Swiss Expat Story: Monika in Buena Vista, USA

von MySwissWorld & Swiss Food Box Team

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We welcome you to our newest interview in our weekly series. Here we interview each week somebody from the community and learn a bit more about their lives. This week, from Buena Vista, USA:

Meet Monika Courtney, the founder of Thunderbird Spirit Ranch, an animal sanctuary located in Buena Vista, Colorado. Monika is originally from Switzerland, having grown up in Oftringen and spending time in Klosters and Davos. In this interview, Monika shares her love for Switzerland, her connection to the country, and the things she misses the most about it. She also talks about her life in Colorado, running the animal sanctuary out of pocket, and her hopes of returning to Switzerland someday. Read on to learn more about Monika's journey and her passion for animal welfare.
What is your name and where are you living now?
My name is Monika Courtney, I live in Buena Vista, Colorado. We run an animal sanctuary called Thunderbird Spirit Ranch on an old 40 acre ranch below the Collegiate Peaks of the Rockies. 
It’s home to 150 hens, 34 ducks, a llama and 7 horses (some of them Mustangs). All animals are rescued and rehabbed. We operate this sanctuary out of pocket and sell eggs and our own honey from our bee hives to help sustain the massive overhead.
We offer camping, just bring chocolate. We love visitors. 😊 
What is your connection to Switzerland? Have you been born there, or do you have some roots in Switzerland? 
I was born in Zofingen AG, and grew up in Oftringen. After graduating KV, I moved to Klosters and Davos, as I love the Swiss Alps.
What is the thing that you miss about Switzerland the most?
I miss the beauty and stability of Switzerland. The high standards of living, the extraordinary Alps, the extensive hiking trails available everywhere across the country, the amazing varieties of breads, and the giant selection of chocolates, especially Ragusa, Ovo products, and Rivella.
I miss the serenity of Swiss nature, the incredible infrastructure and innovation of Switzerland in all aspects. I miss Migros and Coop. In short, I miss everything. 
What do you think is better or do you like more in your new country?
I appreciate the open spaces and rugged wilderness areas here in Colorado, with wildlife such as elk, bears, moose and mountain lions. Although lots of hard work and challenges due to dry climate and lack of water, I love running a ranch to help give animals in need a second chance at life.
Do you have any plans of returning soon? For vacations or permanently.
Sadly I haven’t been able to go home to CH in 21 years. My parents disowned me when we moved to the US. That made going back for visits difficult, but I took my kids back when they were little through the Swiss camps for kids abroad, many years ago. 
Our two kids were born in Switzerland, that was important to me so they have dual citizenship. My husband is American, we met in Florida. I hope to go home again to CH for a while, if I can find someone to care for our ranch during that time. It’s been over two decades since I was there
I miss the luscious seasons, lakes, rivers and the rain. I look so forward to go back although I’m sure a lot has changed. Who knows, if we find a little farmhouse someday, we may just retire in Switzerland! 
Ps. If you ever head to Colorado, stop by! You could camp! We are near hot springs. You can find our Instagram here and maybe come visit! 😊


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