The week before I left for Paris, I didn’t want to go anymore. I had no idea what to expect; I was nervous. I didn’t know if I could survive the airports on my own, much less the city of Paris. A few days later, I got on the plane by myself and looked out the window like I was looking fear straight in the face. The pressure from the plane taking off felt like I was absorbing the weight of my fears and harnessing them into quickening energy instead of letting them slow me down. I had flight troubles in the layover in Chicago because of bad weather, and for the first time in my life felt fully alone and fully responsible in an airport. I sat down on the floor and cried for about 5 minutes because I was hungry, confused, nervous, tired, and alone. I stood up, grabbed by heavy backpack, and told myself to get it together. I did; I got on the next flight and put in a missing baggage claim and met a nice lady who (praise god) looked like she wanted to help me. The flight from Chicago to Paris (with a stop in the most incredible airport I’ve ever been in — Munich) was long and tiring, but there was a comfort in knowing that I had flown right out of my comfort zone into a place that would, in hindsight, develop me into a confident, mature, woman with a mind full of inspirations and a lifestyle full of options.
I made friends right away, becoming closest with a girl named Brooklyn from Ole Miss and another girl named Olivia from New York City. Olivia told me that her mom has always said she lives in “Oblivia” — her own little world — and we became friends right away. My mom has always joked that I live in “Bethington.” The broader group of friends we made had 7 girls in it total. We planned trips right away: the French Riviera, Santorini, Greece, and London. Greece was my favorite. When we landed in the Santorini airport, our airbnb host, Mario, was there waiting to pick us up. He took us to a resort area on the beach and explained that his family owns it for all their airbnb guests to have a place to eat, hangout, meet each other, and lay out.
We were given complimentary free drinks and were introduced to some Australian guys that were our age. Mario set up a boat cruise for us and the Australians to go on together for the next day. The boat cruise took us to a volcano island, hot springs, and a tour around another island with a beautiful mountainside of classic Grecian white and blue buildings.
I made an effort to meet as many native Grecians as I could. They were some of the nicest, most down to earth, hospitable people I had ever met. One of the most distinct things I noticed about their culture is that they live in contentment without an underlying feeling that they’re settling. As an American, I noticed that I have always equated contentment to settling, thinking that if you’re not striving for the next thing to push you forward in life then you’re just floating, and that that was somehow contentment can mean peace: a result of living the happiest and most whole life you can, sacrificing nothing because you are not willing to settle on the quality of your life and happiness.
There was a contentment I found there in not having to strive for more and in realizing that success across the world does not mean the same thing; for some success is achievement and following your dreams but for others success is simply finding happiness and peace in a slow, laid back life, and that neither option is right or wrong. In regards to Paris, this is something I wrote on July 12th.
At a club in the city of lights. Light bouncing off silk shirts like a game of “don’t let the balloon touch the floor.” I look around and try to let the moment saturate me so it turns into a memory. Paris looks like it has the depth of the ocean — as deep as the layers of footprints from the millions of people that have stepped on its elderly streets. But this is not the case — Paris is flat — void of liveliness because it is too drenched in the obsession of its own history: an old southern town that stopped reproducing. The aged youth, no older than me, living in a world of 1 dimension. At least they gave me cute outfit ideas.
Of all the things I wrote about in Paris, this singular cynical view is something that is now a memory and something that I will never forget. It made me realize that one of the most important things to me is a life of raw, authentic, liveliness, and that that is found in eclectic culture’s that are accepting of newness. Parisians, for example, all wear different versions of the same outfits; where as New Yorkers wear, well, whatever they want. I prefer the second.
Bethany Ward is majoring in Communication and spent the Summer 2019 semester studying abroad in Paris, France through ISA. Bethany had the following to say about studying abroad, “’Work harder to raise money before you go. When you’re in Paris, the French Riviera, or Santorini, Greece, everything seems like its worth it to pay. You’ll spend about $1,500 every two weeks if you’re doing it right. Why not do a day long cruise around the Grecian islands if you’ve already made it all the way there?”
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