There are some experiences you assume you’ll only read about in books, places you’ll only see pictures of, things you’ll only see done on the screen. Occasionally, the universe becomes a little less shit and lets you experience and do some of the things you thought you never would, not in this life-time. And as an added bonus, you may get to do them with the people you love and if that’s not hitting the lottery, then I don’t know what is.
The past fifteen days of my life seem to be straight out of a novel, the things I’m doing seem so surreal, half the times I wonder if I’m dreaming or if I’m normally living a nightmare and this is one of the nicer dreams my brain deigns to bless me with. I’m not too fond of travelling, I like it well enough when I have company and / or motivation but the whole ‘travel’ bit of travelling takes a toll on my body that I don’t really care for. My knees ache, my thighs sting and my lungs practically give up on any tiny hill I’m asked to climb. But nine out of ten times, it’s worth it.
Last night, as I sat at Trocadero staring up at the Eiffel Tower as it was lit up it hit me just how fortunate I was. I was seeing something I had only studied and read about four years, when I was first introduced to French. Unfortunately, I didn’t take to the language as well as I did to the country. I had a similar feeling when I entered the Louvre for the first time and saw the magnificent glass pyramids I’ve only seen on postcards and in pictures. For a tiny moment, I felt like I’d made it.
It’s been fifteen days and I’ve reunited with my best friends a year after college ended in another continent and we’re all mostly doing okay. We’re confused about what to do next and then after that but that uncertainty is as common to us as the monthly exams we used to have for three years. Fifteen days and I’ve visited three countries, and nearly seven cities. I’ve learned to (mostly) navigate the Paris metro and can proudly say I only ended up taking the wrong train once. I ended up at the end of the line at Montrouge, immensely confused when the French announcer lady said “Terminus” because what the fuck, which end of Paris had I made it to unknowingly. It’s okay, I made it to the Louvre in time to see the Mona Lisa and would like to report that it is thoroughly unimpressive. First of all, it’s tiny as fuck and it’s behind two glass cases and honestly, I found several other paintings to be much better. In fact, I got lost in the museum too, and that’s how I found my favourite piece of art –
It’s weird, but somehow, I had never planned on travelling around Europe so early in my life. I always assumed I’d go around (maybe) when I was twenty-seven or so, to escape the aunties hovering around me with the marriage noose when I’d started earning. I didn’t even plan to do my Masters immediately after my undergrad, but things happen and sometimes it’s better to go along with the flow rather than fight it.
So much travelling has given me several opportunities to confirm that we, as humans, are inherently stupid. We’re odd creatures. We want to tread the line between life and death so much that we build cable cars over the Rhine, to take us up to fortresses that we’ve built high up in the mountains; we build bridges to make it to the other side of the Seine not knowing what’s awaiting us – we flirt so much with death, no wonder it loves us so much. We’re curious, odd, stupid creatures who go looking at sites of mass death, to make ourselves feel bad and remind ourselves of the cruelty we’re capable of.
That inherent desire to do the stupid thing reared its head so many times during my time travelling around Germany and France, it’s insane (but it’s really not). From wanting to jump into the river Maas in Maastricht just to see how deep it is, or just to feel the violent current of the Rhine to wanting to crush the flowers at Le Jardin de Luxembourg, my brain really brought out the destructive side of being human. The need to break and crush and destroy wars with the want to protect and to preserve, to build and to fortify. We’re such complex creatures, aren’t we?
But so fragile. In front of a to-scale African elephant whose thighs my head barely grazes, to seeing just how heavy the paw of a Bengal tiger really is, I came to the unfortunate realization that humans are made for death. We’re fragile, stupid creatures who build things and then tear them down and then go look at the ruins by exchanging pieces of paper.
I went off on a tangent there, but can you blame me? I’m currently sitting in a McDonald’s (I am a broke Uni student who has three hours to kill until she can leave for her bus) opposite the Palace of Luxembourg where I can actually picture people walking around with floaty skirts and parasols around the fountain, chuckling at the ducks and discussing assassination plots over a hundred or so years ago. I am incredibly fortunate and privileged to be able to travel to places my parents have only heard of or seen in films. Every time my dad used to tell me to look at the scenery in the background of the Bollywood film set in Switzerland or in France because we might never be able to go there in real life, I used to wonder, oh, how would snow feel, if I’d ever get to see the Eiffel Tower up close, if I would ever make it out of the country I was born in to see how people lived in other places. I wish I could tell twelve-year old Nia that it happens, snow feels wonderful and it tastes amazing until you’re freezing your fingers off, the Eiffel Tower really is that huge and sparkly, it really is worth that hype and that you should avoid that one part of the tower where people are making out and drinking champagne worth eighteen euros a tiny glass. It happens. And it’s surreal and amazing and unbelievable but also expected and common and you get used to it faster than you want to.
I write this in the middle of the month, I still have a few more places to see before I return to the UK, I have a few more days to spend with my friends before we part again, not knowing if we’ll see each other in a couple months, years or decades. We are creatures slave to time (and if you’re in the West, the made-up nonsense of Daylight Savings) and circumstance and it is of utmost importance that we enjoy every moment we can with our loved ones, no matter where in the world we end up because after all, we’ve a short life to make fun before we disappear into the void.
Until next time,