I just got back from my European holiday about one week ago. As I mentioned in my previous post, this was my first time leaving the country and I was doing it by myself. Sure I did meet up with a friend in Paris, but much of the travelling part was alone. I learned a lot while on this trip – about myself mainly. My family and friends were concerned with my safety –welp I made it back in one piece. Never understood some people’s paranoia. I was more concerned with knowing the correct procedures for going through customs and border patrol and if I was pronouncing my words correctly. (Sorry to the French and Italians – I’m still mastering your language).
Paris was absolutely beautiful. You can tell that this city was planned and that the integrity of that plan has not been compromised over the years. Everyone in Paris is laid back, cool as can be. In America people are hyper vigilant with their kids – “Get over here Billy, where I can see you!” None of that happened in Paris. The dogs were unleashed and so were the children. It’s the perfect match for my laid back personality. Paris is very diverse, and in many ways a lot like NYC – just cleaner with prettier buildings and happier people. A good amount of people spoke English which was comforting. I remember tons of vocab words in French but I can’t put together a sentence aside from – Je suis perdu! Donnez un coup de main? We did tons of walking and photo snapping in Paris.
Fast forward through a 10 hour over night train ride to Milano. Milano was a bit different than Paris. The buildings weren’t as pretty and there wasn’t as many tourists. And in Italy. The people stare. Openly stare, no shame in their game. In the U.S. we try to maintain a level of secrecy in our staring – we don’t want people to know that we are looking. In Milano, in particular I remember this one little girl at the Linate Airport. She walked right up to me, her mother trailing behind, she poked her lips out (as to say I have big lips) she continued to stare until her mother came. The little girl and her mom sat two seats away from me and continued to openly stare at me. At first I thought this was a racial thing – but I did some online research and it seems that’s just the way Italians are. They don’t know you — they stare. But I couldn’t help but think that I was the first American black person that this little girl saw. Amazing. We didn’t do any partying in Paris, blame it on the timing and jet lag. But in Milano we went out twice –all our mid-twenties bodies could handle. The clubs there are amazing. Everything is top shelf, and they give you a free drink with your admission to the club. My friend and I were the only black women in the club at first and we were treated like royalty. Like, when does that ever happen in America? I’m pretty sure they thought we were celebrities. The bartenders are not pressed about leaving them a tip.
What did I learn? I want to learn to speak french fluently. It was difficult to be there and not be able to engage in casual conversation. I also want to learn more Italian and Spanish. Communication is so important. I want to travel more, make it a part of my routine. I realized how fortunate I am. While I was over there I did a lot of reflecting on my life experiences thus far. I’ve had a pretty privileged upbringing compared to many. I’m grateful for every opportunity I get and I know that there will be more.