MEGAN SUDDARTH / MISSOURIAN READER Oct 21, 2015
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Everyone always asks you when you’re young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As a child, you think you’re supposed to know. As if the answer is set in stone, and something that you overwhelmingly want to do. However, no one ever tells you as you grow up that it can change. How one day you can choose to be a teacher, the next you can choose to be a ballroom dancer and maybe tomorrow you’ll want to be a firefighter. As a child, your imagination wanders with every new event you go through, every new friend you meet and every new place you visit. Unfortunately as time goes by, most people lose the vibrancy of imagination and might even become stuck in a life that they never saw for themselves as that child.
But what do you do when the answer to what you want to be when you grow up is an adventurer? What do you do when you live to see every part of the world? I’m slowly finding the answer out, as this is what I want to be. An adventurer. The first step I took in this answer was to move to Paris, France after graduating college. While in school, I studied abroad in France and knew from the moment I left that I needed to go back one day. So, when a professor suggested the idea of dropping everything after graduation and moving to Paris to teach English to children, I couldn’t help but obsess over the idea. Of course, at first I laughed it off as impossible. I was graduating college and getting a real big kid job! That’s what everyone is supposed to do right? I mean yeah, I love to travel but can you really make a life out of that? Can you? After this first torrent of thoughts, I decided to think about the “what if.” “What if” I could? “What if” travel could somehow be my life? Could I really make that work? I concluded that I could.
From that moment on I began preparations for a life abroad. I bought a one-way ticket to the City of Light and I said goodbye to my family for a year — one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I decided to become a nanny for a French family and live in the center of Paris, traveling on weekends and playing Star Wars with my French kids during my evenings.
My year abroad was one that I’ll never forget. The memories of my time in Paris and Europe will live within my heart for the rest of my days. I had the most wonderful family that I worked for, with the sweetest kids ever. I furthered my French skills in language courses and I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have in my life and saw some of the most beautiful places.
I spent my weekends exploring all that Paris had to offer; from obvious treasures like picnics on the Champ de Mars with bottles of wine to the lesser explored beauties like The Highlander (a wonderful pub). I spent my school breaks seeing Europe on a two-week backpacking trip from Belgium to the Netherlands to Germany, a week-long trip to Sweden and even extra time after my job ended tucked away in the English countryside with friends.
Though I was obviously extremely broke, what with going from just graduating college and shrouded by hideous clouds of debt to an American nanny in the center of one of the most expensive cities in the world, I still lived the best year of my life. I had no money but when you have no money and you’re a savvy 20something, you find creative ways to travel.
You learn the ins and outs of Skyscanner, Airbnb and finding friends in exotic places to stay with.
You learn to buy the cheap wine (although in Paris, even the cheap wine greatly surpasses the good wine here).
You learn that casual wine and bread picnics outside are much cheaper than cafe dinners.
These were just some of the things that living abroad taught me. But I also learned so much about myself.
I learned that I’m confident.
I learned that I love the simple things in life more than I ever thought.
I learned that I’m independent.
I learned that I can indeed make a living traveling.
Now that I’m back stateside, I’m writing and planning my next trip abroad. While in France, I kept a travel blog called The Wandering Sunflower that I posted to often so that my loved ones back home could keep up with me. Now that I’m back, I’ve still been updating it with travel tips, things I learned and things I think other travelers can benefit from.
From late night strolls through the city mesmerized by the sparkling Eiffel Tower, to lazy afternoons lounging in the park with a good book clutched to my chest, Paris will forever live within me.
My time in Paris ignited a fire in my being for travel that I doubt I’ll ever be able to extinguish and that’s quite all right with me.