Bougeotte (n): a strong desire to travel // also, the French translation of wanderlust.
I figured it would be worthwhile to write a blog post about the importance of travel. While I was in Europe, I visited nine countries and seventeen different cities in France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. I consider that quite an accomplishment, considering that I am the first person in my family to leave the country (that is, since our ancestors came over way back when).
After such a culturally enriching few months, it almost feels as if there is something missing here at home. While it is nice to see family and friends after being separated for so long, there is something remarkable about traveling; strangers become friends, horizons are broadened, and a personal metamorphosis occurs.
In my case, I feel that traveling was merely the first step in a series of adventures to come. This semester has kindled a flame inside that cannot be satisfied with a sedentary life – it requires that I see new places and people and cultures and continue to live life to the fullest. There are still so many cities and countries on my never-ending list of places to go; Budapest, Hungary, Zadar, Croatia, Rome, Italy… There are seven continents, and I have only been on two. There is still so much to see and do.
It has been a rocky few months, especially in the time before I left to live in Paris. In December, I encountered crippling anxiety that I am still struggling to manage, many of my family members were vehemently against me going abroad, and to top it all off, France had a terrorist attack, the Charlie Hedbo shooting, the week before my plane was set to leave. In hindsight, I am pretty sure I had a panic attack on the plane as I was leaving home for Paris. There were so many factors that should have deterred me from making this voyage, but something had always drawn me to Europe, and I could not pass up this grandiose adventure. I am so glad that I did not succumb to my fears, or those of my family, because this truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not only that, but it taught me that I can face my fears, and it can have an incredible payoff.
Living on my own in a foreign country, I learned a few notable things. One of the lessons that I feel is most worth mentioning is that all French people do not hate Americans, despite popular belief. Rather, they hate the lazy, entitled, ignorant attitude that most Americans present as they visit foreign countries. I understand that I am generalizing, and that not everyone is like this, but a vast majority of us have set up an unflattering stereotype for Americans. I mean, just look at the way we treat foreigners in our own country, there seems to be a great deal of contempt and hatred towards other nationalities. I did have a few terrible run-ins with locals in Paris when I first arrived, but I believe that was because I spoke zero French, and therefore had no way to properly communicate. The French (as with every other nationality) appreciate a bit of effort. A nice, “Bonjour, Monsieur (or Madame). Parlez-vous l’Anglais? Je ne comprends pas Français” goes a long way. Even if they don’t speak English, hey, at least you tried.
I also learned that the limit does not exist when it comes to the amount of baguettes, croissants, Nutella, or crêpes that one can consume. My goodness, the French cuisine was incredible. Not to mention the pasta in Italy, or the fish and chips in the UK. Food in America is ruined for me now.
Another interesting thing – everywhere else in western Europe seems to take life at a slower, more relaxed pace than here in America. Every night, my host family and I had dinner at 8:00, and it lasted an hour. We had proper place settings, three courses, and delectable cuisine, rather than the rushed, greasy fast-food and TV-dinners that have plagued America. I will admit that my family at home is like this as well, most of the time we eat off of paper plates in the living room. But eating is only one example of this relaxed culture versus the chaotic, rushed atmosphere in America. The general pace of life is slower in Europe. With work, transportation, socializing, and all other aspects, they seem to take more time to enjoy themselves.
Living in Paris with a host mother taught me a lot about the French culture and language, and visiting other countries every other weekend taught me to adopt a more worldly view on many things. For instance, I now have a sense of empathy for foreign students in America – the language barrier can be a real challenge!
I am still trying to adjust to life in the United States, but I cannot wait for my next adventure. Hence the title of this blog post; bougeotte, wanderlust, whatever you may call it – I can’t wait to continue exploring.
Pro tip: visit Cinque Terre in Italy – you will not regret it, I promise. It’s just tourist-y enough that the locals speak enough English to get by, but not so tourist-y that you are bombarded by souvenir shops and obnoxious foreigners. Cinque Terre is composed of five towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manaroloa, and Riomaggiore. You can hike between the cities, with a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean on one side, and the beautiful Italian countryside and colorful villages on the other. It truly is a breathtaking place, and it looks unreal in photographs. Definitely a must-see destination!