Well, I finally made it to Europe. France and Italy, to be specific. My good friend Nathan was interning in France for the summer, so it seemed like the ideal time to make a trip. Sure, I had always wanted to go to Switzerland or Germany or Austria or England or Ireland—or basically any country other than France, but France is where my friend was. I have passed up opportunity after opportunity to visit friends abroad, and the excuse I always gave myself was that I didn't have enough money. Or that I shouldn't spend my money on something so frivolous as travel.
I realize now, though, that there is nothing quite so un-frivolous as spending money on experiences. Studies show that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of things, and so I finally decided to give it a whirl. To spend money on a trip across the ocean for no other reason than to have fun.
But France??? The only thing I liked about France was the food. For some inexplicable reason, France was a country that never appealed to me. French was a language that sounded confusing and frustrating to learn, and the French people had a reputation for being rude—a trait that I simply cannot understand. So I planned a trip to Italy as well. In my mind, Italy would be the highlight, and France would be a side thing.
Ohhh, how I was wrong! France was wonderful. I knew Nathan lived closer to Nice than any other big city, but I didn't realize just how close. More specifically, I didn't realize that most of my trip would take place alongside the ocean. Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Cinque Terre—these are just some of the cities I walked through, and each offered an incredible view of the Mediterranean Sea, which is made of the most beautiful blue, clear water.
I am so happy to have seen such an interesting corner of the world. More importantly, though, I am happy to have seen it largely by myself. Nathan worked during the day, so I traveled alone for the most part. I fumbled through the French language alone, and I explored many of the narrow and winding streets alone. Here's what I discovered: Solitary travel is empowering. It makes me feel confident and strong. It gives me the feeling that I can do anything or that I have something big and meaningful inside myself.
Solitary travel also lends itself to making friends. I met people from Texas, Holland, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, and England, and even in faraway countries, I found that people were eager to talk my ears off about their lives and concerns. Even in faraway countries, I found ways to connect with people through asking a bazillion questions.
For the next week or so, I'll be posting pictures and stories of the most interesting happenings on my travels, and hopefully, my posts will convince you to visit the French and Italian Rivieras!
Thing I'm thankful for: the opportunity to travel; it doesn't escape me that I lead an extremely fortunate life.