A viral smile, simple pleasures and a road less travelled


It’s amazing how many smiles you can generate from a blue helium balloon.

Sitting on the corner of Kirchgasse and Oberdorfstrasse, central Zurich, the cute little girl with long blond pigtails happily bounced past on her father shoulders clutching tightly the string that was tied to a prized blue helium balloon. Her excited smile generated by such a simple possession was easily transferred to me. Then, in turn, it was reflected back to her father when we made eye contact as I sat at the pavement café drinking strong, aromatic Moka Efti coffee. The girl that sat on the next table that had devoured what looked like a large fish, salad and bread so crunchy I could hear her take each bite at 12 feet away, also grinned as the smile of the little girl went viral on that street corner.

I had been in Switzerland for a couple of days staying at Oberägeri for a business conference – CEVMA 2012. The venue was held at Zentrum Ländli, an intriguing, quirky place in an idyllic location. It had been two long days. I was up before dawn for a 3:45am start on Friday, travelling via Amsterdam to Zurich on KLM. It was well past midnight by the time I was in bed on Saturday night after an awards ceremony where the creative team from Kiev had been awarded “Best Drama 2012.” However, earlier I had done that crazy thing we all do when I was able to connect to the Internet, I opened Outlook and just “checked one more time” my inbox. Sitting on top of a bright yellow O in a small red circle was the number 54 in white.

By the time my return train had got to Zurich airport that number had reduced slightly. The now out of date amazing daily deals from Groupon, “Offers for you from Amazon” and notification of a substantial win on the lottery in Nigeria, had hit the deleted items file quickly. There was a few new names added to the Contacts files, I had written numerous “good to meet you” emails, but the white number had not reduced that much. I was in a dilemma, should I go and check-in really early, get to the lounge and clear the inbox or should I chose another path? My mortality has been nagging at me for a little while now. The speed that days seem to pass are getting faster and no matter how hard I try to apply the brakes, the sense that time is limited grows stronger as each day finishes. I remembered a poem about making choices about what path we will take in life.

Robert Frost wrote,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I doubted if I would ever come back to Zurich. I doubted that the empty inbox would stay empty. It wasn’t long; I had less than a couple of hours. It was then I purposed to make the most of those cherished minutes.I walked through shaded cobbled streets in the old town; watched in wonder as what seemed like most of Zurich played boules in Lindenhof square where sculptured fountains bubbled. I saw a St Bernard dog with a red handkerchief rather than a barrel of brandy around his neck. I came across an enthusiastic Oompah Band, ate a Bratwurst, and watched young and old feed swans on Lake Zürich. I finally found myself sitting at café Karl der Große in the long shadows cast from the twin towers of Grossmünster watching a viral smile on the face of a little girl with a blue helium balloon. Simple moments. A life is made up of the accumulation of simple moments. There are here, and they are gone. They are here, and they are gone. Not knowing how many I have left, I want to savour the simple moments in them all. The white number is still nagging me. But for today, I am glad I chose, the other path, “the one less travelled by, that has made all the difference.”  (The sprint to the check-in desk did me good as well!)

What about you? Do you travel from airport to hotel to meeting to hotel to airport? Has that little white number reduced? It’s not always possible, it’s not always realistic, I know, but are you missing the smile that comes from a blue helium balloon? The road less travelled for those “on the road” can be easily missed, but what could you see if you took that road today? What simple moment could bring a smile to your face and create a memory to last beyond the journey? Have you ever experienced similar simple moments, I would love to hear about them. Can you choose the road less travelled?

Source: Thanks to Oller Destination Expert & Forum Contributor at Tripadvisor for information on “A Few Hours in Zurich”  and John Evans for image via Stock.Xchng

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Posted on by Peter Billingham in Happiness, Legacy, Travel

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

5 Responses to A viral smile, simple pleasures and a road less travelled

  1. Peter

    Thanks for the response, glad you enjoyed reading the post.

  2. Terry Bennett

    Great article and very thought provoking. I do NOT stop and take in what’s happening about me enough. That is going to be rectified. Thanks.

    • Peter

      Thanks for the feedback – it’s all in the details … glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Ruslan Maliuta

    Peter, thanks for a great (and much needed) reminder about taking a road less traveled and creating memories. I’m in Seoul as I write this and now I definitely want to make sure that it’s not only about the airports, meetings, etc.

  4. Pingback: 109 Reasons its good to expect the sun will come out tomorrow | Peter Billingham

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