Right before I returned to the states from my Gilman Scholarship language study experience, I headed to Paris for a couple days to soak up the last bits of French culture (Hello yummy La Durée macarons) in grand style. Well sort of. I had plans to hit up the epically Parisian spots but didn’t have boat loads of cash to stay at a fancy hotel too. So I booked a hostel that I researched online and headed over by train with an address and map in hand. Having a smart phone would’ve really come in handy back then but luckily I arrived without a hitch. Phew. But I don’t think I’d trade the experience for anything in the world. It was thrilling to navigate this foreign city, with nothing but a plan and an open mind.
I can’t remember the name of the hostel but every other detail is ingrained in my memory. It was clean, chicly decorated with big abstract hanging lamps, and had free wifi besides being uber affordable. The bunk beds made me nostalgic for all things child like/fun. I mean it felt like I was at camp and about to meet my new best friends. It’s truly amazing how quickly you bond with travelers and this time was no different. As I was setting down my begs, a curious looking girl bounded in at 6 a.m. looking like she’d already done a weeks worth of activities before most people had woken up. She smiled confidently, said hi, and without taking a breath invited me to tour the museums with her the next day. I said sure without thinking, and she plopped into bed and into a deep sleep that only joyfully spent people can fall into. In less than 24 hours, I’d spend my hours touring Paris with a girl from Romania that unbeknownst to me, would forever impact my beliefs about living in the moment.
Her name was Ophelia.
Her joei de vivre was unparalleled, contagious, and so beautiful. We spent hours upon hours marveling at the art in the Louvre, talking about Romanian music and language, and about her vast travels to every Nine Inch Nails concert she could manage to attend- the last trip being to Bulgaria, a story I enthusiastically soaked in every detail of.
We had spent so much time in the museum by the time I reached my limit and admitted I was growing tired. My feet ached, my bag was digging into my shoulders, and my fascination was giving way to a grumpy demeanor. Ophelia didn’t seem to mind or notice though and just urged me to stay longer; to look a little more because I wouldn’t want to miss what was ahead. So I stayed. Begrudgingly. We went through every hall, and section, climbed countless stairs and walked down others. We stared at paintings that dwarfed us on a huge scale until we the sky grew dark outside.
To be continued….
When Hostelling International USA contacted me about joining their marathon team to spread the word about their mission, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Hostelling is an incredible way to meet people from around the world and quickly learn many things about their culture. My favorite thing is discovering others’ perspective and trying to piece together how growing up in their country influenced their views. What I’ve found is that you are much more likely to relate to people around the world than to differ from them.
We find a lot of the same things to be melancholy, frustrating, joyous, and fulfilling.
Once you realize this, it is easy to feel at home anywhere in the world knowing that you are among unknown friends.
at the LA Marathon in the City of Angels!! I am over the moon at the prospect of running 26.2 miles in California. If you recall, I was originally set to do so at the Surf City Marathon but ended up not going due to a number of personal reasons. I’m now thinking that Cali was meant to be the spot for my first. Life is so funny and I almost believe that there is a plan for all of us when things like this happen.
Do you believe in fate?
Ever stayed at a hostel? Would you try it?