Before I left for France, my aunt bought me a book called Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange. Flipping through the pages, I imagined my stylish alter ego Kristina prancing around the streets in Paris, emitting that certain je ne sais quoi. But let me tell you, there is nothing quite like living out of a suitcase that gives life permission to offer you up a hearty serving of humility.
On my second day in Paris, I had forgotten to pack shampoo, lost my deodorant, and was sporting purple bags under my eyes compliments of jet lag. I spent an hour in vain lugging 70 pounds of luggage on a bus going in the wrong direction, and the combination of warm weather and humidity turned me into nothing short of a sweaty, dehydrated tourist. Only to enhance this look were my new “stylish” bangs, which betrayed any remaining ability I had to hide the grease in my hair.
After a short-notice vacancy from the first hostel I was staying in, I was forced to move to another one across town with said heavy luggage and a backpack so stuffed at the seams that the straps were beginning to rip under the weight. Abandoning any chance in hell I could pass as a Parisian, I decided the best course of action instead was to protect my valuables and sling the backpack to my front. This probably didn’t help matters, since I’m pretty sure it made me look like a semi-maniacal surrogate for a 9-month-pregnant backpack.
Once I finally pulled my overweight bags through the slender metro turnstile, I saw one of the final obstacles ahead of me: a set of stairs that separated me from the metro car, and subsequently salvation at the Young and Happy Hostel. Instead of acting like any self-respecting Parisian would and silently struggling to lug my bags down the steps, I pulled out the handlebars for the suitcases and let the rollers do their work, banging noisily down the stairs with reverberating echos each step of the way.
Ten sets of eyes trained directly on me while I noisily clacked down the station, and I couldn’t help but break into laughter from the absurdity of it all. I have no doubt in my mind that I looked like a deranged tourist, but what did it matter? I would never see these people again in my life.
All the sweat, and frustration, and social discomfort caused by traveling alone to a new country has been completely worth it. Who needs to look chic when you can finally rid yourself of caring what others think, even if only for just a day? When your body is sore and you know you smell terrible, a warm shower and a bed to sleep in are better than they ever were before. And the unexpectedness, the change, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, has really made this one of the best weeks I’ve had in ages.