Earlier this year, sometime between the umpteenth day of consistent rain and Trump's first 8 seconds in office, I decided I wanted to spend a solo month abroad in a foreign city. I finally felt like I had my feet under myself as a freelancer and after two years of an intercontinental travel hiatus, I was craving something significant. The idea of parking myself in a city for an extended period and commingling with the locals felt exciting and far less intimidating than sorting out the logistics of a whirlwind, multi-destination trip.
I toyed with the thought of a few different places, but alas, my mind kept returning me to Paris. Despite having never been to France before, my gut reassured me it would not disappoint. I could see myself strolling the cobblestone streets of Paris just as easily as I could see myself sunbathing atop the bow of a yacht off the coast of St. Tropez (only one of those visions came to fruition, FYI). So, August in France it was.
Naturally, I had my hesitations about the prospect of spending a month alone in a foreign country: What if I’m crippled with homesickness? What if I decide early on that I hate France? What if I OD on bread and cheese and my snowflake Californian digestive system goes into shock? But upon arrival in Paris, my nerves were instantly quelled by the spirit of the city and my concerns about a month being too long instantly morphed into anxieties around a month being too short (which snowballed into a mid-trip freakout, a resulting 4-day trip extension, and a flood of concern from family and friends back home who had become increasingly skeptical of my return plans).
I conducted an ample amount of research before deciding where to stay and landed on an adorably Parisian flat in the 9th arrondissement, close to Pigalle. Despite hearing mixed reviews of the 9th (former/current red light district undergoing gentrification), it was easily one of my favorite neighborhoods in all of Paris. It was vibrant, charming, safe, trendy and with more local flavor than some of the more centralized neighborhoods. The streets were dotted with great restaurants, bars, coffee shops, boutiques and local markets that felt removed from the beaten tourist path.
Aside from a weeklong jaunt in the South of France with friends from home (to be recapped in Part II of this post), I spent the majority of my days in Paris being a flâneuse, wandering the streets, museum hopping and chasing the dots on my Paris Google Map that I meticulously populated during the months leading up to my trip (go ahead and make fun of it and then realize how useful it is. I’ll wait...). I kept a book in my purse that became my companion at coffee shops, parks and bars and a Spotify playlist that provided the soundtrack to my wandering and kept me sedated at overly crowded museums. I was living in an introvert’s paradise.
I took full advantage of the opportunity to travel alone and designed the entire trip to my own preferences–a delightfully selfish indulgence that I highly recommend to anyone with the chance. It allowed me to experience Paris on my terms, making it all the more personally meaningful and special.
I found that being solo pushed me out of my comfort zone in a way that was far more invigorating than intimidating. I approached it as a chance to build my Parisian life from scratch–sourcing the experiences that were important to me and omitting the things that weren’t, without guilt (for example, I didn’t have a single fucking croissant and I have zero fucking regrets about it. There. I said it.). Being a world class introvert, I even managed to surprise myself by making friends and establishing a small-scale social life that introduced me to parts of Paris I wouldn't have otherwise discovered (let alone, with such wonderful new friends!).
When it finally came time to leave, I found myself wildly unprepared for the onslaught of feels that shared an Uber with me to the airport and stuck around the entire flight home. OF COURSE, I played out the whole “what if I didn’t get on the plane?” scenario over and over in my head, but my beleaguered bank account and the small contingency of rational brain cells I had left conspired against me, delivering the final shove through the jet bridge and onto my flight. Albeit begrudgingly, I was grateful to close out the trip on a high note, reestablish myself as a contributing member of society, and above all–return to the glory of Trump’s America.
(Please catch my sarcasm.)
One of the bittersweet side effects of travel is that on one hand you're left with a fortune of unforgettable experiences, but on the other, you know attempting to recreate them would be a fool’s errand. WOAH, WOAH, WOAH. TIMEOUT. That was perhaps the most privileged statement I've ever made and I’m disgusted with myself. Sorry, back to being a grateful and humble human with a shred of goddamn perspective… *snaps fingers*
Paris, you’ve earned permanent real estate in my heart and I can’t wait to be back once I’m able to sufficiently temper my expectations. Until then, I will see you in my daydreams and all over my Instagram feed...
If you’re traveling to Paris and interested in recommendations, I documented some of my favorites here, along with a smattering on my Paris map. Also happy to chat your ear off about it over a glass or six of rosé–your call.