1) My new home by the forest, August 2009
For a person whose cynicism and blunt realism is well-known by anyone familiar with her character, the act of walking through a furniture store one afternoon and suddenly realising that I had nothing to complain about was a real achievement, so much so that I decided that it would be a good idea, just so I wouldn’t let my reputation down, to start complaining to my boyfriend about the fact that I had nothing to complain about. I did this, of course, quite light-heartedly and by no means seriously, because in reality this rarely felt feeling was exactly what I had wished to achieve when, only a couple of months before, I had decided that it was really time to finally try to change my life. Happiness was what I was looking to achieve, and peace of mind. At that time, I had no idea whether I would achieve it, and now that I have, I have no idea whether I will be able to turn it from this single unforgettable moment into something more permanent, more perpetual. But part of the happiness I am feeling comes precisely from the fact that I am, at least, trying.
It was here all along, a mere two hours by plane away from home. The journey was indeed so short that there I barely experienced a feeling of transplanting as I set foot on the soil of a foreign land. Since my passport wasn’t even checked and stamped at the airport, it really felt as if I had just taken a short bus ride and nothing more (since bus rides in Malta during peak season are known to stretch for hours, especially when you’re most eager to get home). It is difficult to describe. I’ve travelled one thousand miles, but mentally, it feels like I haven’t gone anywhere at all. Reaching Zurich and Ferenc was so simple, so straightforward. Opening my overly-packed suitcase and emptying its contents into a room he had made to feel ever so welcoming by little familiar touches here and there was so natural. He had made it a point to make me feel as if I was entering not a flat, but a home, and I could hardly believe how much he had been successful in doing so. Everything was so easy, so uncomplicated that sometimes I fear that this cannot be it, and that the hard part must still be coming. That of course, is my pessimistic side speaking up, or it’s the echo of my experiences which know how nothing has ever come so easily to me, and so uncomplicatedly.
Happiness is quitting a job I had started hating, despite the possible repercussions, and starting to worry less about money and more about mental health. Happiness is being aware of a risky decision, but taking it anyway. Happiness is not thinking too much but just enjoying the present, while it lasts.
I now live in a place where random people say ‘hello’ in a language I don’t really understand, close to an enchanted forest with little paths winding across it. As I walk through it in the prime of its green period, I can’t help but wonder what it will look like in autumn as the leaves start to dry, and in winter, when the first inevitable snow starts to fall. I live in a place where most product descriptions and instructions come in two to four languages, and where my good Italian and basic French come handy because of my non-existent German. I live in a flat I would not be able to locate if someone had to drop me even just 5 minutes away from it, surrounded by roads where I consistently fail to look towards the proper side when crossing. But luckily (I’ve been told), the Swiss always give way to pedestrians… mmm.
Yes, in the end I did manage to travel to a second country before the end of 2009 and I am going to be here when, on Monday I wake up next to the man I love and find myself 24 years old, still confused, still clueless, but this time happy. What will happen after this Monday is at once important and irrelevant, because as I glance outside the window at the forest just a few metres up the road, the quiet, gentle line of trees draws me in, and does not let me go.
-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @www.theartofslowtravel.com