I began planning a small vacation to Paris in January 2018. One of my dear friends from college was living there, and I wanted to visit her before she moved back to the states. The main point would be to see her, but I would also get to have my last solo getaway before our September wedding. I booked my flight for the end of March and made lists of destinations I wanted to visit. The trip would be a highlight in a lovely year leading up to my nuptials.
But the best-laid plans oft go awry. My fiance was acting odd, and when I prodded them about it, they admitted to me that they wanted to call off the wedding. After learning more, I decided we needed to break-up. It was a whirlwind of heartbreak and I was in utter shock.
The wedding was cancelled five days before my departure flight to Paris. As I struggled to comprehend the events that had just unfolded, I had to decide if I still wanted to go ahead with my travel plans. Was it a good idea to be in the city of love at this moment in time? How could I enjoy such a trip while I was feeling so broken?
After a lot of contemplation, I decided to go ahead with my trip and even extend it by a few days. Why stay home and pity myself while I could be in one of the most beautiful cities in the world? I couldn’t foretell what I’d be feeling once I was there, but it couldn’t be worse than how miserable I was already. Traveling is an activity that usually gives me joy, so I hoped going to Paris would raise my spirits.
Furthermore, I knew having one of my best friends there would help. I wouldn’t be completely alone when I was feeling so vulnerable, and I looked forward to being able to talk to her about how I was feeling.
It also made sense to go ahead with the trip for a few logistical reasons. My ex-fiance could move out of our apartment that was under my name while I was abroad, and I didn’t have to lose any money if I just forged ahead. I packed my carry-on and had nothing to lose.
I cried at JFK’s international terminal with big, black sunglasses on as I waited for my flight. That’s when I realized this vacation was as a radical act of self-love. After years of putting my wants and needs aside for my ex-fiance, this trip was going to be solely mine.
When I arrived at Charles de Gaulle many hours later, I was feeling pretty shaky. I was happy to see my friend and her fiance, but I felt like my usual traveler confidence was missing. All I could think about was the trauma I had just experienced at home. Had I made a mistake by coming? Would I enjoy any of my nine days there?
Thankfully, my mood began to improve by the end of my second day there, and it’s because Paris is so darn charming. Every building is pretty and the streets are clean. The food is superb and it’s tempting to try one of everything at a patisserie. There are numerous sites, museums, and stores to keep you entertained for years on end. The culture and beauty of Paris was a perfect distraction.
My friend wined and dined me, and it felt lovely to be pampered. She taught me how to get around on the metro and brought me to less-touristy restaurants and sites. Her fiance ordered for me and showed me how to play poker. With their support and love, my confidence began to come back. I felt a little better with each passing day.
My daily itinerary was full and I felt very accomplished by the end of my trip. I avoided some of the larger sites I had seen on my last trip to Paris and found splendor in simply wandering. I walked at least ten miles on most of the days I spent there, so the dopamine must have been flowing.
Expectedly, the big sunglasses covered my teary eyes more than a few times. Paris wasn’t able to completely distract me, but I’m glad it didn’t. Various places in the city served me well as I processed my feelings. The moments of self-reflection on my trip were powerful. There was something so special about thinking about my ancestors in Notre Dame, writing about the ordeal in a journal while I nibbled on a croissant at a sidewalk cafe, and crying about my trauma as I walked along the Seine. These moments combined with the wonder of traveling all made me feel a lot better.
As I boarded my flight back to the states, I felt proud of myself for saying yes to an experience of a lifetime. Paris became the city of self-love to me. Nine days in Paris didn’t completely heal the hurt of my break-up, but being there reminded me of how beautiful the world could be. I felt so loved by my friend and she helped me more than she will ever realize. My unknown future felt scary and full of possibilities as I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle after sunset from a river boat.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be sure to post my favorite sites and more pictures from my magical trip soon.