Today’s post isn’t exactly the usual “travel” post. Today’s is a little more personal.
With the mindset of I only have five weeks here and I have so much to see and to experience, I have been racing from one thing to another my first week in Paris, whether it be class, a museum, or my laptop for another blog post. I’m so grateful for the memories I’ve created from these experiences, and I guarantee you that I will cherish them forever.
But, something was wrong. Yesterday, I was experiencing writer’s block and felt unnerved and flustered. Today I woke up feeling extremely tired.
I felt burnt out. Frustrated. Almost angry. I couldn’t really concentrate, for no apparent reason.
After class, I stayed behind to deal with some errands. Then, I stopped. I sat in an empty room doing absolutely nothing for about fifteen minutes.
And then I got up and left.
I had no idea where I was really going, only that I wanted to get away from something, as “angsty” as that sounds. I looked at my map, picked a place that seemed nice (and had good restaurant reviews), and hopped on a metro train.
I ended up at what is probably my favorite place in all of Paris right now, but I’m going to be a little selfish and not tell you where that is. Not yet at least. It may sound childish, but I just want to keep it a secret for a little longer, just because it makes it a little extra special in my heart.
This place was the most perfect balance between city and village. It was enough bustle to make it feel alive, but also enough tranquility to make you feel at home. The weather was also perfect today – a light breeze accompanied by the warmth of the sun.
I wandered a little bit until I found a restaurant that really caught my eye. It was small, but extremely pretty and cozy. Facing the windows, I sat down and ordered some escargots (the best I’ve ever had).
And I took my time.
With the view of the streets in front of me, I sipped my water slowly, savored the incredible escargot and profiterole (their house special), and spent an indefinite amount of time just looking out the window. I think I took almost two hours for lunch, but I didn’t really care, to be honest, because during those two hours, my mind cleared.
It may have been a combination of good food and great views (as well as the waiter telling me I spoke French well), but at that moment, I realized what I had been missing. It was so simple.
I know that sounds obvious, but I don’t mean that in the typical “I don’t have time because I’m busy” way.
So, what exactly do I mean?
As an American and a college student, I’m all too familiar with the hidden but urgent expectation of society, the expectation that we need to be busy all the time. From personal experiences, as well as those of friends, I know that many of us experience an almost guilty feeling if we’re not always booked. To run is to be successful and ambitious. To rest is to be lazy and purposeless.
We seem to feel a bit like failures if our planner isn’t completely color-coded and filled with writing.
And so we fill every slot of our lives with something. Class. Work. Errands. Responsibilities. For me? Tourist locations. Landmarks. Museums.
Even our meals (for me at college, at least) are rushed. There’s always something more to do.
How can we not feel dissatisfied and frustrated if every moment of our lives seems to be dictated?
One thing I’ve noticed in Paris is that the French take time to enjoy their meals. Dinners regularly take 1.5 to 2 hours. They don’t eat any more than we do in America, but they slow down and truly enjoy every moment. Whether you’re French or American, we all have 24 hours in a day. We all have time, in the most literal sense.
The difference is how we prioritize personal time, and that is something we overlook more than we should.
So yes, I spent two hours for lunch today. No, I didn’t go anywhere “famous” or “important” or extremely “fascinating.”
But I did walk around exploring for an hour in the sun, and I did spend the most wonderful 1.5 hours eating a three course meal with my host family, talking about cultural differences, various cuisines, and how the word baguette means both bread and chopsticks.
Some may think those hours could have been spent doing something more productive, but I feel like those couple of hours that I took just for myself cleared my head like nothing else could have. Not a museum, not a monument, not even sleep.
I realized that I do have the time, but only if I prioritized it.
So, from one busy person to another, I plead you to take time for yourself, and more importantly, to not feel guilty about it. Indeed, we live life to progress, from getting job promotions to moving onto next life stages.
But, we also live life just to live, to simply relish in the fact that we are present, right now. There doesn’t have to be a reason for us to treat ourselves to that little bit of luxury time, because at the end of the day, I guarantee you that those free moments will accomplish more than any extra work, duties, or responsibilities you may complete in that time.
Even when you’re traveling, take time to notice and understand the atmosphere and pace of the country, aspects that are often overshadowed by the country’s monuments and landmarks.
As for my blog, I promise that I will keep posting about my travels. From now on, however, I’m going to be posting only when I absolutely feel like it, without the internal pressure I’ve given myself of having to write about all my experiences immediately. I cannot give you a timeline when I will post, but know that when I do post, it’s because I sincerely want to and, more importantly, that I’ve taken time for myself first.