How to make the most of a dull city
When I first moved to Switzerland to start my new job, I was stranded and friendless. I remember lugging my poor suitcase through the snowed in countryside, to a house in the middle of nowhere, with a roommate with whom I would maintain a courteous (bordering on curt) relationship for the rest of my stay. That first impression weighed heavily on me – like the blanket of snow that covered the vast rural expanse. But soon Spring arrived, and with it my resolve to turn things around.
Walking the two miles to my place through the blistering cold (and with a blisteringly sore throat) did feel like I was traversing the seven circles of hell, but thankfully my first days weren’t prophetic of the wonderful time I would have. I initially thought that Lausanne would be dreary and dull, grey and lifeless and expensive and small. It would have been, if I hadn’t chosen to look at the city as a new beginning, brimful of hidden opportunities, and a welcome excuse to lay old habits by the side of the road.
The daily grind brought its dose of boredom and deadening repetitiveness: waking up at the crack of dawn, walking down the isolated path that snaked its way from the house to the bus stop, hopping on and joining the horde of undead with glazed-over eyes, hopping off, walking into the office, grabbing a coffee, and starting my work day.
But even routines allow for spontaneity. And with a little planning and a proactive approach, it’s possible to negotiate a busy schedule in order to battle the doldrums.
This began with me making many new acquaintances at the office, including some of the nicest people I had ever met. We’d go to the lake together, have spontaneous drunk nights or just meet on the week-end for coffee and a walk. I remember meeting a crazy girl from London with whom I would spend sleepless nights exploring the city. I remember staying out one night on my own, meeting a group of strangers and befriending them. I remember three of my colleagues and I on the lake in an inflatable boat about to capsize. Beyond that, cities offer a wide variety of social events. For instance, I joined in an improvisational acting troupe. And while the demands of a busy lifestyle can leech away your energy, evening classes, week-end events and after-work drinks are great ways of staying connected – and happy.
But friends or colleagues aren’t always available, and there are an infinite number of ways of enjoying a city on your own. I remember discovering parts of Lausanne the way you discover a painting, a piece of music, or a satisfying novel. I didn’t need to be an architect to marvel at the specificity of some of the buildings, or a painter to enjoy how the craggy peaks of the Alps play as a constant backdrop to the muted city. Its idiosyncrasies sank its hooks into me and I spent much of my available time ambling up and down tortuous streets or sitting at a cafe in order to take in the hustle and bustle. I could have sketched people and facades if I had been so inclined; or thought up a melody and transcribed it. Instead, I would go to the lake on my own, order a salad and read a good book while enjoying the cool insistence of a gentle zephyr. At night, I would walk down the slithering path to my house and enjoy the silence that stilled the rural air. Occasionally, a deer would jump across the road, or a car would suddenly roar past with its demonic headlights.
A city doesn’t have to be particularly vibrant for you to find joy in it. With a little help of new friends and a little imagination of your own, you can carve up your own set of experiences and make your own happiness.
Photo courtesy of pixabay