An interesting observation that I have made regarding Swiss people is that they love to travel. Maybe it’s because the Swiss are known for being wealthy, or perhaps it’s because of the country’s small size and its proximity to numerous other countries. Another possible reason is the importance of Switzerland in the international sphere – as the home to various international organisations, it’s a country with many international connections.
But there is also a historical element, a cultural element, which helps to explain my observation. The famous explorer, Nicolas Bouvier, was in fact Swiss. When he was only 23 years old, Bouvier, who was born in Lancy, a district of Geneva, undertook the journey of his life. Travelling from Switzerland to Japan by car, Bouvier travelled for four years between 1953-1957. On his route, he visited many typically overlooked and misunderstood countries in Europe and Asia. The goal of his journey was to better understand the people who live in these countries – to discover their ‘mode de vie’.
Bouvier wrote about his experiences in his famous book, L’Usage du Monde. In his writings, Bouvier emphasised the severity of wars and widespread hardship across the world, commenting that life for most people in the world is more difficult than we realise.
This book, which I am currently studying in my French course, has provoked me to think about the effect of this man on his hometown of Geneva. Even though he died more than 20 years ago, Bouvier definitely has a legacy here. For example, there is a business school which bears his name in Geneva. I wonder also if he will inspire the future generation of Swiss youth to follow in his footsteps!