When you work as a travel journalist, people are constantly asking you about where the best places are to visit. I always wind up asking them a question back at them, which is what they’re looking for? In one recent conversation, a lady told me that she was looking for a place that would be a counterpoint to the turbulence around the globe. She wanted to be somewhere she might find inner peace but without having to be on a retreat. I considered her thoughts for a moment before answering Switzerland. Here are 10 reasons why I think this:
1) Everyone Is Welcome: Many people live in rather rootless societies dominated by the here and now, where pop culture fills the void. That’s not the case for the Swiss. Four different languages are commonly spoken, and every region has culture and customs all its own. There is always a celebration of heritage, be it costumes, parties, drink, Alphorns, parades, yodeling, food, and events. Anytime you visit a part of Switzerland where cultural events happen to be taking place, you’ll be invited and welcome to watch, witness, and participate.
2) Respecting ‘Mental Patients’: Rather than mistreat them or ignore them, those that might be considered mentally ill are treated with admiration and even admired. Jean Debuffet, in 1976, founded the Museum of Outsider Art, or Museum of Art Brut, in Lausanne. Not every artist suffers from emotional or biochemical illness, but many actually do. As with many other artists, they’re not products of various art schools, nor are their creations inspired by market considerations. Not, Outsider Art is something recognized around the world as a distinct art genre, and it all traces back to Lausanne. If you have yet to truly experience the stimulation and brilliance of art, this museum can change your life. If you are currently suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety, then you might just feel your related stigma start melting as you enjoy the relaxation that comes with enjoying the creations of others. Of course, if you do have a health issue then though this is all fantastic, expat health insurance may also be of benefit.
3) It’s Beautiful: Few things eviscerate the darkness within as the beauty on the outside. Switzerland is renown for its tremendous natural beauty, be it the snow-capped Alps towering above or the valleys below with their glacial lakes with water that looks like glass.
4) Cuisine: Switzerland takes a lot of pride in its food and wine scenes, both locally and regionally. Don’t assume you know what it’s like just because you enjoy an occasional slice of Swiss cheese. That doesn’t even reflect the starting point of the actual cheese scene. There are many artisanal cheese, and you’ll never get tired of enjoying samples of cheese made from milk thanks to cows grazing on a summer-long diet of Alpine flowers and grass.
5) Chocolate: Does this one even need explanation?
6) Laughter Abounds: Vevey opened a museum recently in Charlie Chaplin’s home. It’s entirely interactive, and you can try on Chaplin’s clothes or even twirl his cane while watching clips from his funniest and most creative films. Every visitor gets to relive childhood or expand upon it. Expect to hear lots of laughter and giggles and be surrounded by sheer joy.
7) Cleanliness Matters: In the country of Switzerland, cleanliness counts to everyone. You’ll feel quite safe eating the food, breathing their air, and drinking the water. You’ll even feel pretty safe walking alone. The Swiss take their cleanliness seriously. It’s not uncommon to see streets getting deep-cleaned just hours after big parades and festivals.
8) Transportation: Traveling is physically stressful, especially when various modes of transportation might prove constricted in terms of space, feature substandard service, be unreliable, or just be generally uncomfortable. Connections can also be really inconvenient. This isn’t the case in Switzerland. Everything about their systems of transportation will amaze you. Nearly the entire nation is something you can reach via bus, train, or boat. Most of it is interconnected seamlessly, and they all run on time. You get off of your train, get on a boat from that same pier or station, get off the boat, hop on another train, get on a bus, and everything has compatible timetables. You can get a SwissPass for a certain number of days, featuring either first or second class, and it will include all public buses, boats, trains, and museums. It’s one of the many great forms of transport. You’ll also get deep discounts on cable cars and funiculars.
9) Nontoxic Politics: The politics of many countries are depressing and even poisonous. In Switzerland, seven federal counselors all share the power. They rotate the presidency, and many Swiss might not even know the current president. Locals vote on issues using open debate and shows of hands.
10) Lots Of Walking: The Swiss walk, and they do it a lot. Hilly cities, flat cities, in the Alps, along lakes, on trails and prairies…they walk everywhere. Swiss citizens believe in exercise that they are fit. Even older residents pick up backpacks and head for the mountains. You’ll quickly find yourself walking a lot, too, and that will move muscles and make you feel better, physically, and mentally.
I’ve visited a lot of countries, and there are many great ones. Switzerland isn’t heaven on Earth, but it’s pretty close if you’re looking for someplace with great mental health.