The first trip where I decided to travel as other than a typical tourist was when I was twenty-three: my best friend Kim and I decided to return to Paris. We had been there three years earlier as the standard young Americans touring Europe. We did have the expected magical time with the exhausting hours in the Louvre, the mad hair-raising dash through traffic to the Arc de Triomphe, the rainy yet stunning side trip to Versailles with our pack of newly met friends. These were all wonderful experiences, but now we wanted to sit. Really. We just wanted to sit. On park benches, at sidewalk cafes, in restaurant windows. To sip coffee and just watch the passersby sounded divine to us.
Now comes the critical error in judgement. I was living in Germany at the time and had met a wonderful woman (also named Michelle) and she expressed an interest in joining us. I enthusiastically and stupidly agreed.
She was diametrically opposite every trait of my best friend and I. Where we were laid back introverts, she was a go-getter. Where we accepted sitting together in companionable silence, she wanted non-stop action and EXPERIENCES. Those descriptors alone will allow your imagination to fill in how the bulk of the trip unfolded.
There were, of course, treasured moments such as waiting for hours picnicking roadside in the mountains to see the Tour de France whiz gloriously by. We did return to the Eiffel Tower and while Michelle hiked exuberantly to the top, Kim and I remained seated at the mid-level and had orgasmic warm chocolate crepes, messy and divine. However, the challenging week was filled with Michelle chomping at the bit and thrashing against our laissez faire mentality while Kim seethed with resentment at the entire premise of our quiet journey being disrupted. The added bonus was that the two women did not previously know each other, which left me spending the tumultuous week in the middle to suffer their incessant complaints, one at each of my ears.
Solo travel is my hearty recommendation for Mindful Travel, but in future posts we will explore strategies to secure personal space and quietude while traveling in company. Let this first story serve as notice to ponder the inherent characteristics of each of your travel companions.