17 Jan First Time Solo in Paris
I guess technically I had traveled alone before. I flew to London to meet my study abroad group. But that didn’t really count. I hadn’t gone anywhere or done anything by myself other than get on a plane. So Paris was the first time I’d actually traveled by myself. I took a bus from Prague, leaving late Wednesday night after class and we drove all night. I sat in the very back next to the window with four people in the seats to my left.
I kept my coat on, pulling up the fur hood, stuffing my scarf at the side of my head and leaning on the window. I took two Advil PMs before we started off and it was the smartest thing I could have done. On the long, bouncy drive I only woke up when we stopped at Metz and the fluorescent lights of the station hit my eyes.
In the morning I was sleepy but not like I thought I’d be. I got off the bus and walked in the cool spring air down a road that, to me, seemed perfectly Parisian. It had shops with signs like charcuterie, boucherie, patisserie, and even the cars seemed exquisitely French. I did my best to find a metro, again marveling at how recognizable everything seemed. Not that I was anywhere near the Eiffel Tower or any other big sites, but Paris looked like the one I had always see in pictures and had thought about.
I finally found a metro station and was probably more tired than I had realized because it seemed much harder than it should have been to navigate through the underground maze. I got on the wrong trains, or the right train but going the wrong direction. Maybe I was so excited and anxious to see the rest of Paris that I wasn’t thinking clearly, rushing through tunnels without reading the maps or names properly.
When I finally found my hostel I was tired. I was exhausted really, but of course I couldn’t get in to my room because it was too early. I dropped my bags off and walked around the Montmartre area. I didn’t have anywhere to go and it felt like I was just wandering around. Which is really all I was doing. I was hungry but the thought of going into a restaurant alone scared me. I am not outgoing and sometimes the littlest tasks seemed to be the hardest to do. It took me a long time of wandering up and down the streets with tables spilling out from restaurants before I could work up the courage to go in anywhere.
Once inside it wasn’t any easier. The French I learned in high school slipped my mind completely and I couldn’t seem to remember even the word for “water.” When I left, despite feeling a little embarrassed, I was relieved. Overcoming that slightly obstacle was the momentum I needed to keep going in Paris and really push myself.
Things weren’t any easier after that. I still was frightened at times and I was still nervous to do things on my own but that trip to Paris gave me the confidence to know that I could take care of myself and that, more than just surviving, I was able to do something big, like travel, and see and experience what I wanted.
What was your first solo travel story? Share it will me in the comments.