This time last year, I took my first real solo trip; I had never travelled to a faraway place by myself. Never really mingled with complete unfamiliarity: a city to which I had never been before; knew absolutely nobody; and spoke not language. There was no meeting up with a friend, relative, or colleague. Easy decision? No. I got cold feet a few times and shared the travel plan with a London based cousin hoping he would meet me there. Eventually, I reminded myself how important it was for me to make at least one solo trip in my lifetime. #BucketList. The many ways in which it would be good for me. So, on 3 April 2018, I set off for three days in Paris. A paperback copy of Jojo Moyes' ''Paris for One'' in hand – a title fitting for this challenge. I was about to take on the world's capital of romance SOLO. It made for a very good read. I’d give you details of the book but well, spoiler alert, right?
I was nervous, and Paris felt somewhat intimidating. People dressed to the nines. Skimpy clothes in what to me was the freezing cold. It was April so no, there was no snow. Don’t judge me until you google Zimbabwean weather.
I’d booked myself into a double room in a hostel somewhere not too far from Orly airport. A hostel because it would give me opportunities to make a new friend or two. A private room because at my age I couldn’t bare to imagine the likelihood of being in a wide room with bunk beds and a group of "here to party - can go days without sleep – if you can’t beat us join us" - youthful roommates. I just was not willing to take that risk. The room was cheap room but turned out to be cute and pretty decent. They got me with cleanliness, and super comfortable bed adorned with crispy white linen and yellow cushions. Perfect accommodation option for a Paris solo trip on a budget. Feel free to DM me if you need the name.
This trip reminded me that I could truly co-exist with myself and depend on myself. I was in the kind of space which didn’t give me options. I couldn’t be lazy about looking up stuff. I couldn’t shy away from asking a human stranger, whose language I probably did not speak, for directions when google maps was sending me on a mouse hunt. Thanks to my not so sharp sense of direction in unfamiliar territory this happens often.
Most people, particularly women, are afraid to walk into a restaurant, sit at a table knowing nobody else is coming, and have a meal alone. I’ve realised that even the service staff in establishments give you a sort of double take when you ask for a table for one. As if there is something wrong with you for wanting to enjoy your own company over a plate of, hopefully, good food. I’m happy to say, this does not phase me anymore, and it sure shouldn’t phase you either. I found the courage to dine alone. Going for the centre table if it's available! You should try it out, so liberating!
Did I mention being able to do everything you want to do without having to compromise? Now don’t get me wrong, compromise is good, and I for one love travelling in the company of my S.O, family or friends; compromising on when to wake up, activities, where to go for meals, what time to leave, arrive e.t.c. I’m lucky to have that. A solo trip just means you completely spoil yourself to your own preferences. The ultimate me-time! For example, rainy days are not my favourite, and it happened to be raining during my trip. On the day I arrived, I tucked myself into the comfy bed, only to wake up around 7 pm and only then did I freshen up and head to the Eiffel Tower. No pressure whatsoever!
I’ve never really been one to strike up conversations with strangers. Small talk and I aren't buddies. As a result, making new friends or acquaintances is not a strength of mine. During this trip I gave myself a challenge: strike up a conversation with at least one stranger per day. Everyone in this town was a stranger so the odds were high.
Day 1: Some ladies at the Eiffel Tower who asked to have their pictures taken. OK, I didn’t strike up that one, they did and I was able to oblige them. They also returned the favour.
Day 2: Long ticket queue at the tour bus office; African Americans who were as new to Paris as I was, and as puzzled at the length of the queue as I was. I started this one #success.
Day 3: Lady with the unzipped jeans. Now with this kind of situation you first wonder if approaching a person will embarrass them; then you wonder whether you’re mistaken because lately, there’s a lot of tricks in fashion. You know, like the reverse tailored t-shirts, or the torn-up Kanye West style of clothing, and the visible zip. Anyway, I walked up to her, leaned in close, and tipped her off in a quiet whisper. She was thankful enough to tell me she had gone hours the previous day with an open zip. I’d just helped prevent an unwanted encore. I did the sister’s keeper thing AND started a conversation with a stranger. #moresuccess. Maybe we would have become friends had I not been flying out that morning.
Since this challenge, I've become more confident at striking up conversations with strangers. Another solo trip win.
As for the typical touristy stuff:
The Eiffel Tower by night, what a beauty! Magnificent, I’d do it again for the flashing lights and beautiful panoramic views of the city.
The Eiffel Tower by day, an icon from a distance. It stands out and commands the city, making for a picturesque view from miles away. Definitely gives you an inexpensive yet amazing backdrop for your selfies.
Though it can seem a bit overrated, it really is a must visit. At least one time.
So much to see in The Louvre. Plenty of art to be amazed at and get lost in. I wished I'd had more time to see more exhibitions. Maybe two full days. I took so many pictures, wanting to remember everything I was seeing, my camera’s battery died midway, before I even got to The Monalisa! A piece somewhat disappointing for its small size and distance from which visitors can view it, making it even tinier in appearance. Did I mention what a task it was to make it to the front of the crowd just to try see it clearer and take a selfie with it? Mammoth task! In comparison I enjoyed and was more impressed by less famous pieces at which I spent as much time as I wanted without hustling for a spot. This is not to take away from Leonardo da Vinci’s legacy, one so huge The Monalisa is assigned dedicated security detail. If you plan on going here, buy a skip the line ticket. You'll spend less time queuing to get in.
I took a trip along Champs-Élysées. No shopping nor dining. Any of that would have broken my bank. Looking was good enough for me, but honey if you've made it, go spoil yourself. I was shocked at how many people pick spots in the middle of the road just to takes selfies in this avenue! Even when traffic is heavy! #Insane.
Touring the city a-top the Big Bus was perfect for my two day trip. Well worth the cost, and queuing. I got to see way more than I would have on foot. The audio guide was pretty informative too. I left with more knowledge of France's history than I had before. I also noted down places I would like to pay a more intimate and up close visit to in the future. I ticked the solo trip off my bucket list, but there's still one more thing to be done at the Eiffel Tower. #ifyouknowyouknow
Speaking of bucket lists, have you been watching Will Smith’s bucket list videos? Is he cray or what! My hero. Hats off #willsmithsbucketlist.
What's on your bucket list? Please do tell, Id love to know. Here's what's not on mine: Shark Diving. Ah ah I ain't brave enough for that one.
#solotravel #SchengenVisa #VisaApplications #paris #france #Selflove #femaletravel