On Travel Nostalgia

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“Let’s never come here again because it will never be as much fun.” —Lost in Translation

I’ve mentioned before that I lived in Normandy for a year after college, teaching English. This was before I met my other half, and as it was such a big part of my life, he’s heard me expound on the beauty of Normandy for four years now. I’ve always thought I wanted to bring him back there and show him the beauty of that region. Now we’re actually talking about going! And I find myself … reluctant.

You see, I was in Normandy 8 years ago now (8 years!). I was in my early twenties, alone, doing things like staying up all night dancing in tiny shady clubs with high-schoolers, taking impropmptu weekend trips to Honfleur and Étretat (pictured), staying on farms and helping feed the newborn lambs, getting in long discussions in broken French with people aged 16 to 60 at Raclette parties … It was an amazing year, but the kind of year that could only have happened once, if you know what I mean.

I wonder if going back to all those places, without the same people, finding them changed, finding me changed … will make me not only nostalgic, but sad. And sadness is really not what I’m going for on vacation.

I could be totally wrong. The joy of showing the person I love most in the world one of the places I love most in the world could be an amazing experience. But maybe I need to wait for more time to pass. Or maybe I’ll always feel this way. I don’t know.

Do you revisit your favorite spots in the world? Or do you leave them safe inside your memories?

Above photo by me. Étretat, Normandy, May 2007

Wanderlusty Wednesday

chateau 2Don’t major in French, they said. It’s useless, they said.

What “they” failed to take into account was that someday, a relative could win a trip to stay in a French chateau for free. And that this relative may need a translator. And then, as the sole French-speaking niece in the family, you will be invited to spend two weeks at said chateau. For FREE.

I have an obsession with chateaus. This place was straight-up my dream house. A stone chateau originally constructed in the 1500s, it was purchased and restored by an American couple in the mid ’00s. It had three stories, eight bedrooms, a library, a turret, a wine cellar, unicorn tapestries on the walls. A pool. A trampoline. And wifi!

It was in the absolute middle of nowhere, of course. About an hour’s drive from Toulouse. The nearest town was Mirepoix. Grocery shopping required a half hour car ride to the nearest LeClerc. But it did come with abundant wildflowers, some cats, and a cute little old lady neighbors who brought over eggs from her own hens.

My sister and I stayed in the tower bedroom, like princesses. We consumed nothing but wine and bread and cheese the whole time we were there. We wandered around the area a bit, but really we just basked in the beauty of this place that had been there for centuries.

If that place ever goes up for sale, and if my plan to become a millionaire is ever realized, you’d better believe I’m putting in the first offer. Until then, I can only dream (and write my little heart out).

A few more images, keeping in mind this was taken with my ’05 point-and-shoot:

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On Grass-is-Greener Syndrome

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Today’s post is less on writing, more on life, but what’s one without the other?

So this thing started happening to me towards the end of college. Throughout most of college, I was thrilled to be there and aware of how lucky I was to be spending my days reading and discussing ideas with like-minded people (I was a French major, English minor), and living within walking distance of all my friends. It wasn’t until the end of school that I got an itch to go out into the “real world”. I had applied for a teaching assistantship in France, and was scheduled to start in September.

I’m over college, I told myself. I can’t wait to move to France.

So I moved to France, to Normandy, and lived in this tiny town called Saint-Lô. And it was hard, especially at first. (Moving to a new place alone, never mind a new continent, always is). There was the worst apartment of my life, with linoleum floors and fluorescent lighting and lukewarm to ice-cold showers and heat that got turned off on the weekends. The attempting to teach English to teenagers who made fun of my accent. Being at the mercy of the French transit system. Making so little money I often had to go through my pockets for change to buy a baguette to tide me over until I got paid. The incessant rain from December to April.

Don’t get me wrong: there were many good things about living in Normandy. The aforementioned baguettes. The crepes, the croissants, the cidre. The wine. The proximity of Paris. This trail I used to walk on that leads out into cow country where you felt like the only human being on earth. The adventures I had. The friends I made from all corners of the earth.

But a lot of the time, I found myself nostalgic for college, and at the same time, dreaming of the future.

I’m over France, I said, towards the end. I can’t wait to have a steady job and live in a big city and be near my boyfriend and watch football and have a car again.

So the next year, I moved to New York, got an apartment in Brooklyn, got a decent-paying administrative assistant 9-5 job. I watched football, saw my boyfriend all the time, had money to buy food.

But I had problems, too. Being a real adult for the first time was hard. I found myself nostalgic for France, and dreaming of the future.

I’m over Brooklyn, I said. Over this admin assistant job. Over being a relationship. I can’t wait until my life changes.

It did. I moved to the East Village. I became single again for the first time in three years. I got a new job, a *real* job, in the marketing department of my company.

The marketing job was hard, especially at first. So was dating. And living with roommates. I missed my old colleagues. I missed my old boyfriend. I missed Brooklyn.

Life changed again, as it tends to do. I got a promotion at work, doing something I like to do, at which I’m actually good (social media). All that dating landed me another boyfriend, one for keeps, this time. We moved back to Brooklyn together. I finally finished my book.

But I still have dreams. I dream of living in an actual house, with more than two rooms and a yard and trees (actually, I dream of living somewhere like this). I dream of quitting my job and becoming a full time writer. I dream of wide open spaces, of time to bake, of spending more than two weeks a year en voyage.

It’s okay to dream. Good, even. But somewhere along the way I figured out I have to be grateful for what I have, for the way my life is in this very moment. Someday I’m going to be nostalgic for my 375-square foot apartment two blocks from the Promenade. For the ease of taking the subway anywhere I want to go. For a steady paycheck, maybe.

I’m still nostalgic for days gone by and still dream about the future, but I’m trying really hard to keep my eyes wide open to appreciate the way my life is right now.