I was recently asked, “What is your cherished first travel experience?”
The answer came to me instantly and I’ve since reflected more upon it.
To say Paris holds a special place in my heart is a bit of an understatement. Admittedly, I am Francophile who continues to work on the French I began learning in 7th grade. I repeatedly watch Midnight in Paris just to see the montage of Paris sights throughout the film. With every trip to Europe, I look for a way to make a stop in the City of Lights.
But, my amour for Paris goes deeper than your typical Francophile cliches…(despite this last sentence)
I was just 22 when I made my first trip to Paris. I stunned my sister by buying us (my pre-miles and points days!) flights to France. We spent time in Paris before heading south to Provence and the Cote d’Azur.
Paris embraced me when I was a novice traveler and taught me how to handle the moments, joyful, mishaps, and otherwise, that inevitably happen when you’re wandering through a new place.
Paris was the first place I spoke a foreign language with actual native speakers and had failures (Jackie, why does my food still have eyes on it?!) and successes (Hurry up! They just announced a track change for our train that’s arriving in 2 minutes!).
Even though I had moved to New York City and had traveled around North America, Paris was across the Atlantic, in a different country. Spending time there emboldened my confidence by showing me I could navigate a completely unfamiliar place and be OK.
I learned not to panic. When French customs pulled me out of line because I looked suspicious (really!?), my heart was pounding, but I answered their questions (revived my sister) and ordered a shot at the nearest airport bar once the interrogation was over.
What was important, though, was I projected confidence even when I wasn’t, which only made me more confident in the end.
My trip to Paris solidified within myself a pulsing interest to explore new places and learn about different customs and ways of doing things. My desire to travel and explore took hold into full-fledged wanderlust.
This first Paris trip has led to all my travels since then. For this, I am unabashedly grateful.
My most recent return to Paris was with Pete for Christmas. We spent all of our time in the city, with the exception of a few of days in Normandy. As we strolled comfortably through the city streets, I excitedly showed him all the sights in my favorite arrondissements. Quietly, though, I revisited those early lessons in my mind and smiled as I blew Paris a couple of bisous (kisses).
What is your cherished first travel experience? I would love to hear so leave a comment below!
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