As soon as I return home from a trip the inevitable travel bug scratches its itchy claws at me to book that next adventure. I can’t sit still. I spend hours reading guidebooks and scrolling through Pinterest for inspiration. Despite not being over the jet lag from my past adventure or even having unpacked my bags, I’m already desperately looking for where I can go next. The fact is that I’m beyond broke, have an overloaded university schedule, volunteer commitments, a job, hobbies, and sometimes (occasionally) I even go to the gym. I’m outrageously busy trying to balance life and all I can think about is paying off my visa and booking my next flight. Go figure.
I have sadly returned from France and am now back in my hometown in Northwestern Ontario. This past week has been exceptionally gruelling for me as the windchill gave us temperatures of -44. It was -20 today, and it honestly felt “nice” out to me. I guess it doesn’t take long to adjust!
The most common thing people have said to me since I have returned has been: Hey! How was France? What’s it like being back?
Now normally, I give a really thoughtful and sophisticated answer like: Hey! France was awesome! It’s cold here!
But honestly, there’s much much more to it. I just assume that most people are asking to be polite, not because they want to listen to me ramble on for hours about all the incredible-ness (is that even a word?) of France and how absolutely strange it is being back in Thunder Bay. If this is you, and when you were asking you were simply being polite then please stop reading here. I won’t be offended…..
How was France?
France was amazing, frustrating, adventurous, hilarious, wonderful, stressful, informative, life altering, inspiring, and an experience that I will never forget. Unless I get Alzheimer’s, or something similar. Then I might forgot. But the point is, that France was perfect and despite all the bumps along the way I wouldn’t change a single aspect of my adventures these past few months. I met some of the greatest people in the world. People who inspired me and made me the best possible version of myself. People who were doing things with their lives. People who on their spare times would learn languages, create something or discuss important events and ideas. People who were absolutely hilarious, and who’s humour didn’t come at the expense of others.
I got to travel to 8 different countries. I saw all sorts of different cultures, ate different foods and experienced life from so many different perspectives. I witnessed one of the most magical and peaceful sunsets in Portugal, drove around islands in Greece in ATVs while hopping from beach to beach – swimming in caves and jumping off cliffs, I ate nothing but pizza for four days straight in Italy, I drank copious amounts of French wine, I improved my second language drastically, I experienced Amsterdam with 6 other hilarious chicks, I visited old friends in new countries, but most of all, and most importantly, I got to feel alive. That’s the most beautiful thing about travelling. When you travel you are in the present. You aren’t sitting in your bed watching reruns on Netflix (I’m not saying I don’t occasionally do that..). When you travel you’re not thinking about being somewhere else or doing something else. Where you are and what you should be doing is in the present. I don’t remember where I heard this from, but there was a quote somewhere (probably on Pinterest, let’s be honest), about how travelling is like getting to see the world over again as if it were new. Things that you see everyday become new and exciting. A cup of coffee in a new country isn’t just a cup of coffee. Fashion is different, food is different. Things that we are so accustomed to and that we don’t even pay attention to in our home towns like streets and buildings become what intrigues us when we travel. In turn, when we return home, we see these small things that we had gone without noticing before. The world becomes new again when you travel, like you are seeing everything from the eyes of a child. It’s a beautiful thing and is really important to me. That feeling of being in the present and alive is so rare and incredible. It’s something that we should all strive for. Being with people who give that to you, having a job that does that for you, and being in a place that makes you feel that. This is what France was to me. That’s how France was.
What’s it like being back?
Well, it IS cold. I wasn’t joking about that part. It is on some days over 30 degrees colder here than it is back in Lyon. Temperature actually changes a lot of things. For one, my skin and hair are begging for moisture. I literally put cream on my face 5x a day now. Does that point really matter? No… anyways… The biggest thing the temperature difference means is the difference in style. And okay, there are other factors that influence fashion choices in Thunder Bay vs. Lyon, BUT cold weather is definitely one of them. People wear sweatpants here. And yoga pants. And baggy T-shirts. And UGGs. And sweatshirts. And then a sweatshirt ON TOP of that sweatshirt. Hell, when it’s -44 outside I literally ask myself if I could just bring my duvet cover to school to wrap myself in it after also wearing 4 sweaters, tights, yoga pants, sweats and snow pants. Okay, I’m being dramatic. But seriously it’s cold here and I have super cute clothes from France that I’m dying to wear but am not committed enough to freeze to do so.
When I originally flew back to Thunder Bay about three weeks ago, everything was moving at such a fast pace that I didn’t really have time to process the fact that I was back in Thunder Bay. I had surprised my family for Christmas, and if you saw my video than you would know that it ended up being a whole big fiasco and pretty much I was cracked out on adrenaline for the first 2 days and then I just crashed for the next 3. And then one day I woke up and I had been living in Thunder Bay for a week and it was as if I had never left. That pretty much sums up what it was like coming back. And if you haven’t seen my video then here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtj8zB20Xro
It’s also weird not hearing French everywhere I go. When I got to the Toronto airport, I was so thrilled to be hearing English all around me that I would ease drop on everyone. It was so much harder to do that when people were speaking French! (Keep in mind that I hadn’t been in an English speaking country for over 4 months). I probably looked really weird because I had gotten no sleep, hadn’t showered in over 60 hours and was smiling like I had just one the lottery as I listened to these people speak English. I’m not exaggerating. It was so exciting. Now however, I miss French.
I hate responsibilities. Okay, most people are going to hate me for this one.. but seriously, I had no responsibilities in France! I had to pay my rent once a month and show up to the 9 hours of class (most of the time) I had a week. All those classes were 100% finals, which yeah is incredible stressful but meant that I didn’t even have assignments to do throughout the year. I just travelled, ate, drank, slept, watched Netflix, shopped, and did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now all of a sudden, I’m in school for 20 hours a week, I have a part-time job, animals to take care of, and volunteer commitments (like most other human beings on the planet). I hate it. I know I’m privileged to have every single one of these responsibilities and there are people in the world who would love to have the problems I do, but for the time being I am being grumpy about it all. Boo responsibilities. Boo. Boo. Boo.
So, I am back in Thunder Bay. Broke as can be and happy as ever. I am always planning my next adventure. The possibilities are endless! So far there is potential for a cheap last minute all inclusive getmethefuckoutofthiscoldweather trip on reading week to somewhere in the Caribbean, a camping trip in the Sahara outside Morocco in May, Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto this summer, and then somewhere in the states for New Years as I will finally be 21!
Any suggestions? Where will you guys be going this year?