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Sceptical, Scared, Accomplished, Proud

Hello world,

In this post I want to talk about something I am very proud of.
DSC08923Today I hiked 16.5 km with an elevation gain of 1060m summiting a peak estimated at 2993m. It was freaking hard, totally spontaneous, and absolutely awesome.
DSC08897 DSC08903We started this trip as a group of three (Mason from Toronto, Valentina from Slovenia and me) with the plan of hiking to Lake Helen, which is about a 12km round trip. We began the ascent at 9.30am. It was very pretty, but also quite steep already.
DSC0891614111712_10208252693969075_750485017_nWe got to Helen Lake pretty fast. If you look at the upper picture Peak Cirque is visible on the left. Sitting next to the lake we saw three people, nothing more than tiny dots, make their way up the mountain. Mason hinted at going up there, Valentina and I decided he and all the other hikers were crazy. We also decided to hike up to the plateau on which the mountain sat. Dolomites pass, probably named by an Italian explorer.
DSC08919The moment we reached the plateau (2nd lake) I thought to myself there was no way I was going to get up that mountain. That was when we were convinced by Mason to go for it. Yeah right.

Valentina was initially more enthusiastic than me, but until about the halfway mark she was struggling more than me. The trail consisted of sand only and our calves were burning. I, on the other hand, got really pumped about this whole thing.
DSC08922Then the schist debris started, the trail got steeper and stepper and finally disappeared. 40° grade. (I’m not even kidding.) Pictures don’t do it justice. It was horrible. I slipped every other step I took. Every slip would cause a small stone avalanche. The stone avalanches made me really scared of falling off of the mountain. (I don’t think that would’ve been possible.) The farther we got up the mountain, the higher it seemed.

About 150 m from the top I got stuck. My thighs were hurting badly. It was very windy. I had been climbing on all fours for the last 300 m of elevation gain. My fear of heights was kicking in with all force making me shiver. Mason and Valentina had already summited.

That’s when I decided to just stay there. I had been stupid to try this in the first place anyways.
DSC08927It was a Czech couple who convinced me to join them on their trail up. I hadn’t seen that trail before. It was with them that I managed to do what I had not expected myself to do.

On my final couple of meters I stopped totally out of breath and started whining ‘You guys, I am dyyyying,’ but Mason answered back ‘No you’re not. You made it.’ That’s when I made it.
14101789_10208252692889048_557636877_nI summited Peak Cirque, 2993 m above sea level. 1005 m of elevation gain compared to where we had started out. To put that into perspective: The lake on the right on that summit picture is Lake Helen, which had been supposed to be our final destination.

The peak was pretty cold and windy, but also absolutely gorgeous. Let’s just say it was worth the climb, although I spent most of the time crouching on the ground, because I was too scared to glance across the edge. I was scared of the descent. I was quite scared in general.
14088769_10208252692369035_346026288_nBut it was just fine. I didn’t even get a scratch. (Mason did.) 90 minutes later and we were back in the car, exhausted and smelly, but feeling so accomplished I am just smiling thinking back to it.

You don’t have to climb any mountain. To be honest, it wasn’t even on my bucket list. I enjoy hiking in Alberta, but I am scared of heights, why would I want to climb anything. I wouldn’t have done it, had we planned on it from the beginning.
I only made it up to 2993 m, because it came up spontaneously, because Valentina was almost the same pace as me, and because of that nice Czech couple.
And it was awesome.

Every once in a while, do something that scares you. Nothing stupid or extremely dangerous; simply step out of your comfort zone and try something you never thought you would do. It might surprise you. You might surprise yourself. I for sure did.

xo
Layla

PS: My feet are killing me. Plus, I’ve got to clean my hiking boots. Look at them.

Just Doing It

Hello world,

The adventures in Canada continue.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0058.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0128.I had an insane first week of work in Lake Louise, AB, Canada, filled with little work but a ton of activities with newly found friends. Within five days I swam in a cute little lake, hiked up a 7km trail (520m elevation gain), saunaed, jumped into an actual glacier lake at 12am, had gas station sushi, went to some hot springs originating in the Rockies, and spent a night stargazing on our balcony. All of that with awesome people, whether they be Canadian, Slovenian, or German.
DSC08827This weekend the fun continued and I got to check off one of my bucket list items: I canoed on Lake Louise. It was absolutely beautiful. The shores of Lake Louise are always packed with tourists, but luckily renting a canoe is so expensive that only few people do it and even more luckily we had a coupon for it. It was serene, peaceful, and simply a (Pinterest) dream come true. My Japanese roomate was probably the only person, who was even more excited about it than me.
DSC08870 DSC08874On Saturday evening I returned to Lake Louise with another friend to hike up the Big Beehive, which is visible in the first picture reflected into Lake Agnes. Lake Agnes is situated after about 2/3 of the trail next to a cute tea house. Sadly, it was closed because we went quite late. Sniff. I was craving tea.

It was my first hike with a Canadian and the mountain looked crazy high (520m), but it was surprisingly great. The 12km hike was just fine. We got to talk a lot, take cool pictures, and avoid all of the (I have to admit mainly Asian) tourists on the shores. Fun fact: Accommodations here are so expensive; spending a night in that hotel visible on the picture costs at least $800.
UntitledIt’s been a packed first week in Canada — thank God, because it’s so beautiful here, it would drive me nuts to be stuck at the lodge. I’ve been extremely fortunate to get to meet so many awesome people within such a short span of time. Nevertheless, I think it hasn’t been only luck either: As a former exchange student I know the importance of chucking out all shyness and just talking to people. It is most definitely worth it.

xo
Layla

Thanks for reading.

Hello Canada

Hello world,

Yesterday I met a girl who said, she’s been here for three months and still cannot grasp the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been here for two days and all I can do is drool. And maybe take a few pictures.
DSC08787DSC08696My current location is Canada, eh. It’s hard to pinpoint where we are exactly since we drive back and forth between British Columbia and Alberta and Banff and Yoho National Park everyday. Everywhere we go to, however, I am just in awe.

I am here as part of an international volunteer team. So far we haven’t really done any work. We’ve taken the gondola up a mountain, seen the two most photographed lakes in the whole world, and had several presentations given to us. Everyone’s favorite hobby right now is writing our Canada Bucket List of all the things we must do until September 12.
DSC08769 DSC08746Canadians are definitely different than US-Americans (they’ll be glad to read that). They are way more laid back, more cosmopolitan, and for sure cooler. Yesterday evening — on my first day here! — I took a small road trip to a remote lake with four girls, who are working her for the summer. We took a swim, improvised some food, and drank some Canadian beer. That’s summer.
Today I took a hike (520m altitude difference!) with some German guys. Tonight I am going to the sauna with the girls.

I’VE ONLY BEEN HERE FOR 48 HOURS!
DSC08802This is the most photographed lake in the whole wide world, if you care to know. It was pretty crowded and I really hope to discover other awesome places with perhaps a bit less Asian and German tourists. I have 4 weeks to do that — four actual weeks.

Canada feels like the grown-up version of the U.S. (US-Americans won’t be glad to read that), but maybe it’s also just me, who grew up, and now can enjoy beautiful places more knowing it’ll be over too fast.

xo
Layla

Thanks for reading.

Goodbye Minnesota

Hello world,

Time does not equal time. One week may feel long cleaning the church or doing a crappy exchange to Châtel-Saint-Denis, but one week is over in the glimpse of a second spent with my second family in Minnesota.
DSC08610My main activities this week consisted of watching the Olympics, telling people what I’ve been doing and am planning to do with my life, and swimming in the lake. It may not sound like much, but it was one of the best weeks so far this year. I left today after six short days sadder than I’ve ever felt leaving this place. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay another year (ahem Minnesota winters), but perhaps a month? Another week? Just another sun-filled day with my sisters?
DSC08641‘How lucky am I,’ Winnie Pooh once said, ‘to have something thatmakes saying goodbye so hard?’ That’s right, I guess. However, as a former exchange student I feel like I’ve already had enough goodbyes for a lifetime. They’re tough.

Just saying goodbye to the lake and such beautiful sunrises (got up at 5.30am to watch it, which says a lot) was hard.

Nevertheless, here is the first part of my trip to North America this summer captured on video, because it captures the atmosphere much better than any photography could. It’s been pretty great so far.

Now I am just trying to be where my feet are (credits to this cool couple): another beautiful place I am ready to fall in love with.

xo
Layla

Home 2.0

Hello world,

I am currently in Duluth, Minnesota, having a great time with my second family.
DSC08534DSC08528Two years ago I came to Duluth feeling homesick and uncertain about my exchange year. In the beginning it was a real challenge without any friends and with people, who were incredibly kind but also unknown. My year abroad was one of the best years of my life, however, I am skeptical about all exchange students, who eagerly describe it as the best year of their life.

Going abroad is not a piece of cake. It is hard. I shed countless tears throughout it. I felt lonely a lot. I was often disappointed, because I had expected things to go a certain way and they did not.

Nevertheless, no year of my life has coined and affected me more than my time abroad in Duluth.
DSC08491DSC08505This summer I returned to the same place I came to three years ago. I was greeted by four people that have turned into my second family, who I love dearly and with whom I am absolutely comfortable. We have inside jokes, deep conversations, and lots of good laughs, because three years ago I decided to adjust myself to the way they roll.

I also got to meet up with many more people than I had expected to see. Friends, which I made all by myself. They are are of a different stamp than me, but I’ve come to love them for it. I am now made of a different stamp, too, I guess. Something inbetween.
DSC08606 DSC08540When I now come to Minnesota, it feels like home. Home 2.0 far across the globe. People here are different, the lands are much emptier, the milk bottles a lot bigger, and all of it is my home.

I now wish I could go back to that timid girl on August 30, 2013, and tell her that everything will be alright. All shall be well.

Going abroad is hard. It is always worth it, though. Every moment of homesickness made me appreciate Switzerland more, every moment of joy made me fall more deeply in love with Duluth.

I did not only make it through 9.5 months: I built a second life for myself and if I can do it all by myself during the coldest winter in 120 years, I can do it anywhere.

xo
Layla