My open closet door reveals a wall of brightly colored scarves for all seasons. I know exactly which one is coming with me to the city of lights next week.
I'm standing in the customs line at the charlotte airport in a large whitish/grey room with no windows. It looks like I'm underground but in reality it's the first floor, the air is stagnant, but not stale. The magic of my vacation is about to come to a screeching halt. All goods declared through the customs line, bags grabbed and walking out of the airport I'm the same and completely different in the way only travel can change you. Outside humidity encompasses my body, this is home. My eyes rest on the lush green of NC, home feels simultaneously wonderful and terrible. Driving back to Greensboro gazing at the familiar comforting terrain and reflecting on the last week I know I'm in big trouble. What exactly is it that's different now and and making me feel so uncomfortable?
France unleashed the little girl inside of me. I hadn't forgotten she existed but I was doing a great job of ignoring her. She was my spark, she dreamed of travel, adventure, living in France, speaking French, making friends around the world and living by the sea. She had demanded I dream because she knew anything was possible. College brought the pursuit of being an adult because, paying a ton of money and incurring a large amount of debt meant I damn well better get a "serious job". So in college I bound and gaged her, threw her in a closet, locked the door, turned my back pretended she never existed; never mind that it was her passion that had gotten me to a college 600 miles away from home in the first place. This was a crime that wouldn't have been as easily committed if I had realized the long term ramification. Now looking back I know I told myself to stop dreaming too big. Banishing her made it a lot easier to set aside ideas of becoming an artist, ignoring my love of theater, and working on my fall back career because "that would pay the bills". I locked my big scary dreamer away because it was safer for my future. I've got my mature responsible bill paying shit together and she would muck things up.
But damn if Paris wasn't the prince that kissed sleeping beauty and broke her free! She's out of her high towered prison and there is no putting her back. Sleeping beauty is about to shake things up big time! Look out tidy little life I've built because not only does this wild women know herself and her passions she's also demanding I make big changes. She will not settle for this boring life in corporate america. She's refusing to let me settle for silly things like "day jobs" and "security". She will not tolerate this life of no risks. She plays only by the rules of David Whyte who said..
"Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you".
Sleeping beauty says I've been settling for too small and she won't tolerate it. Much to come even if it takes time.
Are my pictures enticing? Tugging your heart in the direction of travel? Dreams of France, Italy or Morocco filling your head? All of the travel advertising makes it look easy and carefree right? You can absolutely point your finger directly at me too, I’m certainly guilty, especially after this week. Travel isn’t all peonies, red Bordeaux and cute waiters that French kiss you at the corner café (yes that actually happened).
When I lust about travel it’s as if there’s American Airlines commercial playing in my head. Stage right a beautiful woman steps onto a plane with a lighthearted expression that screams “I’m ready for adventure and I don’t have a single responsibility in the world”. Secretly I hate her, yet simultaneously want to be her. Surely that tall, drop dead gorgeous natural blond doesn’t have bills to pay, pets at home, an “out of office” to set or the responsibilities of running a business. I bet she’s even flying first class! God I hate her. Who gave her the right to get on plane and wake up France? Any chance you can relate to those feelings?
I confess I’ve only been sharing peeks into the beautiful bits. In direct contradiction to the pictures I’m posting It’s only fair to share the other side of the coin.
Here is my list of everything I despise about traveling…
- Obtaining a pass port/keeping passports in safe locations at home when not traveling and safe locations while traveling
- Figuring out how to fund your trip
- Paying someone to watch the dog and the house
- Requesting time off work
- Not having enough vacation time to make the trip the length you’d hoped
- The re-occurring nightmare leading up to travel, where I get to the gate and don’t have my passport. Or worse in the dream getting all the way to customs only to not have my passport This leaves me waking up in a cold sweat.
- Sitting on multiple 7 hour flights crammed into a shoebox sized seat
- Sitting with the fear of the plane crashing or being hijacked by terrorists
- Getting comfortable being lost (you will always get lost at some point in a good trip
- Not knowing the language and being humbled by this experience
- Paying for bathroom use (ugh yeah it’s a thing)
- Putting up with lots of secondhand smoke
- Jet lag and inability to sleep even when overcome with exhaustion because of the time difference.
- Spending a lot of time being really uncomfortable
- Watching diligently for pick-pockets.
- Talking to strangers
- Anxiety that creeps in towards the end of the trip when you start to think about the number of e-mails sitting in your inbox that need attention.
- Delayed flights
If there are that many negatives that I can list so quickly and easily why in the world would anyone travel?
Because those 19 reasons not to travel are actually the recipe for Travel Magic. Travel will open you up in a way that nothing else can. You'll be lit up from the inside out almost like the Eiffel tower at the top of the evening hour. The grit makes greatness. Go ahead renew your passport, figure out how to fund the trip and go. I promise you won't regret it.
In my life there are a few golden rules and I was breaking a big one. Hoping on a bike without a helmet, what would my cycling friends at home think of that? Not to mention I’m on a date with an Italian stranger I’d met on Tinder only a few days before. Either a huge adventure or the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but at this point I was all in. Pedaling up a hill in god knows where Paris traffic I followed the tall slender Carlo on my newly rented grey bike with the biggest smile plastered on my face. I was cycling around Paris having a crazy adventure and loving every minute.
Retreat mates Jen and Christina (aka new besties) waited parentally with me for the Tinder date to show up at Les Deux Magots. I watched nervously scanning the men walking by as they pointed guessing, “is that one him”? I was starting to get knots in my stomach maybe this had been a bad idea? Then he rounded the corner talking on a cell phone and the knots disappeared. There was something about his energy I couldn’t put my finger on that put my fears to rest. He wasn’t going to be an ax murder, or worse someone I wouldn’t enjoy spending time with. Yes, those are the worries that cross the minds of all women before they embark on a date with a stranger whether in Paris or the safety of their own city. Christina reminded me “there are no bad decisions in Paris” and off I went for a date in the city of lights.
Sitting across the table from him at a café I could never have found on my own given it was tucked away out of the reach of main tourist arteries, the couple at the table next to us was chain smoking. That’s a part of Paris culture I’ll probably never enjoy, but it didn’t matter it only added to the texture of this Paris experience. I looked over into his kind green eyes, and wondered is this really my life? Was I really in Paris on a date with a handsome man, who seemed as genuinely interested in my life as I was in his life while drinking a fantastic red Bordeaux? This kinda luck never seems to find me in Greensboro.
I giggled to think an Italian, who’s been living in Paris for 7 years turned out to be the perfect tour guide and company this summer night. After drinks Carlo suggested we ride our bikes to the canals because he thought they were beautiful and off we went. The water seemed to twinkle as we walked up and down the canal, and over the bridges until we settled on a bench to sit and chat.
Every part of this trip has been magical, each day filled with multiple stories to tell, and each story vibrating with synchronicity. Sometimes in life you get a moment in time that sets your heart on fire. Maybe you don’t fall madly in love with a stranger, but you do ride a bike around the most beautiful city in the world, have fabulous conversation and cycle back to your hotel at almost 1am. If you’re really lucky you even get a sweet hug good night and a new pen pal before you realize you might be momentarily locked out of your hotel. Finally back in my hotel room, tucked safely into bed next to my sleeping roommate I thought about what Christina had said “there are no bad decisions in Paris, only good stories” and I have to agree.