While plenty of people call Paris, France the “City of Lights”, I like to call Paris “Ma Ville Des Rêves”, or “My City of Dreams”. I have been blessed with visiting Paris but only once but twice, and ironically enough exactly one year apart. During both of my visits, I had an introspective experience and I appreciated the valuable lessons that I feel the city bestowed upon me for free. It seemed as if I not only wanted to visit Paris but I needed to visit Paris in order to grow. I still think about those life lessons Paris has taught me to this day, and whenever I need a reminder, I look at the wallpaper on my phone, a picture of the Eiffel Tower herself.
I cannot tell you at what exact age I wanted to first visit Paris, but I do know that I was a young child. I would hear about the city constantly in movies, see photos of the Eiffel Tower, and dream about running around in a pretty dress. Those fantasies never ceased as I got older, but instead they only magnified. I studied not only Spanish in high school, but French simultaneously. I decided that if I would ever have a daughter her name would be Paris. Then Serena Williams (my older sister in my head) spoke of her love for the city and eventually purchased a home there, and I knew I wasn’t crazy. I had the Paris blues badly but had no idea when and if I would be able to visit the city I longed for.
On a whim in June of 2016, I ventured off to Europe for 40 days on a solo travel trip. I was worried about overhyping my experience because in various online travel communities, I had heard so many negative remarks. Paris was dirty. The metro smelled like urine. The city is overcrowded. The French are rude. Paris is overpriced. The list goes on and on, but even still, I was determined to see the city for myself and I am glad I did. I had first gone to Spain and Portugal when I arrived in Europe one week prior, but when I got to Paris and literally stumbled upon the Eiffel Tower, I busted out crying. I had finally fulfilled what seemed like a lifelong dream.
Six months later around the holiday season, I began having strong desires to return to Paris and even had several dreams. I longed for a way to be able to visit for New Year’s Eve but I knew that was not a reality. Another six months later though, my dream finally came true and I found myself with a one-way flight booked from Marrakech to Paris for €28 (shoutout to Ryan Air). Considering the fact that I had some downright miserable moments in Marrakech, I was beyond enthusiastic about returning to Paris but I wondered if I would have the same appreciation. As soon as I saw the Eiffel Tower glistening in the background, all doubt went to the wayside and I was ready to receive what the city had to give me.
Related Post: 21 Days Away: Paris, the Second Time Around
Reflecting back on my two separate experiences in Paris has taught me some life lessons that I can use to this day back home in Dallas. I pray that this resonates with you and you share it with others that might need this word.
Lesson #1: Pause. Slow down. Breathe. Smell the Roses.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m a born and raised Jersey girl. While I have been a resident of the South for 10 years (wow), I still walk fast and talk fast. I have a disdain for people that mozy and walk without a purpose. I have places to go and things to do. If you stand on the left side of the escalator and not the right, I want to fight you. That’s just who I am. One thing that I noticed though in Paris, is that with the exception of wild attempts to catch the metro, the pace is slower. This might be true for all of Europe but when I would aimlessly walk around the city, I would wonder what took me so long to get to my destination. The answer? I was engulfed in the moment. I was present. If I noticed a patch of roses in a small garden, I went over to check it out. I continuously paused and marveled in the architecture of the city. I appreciated the trees draping over to create a cool canopy while I was in Belleville. I appreciated the little things and I liked how it felt.
Now that I am back in Dallas, I am doing my best effort to try to find what I might have been overlooking for the past two years. I still get wrapped up in some glorifications of busy (which definitely doesn’t mean productive), but I am slowly but surely going to get better.
Lesson #2: Life is meant to be enjoyed.
Are you living or are you existing? I think Parisians understand how to live their best life. They take their holidays seriously and are unapologetic about it. I will never understand how some Americans literally brag about never missing a day of work. What memories will that bring you? What’s your prize? A cheap plaque? That lifestyle is not for me and it will never be, but sometimes I feel guilty about wanting to take a break but then being in Paris reminded me that life is supposed to be enjoyed. I am sure that same employee who has perfect attendance has a boss that enjoys a day off or five with the family.
Paris reminded me that sometimes you don’t need a special occasion to open a bottle of champagne and give a toast to life. This is all we have and you better enjoy it while you are able.
Lesson #3: Keep pushing.
I’ll never forget where I was when I first saw the breaking news about the terror attacks in Paris. I couldn’t help but tear up to see the death toll rising as people were just out trying to have a good time, living life. Because of the subsequent attacks, I know my mother was nervous when I told her Paris would be included in my travels (because that is a non-negotiable). At times, I too would be nervous during either trip when the subway would randomly stop without explanation or if I was around larger crowds, but I would have to remind myself to breathe and have faith.
Paris and its residents taught me to keep pushing. The city did not crumble after various attacks and it will keep shining light and pressing forward. Traditions are still upheld, people are still out and about even if tourism has done down, and Paris has truly showed its resilience. Even though I am not from the city, I am proud of Paris for looking forward, not backwards.
Lesson #4: Keep Dreaming.
In the entrepreneur / creative community, the word “dreamer” can produce a negative connotation but while it is important to put dreams into action, I think it’s good to always have a lingering dream. For some people New York City or Los Angeles is the city they visit hoping that they catch the next big break or finally begin to live the life they want. When I go to Paris and look up at the Eiffel Tower, I am reminded that there is no dream too big for me to accomplish. I dreamed of visiting Paris for at least 15 years, if not 20, but it eventually happened. Seeing the growth of my friend Tanisha’s business, Girl Meets Glass, only further ignited that I need to keep dreaming and keep executing. Maybe it’s the lights that do something to me to get my creative juices flowing but I will always be the little black girl from Jersey with big Paris dreams.
Part of the reason why I love traveling is because I get to learn new things about myself as well as the world around me. You learn so much when you are in a different element. If I have my way, I will make sure that I can visit Paris at least once a year because there is so much to see and so much I have yet to discover. I am grateful for the life lessons that were emphasized to me after visiting Paris and for the fact that Paris has still yet to lose its splendor to me.
Is there a city that you have visited that taught you some valuable life lessons? What is a city that you have dreamed about visiting since you were a child? I’m curious so let’s chat!