“I’m a little nervous, to be honest,” I confessed to my best friend at 3:00 a.m. in a Berlin hotel room. “What if we figure out we’re not compatible after all?”
Kristen and I were only a week into our 21-day tour through Europe, and already I was beginning to feel anxious about what was to follow: ten days in beautiful Switzerland with my boyfriend of less than a year. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Interlaken was the final stop on my month-long sabbatical, and I was thrilled when Scott agreed to join me for a week in the romantic mountain village. This would be my first time to travel alone with any man, however, and I was beginning to find the unfamiliarity of it unnerving.
“What if it’s too soon?” I panicked. “What if in the middle of an afternoon hike he suddenly realizes—or God forbid, I realize—that we’re just not meant to be?”
Okay, don’t get me wrong. On one hand, I was totally stoked to be vacationing abroad with my seriously cute significant other. Montages of The Bachelor’s million-dollar dates in paradise kept running through my head, cheesy soundtrack and all, as I imagined the two of us canoeing across crystal blue waters, shopping for a picnic lunch in the local markets, sharing a bottle of Merlot and a box of artisan chocolate truffles, and riding off into the sunset on a horse-drawn carriage. (Okay, I’ll stop.)
But the perfectionist in me was overwhelmed. Everything had to be just right.
To make matters worse, two weeks later—on our penultimate stop in Paris—I received a call from the hiring manager of a prestigious publishing company in North Carolina. They wanted to interview me for a marketing position. As a recent college grad with no such prior luck in the job department, I was equal parts relieved and ecstatic. (Finally, my big break!) But Scott, I knew instantly, would not be. And, honestly, who could blame him? The poor guy had just transferred to Houston to be with me less than a month before. Now that we were finally going to live in the same city, how was I supposed to tell him that I wanted to pursue a career elsewhere?
Here’s the thing about me: I’m rather terrible at keeping secrets, especially when they’re my own. Which is why, while Kristen and I were supposed to be getting ready for an evening at the Moulin Rouge, I was staring at my phone and contemplating calling Scott instead. I couldn’t wait, I decided; my news would eat away at me if I did. As I dialed his number and hoped for the best, it occurred to me that I didn’t even know what that meant. Was I hoping for genuine encouragement to go? Or secretly holding out for a heartfelt plea to stay? Before I could figure it out, my thoughts were interrupted by a pleasantly surprised—
And in those few moments, everything was exactly as it should’ve been. His joy and excitement to hear from me was plain as day, causing the butterflies in my stomach to take flight. Our conversation was effortless—a beautiful segue into our week of bliss, I thought. Until, after half an hour of jovial discourse, I casually dropped what we still to this day refer to as the bomb.
Oxford University Press. Job interview. East Coast.
“So, what do you think?”
The silence on the other end of the line was deafening.
I really should’ve waited.
We caught a train heading southwest from Zürich to Interlaken. After coming this close to completely missing each other at the airport (with no cell service on his end to rectify such an issue), we were finally together and on our way to our final destination. Squeezed side-by-side into our little 2nd class booth, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, and laughing, turned to look out the window at the welcoming views of Switzerland. We both knew there was much to discuss, but our woes and worries didn’t seem so important at the time. As he kissed my forehead and held me close to his chest, the confusion and loneliness I had let consume me in the last 24 hours swiftly melted away with his every touch. This will work, I thought to myself. It has to.
On any other travel post, I’d attempt to provide a sense of escapism for my readers by listing all the things I did, or saw, or ate on my adventures abroad. I could tell you about our 6-mile hike up Harder Kulm, our hammock nap after an icy dip in Lake Brienz, our tour through Trümmelbachfälle, or our lunch on top of the Schilthorn. Heck, I could go on and on about the amazing Thai food we ate for dinner every other night, or try to describe in detail the Italian beer that Scott fell in love with at a local pub. But, frankly, what I have to say about our week in Interlaken goes way beyond picturesque bike rides and charming chocolate shops. When I remember the summer of 2014, I think only of our time exploring completely new territory as a couple: the bridges we had to cross, the fears we had to overcome, and the boundaries we had to break in order to pave the way for a new—and better—us. And how we did it hand-in-hand, sometimes sprinting and sometimes stumbling, until we found ourselves once again standing on solid ground.
In many ways, Interlaken changed the dynamic of our relationship. Molding two lives together is hard work, come to find out, and as we bared all of our hopes and dreams on a mid-morning walk along the Akare, we were met with the realization that our individually chosen paths would not always effortlessly align. We might want different things down the road, and to choose each other would mean sacrificing something else.
It was made clear to me then, in the most beautiful place I’d ever been, that what Scott and I shared would never be perfect. In fact, it could turn out to be a floundering mess. There was healing to be done on both ends, a result of torn hearts and passionate words, and things to figure out. But one thing was for sure: My greatest adventure was right in front of me, and if I played my cards right, he always would be.
I’d be lying if I said destiny, fate—whatever you want to call it—didn’t play a part in our story. I cancelled the interview the day before it was set to take place. Our hostel’s wifi network was spotty at best, and when I emailed the hiring manager to reschedule for the week after, I never received a response. Turns out, North Carolina and I just weren’t meant to be.
But years later, I see that as a blessing. Had I left Houston for a job a thousand miles away, Interlaken might have taken on a whole different meaning: A farewell trip, of sorts, with a man I had no intention of ever telling goodbye.