Friendships change the older you get, and if you ask me, the whole thing is quite an interesting concept. See as I stated in a previous article, I grew up surrounded by great friends, that I saw everyday and with whom I experienced all "crucial" parts of childhood and adolescence. And there's something really interesting about experiences like that, because even until this day we somehow keep growing up together.
Nowadays I see them discover their passion, make new friends and encounter the same difficulties of being an adult and living abroad as myself. We might be miles away, but every time we get a chance, we visit each other and it genuinely feels like nothing's changed.
Now the changes I see on them I suppose they see on me too. At some point we all started to build our own lives outside of this circle we had as our safe haven, this place that for twelve years represented familiarity for us. We all began to choose what could, from that point on, be our new "everyday", and in many ways those choices really matter.
You see something as simple as calling someone a friend can be tricky. As I said before, the older you get the more the dynamic changes, or if anything the more the approach you take differs from prior encounters. However there are times where immediate connections are made. Where although you might not know the person or where they are headed you somehow feel you can connect in some way. And then it's your time to choose. Choose to continue and embrace whatever might come from that first hello.
Now I guess this fascinates me because in a way that's not how I saw relationships before. Don't get me wrong, I clearly chose whom I wanted to talk to or be with in school, and it wasn't at all a forced choice. The thing is it just felt so natural and was stated in such an effortless way, given that as a group we shared the same space for so long, that there was no need to think about how the friendship developed.
However nowadays, there’s a sort of pressure that comes with creating bonds, and I definitely felt it when moving abroad. Most people say that it is at university that you make life long friends, and if you think about it, the more you listen to something like that the more you pressure yourself to make every connection last. You want to be able to say that your university years meant something, and not just because you got a degree. But then suddenly you’re there, you’re in this new phase, and at times everything seems to happen so fast that you’re not sure of what’s going on, and this his is where the pressure can affect you.
We’re all different and we all know this. You are not going to like every person out there and they are all not going to like you back. So if for some reason you seem to take longer to make connections, you’re going to start wondering why. Is it you or is it them? And unfortunately if you let such feeling grow, you’ll get stuck.
We live in a world where sometimes looks seem to matter more than other things, where belonging to a group is still something some feel the need to achieve. Following this premise, what seems to matter ends up being the quantity of friends or people around us one can have, and not so much whether those relationships really bring something positive to you or not. When in reality, that is where our attention should go. When you start making “life long” decisions like the career path you’ll take, or the potential country you’ll want to settle into, you’ll want people who will stick next to you no matter what. People that, whether you decide to move 10000 miles away on a sporadic epiphany, will still come up to you and say “I’ll always visit”. People who teach you about their culture and allow you to be a part of it just as much as you allow them to be a part of yours. People for whom you’d want to move cross country to see just for a few hours, or with whom you wouldn’t care to try new things with because that’s how much you trust them.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am aware that trust is one of the hardest barriers to climb. And there are times where even after having gone past it, seconds of insecurity still overcome you. But if you are able to communicate such feelings, not only within yourself but with those around you as well, believe me you can find ways to keep climbing back, because at the end of the day it is not about climbing by yourself.
Now see, when you’re a kid, your ambitions, your goals are limited only by your imagination, not by money or rent or other people’s expectations. Then as reality kicks in, those dreams that once seemed so close and achievable start to get further away from you. And depending on different possible scenarios in life, dreams can be found on the side-line more often that one would like. However, they shouldn’t die with your realizations, and I believe going back to that child like state is a great first step for that. Because in that state, even something as simple as climbing that trust barrier was nothing. If you saw a nice kid in the park and you wanted to play, you would go and ask them to play. You took chances, and even if sometimes yes, you could get hurt, you kept coming back to the park to try again. And things can work out the same the older you get.
When you first meet someone, the first jump is hard, but then it can get a bit easier because it becomes teamwork. You create a bond, which is built and strengthen with time. Now sometimes that can take years, others months, and in rare and special cases, what could seem like weeks or days. But once you find those people who can help you embrace your dreams without loosing touch from what’s in front of you, then I believe you’re in a good path for the future. Because it is then that you start to see the changes.
Sometimes it seems hard to believe that you might have an effect on people, or that the effect someone could have on you could really bring something special. With stress and deadlines we get lost, in life and with ourselves, and we forget. A close friend once told me that it seems almost ridiculous how easy it is to forget that as long as the sun rises and sets, time flies by and everyday could be better than the previous. However, one thing I don’t think they realized by saying it was how easy it was for them to remind me of that. How with just a few words, a whole new perspective came back. And this is what I mean when I say that we don’t always realize how important our relationships can be, and how much a small gesture could go a long way.
I guess what I want to get at with all of this is that, we shouldn’t be afraid of what’s in front of us. But most importantly, that we shouldn’t let pressure dictate how we want to build our connections, because deep down, I like to believe that we know when something feels right.
Up until the age of 18, I had never spent Christmas anywhere other than Mexico or the USA. For me, as for most I assume, it was all about family. All of my uncles and cousins would gather, and we genuinely had an amazing time. Then as I grew up, such gatherings kept getting smaller, but it was only when I moved to France that things took a different turn.
I suddenly found myself figuring out where and how I would spend Christmas without my family. During my first two years here, my mom wasn’t able to come for Christmas, and because of my exams I wasn’t able to go to Mexico either, so things had to change a little bit. I ended up spending Christmas at my best friend’s grandma’s home the first year, which gave me an insight into what Christmas it’s like in a French household. Then the following year I went to England and spent it with another friend and her family, and got to see a little bit of the English traditions.
Now these have been experiences that I’ve genuinely loved, and as an expat, I think holidays are always a pretty particular aspect of the whole experience. It’s interesting, the way in which the same holiday changes around the world.
In Mexico for example, the real celebration comes on Christmas Eve. You may go to church if that’s part of your tradition, then head back home and get everything ready for dinner. When it comes to the meal, there are a few standard dishes you’ll find. In most households: tamales, turkey, cod and “atole” are first on the list. Then of course each family adds its own variations. Now I had the chance to go back home last year for it and relive all of it again, and let me tell you, although my marks at uni didn’t appreciate it that much, I sure did.
However this year it all changes again, I had no more than a few weeks break for Christmas and most of it needed to be spent revising for finals. Hence, this time it was Christmas with friends. You see in France, the order seems to be Christmas with family, new years with friends, so I guess that in a way, I was somewhat respecting that this year. In Mexico we are used to spending both with family, however, ever since living in France I think my friends and I have gotten use to our random little holiday stories, not really knowing where or with whom we might be. But don’t get me wrong though, every single year is a new experience and it’s always nice to see what others might be doing for the same holiday.
To me, it’s pretty amazing to see the way in which people are brought together during this time, and how you can spend a whole day and night with people you just met that day but yet have the best time, because we’re all there for the same reason.
So it’s been a while since you’ve seen me here. I went back to Mexico for the summer, and, as for most of us during this time, I took a little time off. Now the funny thing is it kind of happens unwillingly. Don’t get me wrong I do lots when I’m there, with my mom or my friends amongst others. But when it comes to all the things that I’m used to doing in Paris, it feels weird to continue them away, which is a concept that I still fail to understand.
Anyways, this if the third summer I spend back in Mexico since living abroad. Each and everyone are different, but there is a familiarity in the journey to get there every time.
They say the world gets smaller the more you know of it. Once you start going to all these different places, they somehow feel familiar to you afterwards. Now that first step, travelling by yourself for the first time, influences a lot of your future travelling experiences. It sets this standard, standard that you try to improve with each new journey you take on.
For instance, I wouldn’t say I hate airports, though there’s no particular love there either. Over the past three years, they’ve become an important part of my life since I go through them at least four times a year. And when you travel this often, you’re kind of forced to make the best out of an airport. Between packing hacks, and discovering secret passages to get to your gate faster, the journey becomes less painful and gains a sort of magic.
When travelling, the world suddenly seems smaller, and twelve hours in the air become less and less strenuous. Think about it, from France, I can be in another country in four hours or less, another continent in six and my homeland in twelve. I mean sure, if you spend those hours sitting down in a large metal cylinder without much to do they can seem like forever. But when I think about those long days spent at Uni or a library or pretty much doing nothing at home, I would definitely rather be flying to a new place if I were given the choice.
When you first start, even a 2-hour journey seems like an eternity. You feel lost, don’t know how to work your way through an airport, and every little detail going wrong makes you freak out immediately. Budgeting and planning out your days seem like impossible tasks, leaving you with little energy to even think about everything you’re going to experience. However, the stress slowly decreases the more you do it. It might not necessarily be an enjoyable journey at first, but the destination makes it worth it.
Personally, going back to Mexico for the first time was awful. My suitcase surpassed the weight limit, I wasn’t sure of what to bring as a carry on, and going through immigration alone was the scariest thing I had ever done. You see, I had gone through all of this before, but I was always with my mom. And as with everything, when it’s time for you to do it on your own, you overthink and feel an unbelievable amount of pressure.
As I said before, is these kinds of experiences that set you off to either hate or love travelling. So why do it, why travel?
Sometimes we have to: obligations, work and studies… And sometimes (hopefully most times) we just want to. Because there is nothing wrong on wanting a home cooked meal, or a vacation after a stressful week, or simply wanting to visit a friend that you haven’t seen in some time.
If you ask me, I learned a lot from my first solo take off, and have kept learning with every journey I go on. Each city and experience brings its own charm, so at the end of the day, I think giving it a try is not that bad.
“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.” – Jonah Lehrer
Meeting new people is quite interesting isn’t it? They were always there, in fact you might have even crossed paths, they just weren’t a part of your life.
Now this fascinates me in many ways, mainly because I always found taking that first step hard. You see some might say I am a shy girl, in fact I could even label myself as one, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to get to know you. But that’s the weird thing about first impressions, they set you up for expectations. After seeing someone for the first time, you’ll probably be lead to categorize him or her. Not intentionally of course, it’s just something that happens. Now the big difference lies on whether you are willing to see past that and find out more, or just stay like that, in the dark.
You see one moment can change it all. A simple decision can make it or break it; saying yes or no to a metro ride with someone, or a study session in the library, or simply laughing at a remark being made about your name. In just a second, you can go from being in your own bubble, to acknowledging another human being that could unexpectedly become a big part of your life.
Now I must say I never really had to experience much of this. Up until the age of 18, I grew up around the same people and group of friends. We knew and still know everything about each other, went through our worst phases together, and can probably tell if something’s wrong even if it is just over the phone or a message. Needless to say, stepping out of it was a rather unsettling situation. I didn’t know how to approach strangers, and even worse, having to do so in a different language terrified me. But here’s something I’ve learned, no matter how scared or shy you might be, if you are open to the possibilities, things can work out in the end.
Being able to say yes or just considering it can open the door to and endless world full of relationships and bonds, created in seconds, amongst people who somehow, somewhere, found their way to each other. You can end up meeting people who have never been to your country, and yet from miles away are fascinated and want to know more. Or people from a totally different background and culture, that might understand your struggles better than those you grew up with.
To me this is the beauty about Paris, and big international cities in general. You have a pool of stories and cultures in one same spot; Australia, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Georgia, France, England, Colombia and much more. Now if you would’ve asked me three years ago if I thought I would know someone in each of these countries, my answer would’ve probably been no. However today, I can tell you that I feel more connected to the world and the people around me than never before.
I’ve learned that Melbourne is known for its coffee, and never to question a Melbourian’s knowledge on it. I travelled to Ecuador for the first time after meeting a great group of Ecuadorians studying in France, and have now ironically gathered and adopted quit a few of their expressions. I’ve been to England to be welcomed by a Romanian family, allowing me to learn from both cultures at once. And, recently and unexpectedly, I’ve learned more about Sri Lanka’s culture, dances and language in the past few months than I ever thought I would.
The list could go on and on, and to be honest I think it is one I’m really proud of. I don’t think I would be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the experiences I’ve had. I’ve built friendships and relationships that are scattered all over the globe, and I’m constantly amazed by how much I am able to learn everyday from the people that surround me.
Creating bonds is part of what makes us human. Realizing that the girl or boy you cross paths with everyday could have a similar experience to yours puts you in this interesting position, where you suddenly feel less like just an individual, and more like part of a community. Now, I must say that before coming here, these were circumstances that terrified me. But now, I can safely say that I’m happy with where I’m headed.
I’m going to be honest; I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know whom I might meet, or who might not stay. The one thing I can say though is, that every single person you know can have a great impact in your life. So take a chance and say “Hi”, however many times it might take, there’ll always be that one person who’ll reply.
Before the Paris metro, there was “La Petite Ceinture” or little belt. Its tracks encircle what was the 19th century Paris, and have been shut down since the mid 80’s. Having been built in between the city’s forts, it has been kept isolated, allowing nature to slowly reclaim the space to make it, what is now, a beautiful green inner city railway.
This is one of those “known” secrets of Paris. Given that the rails mostly run within an open space, tourists and locals walk past it constantly, but the question always remains on how to get down. Now there are a few areas open to the public (15th, 17th and 19th Arr.), but what interests all the explorers out there is getting down to the “untouched” areas.
My favourite spot is down on the 14th Arrondisement. Between Porte d’Orleans and Alesia you’ll find several bridges that look down into the rails, but don’t worry, just a little walk next to the fence and you’ll find a little DIY door from which you’ll be able to go down.
Ideal for urban explorers and graffiti artist, you’ll find yourself in a whole different world at the heart of Paris, forgetting that right above you a hectic big city lifestyle is still going on.
I spent countless hours during my first year here looking for the entrance to this one spot, figuring out whether there was a way to go down and if I was courageous enough to do so. Until finally a few months ago I decided to go explore with one of my roommates. Turned out getting down was not that hard, leaving “La Petite Ceinture” as one of my favourite places to go, especially for photoshoots.
There is a pretty cool atmosphere being down there. You bump into all sorts of people: photographers, models, musicians, tag artists, tourists etc., that are all really friendly and at ease with each other. I guess knowing that we’re all in on this “secret” makes you part of this really interesting thing, which I had never came across in Paris. There’s a bit of a community that is built as more and more people bump into each other. And although we are all essentially there to do our own thing, chatting with others or just hanging out doesn’t feel awkward at all.
If you’re ever in Paris for any given reason or you live here, don’t hesitate on trying this little adventure out!
If you had to give one answer, to define what you would call home, would you be able to do it in just a few words?