Ah, Paris – the city of love, light, and romance. Oh la la!
I just finished up a week in this French capital, and as usual I had a range of thoughts that went through my head while I was in the city. Writers’ brains seem to be in constant motion. Call it a gift or a curse, but my brain is no exception.
In fact, my brain is more the equivalent of a dog when he sees a squirrel – easily distracted and excited about the mundane things in life.
I make it sound like a cool superpower when I describe myself as having “the curiosity of a child”, but really I just have a lot of random thoughts that ramble through my brain on any given day.
These were a few of the deep thoughts and reflections I had about French life while I was in Paris.
The warm spring days we’ve been having in the Pacific Northwest lately have only made me think more about summer and what I want to do with it. Summer is a time for adventures, of getting lost in new cities, enjoying long days, and having chilled wine catch-ups on rooftops during warm summer nights. Summer is also the time to travel.
The first time I ever solo traveled was in Paris, France in the middle of summer. It was by no accident that I ended up in the City of Light by myself. From a young age I had always been fascinated by Francophone culture and had dreamt of going to Paris for years. I thought it was only fitting that it would be the first place to find my independence as a solo female traveler.
I turn a quarter of a century old tomorrow. I’m in the Oregon countryside with my family and I’m just as happy as I was when I turned 21 in San Diego, 22 in Las Vegas, 23 in Melbourne, Australia, and 24 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Funny enough, this house in the country is actually where I first started this blog. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, my immediate future is staring at me from around the corner. That future that determines so much of how my life will go.
25 sounded so old to my teenage and younger self. To my 24 year old self I still feel young, I’m at the cusp of many an exciting endeavor, I’m also in the dark of what the next year will entail.
I decided to not go straight into an intellectually stimulating (or probably more accurate, a mind numbingly) entry level job from my college graduation.
I’ve always been a worrier, someone who doubted and second guessed things. Then I took a chance and did something I always wanted to do: I moved abroad. I did it without an idea of what job I would find to keep me afloat, with which friends I would find a new perspective, with what inspiration I would find throughout the course of my two years away from home.
And in the end, it worked out just as it was meant to. As I’ve traveled up the coast of California and Oregon for the past two months, I’ve found how much I still appreciate and love my friends I knew from college, from past travels, and the new friends I’ve met through them.
How it feels like no time has passed at all. This initial veer off the idealized path has created a domino effect in my life. My passions come back to me, knock the breath out of me, I’m in love with so many things. But that’s always how I wanted to spend my life.
To me, it shows how genuinely happy I am going into this milestone birthday, how content and even excited I am with how my life is going even though I may not know exactly what I’m doing with it, or even what I’m doing tomorrow or the next day.
All I know is that music and writing have popped up time and time again through the years, and I don’t believe in coincidence.
I want to finish a master’s degree, I want to record an album and play at open mics or on the street just for the fun of it. I want to start a stellar record collection and become even broader with my music tastes. I want to write a book, to write full time for this blog. I want to become fluent in Spanish and travel to South America, go to Argentina and learn how to properly tango.
I want to take a cross country road trip with my boyfriend in our beat up van through the States and Canada. I want to settle down in Portland for awhile. I want to teach English in Japan, and live in London just to write for a summer. I want to go to concerts constantly, and festivals as much as my bank account allows.
I want to continually learn, to grow and find out how many ways I can enjoy life in the process.
In my (almost) 25 years I’ve earned my open water scuba certification, took culinary classes in Italy, traveled to 20 countries, completely started over in 4 different cities, received my bachelor’s degree in psychology, skydived over the middle of New Zealand, traveled on my own, volunteered at music festivals in Australia, fell in love with guitar, and lived.
I’ve dealt with loss, sadness, loneliness and self doubt. I’ve gone through the spectrum of emotions and come out on the other side with a sunnier disposition and an attitude that I can face anything I put my mind to.
I don’t see why I can’t do the rest of it as well, because all of those plans I mentioned before, I truly hope to one day do.
I’m finally figuring myself out: my confidence, what I love and what I don’t, what I want and what I’m willing to do to make sure my ambitions become reality.
25 is a year to not only get things done, but to enjoy it and embrace any fears or reluctances I may have. I can only imagine it’ll just get better as I get into my late 20s. So, here’s to a quarter of a century of living, and a quarter of a century to figure out where I really want to go is where I am in the present.
As Ben Howard once wrote, “Climb out. Out enough to see the curl of the world.” I’ve taken that to heart ever since.
Snapshot memories is a new weekly series, giving a visual glimpse into different destinations and unique ways to view them. It’s also a way for me to look back on travels that occurred before and after I started this blog, and to give each place I’ve traveled the attention it deserves.
This week my memories go back to Paris.
I had wanted to go to the city of light since I was a little girl, enamored with Francophone culture. I didn’t end up taking French language lessons until I reached university level, but that only sparked my interest more, especially since my instructor was from Paris.
I have to be honest, I didn’t have enough time to get a feel for the city as I would’ve liked, I only had a week at the start of my backpacking trip through the rest of Europe, and it went by far too quickly, especially with the long lines at most attractions in Paris during the summer.
It rained the whole week I was there. From day 1, I arrived at my little hotel room and found the few warm clothes hiding in the crevices of my suitcase. After spending a month in humid Florence never needing more than a light cotton t-shirt, the weather was something to get used to a little further north.
My first night I met up with one of my sorority sisters and a few of her friends from back in San Diego. We hit the town and I realized just how expensive a night in Paris can be. We went to a ritzy gay nightclub on Champs-Élysées called Le Queen that had a standard exorbitant entry fee that included a drink, and the same beat that played the whole night.
Even though it was overpriced and repetitive, it turned out to be an incredible night. We stayed out dancing until 6am so that we could save money and catch the first train of the day home in the morning.
The rest of my Parisian time wasn’t spent quite so extravagantly to the relief of my budget, but I still managed to squeeze in a lot with my time there.
I saw the Louvre and the very tiny Mona Lisa, I stood next to the beautiful Notre Dame, I toured the Pompidou Museum, sipped Cappuccinos in Parisian cafes looking out at the rain, sat along the Seine, and learned how to use the extensive underground metro system.
I found the best hidden kebabs in nondescript shops, stood under the Arc de Triomphe and discovered my favorite neighborhood in Paris is Montmartre, which gave me a chance to see the breathtaking Basilica of Sacre-Coeur, and brought me back to scenes from one of my favorite movies, Amélie.
I went to a ridiculously good burlesque show, toured the city lights, drove past the Académie Nationale de Musique, where Phantom of the Opera was supposed to take place, and saw the Moulin Rouge from afar. I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night, and I tried escargot for the first time and french onion soup.
I wish I had taken more pictures while I was there because there were so many character filled cafes (and way too many chocolate croissants that I ate), and so much beauty in the details of every day life in the city outside of just the standard attractions that every tourist and their mom goes to.
But alas with the snapshot memories that I do have, the way I would remember paris is in Colorful Funky Artwork, the Elegant (mostly gothic) Architecture, and the Famous Historical Monuments I came across on a daily basis. I found it to be the city of light in a great many ways.