I believe that the point of traveling is to escape a person’s normal lifestyle, to break the habits of everyday lives. I grew up in a family of travel; we are always looking for new places to go in addition to visiting our favorite previous destinations. Last summer, we went to Paris. My parents had been there before, however my siblings, my cousin, and I had not.
In planning this trip, my mom became obsessed with Airbnb, a website that allows homeowners to rent out their apartments or homes to travelers. Through this website, my mom found a tiny apartment in the city that would be just enough for us to stay in. This apartment was perfect because it was close enough to the city where we could see all the sights however just far enough from the landmarks that we could live how the Parisians would, away from the tourist hotspots.
Whenever I would mention that we were going to Paris to a friend or family member who had been there, they would always remark about the rudeness of the French, never willing to help poor, lost Americans. Because of this, we were prepared. We prepared way too much in order to ensure that we could be independent and never have to ask the Parisians for advice or directions. The first night that we were there, after a long day of walking across the city, climbing the Eiffel Tower, doing typical touristy things, we decided to walk back to our apartment and find a restaurant in the neighborhood that could satisfy our hunger. While walking back, we found a tiny place that had exactly 8 tables inside and 4 outside on the sidewalk. It was still open, which was a rarity, so we decided to take a table. The one waitress came up to us immediately, welcoming us into the restaurant, while calling out to the chef to come out. Despite our brief studying of French cuisine before the trip, none of us knew what the menu said, and because of the location, neither the chef nor the waitress spoke any English. Despite the language barrier, the chef and waitress brought us into their restaurant as if it was their home. They tried so hard to talk to us and explain the dishes, which failed, so we ended up just ordering the choice that seemed to excite them the most.
This experience taught me to immerse myself into a community before making any judgements, which is an important life lesson in general. Traveling is much more than just going places in order to post artsy pictures on social media or seeing cool things; it’s about learning about other people and their lifestyles, and making your own judgements before believing in stereotypes. Given, these were just two people in a highly-populated country that has the potential to inhabit many rude people; however this experience proved that believing in these assumed characteristics could be insulting to such welcoming, kind citizens of this beautiful country.
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