My life-changing trip to France

Author: Jared Olinick

Tags: Europe

“PANIC! No, you’ll be ok.” As the airplane left the runway, half of me was an adventurous teenager, but the other half was a little kid who wanted to stay home. I’d jumped at the offer to travel to France. I just had to pay for the plane ticket. This would be the most amazing thing ever! Right?

 
As a violinist, I was offered the opportunity by the Charlotte International Cabinet to travel with American students and join an international orchestra in France! After raising funds and digging into my savings, I became a brave young musician on my way to explore the world. But I felt so empty. There went all the things I’d ever known. I was on my first plane trip to a foreign country. Sure it was only for a week, but I couldn’t help feeling lost. 
 
Upon arriving in Paris, my fear and resignation were overcome with wonder. Everything at the airport was so refined and modern. But I was soon under the spell of Paris and its historic grandeur. The buildings, wall paintings, roads, people, and fast, weaving vehicles filled my senses. At Notre Dame, I couldn’t stop clicking my camera. The outside was beautiful and the inside was beyond words; the size, the relics, and the stained glass windows. Later, we walked beside the gorgeous Sienna River on our way to the Gare d’Austerlitz train station. Five hours later, we awoke on the train 245 miles south of Paris in a city called Limoges. 
 
As I went home with my host family, everything was a blur. After a good night’s sleep, I sat in front of fruits, cereal, bread, and lots of cheese. I remembered hearing; “The French love their cheese and eat it at about every meal. But you probably won’t like most of it. Try to eat some just to make them feel better.” So I swallowed hard and smiled. 
 
After rehearsals, our bus ride took us to an 1800’s mansion, which the French call a castle. As I walked in the door, I got chills thinking of how I was standing on floors that had been walked centuries ago. This castle is special because it’s being converted into a modern, one-of-a-kind recording studio that will become an escape for musicians, singers, and conductors. “Here they will be able to relax and think without any distractions,” said our tour guide.
 
As the week progressed, we visited underground tunnels with ghost legends, a beautiful cavernous church with amazing acoustics and stone engravings, an old paper factory, town buildings made of hay and mud, and a traditional market. But most memorable was the porcelain factory, Bernardaud! On the tour, I was amazed at the many shelves of extremely old porcelain that had been preserved and the exquisite, modern, signature art pieces made by artists from around the world. After watching porcelain being made by hand, I’ll forever appreciate its value.
 
Before I knew it, we were on our way home. Everyone was quiet. We were going to miss the people, the places, but most of all the experience. There’s really nothing like going to a place to which you’ve never been. It’s exciting, informative, and scary. But most of all, it’s a change from everything you’ve known, and that’s what makes it a thrill. Skydiving is change, mountain climbing is change, but one of the best ways to experience change is to travel. I started my journey more nervous than excited, but now I can’t wait to travel again. And this time, I’ll be ready.