la ville lumière // the city of light by June Chin

Bonjour! After a week in Paris I have to fight to urge to say that to everyone~ 

This trip was a whirlwind of firsts - most notably, it marked my first solo journey as well as the first time I traveled to a destination without knowing the language.

I left for Paris a little nervous but mostly filled with excitement and anticipation... I was unsure about being a first-timer in a city so well-known for being the ultimate romantic destination, but after a week there I can safely say that I felt seduced by the city itself. I found Paris to be endlessly sophisticated and beautiful. The elegance was everywhere - in the cobblestone roads, the historical architecture, the amazing fine art, the laid-back atmosphere, the culture, the effortlessly chic Parisians, the cuisine... I was so captivated. There was a moment while strolling over the Seine, right as I caught the Eiffel Tower silhouette against the sunset, when I just felt that something in the air - an indescribable element that left me determined to never take all that I'm blessed with for granted again. That all sounds a little cheesy and like I'm idealizing Paris (which I won't deny) but it was that mesmerizing. 

srsly just look at the colors here

srsly just look at the colors here

One of my favorite things about the city was that despite it being very compact, it didn't feel overwhelmingly hectic. Parisians seem to place an emphasis on slowing down to soak in the little things in life, whether it's meals that linger over wine and good conversation or afternoon walks through the park. They also seem to really appreciate people-watching; there are cafes around every corner where it's perfectly acceptable to do so while nursing a coffee for three hours. Besides cafes, the countless gardens and parks and random steps welcome anyone to plunk down and just let the day go by - something I took full advantage of on my first day. I was feeling drained from 15 hours of travel (yes it unfortunately took me 15hrs from London to Paris..) and wanted to do something relaxing, away from any crowds. Daniella (a friend who graciously offered her apartment for me to stay at) suggested the Canal Saint-Martin and so off I went. The sky had just started getting dark when I arrived and I unknowingly ended up spending almost two hours just lingering along the banks of the canal with my camera. 

i wanted to take pictures of all the random street corners and windows and cracked walls i stumbled upon

i wanted to take pictures of all the random street corners and windows and cracked walls i stumbled upon

A second favorite thing, and a factor that made solo wandering easy in Paris - people are comfortable spending time alone. It was common to spot people pass time at a bistro with lunch and a book or casually sipping wine while contemplating life. Yet even as someone who loves having alone-time and despite all the things that captivated me about Paris, by the end of the week I was tired of not having another person to share my experiences with.

By day 5, I was feeling isolated and for the first time in a long time, I was hit with a wave of homesickness like I've never experienced before. It was an alien experience of sorts - I never pined for home while studying abroad in Taiwan last summer and rarely do so when at school back in Santa Barbara. To suddenly have this intense longing to be back amongst familiar environments wash over me was overwhelming, and being in such a foreign place made it all the stranger. Struggling with this made me realize something fundamental about communication and travel - being alone sparked the homesickness, but it was the language barrier that kept the fire burning. Not being able to communicate the most basic things left me feeling powerless, and proved to be the most disorienting and frustrating part about the whole trip. Before leaving, I was only familiar with a measely six French phrases: bonjour, merci beaucoup, pardon, excusez moi, s'il vous plait (please), and je ne parle pas Francais (I don't speak French). 

I underestimated how much the language barrier would affect my experiences, because despite getting by with minimal French (and a lot of gesturing), I felt as though I missed out on so many details by being unable to fully understand my surroundings. I was hoping that the residents would be more accommodating in a city that receives so many visitors, but instead I felt hyper-aware of my foreign-ness. It's something that'll make me think harder about traveling to other destinations where language may be an issue. On the other hand though I would hate for language to prevent me from going anywhere, so I suppose this was a lesson to prepare better next time and to never underestimate the power of effective communication.

Regardless of my frustrations, spending a week in Paris made me more appreciative of the language - there's something about the way French rolls off all the native tongues that makes me stop to listen. Now that I'm back in Canterbury, catching the rare bit of French here and there makes me smile. Surprisingly, I miss hearing the language albeit not understanding 99.5% of it. And on the upside, this was definitely a humbling experience... I'm eternally grateful to all the kind strangers who were happy to help. The next time I stumble upon a lost visitor or flustered family in San Francisco, I'll remember all the times a stranger's kindness made my day and pay it forward.

summer haze -> rainy daze by June Chin

my room - Canterbury, UK || 17:22

Ok so I've already been here for a couple of weeks now but before I get into any of the other reasons (excuses) for the lack of activity thus far, I have to address the main issue that's keeping me from posting: 

it has honestly been difficult adjusting.

The contrast between my actual experiences and my expectations -> drop in motivation on top of the doubts I already had about building this blog/gallery/self-project, and as a result I'm editing my first text post in October.. whoops.  

Even though I knew travel wasn't going to be all glamour and adventure, I half expected to be whisked off to an exciting new place and fall in love with it immediately. But I haven't (yet) and I didn't want to admit it because that brings up all these doubts about coming here that I would rather not face. Partly because my post-grad future depends on how this study abroad trip pans out and also because this trip is completely eliminating my savings therefore leaving me extremely broke. I realize now, as I'm sitting here frustrated and thinking things through, that I'm putting a massive amount of pressure on this one trip to change my life in ways that will give me more... direction.

As the past summer came to a close, I thought that I had a better idea of what my priorities would be post-grad or at least had things mostly figured out. After being abroad here the past couple of weeks though, I'm beginning to wonder if I have to reprioritize. I don't know if my introverted nature is suitable for this solo travel and live abroad life I envisioned, because goddamn stepping out of my comfort zone is hard. I like to feel in control and so much of studying abroad and traveling is the exact opposite. It's perpetually being confused and/or lost, and the feeling of being so obviously an outsider. I can't help wondering if others struggle as hard or feel as lost as I do, because so many people go on vacations to foreign countries  - how do they survive so well?

Perhaps it's the disorienting sensory overload of being in a new place that's making me think this way and it'll improve in a couple weeks.. then again, how long will I be in this transition period before I finally get the hang of things? Three months is way too short to truly assess whether or not living abroad (indefinitely) is an option and I'm really wishing I could extend to a full year even though I'm not having the best time adjusting. I have to consciously remind myself that becoming situated isn't an instantaneous process but one developed in weeks, months, possibly years of transition.