Thursday, February 23, 2017

Switzerland visit and proud moments

Last month I had the awesome opportunity with work to travel to Zurich, Switzerland for some meetings. When I first found out about the trip, I was so excited. I know it probably sounds a bit spoiled but it had been about 2 years since I had been to Europe and was really anxious to go back. Although I have loved the trips to new places, my most recent travel has all been really halfway around the world to Asia, Australia, and Middle East. Going back to Europe, which has its own unique charm and feel, I was very excited for.

In addition, I was a little bit anxious. I had committed to myself that I would start 2017 off hard with dedicated training, eating healthy, and getting ready for my races this year. The plan for 2017 was to focus and I was a little worried I would get derailed immediately with a trip to Europe the 2nd week of the year.

However, with the awesome help and encouragement of my nutritionist and my coach, I left for Switzerland on a Sunday evening after getting in a full weekend's worth of workouts.  Even the first 24 hours into the trip, I was following my plan exactly and I felt really confident in the week ahead.

Traveling to Switzerland was nostalgic for me.  I had been to Switzerland once before, which was one of the first weekends and one of the only weekend trips I did when I studied abroad in college. It had been almost 10 years exactly since I had been to Switzerland. When I went that first time it was for a weekend to Interlocken, where I arrived on a bus, stayed in a hostel, had no money for any sort of excursions beyond that, and no exaggeration - had packed a backpack entirely full of wine juice boxes. I drank most of the weekend and made new friends and had one of the most memorable and funny weekends of my entire life on that trip to Interlocken, Switzerland

Ten years later, traveling on business, staying in a hotel, and packing business clothes - it felt like an entirely new experience and I was excited for it and humored by the juxtaposition between now and the last time I visited.

I arrived on a Monday afternoon after connecting at CDG in Paris, and was able to check into my hotel and then meet my friend Jess for dinner. One of the girls that I started with at the same time at GE has since moved to Zurich and I was excited to be able to reunite with her, and also be a part of a week of meetings with her, since we had never worked directly together even though we've both been at the company the same number of years.

Jess walked me through one of the older neighborhoods in Zurich, which was quiet on a Monday evening, but still adorable and charming with the lingering holiday lights still up in early January and a layer of snow on the ground. We ate at a Zurich style restaurant and I ordered a meat dish covered in a delicious mushroom gravy that was apparently a local specialty. It was amazing and I devoured it.

After dinner I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some yogurts and protein drinks to have throughout the week and then returned to the hotel to head to bed. I had committed to working out every morning and wanted to start the week off to a good start.

The office where we actually worked was in Baden, Switzerland, which meant I would take an 18 minute train ride every morning from Zurich to Baden with Jess and head in to the office there. It was really fun to take a train commute and the fresh snow made everything really beautiful. I fell in love with Zurich almost instantly and was so happy to be back in Europe again because it just has such a special feeling to it that I absolutely love.

The work week was busy with long days and dinners in the evenings but I just overall felt so happy on this trip being there. The trains always ran on time, people were helpful, and everything felt clean and safe in Zurich.

One of the things I love about Europe is that it is so easy to get to other places! On Wednesday, we actually took a day trip from Zurich, Switzerland to Belfort, France via a 2-hour train that ran smoothly and on time and was so simple to use. Belfort is home to one of our company's manufacturing facilities, which was extremely cool to see. We ate an amazing 3-course long French lunch and wandered around Belfort a little bit (in the rain unfortunately) in the afternoon before taking our train back to Switzerland.

Switzerland is nestled in between Germany and France so there is an interesting mix of cultures there and the official language they speak is Swiss German. Being that Switzerland is not a part of the European Union, there are things that are unique to that country - such as the outlets and the currency, the Swiss francs. I was able to make it through the week without having to buy a specific Swiss outlet adapter or taking out any cash by being able to borrow from friends and use my European adapter in my hotel room. But the fact that Switzerland is not a part of the EU was something that I had completely forgotten about until I arrived there!

One thing that I will say about the Swiss is that they have perfected the ways to eat melted cheese. I was able to eat fondue and raclette while I was there and I have to say that I prefer raclette entirely over fondue, but my goodness are they both delicious.

Friday after the end of the work day, I checked out of my hotel and moved over the apartment that my friend Jess lives in with her husband. He unfortunately was not in town, but it was also nice to have a girls weekend just with Jess. On Friday evening we joined a group of coworkers/friends for a nice dinner out and lots of wine that was so fun and felt cozy and warm as snow fell outside. Jess has a great group of ex-pats who have turned into friends, including someone who I used to work with back in 2008-2009 in Upstate NY who is now living in Zurich and a friend of Jess's! We all walked home after a full meal of delicious food and lots of wine. The snow falling made for a beautiful backdrop and lots of fun in a snow fight.

It was funny to me because the weekend before, we had a chance of snow in Atlanta that caused the whole city to shut down basically. But in Switzerland and other places where it is common, it's just part of what you do every day!

On Saturday, I started the day by going for a run and a workout at my hotel gym (see older post for details on that) and I finished the run around Lake Zurich and imagining what it would be like to be there in the warmer months. There is an Ironman race there, so it may be something I need to put on my list for the future!

After finishing up my workout, Jess and I spent the day wandering around the city stopping only for lunch, coffee, chocolate, and to wander into a few shops. It was a delicious but tiring day, so we hung out a bit at her apartment after being out all day, before heading over to another coworker/friend/expat's house for an amazing dinner of more raclette.  That cheese is like crack, I swear. It was sooo sooo good and so kind of our friend to host. I loved Saturday night!

There was less wine and wasn't as late as the night before though, as we were all getting up early in the morning to head out to go skiing! I was so excited that we were able to fit this in on the trip because being able to ski in the Alps just feels like a bucket list type of thing. I am not a big skiier, but this intrigued me for sure. I've only ever skiied in the Northeast so this was my first time at a big mountain and the views were breathtaking.

When we first arrived it was a bit of a white out and you could hardly see, but when the clouds would move away I would gasp and just have to stop skiing and stare for a little to take it all in. I'm sure that was extremely annoying to the people that I was skiing with but I couldn't help it. It was just too much to take in while also trying not to lose balance and fall off a mountain!

I was lucky that I was able to have a mix of gear that I brought, borrowed, and rented. Which had me looking a bit dorky but it all worked. I brought clothing and a neck warmer/ear covers, I borrowed snow pants from Jess's friend (they were too big but that's okay), I borrowed goggles and gloves from another one of Jess's friends, and I rented a ski jacket, skis and ski boots, and a helmet.

Unfortunately, Jess hurt herself on one of the first runs, which was really scary and my first time seeing ski patrol have to take someone down the mountain. She was unsure of exactly to what extent she'd hurt herself and didn't want to leave the mountain so we continued to ski while she rested in the lodge for the afternoon. We joined for lunch and after the day of skiing for a beer. I really enjoy skiing but things like this scare me a lot! I felt so bad for her and it reinforced me to ski extremely cautiously, as I always do - skiing with my skis in "pizza" and zig zagging extremely slowly down the mountain. When the sun was not out, it was really scary because everything just looked completely white and you couldn't tell if there were bumps or grooves in the snow.

We spent the evening actually going to the Swiss version of urgent care to have Jess's knee X-rayed and while there weren't any initial results of an injury, she found out later she tore her ACL, which is terrible. I was glad that I was there to help!

Overall, it was an incredible trip to Zurich that I am really, really proud of. It was a great week professionally as well as perfectly. I went into the week with a plan. I researched what would be available for me to exercise and where there were grocery stores. I worked out every single day while I was there - even on the weekends and even with early mornings and even with obstacles in the way. I prepped food ahead of time and brought healthy snacks with me and picked up a few more at the grocery store. I drank more espresso then I ever have to avoid the high fat milk in their lattes and cappucinos and I didn't have any of the random pastries that I was tempted to eat when I would walk by them.

But I also tried new foods and didn't hold back from having multiple servings of cheese raclette. I drank wine without stressing about it. I ate the Zurich style meat dish and sopped up the gravy with bread. I tried chocolates from 2 different chocolate shops we walked by and I didn't feel like I missed out on anything throughout the week. I feel like this trip is what life should be like. Looking back, I don't feel like I missed out on anything. I didn't feel like I did when I was there either. I came back feeling healthy and strong and HAPPY - not bloated and regretful. It was the most successful business travel I feel like I have ever had and certainly the most successful international trip I ever have had.

Sometimes I feel dorky when I think about the fact that I have a "coach" and a "nutritionist" - like, who am I?  Who do I think I am with a team of people that I pay to support me. It seems silly and over the top and I felt that way even as I wrote that at the beginning of this blog entry.

But then again, when I get to the end of this blog entry (and if any of you have as well) and I write about how happy I felt coming back and how good it was to have an international trip and still enjoy myself and indulge but also do it smartly while maintaining my overall life and fitness and health goals... it makes it all feel worth it. Maybe others can live balanced healthy lives on their own, but I am the kind of person who needs a support team and that's what works for me. I checked in with my coach and my nutritionist every day and it helped me stay on track. I felt in control and in charge and HAPPY during and after the trip. And that's worth it to me.  Switzerland in January was an incredible adventure and amazing week!

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