I remember the attacks on 9/11. I don’t remember the morning very vividly, but I remember the backlash. I remember the attacks on Muslims because the attacks were connected to Islamic extremists. Particularly, I remember a middle-eastern man getting brutally beaten and his shop utterly destroyed simply because of his heritage.
Fear has a way of bringing out the worst in people. It catches and spreads like wildfire, unable to be contained by rational thought. After the attacks in Paris just a few days ago, the fear that America is next has caused a tidal wave of hatred toward groups of people that aren’t all to blame. Instead of focusing on the actual issue, anger and refusal to help the refugees trying to escape the same kind of pain that Paris was exposed to is running rampant. Denying help to the people who arguably need it most is a painful reminder that fear causes ripples of paralyzing pain. Pain that in turn only hurts others.
I think in times like these, generalizations mistakenly help people to cope with emotions they’ve yet to process. So many are quick to blame all of Islam for the tragedy in Paris. What we need to remember is that every religion has groups of extremists who claim to be working for their god. Just as ISIS claims Islam, the KKK claims Christianity and the JDL claims Judaism. Even Buddhism has their violent radical groups, including the Buddhist Power Force. Small groups can inspire hatred even when the larger entity does not agree or condone their actions. The actions and beliefs of the few can effect the world’s view of the larger group.
I don’t have the answers on how to solve the problems at hand. I don’t have proposals to help generate peace throughout the world. This is why I’d never be a good public official. What I do know is this: blaming the actions of a few on the masses because they share the same religion helps the problem become worse. Sharing ideas of killing off Muslims does not help. Stopping the aid for one of the largest groups of people who desperately need to be saved from the genocide surrounding them at every turn does not help. By refusing love and human decency for others, we allow fear to rule. Fear only breeds contempt and hatred. Shouldn’t those be the things we want eradicated from our lives most?
A little over a month ago, I completed the 100 Happy Days challenge on my instagram. I used it as a way to count down until my trip to Alaska and as a way to make sure I appreciated as many moments as possible in those hundred days.
Challenges like this help to remind me that days are made up of different moments and experiences, and it’s our choice to focus on the good or the bad. For someone who struggled with severe depression for quite a long time, remembering to seek out the light and the good is a very important task. While it’s not a crippling fear of any sort, I do know that for someone like me, it can be easy to sink back into the unhappiness and self-isolation if I’m not conscious of my daily well-being.
All of the seriousness aside, I also enjoyed my first 100 days challenge because I started to find joy in simple things that previously I had taken for granted. A sunny day or simply having some quiet time to write became things that I learned to appreciate far more than before.
I’ve also always been known as somebody who doesn’t tend to finish what she starts. If I was even able to count how many projects I had started and hadn’t finished, I’d be appalled with myself. To say I have commitment issues is putting it lightly. To have completed the photo challenge without skipping a single day or dreading having to post a picture was a huge change for me.
Because of all of this, I decided to do a second round of 100 Happy Days. I’m only three days in as of today, and lot will be happening in the next ninety-seven days, so it should be another fun challenge. The final day (if I did my math correctly- which I didn’t do the first time) is scheduled to be December 31, so I will have moved from Germany to Texas, visited New York City with friends, seen Damien Rice and Jason Mraz in concert, visited family, and moved from Texas to Alaska by the time the hundred days are up. With all the moving and traveling that will be going on, it will also be a good way to keep me grounded.
I wanted to show off a few of my favorite moments from my first round of the challenge. I could have easily picked twice as many photos, but settled with five good memories, because they helped shape my growth during those hundred days.
A few of the girls that quickly became my family while in Frankfurt. I know without a doubt that these three are lifetime friends and I wouldn’t trade our laughs and deep talks for the world.
I visited Berlin for the first time nine years ago, and my visit in May this year was just as wonderful. I got to show off the unique city to my parents, and the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall will probably always be one of my favorite sights to visit in the world
My job isn’t always just fun and playing games with the kids I watch. Sometimes, it gets very stressful and overwhelming. This Wednesday was one of those days of constant running around with no break in sight. The host mom I work for sent me out for drinks with friends, and being able to spend all night talking about everything under the sun was just what I needed.
Another photo tied to a memory of a day that didn’t start out all that well. It was the 4th of July, and the only day where I was painfully homesick. I wanted to go out and celebrate with fireworks and barbecue, but without any Americans to spend the day with, I felt completely isolated. I ended up traveling to the American air force base close to where I live and spending the evening out there. It was one of those emotional days, but I ended up enjoying the evening and learning I can celebrate a holiday without needing to be surrounded by friends or family.
Paris. All of Paris will be a fond life memory, but being able to just sit and enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower from my friend’s apartment was the most serene I felt the entire time I was in France. Oh, to be able to go back there and spend hours writing on that balcony. A girl can always dream.
Yes, I realize this is my third “Paris” post within week, but I don’t feel bad about it at all. I’m trying to make the most of my time in Europe while I can, and that includes writing and writing all of my thoughts down. You think this is bad? You should see my journals.
Something I’ve mentioned time and time again is that as an au pair, I’ve had to learn to live on a tight budget. This means that when I want to travel somewhere, I have to save up for it ahead of time. I’ve been putting money aside for some sort of trip since I got here, but wasn’t sure where I would be going or when I would get to go. The family I work for didn’t need me for the entire time they were on vacation, so after some budget checking, I decided to go to Paris for a long weekend.
side note: any costs I mention are in Euro currency (€), not US dollar
I booked my trip as soon as I knew my dates. For any long train trips across Europe, I highly suggest Deutsche Bahn. Maybe it’s just that living in Germany for the past six months has made me a bit biased, but it is by far the nicest train line I’ve traveled on over here. I splurged a bit on my train ticket to get the most favorable departure time, but I could have easily saved €20 or more if I had booked earlier or chosen a different time.
I did some research on the public transportation in Paris ahead of time and found a deal on a five-day pass for all the public transportation. I was planning on spending €72 for the pass, but after arriving in the city and looking at the map, I realized that almost everything I wanted to do was in the first three sections of the city. A five-day pass for that was only €35, and I could pay for a one-day pass that goes to the fourth section to get out to Versailles.
Many of the things I was interested in seeing were landmarks in the city. You do have the option to go inside many of them, including the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, but you have to spend more money. If you’re on a budget, I think even just standing next to these huge monuments are worth it without spending the money to see the inside. Other landmarks, such as Notre Dame, are free and you are able to enjoy all of it without spending a dime.
I went to the city with €300 total, allowing myself to use up to €200 of it and making sure I saved at least €100 for emergencies. I ended up spending just a little under €150, and I feel like I got a very full experience of the city, and was even able to enjoy some good food and got a souvenir* along the way.
I arrived in Paris around 5pm and eventually met my friend at the train station. She helped me get a train pass, then we were off to meet a friend of hers and get some dinner. This day just consisted of meeting some French people and enjoying a bit of the Parisian nightlife.
Saturday was a day full of train rides, which just goes to show that when you live in a city, you can still get a bit confused on where you need to go. We spent time gazing at the Eiffel Tower and then decided that because it was such a beautiful day, we would catch a train out to Versailles. While we were there, we toured the palace and got some macaroons (at McDonald’s of all places). After we finally found our way back into the heart of Paris, we again met up with some Parisians for a picnic along the Seine River. Leaving the picnic, I was able to catch my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.
Sunday was probably the busiest day, but still didn’t feel overwhelming. We visited Notre Dame and just sat inside gazing up at the architectural beauty for a while. I feel like I’ve been in my fair share of cathedrals this past year, and this one was easily one of my favorites. We walked along the Seine for a while and ended up crossing the Love Bridge and walking through the courtyards of the Louvre. We ended up sitting on the side of the fountain for a while, bathing our feet and cooling off, before walking through the Tuileries and the stumbling upon the end of the Tour de France. We stood around for a good couple of hours waiting for the finish of the race, and then it was off to get dinner at a small crepe place and watch the Eiffel Tower light up from the amazing view my friend has at her apartment.
Monday started off very lazily with sleeping in and a late breakfast. I went by the Arc de Triomphe, got some pictures, and then met up with my friend at the Louvre after her classes were done for the day. As soon as we got inside the Louvre, we got out some maps of the museum and plotted out where we wanted to go. There was no possible way to cover all of the museum in the few hours we had, so we chose our top few things to see and mapped out the quickest course. After the museum, we did a bit of shopping to try and find a souvenir, then sat down in the grass of the Tuileries and relaxed until it was time to go home.
I feel like it’s only fair to include Tuesday to point out the fact that it was just a day of traveling for me. I made good use of my five-day pass since I still had to use it to get to the proper train station, but leaving at 7:30am means no sightseeing.
Overall, I feel like it was a very successful trip and I was able to see all of the big things I really wanted to without spending too much money. Paris is, in general, a very expensive city. Even most of the food was twice the price of the exact same items in Frankfurt, so I had to be very aware of what I spent and where I spent it. The basic breakdown of where my money went (lodging and transportation to and from the city not included) is as follows:
Five-day Paris metro pass: €35
Food and extras: roughly €88
*a note on souvenirs: I try to find something that is useful for me in my everyday life instead of just a knick-knack that will sit around collecting dust. In Israel, I chose a small bowl made out of olive wood to hold my jewelry. In Berlin, my parents were kind enough to buy me a scarf. In Paris, I picked out a couple of travel makeup bags that are more practical than the big one I keep at home.
I’ve got to be honest: Paris was never on my “must see” list of destinations. It’s not that Paris isn’t a gorgeous place, I’ve just always been much more interested in visiting other places first. However, when you have some time off and a friend living in the city for the summer, you make sure and find time to visit. I’m so glad I did.
I arrived on a Friday evening and was staying through until Tuesday morning, so that was plenty of time to do a lot of the touristy things that you just can’t visit Paris without seeing, plus allowed for some not-so-touristy things. I really enjoy being able to see the parts of a city that aren’t all pretty and polished for the out of town spectators. It always makes a trip more real to me.
Without realizing it, I planned my trip for the weekend that the Tour de France went through Paris. When you stumble upon the finish line of something like this, you obviously have to stick around in the sun for the few hours necessary to see all the bicycles come through, even if that does mean suffering through a bit of a sunburn afterward.
While I wouldn’t trade getting to see landmarks many people dream about seeing, strangely enough, I think one of my favorite parts of seeing a new city is learning to navigate through all the public transportation. There’s just something encouraging about looking at a map and knowing exactly which three lines you have to take to get from point A to point B and being able to follow all the signs in the stations to switch lines. When you can fit in with the locals and not take out a map every time you try to go to a new place, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment that rushes through you.
Another thing I really enjoy about a new city is people watching. Well, if I’m to be completely honest, that’s one of my favorite activities period, but especially so in large cities full of tourists. Part of the fun is just trying to pick out who are locals and which crowds of people are visiting temporarily. In a big city like Paris, it’s easy. So search out the people wearing matching clothes, holding brochures and maps, or are weighed down by cameras and backpacks….you’re sure to pick out a group of tourists easily.
One of my favorite stops during this trip was getting to see the Louvre, and more importantly, the Venus di Milo statue. I have long enjoyed art museums, but the Louvre is one that requires at least several days of your time in order to cover all the rooms. Seeing as I only had a few days total in Paris, my friend I was visiting and I mapped out what we wanted to see before even attempting to navigate the museum. Top of the list: Venus di Milo, the Mona Lisa, and the Egyptian sections. Being able to see some of these masterpieces you typically just learn about in art class was an experience that I won’t easily forget.
After visiting a city as big as Paris in only a few days, it takes me a while to soak in everything I was able to experience. I still have hundreds of photos to sort through and (although I realize it sounds corny) emotions to absorb. I like to think that every new place I have the opportunity to see changes me little by little and helps me grow in ways I would not have otherwise. There is so much history and culture in a city like this that I want to be able to do it justice.
What’s next? I’ll hopefully be getting a “Paris in 4 days or less” post worked out while I’m in Lugano, Switzerland with the family I work for, and then I’m off for my first real vacation of the year to spend 12 days in Anchorage, Alaska. As always, instagram will have all the real-time photographic updates.
If you want to see the full collection of my photos, plus full albums of my trips to Berlin and Israel, don’t forget to check out my Facebook page! I’ve also got a board on Pinterest that I’ve been cataloguing all the things I’ve been able to experience, so you might want to see what all is going on over there as well.
I am currently in Paris and visiting as many sights as I can in the 3.5 days I have here. If you’re on my Tumblr or Instagram, you may have noticed a new (and probably a little strange) photo series popping up, so I thought I would take a chance to explain it a bit while I’m taking a short break in the middle of my day.
#tinyringadventures was inspired by this ring that the little girl I au pair for gave me. Whenever you watch children, you find tiny reminders of them absolutely everywhere. I discovered this ring in a pocket of my bag when I was unpacking in my room my first night in Paris. Tiny Girl is obsessed with photos, and when I go anywhere without her, I constantly get questions about where I’m going. I thought this would be a fun way to catalog those adventures and maybe eventually create a small photo album for her.
As I’m starting to feel more and more like part of the family I work for, I fully intend on continuing this photo series even after my following year is completed as a way to stay in contact with them.
My Tumblr and Instagram just have the ring photos, but as I want to create memories of my travels, I’ll be including an in-focus photo of the location behind the ring in my blog posts. This makes the adventures fully about the sights and experiences of the traveling, which in my opinion is one of the most important parts of any trip