“When I was ten years old, my father and I took a trip to Paris, leaving my younger brother and mother in London where she was filming a movie. My dad believed in one-on-one time with us, and sometimes that extended to a weekend away. We stayed at a great hotel and he said I could order whatever I wanted for breakfast (French fries). We went to the Pompidou museum, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre – the usual spots. It was pretty great. On the plane back to London he asked me if I knew why we had gone, just he and I, to Paris for the weekend. I said no, but I felt so lucky for the trip. He said, “I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love you, no matter what.”
-Gwyneth Paltrow, actress http://goop.com/journal/go/23/paris
I love some of the deeper shares from Gwyneth Paltrow and her website GOOP.
My first trip to Paris was at age 17 and also was made with my father. At the beginning of my senior year of high school my father sat me down and said he would like to take me to Europe that coming summer. He said that unfortunately, because of the family obligations (I am the oldest of 10 children), that he would not be able to pay for the trip, but that if I worked really hard that year, he would help me. So my sister (the one just younger) and I set up a little cleaning business and I socked away every penny that I could. That summer, before heading to college, I spent a magical month in Europe visiting 10 countries with my Dad and this same precious sister (who also had worked so hard that year) by my side.
Now, this travel was done back in the day when money needed to be exchanged at each border. My Dad said that if I would hand my savings over to him, he would take care of all that needed to be done. He got the tickets, set the itinerary, arranged the transportation, booked the accommodations and did all the money exchanging, etc. All I had to do was just ask him for my money in as much of a given country’s currency as I thought I needed as we moved around. I kept a careful eye on my budget, I spent wisely and I had a wonderful time making some incredible memories.
When I got home and I was getting ready to move away to school, one night my father came to me with an envelope. Inside it was a copy of my bank statement. Every penny that I had earned over that year for the Europe trip was still in my account. He gave me a huge hug. He said how proud he was to have watched me truly appreciate something that I had worked so hard to achieve and he said to enjoy the emergency fund I now had available to me while going through school :). Since that first trip to Europe 26 years ago, I have had the privileged to return to that continent many times again and each time I appreciate it more and I also learn something new.
For me one the greatest gifts of travel outside ones home country and culture is being gifted a mirror back into ones self. It is a unique mirror which helps show where I have allowed myself to be defined and to internally identify as who and what I am, that which is actually just external details… instead, just parts of where I was born and what that particular place has taught me about the experience of being human. What parts I think make up who M is, are actually just voices that come from being born an American? …(and expanding on that being a woman, wife, daughter, sister, Christian, college graduate, middle class, dancer, challenged cook, cat lover, closet George Michael fan, yellow mustard eschewer, …and on and on and on). Travel gives a wonderful opportunity to be moved outside ones comfort zone and into the flow of the unknown where one must trust their true selves and the world around them when common language and familiar food, customs, locations, etc. are not available to help navigate the living of life.
With my background in psychology, from time to time I also keep an eye on what is happening in that field and recently I came across something they are calling the Paris Syndrome. It is a condition where people visiting Paris for the first time immediately start exhibiting an acute onset of symptoms of mental illness. Absolutely fascinating. It is another very interesting dynamic on the importance and power of what one can learn about themselves and the way they construct their world by traveling:
I know there is an actual place on the map called Europe and it contains a city called Paris, but the deeper dive is that it is in the human mind and how we think about what is happening in our lives when in that place called Paris, which is what makes our experience of the world we see around us as really real.
Paris is always a good idea, but what that idea can give you in your life is completely and totally up to you. Ultimately what Paris is at it’s core for me is a state of mind. In my world Paris is watching the elegant decay of the old while encouraging blossoming of the new… all which I do not mind participating with one bit, hopefully while sipping a cup of tea at Mariage Frères in the Marais, preferably wearing something cashmere as I observe the world go by :).
I’ll be your dream
I’ll be your wish I’ll be your fantasy
I’ll be your hope I’ll be your love
Be everything that you need
I’ll love you more with every breath
Truly, madly, deeply do
I will be strong I will be faithful
’cause I’m counting on
A new beginning
A reason for living
A deeper meaning, yeah
(yes a big time cheese song, but oh, the beautiful maze of the street scapes of Paris… where I loose and find and fall in love WITH MYSELF over and over each time I go!)