Did you ever study abroad? Or did you ever spend some time during your formative years in a place far from home?
I did. I studied abroad in Paris during my last year of college. And this summer I went back and retraced my old steps.
The experience was like going back in time.
During my semester in Paris, I naturally had to walk to and from my classes every week. My commutes became somewhat of a routine that, to this day, I can recreate in my mind.
A few times a week, Iâ€™d walk from my French language class at La Sorbonne in the 5th Arrondissement to my phonetics class in the 6th on the other side of the Pantheon. On my way, was the view in the picture above. And behind me was the scene below.
Sometimes Iâ€™d stop at a Lebanese takeaway stand and grab a delicious wrap stuffed with hummus, tabouli, garlic sauce and lamb (Kebi).
Right around the corner is Rue Mouffetard, a lively, little street that caters to international students. Often times after class Iâ€™d stop at a cafÃ© just at the top of this street for tea – Moroccan mint served in a traditional pot- or an espresso.
So as I followed my old footsteps, I couldn’t help to marvel at how six years later things are basically the same. And life is going on just as I left it. It was dreamlike, feeling as if I was reliving the past.
You bet I got one of those Lebanese wraps. It did not disappoint. And then I found myself sitting in my old cafÃ© with a tea.
I started to remember those little differences in etiquette that I had learned years ago. I must know what I want when the waiter comes by or Iâ€™ll get left for a really long time. The best way to get good service is to try to relate to the waiter. So I should crack a situational joke or flirt. You know, break the ice. And I must tip with a few pieces of loose change that Iâ€™ll leave on the table â€“ nowhere near %15 to %20.
I started to think about what was on my mind those days. It was a time when everything else in life was suspended and all that mattered was the present.
My biggest worries where passing my classes while still having as much fun as possible. I remember wondering where I would meet a French guy. And I remember enjoying myself in my art history classes where we would go to the Musee Dâ€™Orsay and the Louvre to study the originals instead of looking at photos in a textbook.
Sitting in that cafe and retracing my steps was much like revisiting a childhood home. The experience was bittersweet as I wished those times could be in the present and that those people could be there with me.
And it also made me realize just how far I’ve come in my life.
The last time I sat in that cafe, I had no idea the career I would pursue after college graduation would turn out to be uninteresting to me. I had no idea Iâ€™d go back to school to get my master’s. I had no idea that Iâ€™d end up living in New York City. I definitely didnâ€™t think Iâ€™d be single at 28-years-old. And I would have never believed that one day I’d have the audacity to turn my hobby of documenting my travel experiences into a career.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. And I felt a distinct sense of confirmation that I am on the right path.
People often think that travel should be about how many countries youâ€™ve hit and how many different crazy adventures you can boast. But I think sometimes revisiting a place that made a big impact on your life in the past can be quite a powerful experience in the present.
Where would you revisit?