International Waters

How do you go about packing for huge changes in your life? It all boils down to what is essential. This is when you find out what you really need to survive. It’s exhilarating. I’m tempted to throw out everything I didn’t pack (but its just a thought).

Waking up Wednesday morning, just like any other day I don’t want to get out of bed. I hang on to my last moments of sleep as I know I’m about to go without it for some time. Then I realize what today is and how many things I need to do. No big event in my life ever seems real till the day it happens. I don my comfy, all-black travel outfit and I am out the door.

After a hectic drive through Manhattan, we begin to approach JFK. That is when butterflies in my stomach suddenly appeared. The realization slowly creeps over me, I am leaving. Again. The little voice in the back of my mind reminds me, I’ve done this before, no big deal.

I drag my luggage through the airport, check in, and manage my way through security. I finally find my gate, where I sit down on an empty row of chairs. I give myself a moment to catch my breath before whipping out the cell phone to begin my goodbye calls. My stomach is growling. I’ve burned through my donut breakfast, which I scarfed down while driving.

Boarding proceeds and I find myself sitting on the plane. Time to turn it off. Time to turn off the phone which has previously spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, ready and waiting in my front left pocket. Now I have to turn it off, without knowing when I’ll be using it again. Time for take off. Just like every other flight. The familiar speech about finding the nearest exit, no smoking, and how to buckle a seatbelt makes me feel calm. And we are off!

I was starving in the airport but on the plane my appetite is gone. The butterflies in my stomach have returned. I have a free plate of food and I’m too excited to eat. They serve dinner and breakfast. I watch 2 movies, read my book, and nervously fidget, unable to sleep.

We land. I wander through the Parisian airport, following the crowd, like a herd of lost sheep. The customs agent stamps my passport. I love to hear that sound! I collect my bag and proceed to the train station. I follow my uncle’s instructions: buy a ticket, take the RER train into Paris. Every one around looks as lost as I do. Dragging my suitcase up and down escalators and the occasional staircase makes me sweat, or maybe it’s my nerves? Finally I manage a seat on the train.

Quickly the train changes from empty to packed. People are not happy to see a suitcase taking up valuable floor space but I am helplessly trapped in a thick crowd. Luckily I stay near the doorway to make my quick escape. In the city, I walk through the park to my uncle’s apartment.

I look so out of place wandering through nature, surrounded by runners. I lug my two suitcases behind me. While I might fall over a million times, trip every 5 feet, I laugh and look around. What does it matter? I’m in Paris!

I am greeted my uncle outside his apartment. “Oh you packed light?” HA! My aching body would beg to differ.

I shower. Glorious shower. Fresh and clean, I change into a pair of light blue jeans and wrinkled white shirt. Looking at myself in the mirror I see a much brighter image than my all black traveling outfit. It helps with the bags under my eyes. My hands are red and blistered from lugging around my beast of a suitcase.

I sip some tea before we set off on my introductory walk. I get some breakfast from the French bakery. I am in awe of the buildings and streets and everything around just oozing Parisian style. The city smells different, looks different, sounds different. Fresh bread wafts through the air. It really is all I expected and more. Walking back I am exhausted. I am sore all over. Now comes the realization I have been awake for over 24 hours.

Drifting to sleep, I day dream about the upcoming months. Starting a new life in a new country. Again. It could be wonderful or it could be terrifying. I have just jumped into unknown waters, but I’ve done this swim before.