Traveling To Paris Alone Was So Empowering
This was something I did for myself back in the summer of 2017, but almost two years later, I am still reaping the confidence that my little ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ journey gave me.
I’m the girl who puts “Loves To Travel” unironically in their bio and truly means it. Over the last few years, especially since the passing of my dad in 2016, I find myself getting stir crazy when I stay too long in the same place. As much as I love Austin, I often find myself feeling suffocated by it and I need to escape for a few days, whether that be to another stateside city or a trip across the Atlantic.
I realize that it is a luxury and privilege to be able to travel. If I had the money to, I’d travel all the time, but I don’t! I’m a college student. I work three jobs, one of which is unpaid internship. The long periods of time spent between my trips fully contribute to the antsy feeling I get being at home for extended periods of time, but it makes the satisfaction of finally booking that trip so worth it.
During the summer of 2017, I was working at a summer camp in Texas. Originally, I was only set to work half the summer, but ended up there almost three whole months. One of my friends from high school had recently moved to Paris to work at DisneyLand, which had been a dream of hers FOREVER. Our senior year of high school, we had class together every morning and would just talk and dream about our futures. At the time, she didn’t know how much longer she’d be working in her dream position so I knew I HAD to go see her.
The biggest fear holding me back from booking the flight was knowing my friend would be working during the day while I was there, so I would have to entertain myself in a foreign country. I’m familiar with conversational French, but I’d never left the US before. I had no idea what exactly to expect. It was my mother who finally pushed me to take the leap of faith and just go- and plan the rest out later. So I did.
At the end of camp season, I had less than a week to move into my new apartment. I got settled in and left for the airport at 5 AM the very next day. I had a short layover in Dublin before heading to Paris. Oddly, I realized when I landed that I hadn’t thought out how I’d actually get to my friend’s apartment. Disneyland Paris isn’t exactly located in Paris, but rather in it’s own sort of village about an hour train ride from the heart of the city. I wasn’t on a schedule, so I wandered around the airport until I found a help desk and asked them about the best options for getting me to Disneyland. I bought a ticket for a shuttle that dropped off at the front gates and made my way there! Problem solved.
TIP: Everyone I encountered in France was very kind and helpful, and most knew English. But I found people didn’t like when Americans approached them and just assumed they knew English, which is understandable. If I didn’t know how to say something in French, I’d just ask (in French) if they knew English before asking!
It was so nice to catch up with my friend when I first got there! Her apartment at the time was about the size of my college dorm room. I truly understood IKEA’s layouts for tiny spaces. Her apartment was right next to it’s own little town square that had a mall, restaurants, luxury shopping, a pub, and a train station that took me right into Paris. In the mornings I’d grab a croissant and coffee at the bakery before boarding the train. I kept a book and headphones in my purse for entertainment.
I thought I’d planned my sleep schedule so well on the plane to avoid jetlag, but my first full day I overslept! My friend had the day off and we went to Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore, the Notre Dame, had dinner at a cafe, and explored the general area. We stopped for wine and brie on the way home only to realize we had no wine bottle opener, of course. Nineteen year old me loved France’s legal drinking limit.
The second day I wandered over to the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysse for some shopping. This was such a beautiful day for me because it was my first time truly venturing off on my own. I navigated by myself, usually without my phone to preserve data. I found another cafe and stopped for lunch by myself. I bought macarons at Laduree, A Blaire Waldorf favorite, and stopped for quiche and “hot chocolate” at Angelina. The city was so beautiful, and I felt like I could just drop my life in America and move there the next day.
The third day I got to explore Disneyland and see my friend doing her dream job! (Withholding her name for her own privacy!) I had access to the parks for free as her guest and explored them on my own during the day while she worked, but that didn’t stop me from getting a cheesy VIP picture too. We ended the night with a Princess Show that brought literal tears to my eyes. I absolutely love Disney and the magic is brings to children and adults alike.
My fourth day was when I realized how much I still had left to do, but was almost my last full day. I crammed the Louvre and the Musee de L’Orangerie all in one day. It was exhausting! But I was so determined to see the art before I left. Monet’s Waterlilies were incredible. I’d wanted to venture out to Monet’s house, but I didn’t think I wanted to travel further outside of Paris on my own.
My last day I slept and packed before heading to the train station. They helped get a shuttle that dropped me back at the airport, which was super stressful, actually. There were definitely some aspects of the trip I wish I could’ve planned out better.
It was so sad to come home honestly, but I started classes two days later and needed to organize my life. I would love the opportunity to go back and view more of France aside from Paris. I would’ve loved to see more of the museums, try more restaurants, go to a theater, visit Versailles, or travel to a beach even (it was really hot while I was there). Ideally, I’d love to move there for an entire summer and just immerse myself in the culture and the language!
Looking back on these photos, I realize how few I took! I was so hesitant to ask strangers to take pictures of me places, which can be a downside of traveling alone. I also wish I would’ve packed some cuter outfits and better walking shoes! I walked all over the city aside from the train to get from Disney to Paris.
Overall my biggest takeaway from my experience in Paris was the confidence it gave me to sometimes go about life doing things on my own. As an introvert, sometimes it can be hard for me to take the lead and push myself to do things, but this was on an entirely different level. I never want to feel like I’m being held back from doing something I want to because nobody else is there to tag along. Paris made me feel strong and empowered and independent. It honestly changed the way I see the world and travel. There is so much I want to do, and hopefully I can check a few things off my bucket list in 2019!