I spent the past eleven days traveling around Paris and London, and it was delightful – as in chock full of delights. I wandered aimlessly around the streets of Paris, discovering charming cobblestoned streets and picturesque alleyways at every turn. I sat in cafes sipping cafe cremes and enjoying perfect baguettes and watching the world go by. I had drinks at the Ritz with my roommates, which turned into drinks at the Hemingway bar, complete with a full rose decorating the side of each cocktail. I sat in a charming London theatre theatre watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the best part was the little girl to my left, chatting with her mom at intermission about what she thought would happen next, and the little girl to my right, cuddled up with her dad and declaring after the play was over that it had been the best birthday ever, and that she wanted to a be a writer when she grew up #feels.
As in all of my life, the highlights of my trip were the people – making funny faces for selfies in a charming English garden with 18-month old Caleb, savoring late night Nutella crepes in a cafe with my dear friend Stephanie as a warm summer thunderstorm rained down outside, waving at my roomie’s mama on FaceTime as we wandered along the Seine. Thanks to the magic of Instagram, I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen since college, and got to meet her precious baby girl, Mathilda, as close to a living doll as you can get. I had dinner with the very first person I ever worked with at Google when I started nearly four years ago. I sat in a living room sipping tea with my Airbnb hosts, a couple who is American [him] and British [her] and talked nonstop for two hours about Mormonism, British culture, losing parents, dating and how to build a life of meaning and love.
I am grateful beyond words for these experiences. I know that having the ability to travel is a privilege – I am deeply grateful for the gift of the means and health and time to fly across the world, make precious memories with people I love, and meet new, amazing people who open my eyes to new ways of thinking and being in the world. To me the ultimate gift of travel is summed up in one word – perspective. Perspective on my own life, as I step away from the day to day, and can see the forest for the trees. It’s like all of beautiful works of art I saw in Paris and London – sometimes you need to step back to see the full picture #pun intended. It was perspective on my own life, yes, but also on the fact that there as many ways to make a life as there are people in the world – and being reminded of that is a breath of fresh air
Paris was full of hipster barber shops and man buns and apparently veganism is all the rage in London, which made me smile – I feel like I was back home in San Francisco. Both cities were full of clothing stores, Mexican restaurants and acai bowl/smoothie joints advertising the “California lifestyle” – it was ironic, that I lived in a tourist destination and was leaving it to come there. A good reminder that the grass is always greener.
A friend left a message on one of my many besotted “I heart London” Instagram posts, teasing me that it looked like I had found my happy place and wasn’t coming back. My response was unequivocal – London is lovely, but it’s not my home. I remember when I decided to leave NYC – after years of blood, sweat and tears building a life there my best friend [one of my “sisters by another mister” as I lovingly refer to my dearest friends] was about to have her first baby back in California. There’s no amount of charming city life that can compete with that. Home is where your people are.
Last year I wandered the streets of Paris and daydreamed about moving there – about how much richer and fuller and better my life would be if only I lived somewhere else. This year I woke up on my last day in London like a kid on Christmas morning and thought “I get to go home today!!” and felt pure joy. That is a gift.
I’m deeply grateful for travel, for the gift of exploring this big, beautiful world and I’m even more grateful for a home I can’t wait to come back to. It was magical and surreal running around Hyde Park – and I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and do my standard three mile loop around Dolores Park, where the view from the top of the hill catches my breath in my chest every time [literally and figuratively – that is a steep hill!!]. It was such fun sampling every croissant in Paris and scone in London, but I can’t wait to get back to my lovely Google kale salads and homemade sweet potato bowls. It was a treat meeting new people, and having time by myself to wander and explore – but I can’t wait to sit on the couch next to my roommate and in my cubicle with my buddies at work and across the bar table at happy hour with my dear friends and talk to the people I know and love, to catch up on their lives and hear what they’ve been up to, to share laughter and tears and connect deeply because those are the experiences that full up my heart.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want out of life – what I am willing to give up and what I’m not, what sacrifices and trade offs I’m willing to make. At the end of the day, what I want most is a life of depth and meaning – and I find meaning in relationships, in pouring love into people’s lives and receiving that love right back.
So I am thankful for my trip, and I have no shortage of funny stories and beautiful pictures and lovely memories to show for it. But I am one hundred times more grateful for a home to come back to – for a life to come back to. And that is worth more to me than all Berthillon ice cream in the world [and that’s really saying something because OH MY GOSH that ice cream was delicious].