Travel Trepidation

Because writing helps, and because I miss being transparent on here…

I’ll admit it: I’m nervous about going to Paris. OK, let me use the not-so-euphemistic word: scared.

Some of it is just ordinary travel jitters. Some of it is because it’s my first time overseas in two decades.

But the truth is I’m more nervous about this than just about any other place I can think of going (except maybe some of the more notoriously violent parts of the world).

I’ve been to India several times. Mexico once. I’m used to being a stranger in a strange land. I’ve found that smiles are universal, and that people are kind everywhere. Sometimes they are kind in order to take more of your money, but still.

And then there’s Paris. Literally the only city about which I’ve heard warnings, over and over (from other travelers), that they aren’t kind. Where being a foreigner doesn’t make you interesting; it makes you annoying.

And into my mind pops the time when I was a shy, sensitive 13 year old in some airport somewhere, waiting in line at a cafeteria, and two drunken(?) Frenchmen randomly decided to make fun of me. It’s funny how these moments stick in one’s head.

I’m 32 now but I’m still sensitive, and I come from a country which (believe it or not!) is often noted for its surprising politeness. I still don’t know how to deal with rudeness. It still cuts deep no matter how habitual it might be, no matter how many people tell me not to take it personally. I’m terrified of being laughed at, again. Of being accosted by an angry airport functionary tired of dealing with irritating English-speakers.

This is all quite irrational, of course, but those are feelings for you.

(“Toughen up!” I hear you say. I hear this over and over. I’ve also heard I’m empathetic, and this is my end of the bargain for being that way: to feel everything deeply, never to let it “just slide off”. “Toughen up”: it’s a way to say “be me, instead of you”.)

I’m nervous about posting this. I don’t want people to think I’m biased against the French, or against Parisians. But bias is born in fear, and by writing about my fears I hope to keep them from maturing.

In a week’s time I look forward to writing about how dumb these fears were!

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  1. This was brave to write and as someone whose wife can have her day ruined by a rude person I feel for you. I hope your travel goes well and you have a good time.

  2. I went to Paris in 2009 and had a wonderful time. I don’t speak French, and yet almost no one was rude or mean to me. I hope you have a great trip!

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