Two years ago, I experienced an adventure of a lifetime by finally realizing my goal of visiting France.
My fascination with France began long ago with my French uncle, Clarence. As a teenager, I’d travel to Duluth, Minnesota, to visit Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Clarence during my summer vacations. I remember the discreet half-shots of whiskey my uncle gave me more than I remember him talking about his family’s home country. But I loved Uncle Clarence for his warmth and charisma, and by osmosis, I must have started loving France.
French was not taught in my small Montana high school, but as a college freshman I began studying the language. Every day on my way to French class, I’d walk past a poster of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral. Many times, pausing by the poster, I’d imagine myself in Paris visiting Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower.
For my work-study job, I had a key to the language building. One night, I snuck into the building and peeled the poster off the wall. Remorse struck the next day when I saw the unfaded spot where the poster had once hung, but the shame of my theft vanished that night. I hung the poster near my bed so I could view the Gothic cathedral each night before I drifted off to sleep. The gargoyles on the building had kept silent vigil over Paris for centuries, and now they would watch over me.
The poster became crumpled and tattered through the years, and eventually I threw it out. But the dream remained. And finally, at age forty-three, I made my way to France. I spent three weeks in the country, riding my bicycle from Bordeaux to the Alps, practicing the language, and seeing the amazing people, landscapes and historical sites, and of course, Notre Dame.
But going to France meant so much more than a vacation from my everyday world. It helped me fulfill a deep inner longing, and as a result, the trip totally changed my life. In France, I was able to appreciate the beauty that surrounded me. Every day was filled with awe as I marveled at really being in France.
Back home, I kept a bit of France with me by learning to take in the wonder of the world and appreciate the life that I have right here, right now.
Though not everyone shares the dream of traveling to a foreign country, I believe we all need to find our France. By pursuing our inner longings we can change our everyday world.
Going to France helped me reset my life. As a result of my trip, I began to pursue cycling, renewed my enthusiasm for photography, and finally fulfilled another long-time dream of writing a book.
Where will your “France” take you?