April 05, 2016

Seattle to Switzerland: A Transcontinental Romance

Words + Photos : Zhanna Jacquier

Not too long ago, I went on a backpacking trip to Peru. When I first set out, I made few plans or expectations. I didn’t even have a return ticket to Seattle. I reckoned it’d be best to wait until the end of the trip; there was no telling where I’d be in five weeks time.

At the beginning of the trip, I ventured out on a four-day trek to Machu Picchu with two friends and a group of strangers. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, it was the beginning of a new and unexpected chapter for me. A man named Gary was among our group (a rather strange name for a French-speaking Swiss, but that didn’t matter). Our conversations soon grew long and more interesting. 

As days passed, I grew fond of him. He wasted no time in telling me that I’d be his wife one day. Of course, my own mental laws strictly forbade hasty decisions about love or marriage, so I didn’t entertain the thought. 

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By mere chance, our paths crossed again that memorable summer. We met several times, and, with each hello, the good-byes became harder to say. Four weeks had passed in a hurry, and my friends had but a few days left in the country. I decided to stay another week and followed Gary and his cousin to Chile. During that last week, there was an unexpected turn of events. The contract I had waiting for me in Seattle fell through and, suddenly, I had a lot of time on my hands.

As soon as I told Gary the news, he was thrilled and immediately said, “That means you’re coming with me to Switzerland?”

“No,” I said, “It means, I don’t have a job!” Needless to say, with little persuasion, I bought a ticket to Switzerland. I purchased a one-way ticket, just in case I changed my mind about him. I was still wondering if the excitement of backpacking fogged my mind and though maybe I would come to my senses once I stepped off that plane and onto new soil. That wasn’t the case.

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Gary first brought me to a place close to his heart, Taney. It’s a small cluster of wooden chalets nestled between towering mountains high above Vouvry, which is his hometown. As a child, he spent his summers on the shores of its deep blue lake. He learned the trails that weave through the thick forest and mountainsides. 

He led me to the sunny peaks that overlooked the valley below. Gary waited patiently as I picked wild flowers and herbs, or ‘weeds’ as he put it. I saw in him a sense of deep contentment with life. Every moment had his attention, and I was smitten.

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I stayed in Switzerland until the leaves changed colors and fell from their trees; until wild herbs withered and autumn flowers bloomed high in the Alps. I would have stopped counting days, but I was only allowed three months in the Schengen area.

Having been away for over four months, I finally flew back to Seattle in November. I didn’t have my apartment anymore, so I moved in with my sisters. I didn’t bother settling in because I knew I wasn’t going to stay for more than three months. Gary made that evident when he flew in the following month and proposed.

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