tent, filled up my water bottle in the happy little stream, adjusted my backpack, and set off with Luna at my heels for the Schilthornhutte about an hour down the road.
I was half hoping for a meal, since there is supposed to be a restaurant there, but I arrived to a solidly closed up hut and the quiet, comforting sounds of dozens of sheep on the hills below and above. I set the tent up, then pulled my sleeping bag outside and sat, alternately reading, listening to podcasts, and watching as the panorama of peaks across the valley turned first orange, then pink, then blue in the fading light. The moon rose above them, shockingly bright. And I sat there for hours, counting down the last minutes of my twenties, thinking that this might just be the best ending to a decade ever.
The next morning, I woke early. The mountains were again shifting shades of orange as the sun rose. I packed my things quickly in the cold, pulled my winter coat and slightly-too-thin gloves tighter, and set off toward Birg, a cable car station just below the famed Schilthorn, where my closest friend here in the valley took the first cable car up the mountain to meet me.
We took Luna and my friend’s tiny, fluffy puppy, Laila, and we hiked from Birg to Schilthorn—a steep and difficult uphill climb over rocks and the dark brown ground of the higher altitudes—arriving at the popular rotating restaurant, which was almost empty so early in the morning.
We toasted with champagne and I dove into the buffet like a starving person (which, let’s be honest, after all that hiking and just granola for dinner, I kinda was). The puppies had biscuits and water. We had chocolate, croissants, eggs, sausages, cereals, salmon, cheese, and juice.
And I sat there, newly 30, looking out over the Alps, straining to see Mont Blanc in the distance, feeling grateful for my friend, laughing at the antics of the tired-but-still-excited puppies, talking about life, and giving myself permission to live another year chasing after what I truly want:
And what is it that I really want? To apply for an extension of my Swiss resident permit. To devote another year to the 100 Locals series. To give another year to my freelance writing dreams while continuing to slowly strip away my marketing work. To try my best this year to take joy and love wherever I find them. To create new and healthy habits (like my recent habit of waking early and taking morning walks while listening to podcasts or my recent dedication to weekly yoga). And to remind myself always how much I truly love what I do and where I live (which, when you are in the throes of publishing four books in one year, can sometimes be forgotten).
And so my 30s begin—with the difficulty and beauty of uphill hikes and rock fall crossings, with nerve-wracking ridges and a night alone in the high alps, with triumph and a good friend and two snuggly, warm balls of puppy love.
I can’t think of a better way to start a new chapter.
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