Or maybe the second best, because we all know that the first best is time.
I write this on the bank of Lake Lugano, my toes dipped into the cool water while a rather threatening-looking family of black ducks hovers alarmingly nearby. Ticino is in all respects a slice of Italy in Switzerland; I feel as far from Lausanne as if I were in a different country.
Travelling takes you completely out of your familiar surroundings and everything that reminds you of what is causing you pain; I guess recently I’ve been needing that. Much as I love Lausanne, it seems like every corner I turn these days triggers memories of those who are no longer by my side. This trip to Ticino could not have been more perfectly timed as I attempt to reconcile myself to recent, particularly painful, separations and prepare myself for yet more, before my own departure. Swiss scenery, achingly beautiful, is a fine balm for an aching heart, and the balmy Ticino weather soothes. In addition, we’re camping, so no electricity, plus my phone died, so it really is complete isolation.
It’s also been an opportunity to spend some last quality moments with a good friend I made here, who is travelling with me. The choice of travelling companion, should you have one, is important, too. She is calm and genial but highly practical and no-nonsense. Spending the entire trip moaning about my feelings just won’t wash, but neither is conversation paramount; I am free to get lost in my own thoughts and memories as we speed over the rails through the beguiling Swiss landscape.
To de-place yourself from your usual environment, to see other parts of the world and learn how others live, to remove yourself from your own little world of woe, is the perfect diversion. Not to say that thoughts of people and events won’t still haunt you wherever you go, but the feelings become attenuated. Hell, the whole effect may be entirely palliative, not to mention temporary… but I like to think not. Travelling changes you, and refreshes the spirit. Three gaping absences and each new departure tears a little more; travelling allows me to, if not mend the tears, at least be distracted from the pain.
Exchange cannot last forever. You can only hope you’ll see some people again, even as you move on down the road.