One day, I’ll go back and finish the posts from Germany. One day, I’ll finish the posts from Sweden. And then, eventually, I’ll go into full detail about the reasons behind my sudden departure and escape to a new life.
For now, I’ll leave it at this: I was unhappy, and now I’m on the road to recovery. In what seemed a few short days, I sold and donated my belongings back in LA, transitioned to working online, and bought a few one-way tickets. The first ticket was to home in Maryland, where I desperately needed the love from my family whom I had not seen in a year and friends whom I had not seen in more than a year. Step one complete: feel a sense of belonging.
Then, I was off to Paris, the first leg of my multi-city pit stop on my way to Australia where I had applied for a working holiday visa months prior. My pit stop includes Paris, Salzburg and Madrid, with maybe a few excursions tied in. Turns out that the cost of a one-way ticket from D.C. to Melbourne this time of year ($900) was roughly the same as a trip from D.C. to Paris ($250) and Madrid to Melbourne ($700). Of course, making this 2,000-mile detour includes the additional costs of lodging, intercity transport, food, activities, etc., but in my pursuit of happiness, the chance to spend alone time in some of my favorite cities is worth any cost.
Chaos erupted at the Anthony house on Jan. 8 when I got an email from WOW Air, the budget airline I had elected as my vehicle into this new passage, that my flight that took off in three hours was canceled. A storm in Iceland (the layover city and WOW Air’s central hub) was the culprit. My parents remained calm while I threw a fit, deranged from the lack of sleep I had gotten over the last few days, and went into panic mode. I called the airline to get on the next flight out and was told there were no flights till Saturday. It was Monday.
I’ll cut out the details of my mini-crisis here and say that with the help of my vastly under-appreciated angel of a mother, I found and booked a new flight to Paris on a different airline out of a different airport. It left only 4 hours after my original flight and arrived in Paris 8 hours later. But at least I would arrive the same day and not forfeit my Airbnb. The catch: it cost $900.
I forked it over willingly, hopeful that my travel insurance would cover it. But the initial blow to the wallet was not a great way to start a tightly budgeted trip.
We rushed to the airport in the freezing rain (not cold rain, I mean real ice crystals falling from the sky), and soon enough I was seated in my window seat I had specially selected as a treat to myself: 25A. It was my favorite number and favorite letter all wrapped in one delicious windowed package.
As we took off, I made friends with the 20-something, friendly-looking girl on the aisle seat (the seat between us being empty, thank heavens), and was alarmed by our coincidence. She had also been on the same WOW Air flight to Paris from the other airport and rerouted to this flight. She was even traveling alone on a two-week trip through Europe. And she went to my school. Like, universe, C’mon!
Whereas I typically go out of my way to avoid speaking to anyone on a flight, I was somehow ecstatic to have someone to talk to and commiserate with about our delayed trips. We had a good time goofing off on the plane and made plans to catch up in Paris once we arrived. I’ve always sought solitude in the notion that everything happens for a reason, and this was one prime example of divine intervention at play. If I had been on the WOW flight, I probably wouldn’t have talked to anyone as usual, despite us all making the voyage from the same point A to the same point B. And I wouldn’t have met a companion to explore Paris with. I only wish this happy circumstance hadn’t cost a small fortune.
I also want to note here that I ironically watched the movie Paris Can Wait on the flight. It felt clever.
We arrived in Paris on time, and my friend and I parted ways after exchanging contact info. It was dark out when I caught my bus to my Airbnb, and watched the rain fall on the highway out of my window as we approached the city’s center.
When I made my first steps on the wet sidewalk in Paris, I felt an instant surge of energy, a healing force, like a squirt of Neosporin on a fresh booboo. I was here. After months of dreaming, yearning, contemplating and hoping, I was finally on the first brick of the long yellow brick road ahead. I felt warm, though Paris was wet and cold. I felt awake, though I had gotten little sleep on the plane. I felt full, though I had spent months feeling empty. This is where I’m meant to be, I thought.
After a few failed attempts at navigating, I finally arrived at my Airbnb. I was renting a private room on the top floor of a small, very French, flat a few hundred meters from L’Opera. The host was delightful, the room was quaint but charming, and I was very pleased. But I couldn’t get too comfortable just yet. Despite the late hour, I knew I had one item on the agenda that had to be conquered before the day was gone. I donned a few more layers and an umbrella and set out of the Eiffel Tower.
If you’ve been keeping up with my travels, you may remember my tales from my last time in Paris. If not, I’ll fill you in: it was a 2-day trip as part of a large group tour and due to some unfortunate circumstances we were not able to see the Eiffel Tower. But it turned out I would have missed the tower anyway because I spent the entire second day vomiting (and sometime diarrhea-ing) around the city, namely on (not in) the Louvre.
I was determined to improve round two.
I didn’t take my AirBnB host’s advice to take the bus to the tower because I wanted to stretch my legs after 11 hours of awkward airplane seat yoga. And I’m glad I did. As I strode down the Parisian alleyways, I stumbled upon street after street lined with dangling Christmas lights. Set upon the backdrop of, in my opinion, the most beautifully architected residential buildings in the world, the scene was utter magic. I giggled gleefully as I walked through this winter wonderland, watching the lights dance in the reflections off the wet pavement. I didn’t know where I was or what the buildings and monuments were that I passed by but it didn’t matter. Everything was beautiful.
I logged about 15,000 steps on my step-tracker on my walk to the Tower. I walked along the Seine once I got close enough to it and let the glimpse of the top of the tower that peeked in and out behind building be my guiding light. I thought I was nearly there when I turned a corner and wham, as if walking in on someone right after a shower, there I stood before it in its naked, natural glory.
The Eiffel Tower was everything I had hoped it would be. Though the grounds around it were blocked off for what looked like the remnants of some enormous market or festival, I was still able to walk right under the underbelly and gaze up along the spiraling metal vines and hatches, all the way to the top. In the midnight fog, the tower illuminated the sky like a torch. In the next few minutes, I walked around and through it, finally trekking away far enough to snap a few photos of the monument in its entirety.
In my walk to the Tower, I had given heed to the devil in my head that was predicting something would happen to prevent me from seeing the Tower once again. Maybe it would be closed off for some construction reasons. Or worse, perhaps something would happen to me on my walk, which, to be fair, was an astute prediction as I, a young tourist woman, walked alone at night in a city I hardly knew. I am a firm believer in Murphy’s Law because I live it, experiencing disappointment after disappointment when I have my heart set on some grand outcome. It has led me to expect the worse, only to be surprised when plans work out.
But this night in Paris was even better than I had imagined. It was not a disappointment but an improvement, ten steps in the right directions when I had sought only one. Once again I was full, more full than I was in my first few steps in the city, and I felt like life was on the up and up.
I hope it was a forecast of what was to come not only in my next few days in Paris but in all of my travels ahead. Things work out.
I was genuinely excited for the first time in a very long time.