Have you had a life-altering travel experience? Where did you go, and what made it special? Share your adventure in the comments to inspire others. In 2003, when I was 20 and studying abroad in Italy, I got dumped for the first time. More notable than the break-up itself was its timing: my boyfriend gave me the ax the day before we were supposed to go to Paris together for a long weekend. My options were to lie in bed and cry or stroll under the Eiffel Tower – alone.
Chose Paris. I canceled our hotel, booked a bed in a hostel, and wrote sad journal entries the whole flight. By the time I was dragging myself, backpack and all, up to six flights of narrow stone French steps to the tiny room I shared with two dreadlocked South Americans, my bruised heart had been downgraded as my sense of awe and excitement took priority. It was my first time in Paris, and I did most of the things one does on one’s first trip to Paris: I saw.
The Mona Lisa; I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower; I craned my neck to take in the soaring architecture of Notre Dame fully. I spent hours flipping through pages of old books in Shakespeare and Company as I fantasized about being one of the lucky few to live in the shop. I got fall-down depression drunk alone at a bar in St Germain. I met a French guy on a public bus who took me to the 11th arrondissement to show me art exhibits. I sat in cafes to
write and drink wine in the middle of the afternoon. I bought a baguette and cheese with a name I couldn’t properly pronounce and had a backpacker lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens. I ate long, slow dinners, always with escargot or warm chevre, and was pleasantly surprised when waiters inevitably topped off my wine glass to allow me to linger.