On Mother’s Day, I decided to book a trip to Paris. 2 days later I was on my first bus ride down to London. The plan; an overnight bus ride to Paris on Tuesday night, giving me 36 hours in Paris, (including a hotel/hostel stay) and then an overnight bus back to London on Thursday night. I had to be back for a close shift at work on Friday evening.
I was excited but also apprehensive about this trip; I knew it was going to be a challenge for numerous reasons, and that’s what I wanted it to be. Looking back, it was definitely an adventure but I learnt a lot in that short amount of time, so I thought that I’d write it down and share it with the world. Here goes…
- Buses hardly ever run to schedule. In addition to being prepared for being 2-3 hours later than scheduled, you should also be prepared for them being 2-3 hours earlier than scheduled. Yes, you would usually praise a bus arriving early to your destination. But not when you plan to sleep on the 8 hour bus ride (which is difficult enough to do anyway), only for it to take 5-6 hours instead!
- Don’t be scared to talk to people… especially if you’re in a bad situation. When I arrived into a dodgy bus station on the edge of Paris at 4am with nowhere to go and no idea what to do, I resorted to chatting to anyone from the bus for help and company. And I am so glad that I did because I met an amazing mother and son who I spent a lot of time with on that morning and also when we arrived into London at an unexpected 2:45am. I also ended up having breakfast in the hostel with a couple of American girls, one of whom said we should hang out in Hawaii if I ever make it there! Your faith in humanity and the kindness of people is always restored with travel.
- Pros and cons of solo travel? Although you can do what you want, when you want to if you’re travelling solo, there were a couple of times when I thought it would be nice to have someone with me; like when I was attacked by a public toilet or when I was unsure about going to café’s because I couldn’t speak much French. Reassurance and someone to share memories with and join you in laughing at a situation is something that I missed. But this did mean that I had to become more confident and improve upon my storytelling skills to do those funny/scary moments justice! Also, you can’t necessarily do everything when you want if you’re travelling solo because it’s not too wise to walk dark streets very late at night. That didn’t stop me making it back to my hotel room a couple hours after dark (9pm) after a cheeky drink at a nearby hostel bar. (Oh and most photos of me are selfies cos I didn’t have someone to double as a personal photographer…)
- By shutting up and going, my get up and go has improved a hell of a lot. I kinda needed this escape, where I pushed myself to the limits in different areas, such as sleep deprivation, only eating when I needed to and walking as much as possible. This was partly to make this trip as cheap as possible, but also to make it as rewarding as possible and see what I can really do. It does take some time to recover from 17 hours sleep over 4 nights but it made me realize that I should be able to push myself more in daily life if I’m getting 8 hours sleep. And if you’re pushing yourself you don’t have much time to think about life’s problems.
- I didn’t appreciate learning languages at all when I was at school. And I attended a school that ‘specialised’ in languages. I wish that I had actually continued learning French and Spanish after GCSE. Not only is it cool and kinda sexy (in my opinion) to be able to speak more than your mother tongue, but it is actually a key skill for travelling and being able to communicate with others. Most Parisians that I spoke to did speak sufficient English for communication between us but I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t speak in their language very well. And to think that I had language lessons for free at school but people actually pay for language lessons in adulthood!
- I learned more about ME. A cliché I know. I definitely didn’t “find myself” on my ‘gap 36 hours’. I do, however, know that with each adventurous trip that I take I can reflect on how I deal with the challenges that I face, how I react to different people and what new perspectives that I have gained. Some of the reasons for my decision to take this spontaneous trip needed that reflection (and avoidance…and that ‘shut up and go’).
I could probably find more things that I learned if I really dissected the trip but these 6 are definitely the main ones. It was fun, crazy, scary (at times) but overall an awesome trip. I highly recommend Paris – especially as a solo travel destination. I didn’t fall ill with the Paris Syndrome, but I did fall for the City of Love. I would love to come back for a bit more of a frivolous trip, if I ever start adulting and have that disposable income…
See ya soon,