Author, husband, son at Eiffel Tower

John, Elizabeth, and Austin at the Eiffel Tower in Paris

New experiences…new perspectives

My husband and I have just returned from a wonderful 12-day trip to London to visit our son and his wife, who moved there this past summer for three years. It was only the second time in our lives we’d been “across the pond,” and the last one was 14 years ago. In other words, we are not veteran travelers.

While we were there, the “kids” took us to Paris for four full days of sightseeing. They suspected we might never go on our own, and they were probably right. It was absolutely thrilling to see historical and cultural sights I’d learned about in school—the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre (and the Mona Lisa), the Arc de Triomphe—and while I’m still processing everything, I wanted to share some initial thoughts and lessons learned from traveling and having this wonderful experience. Some are serious and thoughtful. Some are trivial and silly. C’est la vie!

Ayiesha, John, Austin at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich

Ayiesha, John, and Austin at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich

Lessons learned from travel

  • Jet lag is harder than I thought.
  • Learning about another country—its people, its history, and its culture—creates a wonderfully rich and meaningful kind of connection.
  • What we think of as old in the United States would be considered recent history in cities like London and Paris.
  • The homeless sleeping on city sidewalks and in doorways always break my heart.
  • Efficient public transportation is a marvel for this country girl.
  • Comfort trumps fashion when it comes to choosing shoes to wear.
  • Don’t believe the stereotypes. We have more in common than not with Londoners and Parisians.
  • All babies are precious, unless they’re crying near you on the plane.
  • A smile makes a universal connection. So does food.
  • The travel experience is best when you’re willing to go with the flow and try new things.
  • Traveling light is a skill worth cultivating.
  • A cell phone with good mapping and travel apps is worth its weight in gold.
  • Know your currency and pay attention to prices.

    Elizabeth and John at l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris

    Elizabeth and John at l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris

  • Expect to wait in line for a public toilet, and don’t be surprised if there’s no seat or if there’s a fee to pee.
  • Appreciation and gratitude usually pave the way for good service and a positive experience.
  • Sometimes others are rude, but that’s no excuse to be rude yourself.
  • Years of studying French really helped to read signs, menus, and brochures.
  • Doing things that make you nervous are much easier the second time you do them. Be brave.
  • There’s no place like home.

I’m reminded of a wonderful ditty about travel that our dear family friend and neighbor Catherine Tyssowski used to say:

“I’ve traveled much and this I knows: take twice the cash and half the clothes.”

What have you learned from traveling?

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