It’s a quarter to 4 in the afternoon on an overcast afternoon in Paris. I’m a touch light headed, I finished a 9 mile run and need water, the water in my flat barely passes for making coffee, but drinking it straight from the tap tastes metallic and rusty. It's the type of water you wonder if you should be drinking at all. A quirk of my cheap airbnb studio apartment, that I don't mind but find inconvenient at this very moment. The warmth of my studio and my tired limbs are making it difficult to feel the desire to rush back out into the 46 degree weather with it's cold breeze that feels like a rude slap to the face. Eventually a feeling of dehydration and hunger will override and I’ll head back out. This is not my kind of weather, but it turns out that Paris despite it’s cold is my kinda place no matter the weather.
It’s my last international trip on "The Year of the Travel", but still one month of travel left and I’m feeling a stew of emotions. For instance, I never want to leave Paris and I feel an overwhelming need to be home and to stay home for awhile. I had no idea so many contradictory feelings could exist at once. Traveling the way I’ve chosen to travel this year has been educational, enlivening, overwhelming, financially draining and one of the best choices I’ve ever made for myself to name a few highlights. I'm feeling the effects of all of those emotions and truths on this trip.
I took those thoughts like a friend out with me on today's long run, and as I jogged next to the Seine over misshapen cobble stones I passed Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, then a little further down my heart began to race with joy as I passed the Eiffel Tower on my left. No matter how many times I pass through this scenery doesn’t get old, I savor each view. Soon I was out of the familiar monuments I look forward to seeing on my shorter runs here and I was worried the next mile and a half would be boring. I was heading out of the older part of the city and into the newer business district when seemingly out of nowhere the majestic Lady Liberty appeared on my right. I stopped and snapped a few photos, I couldn’t not. She’s a smaller version of the one in NYC, but just as beautiful. I was surprised to see her, not because I hadn’t known she was here (I’ve seen her here before). Surprised because I thought she was somewhere else. It was a happy meeting and a bold reminder of how connected we all actually are. A beautiful reminder of our friendship, compassion and shared values.
Last night a friend gifted me a ticket to a French hip hop concert to see the group IAM. I didn’t know the group before the gift and as much as I want too I don’t really speak French enough to understand the words of most songs, but this sounded fun. That’s how I found myself tucked into a stadium surrounded by thousands of people at a coliseum like a match lined perfectly into a new box of matches. Some times I get claustrophobic, not so much in tight spaces, but surrounded by large groups of people. I suppose you could call that agoraphobic, but I digress; the point is that I was surrounded by more people in one space than I was comfortable with and that makes me feel the need to run, but I resisted. Instead of running I Looked around, tried to take it all in and above all breath, I saw families, couples, friend, different races, different genders and different ages. The diversity of the people around me was striking. There have been countless reminders on this trip and all of the trips I’ve taken throughout “The year of the Travel” of how connected we all are, and looking around I felt like I was in exactly the right place at the right time with thousands of the right people (even if I still wanted to run a little). Listening to the cacophony of people rapping along with the group that we are all one under the same star (in French might I add) heat filled my body from my toes to my cheeks and the scene felt surreal. I’m not just learning but truly coming to understand how it’s not what divides us that matters. The division I'm finding are mostly minor details. I’m coming to understand that our humanity and our shared values that bring us together are much larger than our differences. I don’t deny what we must know and understand our differences to find solutions but our shared values are vast and I’ve seen that when we focus on what’s the same we can achieve so much. Thanks to IAM and Lady Liberty for the beautiful reminders.