The flight that changed our destiny:
Swissair flight 204 ZRH – ATL August 10. 1987
In the summer of 1987 our workload did not allow us to make any vacation plans in advance. So when my wife and I found a 10-day window in our schedule we had to make up our mind quickly. Swissair just started a new daily flight from Zurich to Atlanta. Discovering a new part of the USA sounded interesting. The next day we boarded the plane and crossed the Atlantic. Upon arrival we picked up our rental car and drove down to the coast. A friend told us we should visit Hilton Head Island, where we had a reservation at a hotel on the beach. How are we going to find the hotel my wife asked? Don’t worry there will be a big red neo sign…
When we arrived, it was not only night but also dark. No bright signs leading the way and 28 years ago there where no smart phones. After stopping 3 times and asking for directions we eventually found the hotel. The first 2 days where spent on the beach and enjoying the resort amenities. But then it started to rain and would not stop. We picked up every magazine and started to develop a feel for the place. Why don’t we take a real estate tour – I asked - it seems a good way to discover the different private plantations and see how people live here? The next day an elegant lady picked us up in her sedan, ready to show us the Island. The second home we saw was a darling 3 bedroom home in Port Royal overlooking a lagoon with sunsets. A young couple had re-decorated it and even the bed spreads and window curtains matched the colors of the interior – a novelty from a European perspective. Long story short we ended up signing the offer on our last vacation day before flying back – it still rained…
What made us choose Hilton Head versus any other place on earth? There was a distinctively romantic side to the decision namely the feeling that there is a balance between civilization and nature, overwhelming natural beauty that surrounds you everywhere and that the beach is always within biking distance. There was also a pure rational side: the fact that we could buy a free standing home on ¾ of an acre for the equivalent of a 1-bedroom apartment in Switzerland.
Four years later we moved here permanently, raised a family and started our own publishing company from scratch. Reflecting back on a quarter of a century of living and working in the Lowcountry, it still feels like it was a good decision. The inconvenience of living is a small place can be made up with “reverse tourism” (we travel for business and big city fixes) and once back home nothing replaces the quality of life we enjoy on a daily basis. There are very few places where you can play tennis in the morning, then go for an afternoon sail and hear the Symphony at night all on the same Sunday.
People know you by name and personal or business advice is straightforward and forthcoming. If you need something you simply ask around and before you know it, you are connected to the right person. The constant wave of interesting people that just moved here gives me the opportunity to meet new faces and expand my own horizons.
If you like crowded I recommend Manhattan. It’s also an Island and about the same geographic size, but it is inhabited by 1.6 million residents and hosts 30x more visitors than we do. Having traveled to 4 continents, 30 countries and crisscrossed the USA I can say that living in the Lowcountry nestled in between historic Savannah and Charleston is special.
When the world at times seems to spin out of control our community feels grounded and able to preserve a sense of normal better than most places do; it is a sanctuary that allows me to focus and find my inner voice where I can connect to nature every day. That is what I like about this place.
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