Well, That Sucked: A Guide to dealing with traveler's despair
Today is the big day! You're packed and ready to go. You've found someone to water your plants and walk your dog while you're gone, but in the back of your mind you can't help but feel that one will end up dead by the time you return. You've printed out your itinerary and flight schedule and you have a copy of both hidden in different places. Your money is exchanged and separated, and even though you're wearing that weird traveler's wallet that screams, "take my money!" you're excited because today is the first day of that big trip that you've been meticulously planning and dreaming about! *You know CP Travels can plan the trip of a lifetime for you?*
After hours that, literally, fly by, you step off of the plane, grab your bags, and inhale that fresh foreign air.....except it's not that fresh....and one of your bags has been misplaced....and you've already spent $20 at the Burger King in the airport because you slept through all of the free meals on the flight....and....well, you catch my drift. This trip is starting off pretty rough.
Now, you may be thinking, "But that's just the first part of the trip. You haven't even made it into the city yet." and I'd say, "Yes I know. I just started writing. Keep reading." to which you'd say, "Ok." and I wouldn't respond because I was annoyed at being interrupted.
Now, you get into the city and you give it the old college try. I mean, you really, really try to make it work. Regardless of whatever happened during the journey, you keep a smile on your face because you worked too hard to save up that money and you're not going to let a bad flight or one misplaced bag ruin your entire trip. Besides, the only thing of real importance in that bag was your underwear and swim trunks and that book you really wanted to read and your phone charger. It's cool. It's cool. Despite your cheery attitude and attempt at positive thinking, things just don't feel right and nothing is really living up to your expectations. You leave having enjoyed your time, but feeling unsatisfied- pretty much like eating at Wendy's.
If you haven't yet faced what I call, Traveler's Despair, then congratulations...for now. As you travel more, it's bound to happen at least once.
The city that left me with Traveler's Despair was Paris. Yes, THEE Paris: The only city that really comes to mind when you think of France. The city of lights. Home of La Tour Eiffel, or the Eiffel Tower for my non Francophile folk. The 'ooh' in your 'la la'. City of crepes, and baguettes, and cobblestone roads that twist their way through crowded rows of buildings that end at the cutest little bistros you've ever seen. Yeah, that Paris. Only it wasn't that Paris...at least not for me.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Paris, the museums were great as was the food. I had great company, I partied, I made new friends, I spoke French to French people and they understood me. But like I said before, I left feeling unsatisfied.
When I envisioned Paris, in my mind it was just something different. I expected musicians in the street and poets and writers on sidewalks. I imagined luxury cars cruising down the Champs-Élysées and art museums filled to the brim with gaudy Victorian framed masterpieces. I wanted the Paris that Langston Hughes fell in love with; the sepia colored dream city that inspired the Harlem Renaissance. I wanted, so badly, for a Paris that didn't exist- and that's entirely my fault.
When you travel you're visiting a real place, with real problems, and real people.
I failed to treat Paris the same way that I treated every other place that I had visited. I allowed myself to be disillusioned by the dream of a place instead of accepting what was right in front of me.
Yes, it's a lovely city: There are streets that look like they're dusted with gold powder and places where each and every stone looks as if it was gently set there with great care and consideration. The way that the sunrises over Notre-Dame is breathtaking, and how the whole sky burns bright pink at sunset is the definition of perfect.
It's also an ugly city as well: There are rats, and strays and tons of pigeons. There are homeless people and scam artists that use children to prey on innocent tourists. All of the museums are crowded and the Mona Lisa is about the size of a poster you'd get out of an old edition of Nintendo Power and is totally not worth the line to see it.
That is what makes this city so special though. That's what makes any other place that you visit so special. By allowing yourself to see the good and the bad, the beautiful and the grotesque, the sweet and the sour- you're getting the real experience that you wanted. If you just wanted to have a relaxing vacation and lounge on the beach and don't care about all that other stuff then why'd you choose Paris? There's no beach in Paris. Next time go south to Montpellier, or Marseille, or Nice or Florida or something if you just want to go to the beach. Don't let your idea of a place should be prevent you from enjoying what's right in front of you.