The following is the third and final installment in a series of accounts about the reporter’s study abroad experience in Paris, France.
We all know what it’s like to refrain from doing our homework or that mountain of laundry in our closet for the sake of doing something fun with our friends. The Fear of Missing Out, or fomo, as the youths of today like to call it, has plagued people across the globe throughout the test of time, despite its recent nomenclature. Bosses, teachers and parents alike resent the excuse, but we all know how good it feels to give into it. Life is full of new experiences and missing out sucks.
Admittedly, I’ve always had a bad case of fomo. The word “adventure” is a bit of a trigger for me. When it’s on the table, odds are that any homework or chores are going to have to wait for tomorrow. Now I have it worse than ever. I have fomo with the world.
At the University of Redlands, parties are enticing because it’s fun to catch up with friends and meet new people. Day trips to LA are hard to say no to because there is always a new exhibit to see or a picnic on the beach to be had. But going abroad has brought this whole phenomenon to a new level. By the end of the semester, I have made only a dent in all of Paris’ museums, and I go to several a week. All of my money is gone, due in part to my costly shopping habits, and I’ve only seen a fraction of the amazing stores in my neighborhood alone. I’ve yet to visit all of the city’s parks, but some are so expansive that they take hours to walk through, heaven forbid getting to sit on top of each sloping hill with a good book. There seems to be a *nearly* Michelin star restaurant on every corner, a thriving bar with a line out the door every time I turn my head, and the Seine, the river that runs through the city, is completely lined with clubs and cafes that every local seems to rave about. My days are packed full to the brim, and often extend deep into the night, and have been this way for several months now. How can I ever do it all?! And this is in Paris alone. What about all the other amazing cities in the world that I haven’t even seen a glimpse of? 21 years of my unfortunately not eternal existence have already passed, and I’ve managed to experience quite a few truly indescribable things. And, although I acknowledge the fact that I won’t ever be able to see all that remains… I think I should at least try.
It’s hard to leave Paris. Hopping on a plane or a train to visit another city feels like departing with your lover when you’re still in the honeymoon phase. Why leave when there is still so much fun to be had? But traveling in Europe is foolishly easy, and disregarding that advantage seems to be equally as foolish. I’ve been living in France for about three months, and within it I have visited six cities and four different countries. Within France, I spent a charming weekend in the Loire Valley, the land of les chateaux (castles!); another at Mont Saint-Michel, which is an island/village/mountain/old abbey surrounded by quicksand; and Rennes, a quaint college town riddled with cobblestone streets, gardens and crepes!
In Brussels, Belgium, I saw modern art, ate waffles and danced amongst a series of portraits of women with mustaches. In Barcelona, I merged an old group of friends with a new one, and together we drank wine in an old bunker and frolicked on the beach. In Madrid, I ate sandwiches that cost one euro, took a salsa lesson and encountered a full rainbow spanning across a park’s lake. In Porto, I had my energy aligned by a farmer and crystal enthusiast that I passed on the street, tasted and learned about the production of Port and danced (well, more like stumbled) the tango amongst a packed room of the best dancers I have ever seen. These experiences are just the most notable. The memories of my voyages are fruitful in number and rich in quality, and I hope they never fade.
This weekend I head to Copenhagen to visit a dear friend. When school comes to an end, I’ll be driving down the coast of Portugal and Spain with my mom and a friend of the both of ours. And in every reachable minute of my last month in Paris I’ll be seeing all that there is too see.
As my days abroad are dwindling, I have come to a new understanding of the fear of missing out. Fears aren’t really that scary if you refuse to let them become a reality. In the kitchen of my home stay, a scratch-off map of the world is mounted above the table where we eat. The map tracks where they have traveled, verifying their voyages to China and California, Brazil and Egypt and the countless in between. Although most of the world remains unscratched, they’ve made a good dent. They’ve given it the old-college try, and they’re far from finished. Steam has not been lost! And what an inspiration they are. I vow to myself that I will maintain this gusto after I am forced to depart from this beautiful continent, known for cheap trains and small territories. I refuse to let experiences pass me by. Life is to be experienced, and our world is vast.
Photos contributed by abroad reporter, Willow Higgins.