Resetting Travel to Experience

The beauty of coffee is not only in its ability to keep us going, but in its ability to slow us down.

We visited Paris, France midway through what was proving to be, up until that point, a very fast-paced tour of Europe. We had seen parts of England, both the countryside and London, and now we were in another city in another country. World travel is supposed to be life-changing and fun, right? At this point, we were stressed out and exhausted from pushing ourselves to the limit, trying to see everything, but with not enough time to experience anything. So, I stopped.

We were on our way to see the Eiffel Tower and we came upon a small cafe. I walked inside, encouraging others to follow suit, I ordered an espresso, a croissant with jam for myself, a croissant with jam for my daughter, and I sat down. Whatever else we were going to do and see that day, I was going to experience and savor this moment. We were in Paris, after all. Should we not, even if for fifteen minutes, break away from being tourists and experience what it would be like to be Parisian? Is that not what makes travel most memorable and enjoyable, stepping into another world, foreign from our own, and allowing ourselves to be transformed by it?

The espresso was good. The croissant was good. This moment, however, was life altering. It was a necessary reset. It was a way to shift perspectives from looking at Paris to being in Paris. It transported us, at least in my mind, from having a superficial experience of the city to actually experiencing the city.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Kogen Dojo

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