Sawyer and I are saving up our pennies for a European getaway. We keep them all corralled in a big mason jar on our bookshelf in the hopes that seeing it every day will inspire us to work harder for the meager tip money that we earn on the weekends. It isn’t a special occasion or even a celebration, but simply a vacation from the rhythm of our everyday life. We keep telling each other and ourselves that if such and such a politician wins the Oval Office, or if another unfathomable violent crime occurs, we’ll take off for Europe and never look back. This is – of course – just talk. We cannot afford to move to Europe and, between you and me, I wouldn’t know the first step toward building a life abroad. A European getaway, however, sounds plenty wonderful to me!
Sawyer is of Scottish and Italian descent, and he has Italian/EU citizenship which means he could easily wriggle out of the U.S. should the country take a massive turn for the worse (crossing my fingers he’d take me along with him). Not only that, but his family also has a timeshare for a flat in Paris that overlooks Cimetière de Montparnasse (talk about well-connected!). Ten years ago (wow, that’s crazy to say!), I was able to visit Ireland, Scotland, England, and France on a month-long trip with several friends and high school classmates. We never stayed in one place for longer than three days, which was both thrilling and extremely difficult. While I wanted to explore every nook and cranny I could reach, I also wanted to make sure I gulped in my fill of as many European cities as I could. Obviously, sitting still while on this trip was utterly impossible. Ten years later, I think I could get used to the idea of eating buttered croissants and walking along the river Seine to Ernest Hemingway’s beloved bookshop Shakespeare & Company, or enjoying a cup of tea and maple oat granola at Ob-La-Di. A getaway in Paris – yeah – that sounds just fine with me.
I am a tourist in many senses. I cannot for the life of me speak French (my accent is atrocious and offends even Sawyer’s ears when I attempt to practice this most romantic of languages), I will unabashedly ogle the landmarks I’ve been wanting to see for years and – with my camera in hand – I love the thought of taking pictures in front of Notre-Dame, inside Notre-Dame, of Notre-Dame, across the river from Notre-Dame… Of course, I was arrantly gawking the tiny side streets, century-old buildings, and famous landmarks in my soon-to-be-home when visiting Philadelphia, as well. So maybe, just maybe, my fascination with all places new is simply an infantile elation rather than willful nescience.
I remember not all-too-fondly the stress I felt before learning to relax while on my trip to Philadelphia with Sawyer in May. So, when saving up for the perfect getaway, I figured I’d simplify the thus-far imagined itinerary. In fact, I am figuratively ripping up the perceived itinerary lists and plans altogether. In my ultimate vision of my getaway Shangri-La, I’ll embrace slow-travel the same way I’ve adopted a slow, simple life. I’ll toss out all the to-do lists that so many of us carry while traveling. The countless museum trips, the guided tours, and the stacks of brochures as we attempt to plan out our next vacation-land conquest will be retired. I will have nothing but the ability to finally say no. No more rushing from place-to-place, no more cramming more and more things to do into an already packed to bursting day of activity, no more landmarks to visit simply because “we’re here”.
So let us revenons à nos moutons: it’s time to start sorting through priorities. Notre-Dame de Paris is a priority; I’ve been dreaming of the spectacular architecture both inside and out for years upon years. I could potentially spend hours there simply ogling each stone, each pane of stained glass. The Arc de Triomphe, probably a little less important to me. Scratch that one off that pre-planned and culturally-accepted to-do-while-in-Paris list. When I step back and start looking at a getaway from the slow-travel perspective, vacationing doesn’t seem as much of a hassle amongst the hustle-and-bustle of tourist queues and poorly enunciated questions in garbled French read from pocket translation manuals and starts becoming a relaxing, energy-renewing event.
If I am busy celebrating the time I have on this getaway by spending it reconnecting and relaxing – time that doesn’t involve my daily patterned work schedule, endless hours of cleaning, hurriedly prepared meals, and wasted minutes commuting – then the getaway will be a success, even if I’m just tromping through a field hand-in-hand with my other half to find the perfect wildflowers to harvest for a tiny centerpiece during supper that evening. I understand the fear of missing out on something amazing if I don’t have a planned itinerary for every moment of my vacation. However, this fear is unrealistic. It is based in the imagination because even if I started travelling now and didn’t stop until the day I die; I wouldn’t be able to see every marvel our world has to offer us. So why not spend my getaway seeing what I truly want to see, going where I actually desire to go, and rejuvenating in preparation for my return to the life I have here. Not only am I looking after myself, but I can thoroughly explore a handful of places rather than skim by dozens only briefly. I can meet the locals, I am able to play where they play, eat where they eat, gain a better understanding of the place, culture, and people.
So I imagine with floppy sunhat in hand and backpack slung over my shoulder, I’d stroll the streets of Paris. I wrote a large portion of my undergraduate thesis to include Charles Baudelaire’s theory of the flâneur. Perhaps I’d practice my “urban strolling” (my college professor Tony would be so proud) or take a lesson from the people on the streets who do it best. I’d read books in parks and on street corners and take day trip adventures out to the lovely wildflower fields in Brittany. I’d most likely get lost more than once or twice and call Sawyer in hysterics while trying to find my way back. After all that, I’d sit down to a wonderful dinner with the man who has aided and inspired my growth for the past year.
Despite all the buttery croissants, fancy cafes, tourist attractions (or traps), my butchering of the language, and flânerie I could and most certainly would participate in while on my getaway in France, it would be complete simply by being with this man. I have spent over a year with Sawyer now, and I cannot imagine a getaway anywhere, nonetheless France, without him. At the risk of sounding prosaic, childish, and horribly cliche, thanks to this man, part of my Shangri-La has already come true. Now to fulfill the extensions!