The One About Interrailing​

When I set foot on the Eurostar headed to France back in 2015, I had no idea what to expect on the other side. Now, in 2017 I’m preparing to move there for good.

Sure, for someone from the UK it would be a stretch to call France a mysterious place. But back in 2015 I hadn’t been abroad in ten years. And in those intervening years between chart-toppers Crazy Frogg and Uptown Funk, a lot had changed in the world.

What made stepping on that Eurostar all the more daunting was that Paris was just the tip of the iceberg. What lay ahead was five solid weeks of traveling, all by train, through Europe on a shoestring budget, with a backpack (that by the second stop was almost entirely held together by shoestring itself…) and my long-time partner in crime. As soon as those doors closed and the train departed the platform the reality of what lay ahead started to sink in.

Getting off at the other end and it felt like all my fears had been realised. One wrong turn from the station set up a two-hour delay in finding the hostel. In that time we managed to stumble into a weekend market, losing each other in a sea of people. Narrowly escaping and still clueless about where to head next. Stumbling across a metro line we walked and walked (then walked some more for good measure) as the sun came down and the language barrier became more apparent to me. Exhausted, late and fed-up we made it to the hostel.

To be honest, I hated Paris. It all felt so unfamiliar, so dangerously different to what I had known. And I wanted out of there as soon as humanly possible.

What an idiot, right? Who could just flat out hate the city of love? But this is what can happen if you’re so used to expecting the world to look, feel and sound a certain way. And all I wanted to do the following day was stay in bed, safe in the hostel, and wait it out until we had to catch our train away from there.

This is what can happen, if you don’t open up to new experiences, and not expect to judge them by your old ones. If I’d have let that first experience dictate my opinion, I wouldn’t have seen the wonder and beauty that this city has to offer.

Luckily my partner was going to let sulking in bed be an option and in the next two day’s we tick off everything that could possibly be included on a whose-whose list of tourist cliché.  And since then I’ve been back many times and each time I’ve found something new to love about this wonderfully diverse city that bursts with life each day.

From the dance pits along the Seine in the summer, to wonderful art on display at the Louvre, and day;s that can we wasted away exploring in Le Marais (nope, not any part in particular, just all of the Le Marais, it’s pretty fucking great…). Paris has won a place in my heart.

But it’s a place that would have remained closed if I’d accepted my initial experience, of the noisy, shady and intimating aspect and gone home. If I hadn’t push myself out of the comfort zone in 2015, there would no moving there in 2017.

Next up in the travel diaries – Nice, a tale of Irish bars, vicious beaches and men stuck in improbable places.

In the meantime,  have you ever visited somewhere and almost formed a negative opinion too soon?  Share your story in the comments below.

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