Travel Evokes Emotions

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Paris was the first international city I visited solo.  I booked a flight my senior year, intending to visit my friend and former roommate.  She was a Parisian who had returned to France to attend graduate school after one glorious summer.  Her classes were actually in Lille, but I wanted to see Paris first.

Passport in hand, I arrived in Paris, unprepared, naive, and excited.


Prior to the trip, I was nervous.  What if I got lonely traveling on my own?  What if I couldn’t communicate with my broken French?  What if I got lost?

And truth be told, all those things happened.  My first solo trip didn’t go smoothly and I still remember sitting in the dark on the bathroom floor of my hotel room because I was too embarrassed to tell the front desk I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights. (Hint: put the key card in the slot by the door.)

But soon, the loneliness disappeared and I stopped caring that I was lost.  Paris was enjoyable even if everything didn’t go to plan.  And thankfully, Parisians weren’t rude when I butchered their language.  Of course, that was before the days of Duolingo and Youtube tutorials.

I ended up enjoying my trip, but more than that, I realized solo travel can be a great thing.  Somewhere between spilling powdered sugar all over my pants from a street-food crepe and watching the city sparkle under the twinkle of the Eiffel Tower, I fell in love with Paris.

At least until I came home.

You see, all I wanted to do was tell my stories of this remarkable city.  I wanted to share the adventure with people I loved.  I didn’t want the trip to be over.

Paris, 2007
Paris, 2007

But I couldn’t.  Because when my long-term boyfriend came over, instead of telling him my stories, we broke up.  It broke my heart and it left a negative association with all things Paris.

But, Becky.  This is nine years later.  Move on.

I know.

It’s irrational.  Illogical.  Nonsensical.  But I still expect going to Paris — beautiful, incredible Paris — to end with bad news.

I’m positive that the only way to give Paris a fair shot is to visit a second time.  It’s the reason I didn’t fight (too much) when Mike said he wanted to stopover in the city of light.  We’re going there at the end of the month, ready to spend 3 days in a city built for romance.

This time, I’m hopeful I leave Paris with the same love and enjoyment, but without the sour aftertaste.  It’s not like I expect Mike to break up with me (in fact, we’ll be celebrating our sixth anniversary!) and it’s not like I think other bad news will be waiting.

But Paris, mon amour, you only get one more chance.  Let’s not make it bittersweet.

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Help me out!

Can you help me get excited for Paris instead of dreading irrational bad news?  Tell me what you love about the city (or what you think you’d love, if you haven’t been) in the comments below.

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why I don't want to go toParis

12 thoughts on “Travel Evokes Emotions”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Becky. I agree that emotions are intrinsically entwined with our vacation memories, whether positively or negatively. I have found that time seems to help distance the two, but I haven’t had as strong an emotional experience as you did. On one trip to Spain, I was sick the entire time and came back with a negative memory of the country. After some time, I was able to separate out the two, and ended up looking back and realizing that there were a lot of things I’d enjoyed after all. Again, different degrees of experience. Something like a break up is much harder to put behind you.

    I’m glad you’re giving Paris another shot (I haven’t been yet, though I really want to), and I’m sure you’ll leave with much happier memories this time.

    1. @Leigh, Great to hear your perspective and I hope you have the chance to re-visit Spain under more pleasant circumstances! I remember enjoying Paris, so looking forward to ending on a high note this time.

  2. I have an adage that I eat by. Try to taste everything twice because you can never be sure about the first time. That blood sausage in Bogóta was a perfect example.
    Life can be the same way. Sometimes the first flavours are appealing, then the final taste becomes unpleasant. A relationship ending as yours did, is little different. Paris is deserving of another visit and sta y. She to needs some love and this timeI’m sure she we leave you with l’amour and a desire to return to her.
    Bon voyage.

    I know how much you enjoy authentic and also a great meal.
    Opposite the Renaissance Vendome, we had a great stay there, is my go to lunch spot in Paris. It’s called Au Petit Bar. That’s it. You walk into a narrow space wide enough for the counter, 8 stools and a café table. Further back has a few more tables for dining. You’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time. They have a rotary phone. Their cellar is accessed through the bar floor. The staff (all family) don’t speak any English but give you a wonderful welcome and you’ll chat away somehow.
    The foods are simple and rustic. We were told the story,on our last trip, about his sourcing of butter, cheese & meats. All are from a single farm, about 100 kms away. They wanted the flavours, he said, to be in harmony with each other. It works. The charcuterie platter (€8) was delicious. A fresh, crusty baguette and a draught beer, provided the ideal compliment.
    Another day we had just pâté and cheese. We mentioned that we’d enjoy something as a dessert. You know I share your sweet tooth. Thank goodness we did. The matriarch bakes like a goddess. It was a simple slice, of a strawberry tart, that rivals any tasting of anything either of us could remember.

    1. @Tim, You already know this, but thanks so much for the recommendation. We loved the charcuterie and same strawberry tart — as well as the plat du jour and vin rouge!

  3. I can imagine triggers like this being extremely difficult and our emotions can easily get out of hand. I hope that you get some good tips on how to overcome this irrational fear of this emotion because well it’s normal to feel this way but others may have had similar experiences to guide you forward. I honestly have not had this type of experience as I haven’t gone past the East Coast (lived a sheltered life -haha) but I have confidence you will go and make new memories that will be positive ones!

    1. @Brandy, Thanks for your support. Just wanted to follow-up — I went to Paris and none of the emotional history was a problem. That said, still not my favorite city in the world but glad I went.

  4. What a very interesting article. My daughter will be visiting Paris soon, she is a senior and this is the trip she has been longing to go on. I can’t really say anything about Paris but I’m sorry things turnout the way they did. Brush yourself off and just wait, the time will come where you will go back to Paris with the one you love and you both will make long lasting memories. Hold your head high, you are a beautiful young lady!

  5. I loved the food and the scenery. I was there in college and actually found the locals surprisingly helpful… almost all of my encounters were positive. So my favorite part… Paris was what I didn’t think it would be, and I loved that. I agree it’s tough to return to a place that holds strong memories. I am doing that in a month, returning to Ireland. My memories are all good but I worry now that going back will not be near as good as I remember it to be.

    1. @Kristi, Anytime I return somewhere I loved, I make sure to mix in a few new things (whether that’s a different Irish city or just a new attraction/experience). It ensures that the trip still feels “new” and you aren’t 100% comparing it to the last trip. Have a great time!

  6. I can totally relate to the way you are feeling!!! I am actually too anxious to even travel these days. But, you will be great! Just hit the reset button and let Paris heal anything left over from that last trip!

  7. Oh gosh! What a challenging shroud for the city to wear. I hope your trip this time is filled with all of the art, fine dining, and historic sights I think of when I hear Paris.

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