It’s the worst experiences that change us, define us, allow us to become what we want to be.

Caspar David Friedrich, Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer

In the summer of 1998 I took a job teaching at a Swiss hotel management school in the French speaking part of the Alps, in order to escape my American life. (I was a nomad before the adjective “digital” had been anchored to it). I wanted to write, and I found it impossible to write while teaching at an expensive private college in Los…