“I think she has something like fallen in love with France!” I overhear my friend explain to someone we have just met. He is answering all of the familiar questions people ask about the American girl who is traveling and can’t speak French, catching my glance out of the corner of his eye and laughing as I roll mine when no matter how many times I say “Missouri” with my best French accent, people still think I’m saying “Mississippi.”
Paris, France 2013
I think about his words and I’m not exactly sure how or when it happened. I certainly love France, but it’s different from the way I love Mexico’s raw passion and history of struggle. It’s different from the way I love Italy’s vibrant colors and the way Italians say buon giorno, or how happy eating margherita pizza makes me. It’s even different from the way I love Africa and dream about barefoot kids running through dusty red streets and dancing to the beat of a djembe.
Yet, I do love France. This love hasn’t overwhelmed me, or caught me off guard. It doesn’t make me cry when I think about it, and I can’t feel it crawling underneath my skin. For the first time, I’m choosing to love a place, choosing to let the pros outweigh the cons.
Concarneau, France 2013
Honestly, France has been a maze of ups and downs I never expected. I’ve had perfect days filled with touring Normandy beaches and sharing a picnic in a field of wildflowers with friends. I’ve eaten macaroons on my birthday in Paris, and stayed in a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in the south of France with a wonderful french family. I’ve eaten more pan au chocolate than I dare admit. But I’ve also never been closer to throwing in the towel, to deciding I don’t have what it takes to travel alone long-term.
I’ve been homeless and sick and stretched to my limits in ways I never thought possible.
I don’t love everything about France. I don’t love the way it’s impossible to eat dinner before 8pm, or the rude way waiters shoo and huff at you when you only want to order a coffee during lunchtime. I don’t love the food. I hate the way an entire country seems to smell like piss, and I still find it hard to believe when someone can communicate in English but chooses not to, especially when my french is limited to “I’d like coffee with cream” and “Where are the toilettes?”
But I do love the way its green hills and sprawling corn fields remind me of home. I’m choosing to be enamored with the quiet charm of french countryside and the way everyone clutches their freshly baked baguettes to them tightly like newly wrapped presents. I’m choosing to appreciate little phrases like “oh la la” and the way the french sigh can communicate an entire paragraph of sentiment. I love the gentleness and honesty I see expressed here.
Carnac, France 2013
Inguinel, France 2013
I was recently talking to a magician and he asked me for three wishes. I thought about it as we meandered through outdoor cafes filled with laughter and singing, as we passed through the fisherman’s wharf and heard the waves crashing against the rocks below, stopping for an ice cream cone and watching fireworks light up the night sky. We talked about my travels, my good days and bad days (why I had decided to travel alone, etc.), and he asked me again what my dream was. I smiled and told him, “Honestly, I’m living it.”
Biarritz, France 2013
I’ve been here for two months and in a few weeks I will have to leave when my visa expires. I’ll have to leave a country that is starting to feel more and more like a place I’d like to call home. I feel like I’m just barely scratching the surface, that there’s so much more I’d like to see and learn while I’m here. I have plans to return to France in January and work on a long-term visa. I know spending a summer going to festivals and hanging out on the beach will be tested by a winter spent in a country where I still can’t speak the language.
Arcachon, France 2013
Bayonne, France 2013
I know staying in one place will really test my devotion to the french culture and people. I know it’s possible that my plans might change and I’ll never get on that plane leaving Africa. I’m honestly not too worried about it. I’m beginning to learn how to choose contentment, to choose love, to choose attachment. Besides, I’m anxious to see Paris in the winter.Do you have somewhere you’ve traveled to that you want to make your next home? What catches your attention or what do you look for in a country to feel comfortable or at home?Google+