A Week in Paris...
In my opinion, we hold ourselves back from living outside of our comfort zone because of our fear of the unknown. And I get it, it’s scary.
But before I left, I asked my friend Colton, who’d backpacked through Europe from September to December of last year, if he felt nervous before he took off.
“I don’t really get nervous about situations where I don’t know what’s going to happen, because I don’t know what to be nervous about,” he said.
…no more nerves.
I think we underestimate our capabilities as humans — our mind chatter has the ability to keep us standing still. It’s amazing what we can achieve when we handle obstacles in the moment.
Throughout my entire trip, I met new people from all over the world.
Andrew, Carola, Lea and Dewa from Indonesia; Shehreyar from Pakistan, Rodrigo from Mexico, Lina from Japan; Zizi, Himanne and Gabby from Africa.
I met some fellow Americans, too. Charles from Texas, Trent and Jarred from Michigan, Sasha from Florida, and Eddie from New York. I praise them for leaving their home country to discover a new life across the pond.
And of course, those from France — Lucas, Kevin, Victoria and Thomás.
I know I'm not naming everyone, but regardless, each person I came into contact with holds a special place in my heart.
In depth conversations were inevitable while interacting with people, each their own unique, cultural background. And with every conservation, came the mutual, genuine interest in what each person had to say. I felt I was always being heard and my desire to listen came naturally. People wanted to know my story, my opinions and perspectives, and I wanted to know theirs.
I received praise for the journey I chose to embark on, and along with it, came vital advice.
“Wherever you are, be there. Right in the moment. Soak in the culture. Soak in the people and every interaction.” Zizi said. “And go to Morocco.”
People asked what it felt like to be in a foreign city, surrounded by foreign people speaking a language I couldn’t understand.
“Honestly, it’s exhilarating.” I said. “Even though I don’t know this place, the people, and I’m far from home, I love it.”
And not once did I feel out of place or uncomfortable. No matter where I was, someone was nearby to converse with.
Because I stayed with Nicole, who’s created a life for herself in Paris, I played the role of the observer. Throughout the week, I became aware of who had relations with who, what sort of vibe each person carried, and how people approached their daily life.
My conclusion: there’s a honest flow here.
I feel like people reserve their right to be interpersonal and make it a priority to surround themselves with loved ones. Maybe it’s because it’s a socialist country?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems people in Paris love to dine. I went out to eat at least once a day. We’d make plans with one person to have lunch, then plenty more people would join, we’d enjoy our time together, and people would simply leave on their own terms.
Not to mention, the quality of food exceeds the states' by a long shot. Even the casual consumption of an orange had my taste buds zinging, followed by vegetable quiche, chocolate croissants. eclairs and endless amounts of authentic food from various countries. I'm able to say Korean and Pakistani food has digested happily through my body.
Making plans was like spreading butter on toast — so easy. We’d text people asking to hang out, and if they were available, t’was a done deal. I’m not sure the phrase “strict itinerary” even exists here?
And even if the unfortunate situation arose where plans had to be canceled, there’s no justification for it. I believe people respect other each other’s lives and independency.
As we all know, people greet each other in France by kissing on the cheek, which contrasts the typical handshake in the states. It seems minuscule, but when two people exchange skin-to-skin contact during the first meet, it immediately creates a connection.
This quickly became second nature to me, and I will be sad to not greet people from home in this way. It quickly set the tone to start a conversation with any person.
Communicating with people from France was an experience in and of itself. Whenever I spoke a French person, whos’ English wasn’t as strong as their French, I had to be engaged at all times, or else I’d get lost in the conversation. It also encouraged me to be more mindful of my vocabulary — I noticed myself speaking more efficiently.
I took a gamble by staying with a girl I didn’t know very well, as she took a gamble by letting myself into her home. We didn’t know each other very well before this, but we both hit the jackpot and left each other with a lovely, embedded friendship.
If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have been able to see the city the way I did. I experienced Paris through the eyes of person who lives there, which is rare for a person simply passing through.
Needless to say, as much as Paris is a beautiful city, I fell more in love with the experience as a whole. Pour toujours dans mon cœur — forever in my heart.