Notes about Traveling in France and Traveling Solo
My vacation has ended and I am now facing down my final weeks…and finals! I’ve had over a month of vacation since being in France and I’ve used all of it to travel and explore in France. However, I have had many people say that it’s a shame that I’m not exploring Europe. Several people have even said I will “regret” not traveling in Europe.
I’m here in France to study French. I’m here to study the language, the culture, the history…all of it. You can’t just go to Paris and say you know everything about France…there’s so much more to this country than baguettes and wine. I’ve been learning about this country for fourteen years and now I only have five months to experience all of it. Unlike some other college students who go abroad to party, I’m here because it’s a dream come reality. I’m here for France…not for Europe. I have studied very little about other countries in Europe and, when I went to Italy my freshman year, I admit I was a little ashamed that I hadn’t done more research about the beautiful country before arriving. I’ll have to go back one day and do a proper exploration of the country.
In addition, it’s expensive to travel outside of France. It’s expensive to find transportation, housing…all that stuff you need to survive. In France, I get incredible reductions on transportation, museums, exhibits…all because I’m young. I even get in to many places for free.
As for traveling by myself, I am aware that the world isn’t perfect. I know that there are bad people in the world, but there are also good people too. And I think that the good far outweigh the bad. There are some basic tips for staying safe abroad, most of them use common sense. Don’t be out late. Don’t go down dark alleyways. Always know the number to the police department. Avoid potentially dangerous situations. Of course, as a woman, I get all sorts of guys trying various pick-up lines. You learn how to ignore them and how to avoid them. In the end, traveling alone abroad isn’t any different from traveling alone in the United States. Unfortunately, you can be as safe as possible, you could follow all of the rules…and still get hurt. Just look at the student from China studying abroad in Boston. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But that’s the uncertainty of life. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Each year, my strings orchestra would participate in ASTA, the statewide string festival. The students are placed in orchestras with varying difficulty (1-5, 5 being the most difficult music). Students play with other students from all over the state and have two days of jam packed rehearsals…all for one final show. The conductors are usually music teachers from around the state, although we have had some semi-famous conductors in orchestra 5 (one year, we even had a string quartet play with us). One year, we had this really eccentric conductor who told us to “send our notes up to Beethoven,” high in the sky. He wouldn’t let us take a break until we played one section to his liking (which was essentially perfection). He told us, “Look, what if you go on break and you get hit by a bus? What if this was the last note you were to ever play? You better make it a good one.”
We never sounded better than in that moment. We sent our notes straight to Beethoven…and we got our ten minute break.
You can’t live in fear. Living in fear isn’t really living at all. You can only keep playing, making the best music you can, sending your notes up into the sky…and hope that someone hears them.
I went to the store today and the shopkeeper told me he was filling in for his younger worker, a college student. “He’s ‘sick’ today. You know what that means,” he said with a chuckle, “But that’s the joy of being young. The ability to party, to experience life. I’ve always said that youth is the beauty of life.”
I’m young and I’m ready to experience life. But I think that the shopkeeper was slightly wrong. Youth isn’t the beauty of life – it’s just the beginning to the beauty of life. College years aren’t the best years of my life…the best years of my life are yet to come. Every year of my life keeps getting better and better and I know that happiness can exist if we choose it.
So, do I regret living my life or any decision I’ve ever made in my life? Every decision I’ve made, everything I’ve ever done has led me to this moment, this wonderful, amazing moment where I’m alive. How can I possible regret that? I’m happy to be alive…and that’s enough. I’m so blessed with opportunity and the presence of truly incredible people.
In the words of Edith Piaf, famous French singer, non, je ne regrette rien.