As I sit in an empty hostel kitchen in Montmartre, Paris, my mind is still reeling from what has been the last 48 hours. It’s early morning here and I find myself in a dreaded jetlagged fog (maybe compouded by the celebratory welcome drinks I had with my adopted family last night – but we will get back to that).
The journey thus far: Sydney > Abu Dhabi > Paris
22 hours in the air. 3 train trips. 30 mins wandering like a lost sheep trying to find my hostel – note that it was 2 doors down from the point I assumed my incompetance at following directions, turned around and proceeded to wander in the complete wrong direction. Not incompetant, just blind.
It’s early days. But for the first time though I’m feeling that, just maybe, I can do this. I am doing this. It’s intimidating and confronting, but every successful step beyond comfort feels like a win. Small incremental wins, but a win nevertheless.
Let me give you an example.
I went to sleep last night in an empty hostel dorm room, I woke up to all the beds full. Full of men who arrived quite merry, at an even merrier hour of the morning. Me in my long sleeve shirt & leggings, wrapped modestly in my sleep sheet. Them sprawled on their respective bunks, in just their underwear. I get out of bed, avoid any awkward eye contact, get ready for the day and now I’m here.
It may not seem much, but I’m a pretty private person. I’m also cheap, so when given the option of a mixed dorm 10€ cheaper than female only – I was in. Note that ‘Mixed Dorm’ appears to translate to ‘predominantly male dorm as all women are advised to avoid the dangerous creature that is the male backpacker’…and have to pay more money in the female dorms – typical! And on my first day I decided to subvert that patriarchal bull – typical! Low and behold I was fine…and saved some cash!
Knowing I will be spending the forseeable future living with strangers – right up close and personal like this is a confronting thought. But this is what life is for me right now. Dorm rooms, bunk beds, shared meals…the necessity of extroversion. And that is okay.
Even in my short few hours here I’ve already met some lovely people. Paulette & Christopher, French locals, on their way home from celebrating their 20th anniversary in Thailand. Nilly, moving from Sydney to London indefinitely to teach. Gareth the photographer from Berlin spending the week in Paris on a holiday booked out of spite cause his girlfriend didn’t invite him to Thailand.
Then there is Sonia and Kathy, her mother, who are travelling the world for Kathy’s 65th birthday – they also happen to be my adopted Montmarte family. Teaching me the backpacking ropes and letting me tag along on their adventures. Turns out both are rediculously well travelled and Kathy has even trecked the Camino…at 61 (so there is hope for me yet).
Each on their own adventure, each holding a unique story that travelling allows to be shared.
We ask more questions when we are travelling – Our facination in others is increased. But every person on earth is on an adventure. Everyone has a story, we just need to be facinated enough to ask.
I guess what trying to say is that even though I’m not in St Jean just yet, I’m already learning about myself and others. The Camino is already teaching me. Small confronting steps. Asking questions. Fostering curiousity and bravery.
Tomorrow I jump on an early train to Bayonne, then onward to St Jean Pied du Port. It is there I will begin walking.
But for today…Paris!