I spent a lot of today sitting at my computer. Not an unusual workday. Except that my desk is in a 13-year-old girl’s Justin-Bieber-bedecked bedroom in a snow-covered village in Thurgau, Switzerland.
It’s the dream of the freelance life: With a laptop and a good internet connection, you can work from anywhere. This year, I’m testing that theory. Normally, I work in a sunny apartment in Washington, D.C. But last fall my British boyfriend found out he was going to have to leave the U.S. for several months. He rounded up some temporary employment in France and Sweden, and I started poking around for story ideas to pitch.
Discover went for one of those stories, a new piece of a topic I’ve been following for a decade, so I started my European adventure with some reporting in Zurich. I thought I might be able to join my boyfriend in Toulouse, France, a week ago, but I’ve ended up having to stay a lot longer. I’m waiting for something to happen on my story. Normally that would mean being lonely in a hotel.
But I spent a summer in Switzerland when I was in high school. This visit, when I had to extend my stay, my high school host parents invited me to move in with them. They kicked their daughter out of her room and here I am, writing under a poster of two kittens in a hammock.
Today included a lot of the usual work tasks: transcribing an interview, answering e-mails from editors, wasting time on Facebook, and trying to make arrangements for another reporting trip later this spring.
But today’s lunch was a little different from my usual peanut butter and crackers: a meaty stew with Rösti, a delightful Swiss specialty made of fried shredded potatoes. After lunch, my hostmother and I went visiting, stopping for tea and cake at the cheese factory her brother’s family runs and then dropping by her mother’s house for more tea and chocolates.
I’ve spent a lot of the day grumpy about one work-related thing or another. But being in Switzerland kind of makes it better. Earlier this week I went on outings to Appenzell, a quintessentially Swiss region, nestled among pastures and Alps, and to the nearby city of St. Gallen, home of a beautiful medieval abbey and a textile museum featuring the local embroidery.
And then there’s the chocolate. A nephew of my hosts is doing an apprenticeship at a boutique chocolatier. Yesterday I had a chocolate filled with grappa. I think there was a whole grape in there, too. It was like a deliciousness bomb went off in my mouth.
So far, it looks like it works: I’ve got my laptop and my PlannerPad, and I’m getting things done. Some of the editors and sources I’m corresponding with know where I am, but for others, I might as well be in D.C. I’m probably about as productive here as I am at my own desk — but the scenery’s a lot better.