As my Instagram feed suggests — I did not return to the States with the rest of the Columbia crew. When Columbia first threw out the possibility of running one of the UTMB trail races I was excited about a week in France, then I spent two weeks in Chile and realized that was nowhere near enough time to really explore an area. I opted to extend my stay a few weeks…and then a few months. In Switzerland you can stay in the country on a visitor’s visa for up to 90 days over a 180 day period and that is exactly what I plan on doing.

Not many people knew about this little endeavor of mine — just a handful of family + friends. Columbia Sportswear asked us to keep our OCC/UTMB trip under wraps which took away some of my “omg, Switzerland” oversharing freedom and, with time, I just got really good at leaving out the details of any part of my life past late-August.

When I did tell people about my plans to stay in Europe after the race I think the biggest question was “what are you going to do?!” to which my answer was always “I really don’t know”. And I wasn’t saying that to be sly; I honestly didn’t have a solid plan. Heck, I’ve been here almost two full weeks and I still don’t have a solid plan. Each day I’ve had roughly the next 12 hours planned out, beyond that it’s all up in the air. I’m really just going to go with the flow of things and see where all of this takes me.

The second question people ask is “why”…to which I respond “why not?”. I don’t have a good reason to be here but I don’t have a better reason not to be. I’m not really looking for anything — I don’t feel lost or confused about life. I’m not exactly running away from anything…except, maybe the idea of taking on a real, full time job again. I’m just here, to see what here has to offer. I’m not hoping to find or lose anything while I’m here but I do plan on taking it all in, one day at a time!

My tentative plan when I left the US involved a week in Chamonix with Columbia Sportswear + running the OCC followed by a week hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc trail [essentially the UTMB race course] with a stop in Zurich to see a friend before heading back into the Swiss Alps for a few weeks of volunteering at a hostel [check out — it’s a volunteer exchange network] and then…whatever tickles my fancy.

Since the Columbia crew left Chamonix I stuck with that plan for exactly two days before I changed it all up. I decided I wasn’t in love with the TMB route [more on that later!] and opted to head for Zurich earlier to spend a few days regrouping and rehatching my game plan for some adventure before heading to the mountain hostel.

And with that…here I am, roaming around Switzerland and whatever nearby country calls my name over the next 90ish days. I have been doing surprisingly well without a specific plan, even I’m surprised by the complete lack of teary melt downs. Unfortunately, I have done a fantastic job of being “that American” when it comes to making silly mistakes but no one has punched me…yet.


Jena · September 5, 2021 at 6:19 am

You are incredible. That is all.

Katie @k8tlevy · September 7, 2021 at 2:31 pm

This is SO AWESOME, Heidi! I’m having a blast following along while you’re on this adventure. I’m such a creature of routine, I’d lose my mind if I didn’t have more than the next 12 hours planned. Good for you for doing all of this, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

    Heidi Nicole · September 9, 2021 at 8:01 am

    Well…the truth is, I may have already lost my mind and that’s how I’m coping! 😉 But really, I’ve been lucky and it’s always worked out. I’ve also packed along my sleeping bag + nighttime necessities on all of my hikes, just in case things didn’t quite work out. Having a survivable backup plans helps, even when the extra weight sucks! [and even with everything in Switzerland, I’m a little jealous of your CO trip…now I have a place to explore when I return, the entire Snowmass area!]

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