Over the last five years, I have enjoyed the warm hospitality and my very own bedroom in Basel, Switzerland courtesy of Kristen and Christopher. A few weeks ago, I made what is likely my last visit to Basel. They are moving this summer to Dresden to start a new adventure.
When they were deciding to throw all the cards up in the air and play 52 pick with their lives, I was privileged to be included in their discussions.
They were changing the course of their lives.
It was a brave and bold decision and they thought about it a lot. They were moving a long way away – nine time zones to be exact.
At about this time five years ago, we gathered to send them off; reminding them constantly that home would stay where it always was – in our hearts and in the hearts of our family and friends. Home is a feeling not a place. We could and would visit back and forth; Vancouver would patiently await their return.
I’m grateful that they decided to embark on that adventure five years ago. It made a huge difference in my life.
Their courage gave me courage; courage to expand my own capacity for adventure.
It happened quickly; I used Christopher’s world triathlon competition in London that year as a jumping-off point for my first pilgrimage, an 800 km walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He finished his triathlon and went on to Basel and I left to start the Camino.
Somehow it seemed more doable knowing Kristen and Chris were close by; I had a safety net, our quick text messages at the end of every day gave me comfort.
The prize I dangled in front of myself was a visit in Basel, complete with my first fondue and a few days of R&R in my new home after a month of vagabonding. It worked so well, I did it again a few years later in Portugal.
Over the years there have been so many visits with so many wonderful adventures – the one constant was knowing that I had a home in Basel, a greeting at the train station, a welcome mat at the door, a bed to sleep in, two friends to share the joy of life, a cat who tolerated me.
It was base camp Basel, a place to drop my pack, to relax and feel safe and secure and so much more.
Base camp Basel was the jumping off point for our African safari and the place we returned to when we had finished our glorious adventure.
It was base camp for Blair and me; we could land in Basel and nip over to Zermatt. He skied and I snowshoed under the shadow of the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn!
Base camp that allowed us to experience the total insanity of Swiss Fasnacht, the only time the Swiss drop their massive stuffiness and go crazy, worshipping fire, parading through the streets at odd hours; a long stream of weird fife and drum bands, the oddest parade floats, even odder costumes fuelled by the consumption of vast quantities of alcohol. Carnival in Rio is choir-like by comparison.
Chris taught me about European football. I’m now a fan; I’ve dropped the NFL completely, it’s crude, dangerous and thoughtless.
Kristen walked me all over Switzerland, winter and summer. We rode sledges down steep ski slopes, we wanderwegged through the Jungfrau in the shadow of the Eiger. We hiked up to Heidi’s village. We did everything but yodel.
We ate magnificently at the end of every hike ; sausages and cheese and mountain macaroni – guiltless extravagance. In fact we ate well every time I visited.
We celebrated Christmas there – twice. The uniquely joyful European Christmas markets will forever define the holiday now ; north American consumerism is shallow and uninspired by comparison.
We stood in the stands cheering a pickup team of Canadians playing in various European leagues who come together every year at the Spengler cup in Davos, more pure joy in one game than in any I’ve seen in the NHL lately – Gary Bettman are you listening?
Base camp Basel became the meeting point for adventures all over Europe. Italian Espresso and a foodie tour in Rome, the final Bruce Springsteen European concert in Zurich, Lisbon for the best Pasteis de Nata ever!, Paris and more Paris, Varengeville for dinner, and Krakow in winter.
There was always a constant; a chance to fly into Basel and get settled then head off in any one of a multitude of directions to find an adventure. Base camp Basel was my geographic center for five years, a landing pad and a launch pad that made all of Europe more accessible, more friendly, more enticing.
I also saw my daughter grow into a woman who had met a complex professional challenge, who had mastered each successive iteration of a constantly evolving position and who had contributed to a school environment where she will be sorely missed.
I remember being somewhat sad when they announced their decision to move to Basel; rightfully so, I don’t see them as often. Facetime, WhatsAp and phone calls help but frequent visits are the best; each visit is an adventure. I am almost embarrassed by the rich rewards that have come my way from the unintended consequences of their decision.
Basel is one of those places that could be described as a town that fun forgot. Not for me. To me it will always be Base Camp Basel, a place where I‘ve shared lots of laughs, lots of talk, lots of shared adventure, big and small.
A place to jump off from and to return home to. Base Camp.