A Minnesotan in Paris

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By Cate Tynjala 

I’ve always loved travel. It forces me to temporarily and completely remove myself from my usual routines, and every trip has provided me with experiences that allow a new perspective on my own life. From late June to July, I was lucky enough to travel between the Netherlands and Paris, France for a period of three weeks.

I was alone in Paris for a week, and therefore unable to rely on anyone but myself. I couldn’t message or text a friend and expect an immediate response if I ran into a problem. I was alone in a foreign city with minimal knowledge of how to use the public transportation and, despite five years of French, a rudimentary understanding of the language. So, after a long train ride through the Dutch and French countryside, I settled into my Airbnb feeling panicked, anxious, and uncertain of myself. I had never truly been on my own for a period of time like this, let alone in a foreign country. My goals were simple: learn how to use the metro and don’t get lost or kidnapped.

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Despite initial anxieties and concerns, I was able to familiarize myself with the metro system and the flow of the city. I visited Shakespeare and Company, an English bookstore which had previously been a common meeting place for authors Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and others. I sat by the Seine enjoying the view of Notre Dame and people-watched on the Champs-Élysées.

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Going into my trip, my biggest concerns were logistical. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to use the public transportation correctly or efficiently. I worried that I would be pickpocketed or assaulted. To my own surprise, my biggest obstacle was emotional. Being on my own and being forced to rely solely on myself helped me learn about myself, what I need, and to embrace feelings of discomfort and isolation as opportunities for growth.

Although I wouldn’t say that these realizations are exclusive to people who travel abroad or who spend several weeks in Paris, being physically removed from my norm and not being so readily exposed to social media or pressure from friends and family was the push I needed. The physical distance encouraged me to have necessary but uncomfortable conversations with myself about who I am now and where I want to be.

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Gertrude Stein said “America is my country, Paris is my home town.” I cannot claim any part of Paris as my own, but I am deeply grateful for that city and the experiences that it lent me.




Laura BeierComment