Week 3: Learning Through Travel

Here is Week 3 BootsnAll’s Indie Travel Challenge:

Have you ever studied or taken classes on a trip? What did you study, and perhaps more importantly, what did you learn while on that trip?  What would you like to learn on your travels this year?

I have been living abroad for a little over a year and a half now. I frequently like to reflect and look at all this year has given me. It actually is a bit overwhelming to think back to the day I stood in the security line, equipped with a backpack and suitcase in hand, staring back at the anxious and tear-filled faces of my parents. At that moment I had no idea what the next year for me would bring or if I was making the right choice. A part of me wanted to jump out of line and back into their arms of safety, cradled with in love and support. But also those arms represented everything I already knew and I was ready for something different. At that, I took a deep breath and continued in line to security.

Now, how does this relate to this week’s prompt? Well, because with that one step I started the learning process. I learned that I have more courage than I ever thought. But this wasn’t all I learned. My time in France has been some of the best education I have received. In a formal sense, I cannot speak too highly on the French classes I have participated in; however, learning a new language has been part of my education here. Outside the classroom is where I believe I have gained the most. Not only have I opened my eyes to the world around me: new cultures, new foods, new languages, new customs, the list goes on; but also I have learned about myself. There are things I have done that I never thought I could be capable of. I have simultaneously had the best and worst year of my life. Because of the hardships, I have been able to appreciate what I have more greatly.

My very first trip to Europe was with a group and was an organized tour. I only got 10 days and 3 different cities. When I look back on that trip, I remember the way I felt and all the things I saw. Yes, I did learn about new thing however I my level of learning was very shallow. I only got to skim the surface of what really made up all of these magnificent cities. I took away history and fun facts, but did I really know what made these cities tick? No. And that wasn’t any fault of mine. It merely was my limited time and my lack of exposure in travelling to these places. As I said, I was with a group. There were my friends, teachers, mentors. It was familiar. I blindly followed the tour guide, rarely having to think about where I was going or how I was getting there. I never had to communicate with someone who spoke a different language than me. My interactions with locals were extremely limited. To me, it is all these factors that add to the education you get while travelling.

When taken out of your comfort zone, you are required to adapt and to learn. You are forced to be flexible to surroundings and in that you are developing more knowledge of that around you. You are more aware because you have to be—it’s new, undiscovered territory. Because of that, the wine tastes better, the bread smells better, the people are prettier. But when you are really able to delve further you also are faced with fear and uncertainty. In order to accumulate you have to fight this and in this process you are learning not only about your surroundings but about your capabilities to adapt.

This year I would like to continue the journey I am on by taking advantage of everything I have in front of me. I want to kick it up a notch 🙂 I hope to not only improve my French, but also learn other languages (like improve my elementary Spanish!) New cultures and different countries will continue to provide me with fresh perspectives and increase my thirst for more. To be honest, I would also really like to learn what it is I actually want. I mean, I know the basics of what I want but I have yet to figure out what will make me truly happy. Well, I lied. What would make me happy would to be a travel writer and photography and continue to travel the world. I guess what I mean is I want to know where I should plop myself down next. I am searching for something, I just don’t know what. I would like to learn what that is.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

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French Summer= Rain for Days.

I am having quite a hard time believe that this is July. The July I am used to is full of BBQs and bikinis, not rain and jackets. Apparently, because we had such a good spring… we are paying for it now. That doesn’t make sense in my head but hey Ill let the French justify their crappy season.

On a high note (well I dont know if this counts as a high note but ill take it), today I noticed myself wearing the same outfit as about 70 percent of the women on the metro today. Beige raincoat, scarf, dark skinny jeans, heels. Have I been here too long? Am I slowly disappearing into the 20-something crowd of commuters on the metro?

I mean, I guess it is about time. I am living here. I have been for quite some time. I know what metro to take when the usual one is too crowded and what lines to avoid. I know where the best falafel in town is and where the best spot is to sit on a sunny afternoon. I now have no fear to ask the sales guy in the tech store if these speakers work with my Mac… in French.

Now, these all may seem like little thing… and they are. But they are little triumphs and that is what matters. In France, I have learned you have to take what you get and enjoy ever second of it. This year has been a test–and one I have struggled to get good grades with I might add–but slowly I am starting to get a few questions right.  And it feels good.

I was talking to an old friend of mine the other day and we were talking about growing up. I have known him since 5th grade… so it was easy to be nostalgic. We were wondering when this whole grown up thing happened. Here I am. Hardly a grown up, yet technically living that life. I have a real 9 to 6 (ish) job. I pay my own bills. I do my own thing. But I still feel like I waiting for it to get real. But it is real now. Am I making sense at all?

Sorry for rambling on but it is still crazy to think where I am and what I am doing. Honestly, I would be happy where ever life took me next. After this, I feel ready for anything. Preferably on a year-long travel adventure… but hey whatever works 🙂

My Year in Numbers

Number of days spent in France: 366

Vaux sur Seine’s population vs San Diego’s: 4,000 vs 1,223,400

Miles between Southern California and Paris: 5,600

Number of countries visited: 7

Size of my very own place in Paris: 15 square meters

Visits to the Prefecture: 10+

Average number of roses given to me in a night out: 2

Number of trains I have been stuck on a runaway train and had to jump off: 1

Number of months the French pension strike occurred: 2

Number of years ago France had such a cold winter and as much snow as 2010: 25

Amount of Euros I was paid  per week as an au pair: 90

Cost (in euros) of a (cheap) pint of beer in Paris: 5

Number of trips up 6 flights of stairs to move: 8+

Number of baguettes eaten on average per week: 2

Average number of liters a French person drinks of wine a year: 57

Average number of people who read ride the Paris every day: 4.5 million

Average number of minutes daily spent on the metro for my work commute: 50

Average rainfall in inches in Paris vs. San Diego: 24 vs. 12

Average number of times I still talk to my mom A DAY: 2 🙂

Number of marriage proposals I have received this year: 5+

Number of times a night random French guys will tell you “you are ze most beauuteeefulll gurl in ze world”: 15+

Number of scarves I own: 15

Average number of times I had to clean up caca a week as an au pair: 5

Average number of people who visit Paris a year, in millions: 30

Times I have gone home since living here: 1

3 things I don’t know how I lived without: unpasteurized cheese, lebanese food, boulangeries

3 things I could definitely live without: France closing down on Sundays, French administration, lack of sunshine in the winter

 

Number of times I have regretted my decision to move abroad: 0

My Year in Review

Its official. One year ago today I was landing in Paris and running into the arms of the girl who helped me get here. I had no idea what was ahead of me and I definitely had no idea what … Continue reading

Silly Sorrows

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia

 

Life in France is strange. But I havent completely decided if that is France’s fault or the whole living on my own as an adult part.

Lately a lot has been going on and there doesn’t seem to be a break really. Dont get me wrong… work is incredible and so is my petite Parisien flat but damn, when it rains it pours.

Anyone who knows me knows that I talk to my mama a lot…. A LOT. She is always trying to lure me home and failing but when it comes down to it, she really wont let me give up. Today was one of those days where there is too much going on in your life for your brain to process it all. And there she was pushing me to look on the bright side of things. Honestly–my personal cheerleader. My mom has this ability to bring me back down to reality. The thing about me is I am pretty laid back and low-key until things get out of control and then its like all hell breaks loose… for about 2 hours until I calm down and see the crazy person I am being. 🙂 But today my mom helped me realize all i have accomplished being here and that everyday I feel like this is another day that I am learning and growing.

I have always had an easy life. To be blatantly honest. Yes, things have gone wrong and I have dealt with major things. However, I have always managed to get basically everything I want. Not easily, but still. I have always had an incredible network of people around me. My family was never far away. But now I am in a crazy new place and i have to get used to things being different.

When I have a bad day, I can’t drive 50 minutes to have my mom cook me dinner. Or when I am broke I can’t have my dad come down to go grocery shopping and put gas in my car. I don’t live in a sorority house with 34 of my close friends and room with my best friend. I don’t have a social calendar anymore. I don’t have a boyfriend to escape to when I can’t party anymore or the girls are driving me mad. I don’t live in a country where they speak the same language as me and where nothing is convenient.

The thing is though…. that strangely that is all ok. Sometimes it bogs me down and I can’t see past what I don’t have. But then (after those 2 hours of craziness) i realize what I do have.

I have more than I ever have before. I have more courage and patience. More knowledge of other cultures and ways of doing things. More independence. More responsibility. More flexibility. More freedom. More experience. More choices.

It is completely my life now. 100 percent. And I couldn’t be more proud. I am so fortunate for everything that I have. With everything going on I have realized what is important and what isn’t. I realize how lucky I am and how important it is to never take a day for granted.

You are alive and breathing. Make the most of it.

Well Hello Again World!!!!

Where have I been? Honestly. I do not know why I have not been writing. I think it is a combo between the fact I have been incredibly busy and that I no longer can use an American keyboard very … Continue reading

May. The month of visitors.

A lot has changed recently. And it is all going fast. Mostly good changes and other inevitable changes.

This month I moved into my new place.  I seriously can’t believe that I have been here a month already but in a way it seems so mine that I feel like I have been here longer. I really love where I live and the fact I live alone. However, I only have had this alone-ness during the week because I have had a visitor every single weekend in May. It’s so awesome to get to host people. Some of my best friends came and it is always nice to have a familiar face from home. My friend Karina, who is currently living in Berlin, came and it was really nice to not only catch up but also be able to have someone relate to you. People back home and people where you live never will understand what it is like to be an expat. And although Karina lives in a completely different country, our experiences have been very similar.

More recently my friend Christy came and it was really cool to see someone just starting their year abroad. I remember exactly what it felt like. And had no clue what was before me.

I can honestly say this was the greatest, but hardest year of my life. I had no idea what I was getting into. And although sometimes I didn’t/don’t think I am going to make it… it has been more worth it than anything I have ever done. I never would change any of it. But I really have learned a lot about things and especially myself. I have made a lot of mistakes (and had a lot of successes) and grown up. Things are falling in line and the things that aren’t I am starting to realize that it is ok. Everything is the way it is supposed to be. It is hard being the control freak I am to not have everything in line though. It is like when one area of my life flourishes… the other goes to shit. I hate that. I want everything to be ok. I don’t like things not working out the way I want them to. But I have had my fair share this year and you know what, it all works out. the thing is I just need to do a bit better at preparing. I screw myself because I don’t waste my time with things that don’t matter to me. And as soon as they do I put my whole heart into it. Usually it works out (and scores me a job in Paris) and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t is when it kills me. I know everything is going to be ok but it makes me tired. Makes me wonder why I gave all the energy. But then the “everything happens for a reason” part of me kicks up and I get back on track with something new… vicious cycle ha!

When I started this post I didn’t know it would lead this way. And now I am exhausted. Hopefully this post makes a bit of sense and I am not just rambling in my over-tired state of delirium. Maybe I will write again about my actual visitors hahaha. Or maybe the adventures will remain a secret 🙂