34 Lessons Learned in London & Paris
Monday August 20, 2012

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“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

The adventure that I had so longed for has now come to an end, and oh, what a beautiful, intoxicatingly, lovely adventure it was. As someone who can comfortably label herself a home-body, this particular two weeks of travel left me at the end of it with a much different feeling as I surprisingly was not anxious to return. A feeling that I had discovered so many ways of doing, thinking, living and experiencing that seemed to fit me like a well-worn glove that I wanted to remain.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what does it mean when the adventure begs to continue and the traveler longs to obey, but due to obligation and responsibility, can’t heed the calling?

After much contemplation, I think regardless of how one’s travels unfold, we all return with new eyes and an opportunity to begin living differently . . . to begin living more in tune with who we want to be and how we want our lives to proceed each and every day. The gift of travel is that it truly does offer us an opportunity to find our true selves that are waiting to be unearthed if only we find time to silence the world around us upon returning for a moment or two and listen to what our journey is trying to tell us.

“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.”
Heath L. Buckmaster, Box of Hair: A Fairy Tale 

With that said, I’ve tried to quiet my world the last few days, and in between sleeping during odd hours as my body clock readjusts, I have made a list of lessons that revealed themselves while I traveled in London and Paris the past two weeks. Each of these aha revelations are ideas that now I am going to try to incorporate in some way into my daily routine and life here in the states.

Do have a look, and then consider a similar task after your next journey to see how you can fine tune your life and make even more tailored to what complements your passions and values.

1. Wear dresses with abandon.

2. As mentioned by Aisling of Tresor Parisien, your wardrobe is your armor to the world. Always look your best.

3. Begin building a collection of quality scarves and favor a beautiful scarf rather than excess jewelry.

4. Continue the desire to learn your entire life (read, visit galleries, visit museums, spend time outside appreciating nature, go to the theater)

5. Tailor your life to your gifts, passions and values. Don’t follow blindly.

6. Choose quality ballet flats over heels in order to look chic while walking and working.

7. Limit the use of jeans.

8. Less driving, more walking.

9. Embrace your unique beauty. Imperfect is more than okay because perfect only appears in magazines.

10. Exude self-confidence with the way you walk, what you choose to wear and how you carry yourself (stand up straight, look forward, not down).

11. A fresh baguette, strawberry jam and tea (or espresso or coffee) is a lovely simple breakfast (I would add a bit of protein as well – such as an egg).

12. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to live a high quality life.

13. Be willing to splurge on a taxi from the train station or airport to your living quarters. It will reduce stress, save time and save your back.

14. Continue to learn the language. I found it amazing that I still had the French language dancing around in my head as I returned to the states. Simply residing in the country allows you to learn how to communicate better in a shorter amount of time, so don’t stop learning.

15. Worry less about what others think (they will always have an opinion, but you have a choice to let it affect you) and instead just be who you want to be, doing what feels most comfortable and in tune with who you are.

16. Go to large museums for only an hour at a time and see a small amount. Absorb what you are viewing. Allow yourself time to take it in, mulling it around in your mind. Pay attention to what it sparks in your thoughts/creativity/etc.

17. The Metro in Paris and the Tube in London are your friend. Be patient, determine how the lines run, and it will enable you to enjoy the city far better than only being able to walk from place to place.

18. Not checking email incessantly is a relief. Set designated times during your day to check all of your necessary accounts. Remain consistent so that those you work with will come to respect your system.

19. Allow meals to linger, conversation to meander and time to wait for you. Don’t rush meals. What I appreciated immensely in London and Paris is that in most instances you had to ask for your check, rather than the waiter placing it immediately on the table after your last delivered dish in their subliminal way of trying to turn tables quicker. What a pleasant difference.

20. When traveling with a friend or significant other on a lengthy vacation, allow each other a day to go and do their own thing separately. This allows for each person to plan things their traveling partner may not enjoy, but also creates wonderful dinner conversation that evening as you share what you experienced during your solitary excursion.

21. Wear less accessories, and instead opt for accessories of quality (shoes, handbag, scarves, jewelry, hat, etc).

22. A large travel tote of high quality not only increases your travel chic style, but also makes traveling more efficient instead of having to carry multiple small bags.

23. An iPad (or other similar device) is ideal for travel – download books, receive subscription magazine issues, etc prior to leaving. Saves space and offers more choices.

24. Fabulous shoes and quality handbag speak volumes about a woman’s style even if her wardrobe consists of jeans and a simple tee.

25. Practice patience and shop vintage.

26. Rent an apartment instead of checking into a hotel when traveling.

27. Allow yourself to eat good food but less of it.

28. One need not live in a large house to live well.

29. Treat yourself to sparkling water with a meal every once in awhile.

30. Enjoying a cash vacation makes the return flight and transition back into your regular schedule much more tranquil.

31. With simple changes, even amateurs can take better pictures. Allow your subjects (people) to be candid and don’t insist they always look at the camera and smile. Capture them when they aren’t expecting it or give them time to just be their natural self.

32. When traveling, some of the best spots to visit are where the tourists aren’t congregating. Leave the crowds and peek down small streets and neighborhood corners. You never know what treasures you will find.

33. Clean your house before you leave.

34. The best souvenirs are not things but memories. Allow yourself to be open to experience and try whatever is offered. Take photos, keep a journal. These two things alone will provide lasting keepsakes that will be priceless.

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17 thoughts on “34 Lessons Learned in London & Paris

  1. I love this post…it’s all so true. The Buckmaster quote is very good. Travel really does show us who we are. RE item #17–the Paris bus system is also a great way to get around. It uses the same tickets as the metro but you have the advantage of looking out the window and seeing the sights as you travel around the city. Glad you had such a great trip!

  2. I am reading this while dining solo at my local gourmet pizza joint – glass of wine in hand – and somehow it just seemed so appropriate and relevant. Although not 100% unplugged, the ability to sit here and enjoy a solo meal a la Paris/London is much appreciated. Great post. Love the blog!

  3. I love this list! I felt exactly the same way when I moved back to the US from Paris. I actually had to buy jeans because I didn’t own any. My boyfriend and I are going over in a few weeks and renting a flat instead of staying in a hotel. He’s never done that before, but I told him it’s the only way to see the city.

    I love the 1st quote too: “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” What wonderful words.

    I’ve just discovered your blog and will have to explore more. Thank you!

  4. Do you have a recommended large tote that you liked while you were travelling? Interesting list! I won’t have a travel opportunity until October but I will file this away for then. Coming home to a clean house is so nice!

    1. Such a great question. I will be sharing a list of ideas of travel totes for next Wednesday’s part 2 in the series, as I have received a handful of questions about just this topic.

      To travel in October, what an ideal time of year. have a lovely trip. 🙂

  5. As someone who grew up in the SF Bay Area (Berkeley) – we did many of these things already. Walking everywhere, going to produce store, cheese and baguette shop, fish market, wine shop. Watching less TV, going to museums and bookstores more. Shopping at thrift stores and flea markets. Spending an afternoon in a public square listening to live music. Sitting drinking coffee watching pedestrians walk by. And of course enjoying gorgeous nature and weather. It’s not always necessary to fly to Europe to enjoy that kind of lifestyle.

    1. What a wonderful place to grow up. The funny thing, as well as beautiful thing, about life is that the same exact lesson can be learned in a variety of places, so it’s not exclusive to just a few people. As long as we all always keep our eyes open wherever our journeys take us, the lessons are waiting to be learned.

  6. .. So good advices.. I will try to keep them like a small diamonds in my mind and when forget.. will take a look this article again and again.. Thank you so much..

  7. I especially like #16 because every time I go to the museum, I feel like I need to see as much as possible to get my money’s worth, and I leave glazed over and exhausted.

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