I never traveled much internationally as a child. My mother’s parents both still live in France, but I can only remember visiting twice when I was younger. For the most part, my grandparents made the long trip to visit us in Seattle. My own travels, while wonderful in their own right, were primarily confined to the West Coast: Crater Lake in Oregon, Disneyland in (hello) California, and even the occasional trip up to Victoria, B.C. We spent many summers camping, to which I credit my continuing love of the outdoors.
And yet, I wanted something more. I never studied abroad; never took any summer class trips out of the country. I simply could not afford to do so. I longed for it with every fiber of my being, whether it be volunteer work in Costa Rica or a summer tour of Europe. I took four years of high school French, imagining that one day…one day I would finally realize my dream. I’d probably be able to wrangle at least one study abroad trip in college, right?
Before I knew it, college was over and I had missed my shot. Worse yet, I was almost 26 – soon those college-style excursions would be another missed opportunity. But then something truly incredible happened.
In August 2014, I finally had the chance to visit France as an adult. For the first time since I was nine years old, my entire family was going to visit my mom’s parents – for three weeks! It remains the best news I have ever received in my life. I had a year to plan and research and get inspired for our trip, though my parents did all of the actual travel planning. I brushed up on my French, bought a sturdier, hopefully pickpocket-proof purse, gathered all of my birthday Euros, and suddenly, unbelievably, I was on my way.
There are many French vacation stories still to come, but my favorite moment from an already incredible trip was standing at the very top of Notre Dame, feeling my entire body reverberate as the bells rang out all around me. Even with all the research and obsessive reading I had done, nothing could have prepared me for the chills brought on those bells. The chilly afternoon air hissed around me, creeping under my scarf and whipping hair into my eyes, but I stood, transfixed by the thunderous ringing of history all around me. As I blinked away tears, I knew I wanted this feeling to last for the rest of my life.
Of course, I returned home just a few days later, back to my office job in Orlando – and to the most wonderful man a girl could hope for, can’t discount that! But even as life went on with the usual ups and downs, I found myself missing France more and more. A very big part of me felt that I belonged there, exploring the storied histories of every narrow street.
I dismissed the thought, choosing instead roam the streets in my dreams, back to the memory of a place unlike any other. The longing would have to go away sometime, right? My wallet sure hoped so. But 2015 ushered in something that I think I always knew would happen eventually.
I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. I’ve seen France, and now my suspicions are confirmed. Life is not meant to be spent working a dead end job, cramped behind a desk in a city that I don’t care for. Life is for living, and in my case, that means traveling and experiencing all that the world has to offer. It may not be this month or even this year, but one way or another I will be back to explore more of Europe, and then expand my travels to the rest of the world.