Cliff and I are back from our Swiss adventure, having spent the bulk of our days with a fantastic Backroads group exploring the Alps. Spectacularly beautiful, these towering peaks are no joke, sharply rising thousands of feet above sea level at angles sometimes best explored by mountain goats . . . .
"Bonjour. This morning we're going to hike ABOVE the tree line!" Thiebault enthusiastically exclaimed in his lyrical French accent, pointing to a destination miles above the valley floor, as if it were no more than a casual walk in the park.
To our experienced guides, it probably was. With mountains covering more than 60% of Switzerland's geography, there seems to be no shortage of vertical challenges - or enthusiastic hikers who tackle these trails as if they were just another easy outing. (They aren't.) Even so, EVERYONE in Switzerland seems to hike from the youngest to the oldest; consequently, it wasn't uncommon to see generations of families happily trekking together. Hiking is clearly Switzerland's unofficial pastime (not yodeling, as it turns out).
Like these hearty Swiss locals, we armed ourselves with hiking poles, water bottles, sturdy boots, and day packs, before setting out each morning to traverse the steep mountain trails, often climbing sharply for the first few hours before stopping for a break . . . only to set off to conquer higher elevations beyond. After lunch, I usually opted to join those heading back down the mountain to the hotel or spa. (I like to think of myself as a downhill specialist.) To my way of thinking, the down is the payoff for all the UP that came before.
As you might have guessed, I’m not an experienced backpacker, preferring long leisurely walks on the beach with my sister and our dogs whenever possible, but after 16 months of being stuck at home due to Covid-19, I was game for the challenge - no matter what. Even so, I felt apprehensive. This was an exceedingly fit crowd and I was certain I wouldn't keep up.
"It's going to be AMAZING," Cliff assured me, "and who cares how long it takes?" (I do.)
True to form, Cliff was right; Switzerland didn't disappoint, nor did our companions, nor did the guides, nor did the weather, which had forecast heavy downpours, but instead, delivered glorious, sunlit days wrapped in pure perfection.
"You got this," I reminded myself each morning as we began our hike up, up, UP the stunning mountainside.
As promised, our efforts delivered inspiring views of meandering streams and roaring waterfalls at every turn, endless fields of abundant wildflowers, lush green meadows dotted with fat and happy dairy cows, stark mountain passes cradled with frozen snow, and charming cobblestone villages that sat beneath the looming Matterhorn. It also didn't hurt that our supportive and experienced guides met our every need along the way, at one point, surprising us all by carting champagne and chocolate for miles in their packs to celebrate our BIG achievement on the glacier! (Dankeshon, merci beaucoup, and grazie.)
In short, it was an extraordinary trip and I count myself lucky to have been among this dynamic group in a truly gorgeous country, at an oddly weird time in history. (With a new strain of Coronavirus on the rise, who knows how long this window of opportunity may last?) Of course, none of it would have been possible without my partners, Sarah and Jill at the helm, who encouraged Cliff and me to "go and have fun!" (And so we did, vaccine cards at the ready.)
While real estate was the farthest thing on my mind (catching my breath was high on the list) it strikes me that the process of selling a home is akin to those long stretches of rocky trails. In both cases, there's a challenging climb ahead, moments of real doubt and questioning ("Uhhh, why are we doing this, exactly?"), and even some pain and discomfort along the way. Putting all that aside, and with the full understanding that THIS IS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR(!), the most surprising results come about with good intentions, a giant leap of faith, and simply putting one foot in front of the other. For me, that was the "ah-ha" moment of the trip (and a not-too-subtle reminder of how life works in general).
Now firmly back in the much smaller hills of Oakland, Sarah, Jill and I are currently working on several houses in varying stages of the journey - some are at the beginning of the assent, some have already crested, and some are on the downhill stretch, but all properties, irrespective of their condition, require a good deal of determination, investment, and effort on everyone's part in order to receive the payoff Sellers have come to expect.
Frankly, (and here's where the disconnect often arises) although Sellers want BIG results, it can be incredibly difficult for them to let go and trust the outcome, especially when it may have been years since they last tackled that particular ridge. (Nobody said climbing a mountain would be easy.) With all due respect (and some gritty Swiss encouragement), TRUST THE PROCESS!
Whether it’s mountains to climb, meadows to cross, or ice fields to forge, it’s amazing how far one can go by taking the necessary steps. Like the fantastic guides and friends I met along the way, Jill, Sarah, and I are here to make sure you achieve your goals, one step at a time.
I other words: you got this - and so do "oui!"
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.