The Happy Place

As a therapist, one of the techniques I often teach people for relaxation and coping is The Happy Place activity. The way that it works is you think of the happiest/most relaxing place you can imagine and then take yourself there, working through the five senses. I’ve been teaching this technique for about 4 years now and I often have people draw their happy place when we discuss it for the first time to help them visualize the place and make it specific. On the back of their picture we list the five senses and I have them identify what they would experience in each of their five senses if they were in their happy place while I share examples of my own.

When I ask my clients to draw their happy place, I always draw my own along with them. In the last 4 years my happy place has run the gambit. I’ve drawn mountains, beaches, and a wooded stream area. I’ve been alone, with just my husband, or surrounded by the whole family. You get the idea.

For our honeymoon, my husband and I spent two weeks in Germany and Austria. Since we returned, every time I have drawn or described my happy place, it has always been this.Grundlsee 1We spent a week at a time share in Bad Ausee, Austria on the Grundlsee lake. We kept the week pretty chill, needing some recovery time from all the wedding prep related stress and the first week of our honeymoon which we spent on the go at Oktoberfest, Neuschwanstein, and Salzburg. Grundlsee 8We didn’t make a whole lot of plans ahead of time. When we arrived, we went for a walk along the lake and saw a sign marking the departure point of the 3-Seen-Tour. Grundlsee 10Now, my English speaking brain naturally assumed that this was referring to the tour taking you through three different scenic areas, beginning with a boat ride. We picked up a brochure, which was entirely in German, and decided to go at some point during the week. Grundlsee 3We later discovered that “seen” actually means lakes, so the sign was in fact referring to a tour of three lakes. Our first boat ride took us from one end of the lake to the other where we got off the boat and were pointed toward a path. Grundlsee 5We only paid for a round trip ride on the first boat and were to purchase separate tickets for the tour of the second lake upon arrival. We still didn’t really understand, but pointing is pretty much universal.Grundlsee 4We walked along the path for about 30 or 40 minutes (only about 10 of which were through a small community before delving into the wilderness). Lake Tour WalkIt had been chilly and rainy through several days of our visit, but this day could not have been a more perfect fall day.   The open fields were followed by a forest trail. Eventually we came out of the trees to a path along another beautiful lake. I can’t be sure, but I think we were in the Austrian version of a state park. There was one restaurant and a few signs with faded pictures of the area (all in German).    A small sign standing apart from the others had a very small logo for the 3-Seen-Tour and what we hoped was a timetable marking departures for the next portion of the tour.   We were visiting in the off season, so we had been told by the first boat captain that the last departure time to return for the evening was several hours earlier than posted. The sign listed two scheduled tours of the second lake left that would allow us to get back in time to make the trek back to the first lake to catch the return boat, but we couldn’t be certain as our German is pretty terrible. We decided to risk missing the third lake in favor of lunch with an amazing view. We sat down at the restaurant and enjoyed a meal of fresh fish from the lake. Roland was slightly freaked out because the lake was so clear that we could see my lunch’s still living cousins swimming free.Lake Tour FishThe tour boat departed while we were eating, but luckily seemed to be leaving at the time we expected. Just as we finished lunch, the boat returned and began to fill up with another group.We joined a nearly full boat and paid the Captain for our tickets. This boat, as you can see, was pretty much an oversized canoe with an outboard motor. The boat drove us out into the center of the lake where the captain cut the engine and spent several minutes discussing the lake’s depth and history (at least that’s what I could cobble together in my limited German).  He pointed out several small waterfalls cascading down the mountain through the tree line as an added bonus.  The boat then took us to a small rocky beach area where we disembarked. Our group hiked up some rustic steps, across a small bridge, and then along a steadily rising path that ended on the top of a hill overlooking the third lake.  This lake was beautiful, but seemed to be the most anticlimactic part of the tour until an older gentleman in our group took out an alpine horn and began playing it in the valley.  It was one of those totally random moments in life that turned out to be the most beautiful and unexpected experience. If we hadn’t stopped to eat, we would have missed it. We sat on a bench listening to him play for a few minutes. He then good naturedly showed the young children in the group how to play and they took turns exuding the complete and utter joy of childhood.Grundlsee 6We walked back to the boat together and made the return trip to the restaurant. Roland and I walked the alternate path back to the first lake. We got back a little early for the boat, so we stopped and had some ice cream before catching the boat back.  It was a perfect day that we stumbled on completely by accident.    This is my Happy Place. What’s yours?

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