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Into The Unknown – Exploring The City of Paris

Exploring the city of paris

As the departure date got closer, I found myself becoming more anxious. The anxiety was the result of fear, the fear of going to a city I had only read about and seen in movies or documentaries, alone.

On the day I was scheduled to leave, I wished the day would slow down. I wanted to sleep and miss the bus, at least that would be my excuse, “I slept off”. But someone didn’t get the memo and woke me up just when sleep was close to getting the better of me.

Oh well, I have no choice now. I have to go. I packed my bags, an activity I intentionally left till the last minute. I said farewell to those at home and launched into the unknown, with no idea what to expect but hoping for the adventure of a lifetime.

A couple of hours later, I found myself on a ferry that would take us across the sea to France, and excitement started to mix with anxiety. I’d never been on a ferry, which, in my opinion, was a cruise ship. I tried to peek through the darkness outside the ship to see what nature had in store for me, but that was all I could see; darkness. And a lot of times, darkness comes along with fear as its partner in crime.

As the darkness began to give way to the day, I could hardly comprehend what the darkness was hiding all along. So much beauty that the darkness had hidden in its night, and the day had uncovered with its light. I marvelled at the sight of the land from the sea. Imagine how many civilisations emerged from the seas. As far as my eyes could see, I pictured, going dangerously close to the waters and fear came again as I wondered what life was in the depths of the sea.

Finally, we had reached our destination and a new world opened up to me. One I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. I wondered what lay ahead of me as everyone else seemed to move on with their lives. Of course, I didn’t exist to them.

With my bags and the much-appreciated help from Google, I tried to find my way around. At one point, perambulating like a lost pilgrim, but everyone seemed oblivious to the fact that a new face had arrived town. Then it dawned on me, “I’m alone here”. “Why did I decide to make the trip?” “Why didn’t I pay attention to my French class in secondary school?”

Amid all the questions, I knew I couldn’t stay there forever. The next announcement I heard from the train station public address system sent shivers down my spine – “There are pickpockets in this station”. As if being alone in this new world was not enough, I also had to be careful of people who would very likely try to take advantage of my situation.

I wouldn’t deny that I became suspicious of people around me, guarding my luggage and taking a mental note that everything I had was still in my possession. Thankfully, it seemed I didn’t exist to them either. At least that was a good thing.

With the help of Google Maps and, thankfully, some digital skills I picked up, I was able to find my way around the city. I remember sharing with my friend the three must-haves when travelling to Paris – 1. A partner. 2. A digital map. 3. An EU multipurpose socket😂.

Of course, as techy as I was, I completely forgot that we do not use the same sockets in many countries.

One funny experience was my first attempt to buy from a store. I had to use a fourth must-have I didn’t share with my friend, A translator app. At this point, I tried to imagine what life would be like without technology. I imagined how tourists travelled to different countries with different languages before the technology age, with nothing but a paper map. I wasn’t sure how or if I would have survived.

After all was said and done, I was ready to spend my first night in Paris, alone😂. As you would probably expect, sleep became an elusive friend who decided to abandon me when I needed it the most. After much back and forth, it decided to have mercy on me and reconciled. Well, the reconciliation almost cost me as it lingered until I was almost late for the reason I travelled to Paris in the first place.

Second day in Paris; you’d probably expect that there would be a little less drama compared to the first day, or so I thought. As it happened, the day started with drama as I bought the wrong ticket for my trip to the event. Oh how much I wanted to beat myself up, but, we move!

Among multinationals from different parts of the world, I felt small and insignificant. I marvelled at the exploits people were making in the industry, and how much still had to be done. In all these, I asked myself, “Where is my place here?” What started as a feeling of intimidation gradually changed to inspiration as I took notes, listened to impact stories and learned from the insights that were shared.

It is almost impossible to be in a place full of pace-setters and not be inspired to do more in your chosen field. And this exposure is what I am most grateful for. Transiting from one session to the next, I began to feel a sense of responsibility for every idea that sparked in my heart.

After struggling with timidity for most of the day, I eventually summoned the courage to say hi to someone. My icebreaker was “Can you teach me French in 5 minutes?” That started up a discussion that would last for about 30 minutes. I was proud of myself. I was starting to come out of my shell and comfort zone.

Third day in Paris – thankfully no drama. At this point, I already felt like I was now a part of the city barring the language. I felt more comfortable moving around. And this was where my adventure started. From the food, which I probably had too much of, but I didn’t care. I would try anything new I saw. And of course, the ushers seemed to pick up on my thirst for new things, consistently bringing new types of food and snacks to try. And yes, I indulged.

Next was my favourite part of my stay, visiting places. The first stop was the Eiffel Tower, the most popular site in Paris. As expected, thousands of tourists flooded the site. Two singers caught my attention as I sang along with them, tempted to join them.

I became my photographer, and wore the cap of an actual tourist, walking through the city filled with beautiful structures, unbelievable sculptures, artworks and sceneries. Now, I can say I visited Paris and I have proof.

I may have been alone in Paris in person, but I wasn’t alone altogether. This made me realise that as much as we may want to, we really cannot do life’s journey alone. We need people around us. They may not be there in person, but their presence can make so much difference in our experience and the outcome of our journeys.

It’s now my last day in Paris. Maybe for the first time, I do not want to go back home. I have finally fallen in love with the peace and quiet of what my big brother describes as “the City of Love”. But I do have to go back home. Everything I have learned on this journey has made me better equipped to face the responsibilities that keep calling out to me back home.

The journey that started into the unknown eventually led me to see that I was capable of much more than I cared to pay attention to or admit. There were times I didn’t recognise myself through my camera lenses.

A lot of times, we need to take the risk to journey to the unknown to discover who we are and what we are capable of. Without it, we may remain unknown to even ourselves. Until my next trip.

What do you think?

Written by Temitope

Temitope Durotoye is a Hope and Self Discovery Advocate. He is proudly African and loves to see young Africans be the best versions of themselves.

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