The age of real adventure is over. All of the exploring has been done, all of the discoveries made. What a load of baloney. Sure, these days it’s harder—though not impossible—to get yourself eaten by cannibals or kidnapped by pirates. But that’s not my thing. I’m drawn to traveling wild places under my own power, which I’ve done from Tibet to Peru. So where have I had the biggest epic of my life? Easy: Switzerland. Never mind that a century and a half ago, intrepid Brits used Swiss peaks to launch the golden age of mountaineering. Trekking? The Alps are ground zero. You’d be forgiven for thinking Switzerland is the last place to go looking for new adventure. But you’d be wrong.
I found the real thing—and then some—on a hike-climb-paddle-bike journey around the Swiss border. The idea of circumnavigating Switzerland has been with me so long that the goal seems simultaneously vague and vividly clear, like my memories of living in a Swiss mountain village almost five decades ago, when I was 10 years old. The journey stared at me every time I opened a map of Europe: the perfect loop trip. Mountain travel? Tracing the exact border on a topo map revealed a staggering 600,000 feet of vertical ascent. Discovery? The complete border covers 1,400 miles along the edges of five countries, most of it far from anything described in a guidebook.
So what does it mean to have a real adventure? I take my cue from a well-known Supreme Court case: I’ll know it when I do it.