Unexpected Lessons From Abroad

In my previous posts, I’ve mentioned that Paris gave me a lot—a lot to think about, to write about, to be happy or humble or appreciative of. The commonality between each of the things I feel like I gained from my trip is that I didn’t expect them. Or, rather, all of my expectations were far exceeded in the City of Lights.

Friends ~

I hoped to make friends; I did not expect to meet people that I know would do virtually anything for me. I did not expect to know that after a week of knowing them. That is huge, that will never not be huge, and even if we don’t talk or spend as much time together now as we did in those whirlwind two weeks, I know that we’ll always have Paris, and because of that, I will always have them if I need them. I see so much beauty and potential in all of them, for individual reasons, and I felt that reflected back to me. That support is everything, the feeling of it can’t be diminished, even over time and distance.

(Not) Writing ~

I planned to write things that I am proud of; looking back now, I realize that I did. But in bits and pieces that mostly came together in the end, because I learned that even when you travel to a magical foreign city, TO WRITE, you can somehow find yourself with a case of writer’s block (see my next post all about this biggest pain in my butt, I mean lesson).

Self-Love ~

As I wrote before I started my international trip, I intended my travel to be full of self-love. I wanted to allow myself to enjoy all the new experiences I was having, but to take the best care of myself that I could so that I could minimize any other negative feelings or experiences. That’s a lot to ask of yourself in a completely foreign place, where you have no established routine, no recognizable situations of anxiety or overwhelm because each situation is new.

So, no, I didn’t always take the best care of myself that I could, despite my best attempts. This lead to slight illnesses, embarrassing mistakes, and experiences that I can only learn from. The unexpected lesson being: you have to love yourself even more when you mess up. It does no good to berate yourself internally when you are travelling. You may be surrounded by amazing new people who will do what they can to make you feel better, but ultimately, it’s up to you to brush off what you’re upset at or not proud of. It’s the only thing that will allow you to take the lesson and move forward. When you’re limited on time, this is especially crucial; you don’t want to spend a few days down on yourself when you could be out, letting yourself live your best life in a beautiful new place.

Accepting My Limits ~

Before Paris, I had a mental image of museum hopping and going out every single night. Basically, being much busier and much more extroverted than I am in my daily life. However, very quickly upon getting there, I surprised myself; I accepted that I could not do everything. We had two pieces of writing, plus a typed assignment, and often upwards of 50 pages of reading due each day. So, with studying alone, I had A LOT going on. That isn’t to say I didn’t explore Paris. I think everything that I managed to do – multiple city tours, two trips to Montmartre, thrift shopping all over the city, browsing Parisian book stores, a visit to the Louvre, a trip to Versaille, seeing the Eiffel Tower and going on a sunset boat cruise on the Seine, hitting three Parisian bars in one night, going to a jazz club, finding my own way to the Pantheon, and many fabulous meals and glasses of wine in cute cafes – was not too shabby for my first time in Paris.

Yes, I could’ve done more. A constant question I’m asked is if I went up in the Eiffel Tower. My answer has surprised and disappointed many; no, I didn’t. I intended to, to visit it a second time, to be more dressed up and to take in the spectacular view of Paris from the Tower itself. It didn’t pan out; only one other opportunity outside of my group’s first excursion presented itself, and that day, I needed to focus on that self-care stuff I was talking about. Maybe that doesn’t explain it well enough, but this time around, I was happy just to see it. It felt like enough to know that it was there, to be staring at it from the gray marbled steps first, and later, from the riverbank. I saw it against Paris’ beautiful, dreary, blue afternoon sky, and I watched it glitter in flashes of gold at exactly 6 pm against the blanket of navy that had crept over the city.

I was content in knowing that I would be there again someday, and we could get to know each other better then. Maybe that’s the real lesson from all of this; I know myself better now, after my first time in Paris.

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