I have been traveling across seas since a very young age. Both my grandmothers, Mem and Tati, had me on a plane every summer traveling with them. The first time I flew alone from New York to Monaco, to meet my grandmother and aunt, I was six years old. I was fearless. I never imagined the worst, I could only dream of the wonders that new place had to offer. I looked forward to each summer because I knew I was encouraged to travel. I loved hopping on a PanAm flight to indulge in the french mediterranean waters, landscapes, culture and language. My grandmother, Mem, and aunt, Teresa, were always there waiting for me – ready to take me to the beaches, french classes and immerse me in a new culture.
Each summer, my travels extended beyond the south of France, becoming more exotic. My trips penetrated my veins with a passion for different people, languages and cultures. It set the foundation for my true education. Slowly, I began to identify myself as someone who thrives when traveling. I realized that I have a true calling to immerse myself in new places and traditions. It was only by maturing and by continuously traveling more each year throughout my life that I realized what it is I love most about traveling alone – the thrill of change!
I love changing environments, my daily routines, the ability to adapt to new people, foods, smells and places. I love the change that occurs within me while I am abroad and navigating the foreigns streets on my own. I flourish when I am abroad. My soul is liberated and I connect with all new things and beings. I expand my horizons, ways of thinking, ways of being and I adopt new customs. I gain a greater sense of belonging. I naturally become a part of the world. By having to change in order to adapt and flow with the locals, I find myself camouflaging and becoming a local. Embracing the new and releasing any pretentious traps of disappointment.
At age sixteen my grandmother, Tati, invited me on a three-week trip over the summer to Europe. The itinerary included Paris, Normandy, all of Italy and Switzerland. In the summer of 1997, I boarded the plane with little expectations, for I thought Paris was overrated. What really interested me was Italy. I hadn’t been to either, so I really had no idea what to expect, aside from all the postcard images in books. I thought Paris would be normal and that I would be enamored by Italy. I was wrong. Paris enamored me.
I spent a full week in Paris, strolling the scorching streets in the middle of July amongst thousands of other tourists. What was only a week in Paris, felt like a lifetime. We explored every arrondissement, museum, church, doorways, gardens and iconic restaurants. Tati was an avid traveler and spent all her money in her youthful days traveling to places women back then would never dare to go on their own. Tati would get a thrill from learning about history, exotic cultures and people. The more different it all was, the more she engulfed. She was avid about educating me this way. I learned more in a week in Paris than in sixteen years at school. I didn’t want to leave. Experiential learning was exactly how I learned best – a truth I had just discovered. I was magnetically absorbed by Paris and the richness its beauty had to offer.
From age sixteen to twenty-one I dreamt of my time in Paris and longed for the day to arrive when I, too, could become a Parisienne (by spending my junior year in university abroad). I was so in love with Paris that I didn’t want it to change. I wanted it to be and feel exactly the same as it did at age 16, during our blissful summer week together. The greatest lesson of that week in Paris was my grandmother’s one piece of wisdom, which shaped my mindset for my future travels (literally and figuratively) forevermore. Tati’s words of wisdom – “Never expect a place or person to be exactly the same the next time you see them. That’s a truth that you must learn in order to avoid disappointments in life”. To detach from an idealized outcome, I set myself free to adapt with the times and I am able to receive what is meant for me to experience. I am able to change with what is meant for me.
Change happens when you reposition and interpret your beliefs and perceptions of your self worthiness differently from how you’ve done so in the past. Change happens when you are present because when you are present, you are free of the drainage energy that is induced by fear. The universe will give you only the changes that you are able to handle. You begin to shift paradigms when you are willing to accept the new roads being paved before you. To be vulnerable, means you can feel and you allow yourself to be touched – by emotions, including love. To feel the touch of change heals us.
Our pains are relieved when we are touched, comforted, and held. Once you allow someone to accompany your pains in life, you relieve yourself of the bearings of traveling alone and you are then touched with serenity and love. Through the touch of love you begin to change and open up. To be truly vulnerable to the power of change, you must be willing to live your life and not let others lead it. “Others” includes people, things, ego, temptation, or external influences that hide your true self from being touched by change. It takes courage and bravery to seek change, to allow change to heal you, to be the change and to change yourself. Once you change, all else changes around you. You are one with the Universe.
As Socrates, one of leading founders of moral Western philosophy, states – “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”. There is a one in a third chance you will succeed in your healing process if you focus on making the changes by yourself. You need yourself, your supportive social circle and a conducive environment to make and sustain lasting changes. By cultivating awareness, we become more mindful of the importance to acknowledge, accept and surrender to what is. Through mindfulness, we develop patience for the process of change to do its thing and we acquire courage to embrace the new into our lives. “Growth and transformation are alway entering the unknown, and the unknown is always felt as radical” by Guru Singh. It is in the uncertainty where evolution takes place.
Throughout my entire year abroad, there wasn’t a day that would go by without exploring a new corner, painting, tree, person, bakery, restaurant, store, city street, wine or doorway to an unknown cuartyard. It was a year full of adventure, laughter, explorations, and beautiful love. I met love in the most unexpected places within Paris. I didn’t lose the love that I had connected with at age sixteen, but rather, I expanded upon it and let it ordain my days as a student flaneur.
Throughout my life, there wasn’t a year where I was not forced to shed a new layer of skin and grow into my new self. Each year brings a new challenge, a new opportunity, a new you. Each season enables us to evolve and rediscover and align with our truth – our heart. Although the people, boutiques and restaurants in Paris may change each season – Paris will always be Paris. Paris is love. Paris is heart. Paris is classical and yet ever changing.
I wish for you, the reader, to surrender and lean into the changes that each day brings. To accept things for how they unfold and not how you want them to unfold. I wish you awe and wonder of the beauty behind the universal energies guiding you into new directions for your self-growth and for deepening your connection to your passions and heart, whatever they may be. May your days, weeks, months, years and life be filled with adventurous spirit, traveling with curiosity, courage and openness to receive the unexpected and to expand with the wonders ahead. May you return to your Paris (your heart) with an open mind – indulging in its ever changing classical beauty.