I’ve been thinking a lot about France, and relationships, and past versions of myself and my friends and it has all meant that I’ve spent a lot of time deep in thought. And lots of these thoughts keep going back to France, particularly Paris. Looking at the gorgeous IG stream of Jessie from Supply Paper Co. and then her website, also helped bring back a lot of old feelings. That, and the fact that my son’s uncle is half Danish, half Italian but raised in the south of France so I hear him reminiscence about French life quite often. I recently introduced him to a friend who also speaks fluent French and we had a chat together and that was enough to bring back my once obsession with all things French. Just listening to them speak with such passion for food and travel sparked something inside of me. I watch French films as much as I do American ones, but that’s not really the same. When you are around those who lived there once and speak the language, as you listen to them excitedly speak about “the good old days”, you are suddenly filled with curiosity and joie de vivre. You suddenly want open windows like these below, windows that overlook slate gray rooftops, with sweet little lace cotton curtains. You want to hear the sound of pigeons cooing and the smell of fresh baked bread making its way up the staircase. You want France.
I used to go to Paris a lot when I was single. Did you know that? I lived in Boston, but distance (nor being broke) didn’t stop me. I remember once in ’98, my friend found a great deal on a last minute flight to Paris so I told my boss that I needed Monday off (it was a Thursday) and after work, I transferred most of my closet into a suitcase, raced to the airport, and landed on French soil the next morning with no clue what the hotel would be like that I booked 5 minutes before my cab arrived. That trip was one of the highlights of my single years — just doing crazy, last minute vacations to anywhere and everywhere. Looking back, each spontaneous journey helped me to find myself and get closer to the future Holly. Each trip got me to where I am today and for that, I am grateful.
I remember roaming narrow cobblestone streets,marveling at the architecture, the chalky-colored buildings, smacking my lips on yummy crepes, buying colorful scarves and perfumes at Galleries Lafayette, shopping in tiny grocery stores enjoying all of the product packaging… And snapping photos with my trusty film camera in only black and white because I wanted to be just like one of my favorite photographers, Robert Doisneau. Cheesy, I know. I remember listening to Morrissey on the plane as I flipped through French magazines feeling so invigorated and full of wonder as I journeyed back to Boston to my boring office job. That same year, I met my German husband online so then I got into German life + culture, traveling to Germany a year later. Though my big dream, since I was a teenager, was to move to England, Paris was always a spot that I wanted to visit regularly for inspiration so I reasoned England was close enough so I could easily live a double life if I lived in or near London.
Plans change. I’ve been living in northern Germany for over 5 years and I truly love my life here. Yet I’m wondering what happened because I don’t travel nearly as much as I imagined I would if I was ever lucky enough to live in Europe. So I’m thinking it’s time to change that and stop thinking so much and start doing. It’s time I drive over the border to France and to the many other countries that I have easy access to.
On a side note, I often wonder if some of us were meant to roam, to wander, to have 9 lives like a cat? I often thought that maybe we’re meant to have a new partner each decade since we change every 10 years anyway and if there are no kids involved and both are in agreement, a change could be good. So a new partner, a new city or country, a new language, a new life every decade. Can you imagine? Does this sound even a little bit fun to you or does it make you sad or feel lost? I think that once you’ve done the decade thing 3 or 4 times, you’d settle down with a partner and stay with them, in that place, forever – but only when and if the person and the place felt right.
I moved a lot as a child. Moving to Germany was a seamless transfer for me. I still haven’t been homesick. Not once. I’ve never thought of moving back. But in my heart, I don’t have a set home. I guess now with a baby, he’ll need to have stability, and my husband treasures his home and stability here, so for them their experience is different from my own childhood experience. But all of the moving left me with a roaming spirit. I often identify myself with birds and butterflies and things with wings because I like to take flight, whether that be in my heart, my mind or in real-time. I’ve always loved to explore and see new places. Yet I crave stability and home, too. So my heart is wandering on one side and very content and very “found” on the other. I often wonder if my stable husband finds this side of me very annoying and hard to please. I don’t complain but I think my actions may show my lust for life and travel. I think it’s obvious to all who know me well that I have passion for things that require traveling to really experience and enjoy.
My friend once lovingly criticized me saying that all cities look alike – you’ve seen them all if you’ve seen one. She thought I was crazy for loving Montreal so much, for example, “What’s wrong with Boston that you have to drive 5 hours to Montreal for?”, was her argument. But Montreal is French and felt different and the experience of being there was new and the possibilities felt endless. I never saw all cities as being just cities, places that were more or less the same. I’m a people person and I study people when I out. I watch everything. I see each detail. I don’t miss a thing. So all cities may have big buildings and a Starbucks, as she noted, but they each have their own culture and blood and that is the big draw for me. The action. The possibilities. The stories I imagine as I study its inhabitants. The architecture, the smells, the sounds. The what if. The expectation.
I often wonder what happens to our former fun-loving younger versions? The me that hopped on planes to foreign countries with just 8 hours notice, a few hundred bucks, and no hotel? My baby has made me realize how much I miss my younger Holly. He is so full of wonder and so keen to explore and see and touch everything. We adults may not be able to turn the clock back but we can bring the best parts of ourselves forward with us into the future so why not bring along the spontaneous screw it side? For instance, I’m longing for bad coffee, rude waiters, gorgeous streets and flaky croissants. And since it’s been a few years, perhaps Paris is calling. I think Paris with a baby boy would be just beautiful.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this essay, I didn’t have a point to make to be honest. So I’m ending it here. Yet perhaps maybe you see something in yourself as you’ve read this. I often wonder how many of you have wanderlust, too? This strong desire to see, and do, it all. My wanderlust is not felt consistently though, only during certain months or periods in which I’m feeling uninspired – like the end of gray, dreary Januarys!
(images: Supply Paper Co.)