Over the past month, I have been blessed in achieving two, significant bucket list goals of mine: travel and visit the historic and stunning cities of Paris and London.
With accordion players along the river and street painters and patisseries around every corner, Paris was more romantic than I had imagined. We even saw a proposal on the Pont des Arts!
It’s cliché, I know, but how can the city of love get more romantic than that?
On our last day in France, we traveled to the city of Versailles and visited the palace and gardens, which was home to King Louis XIV in the 1600s. After taking a free tour through the main château, one of my travel mates commented that the interior architecture was not as impressive as he had thought it would be.
Wait…what? A palace with 700 hundred rooms built in the breathtaking style of classical French art that was home to a monarchy and hundreds of French nobility is not living up to your expectations?
My mind could not process what he was saying because obviously the Palace of Versailles is incredibly beautiful, and that is being modest.
Two weeks later, I was in London for the weekend with other international students and experienced a similar situation.
As we were walking along the Houses of Parliament, a couple of the students began commenting on how “small” Big Ben is in person. Apparently, they were expecting something much grander from pictures they had seen.
Were they really complaining about the height of Big Ben when they are in one of the most beautiful cities in the world? These moments really struck something inside me and I could not ignore it.
Why is it so hard for some to appreciate the fantastic opportunities they have been given?
As a young person who has been raised in America, I think sometimes we forget how fortunate we are for the opportunities we have been given. We are so accustomed to the automatic privileges we have had available to us our whole lives.
I am not saying I am immune to this way of thinking. I often forget how fortunate I am to attend college and pursue a career in something I am truly passionate about.
While this seems second nature to us, we forget that many people will never get to have these options.
I know many people from my humble hometown of 4,000 inhabitants who have never even traveled outside of the Midwest, let alone been to Europe.
It is extremely sad to me that they will never be exposed to these historic and eye-opening places. However, it makes me feel incredibly lucky that I have this chance.
Some days, I still cannot believe I am living in the United Kingdom, even though it has been over two months since my arrival. I still sometimes wake up expecting to look out my window and see good ‘ole Debot and hear my roomie asleep across the room (Victoria, I miss you!).
It is in moments like that where I stop and remember how grateful I am for the all the traveling I was able to do as a child and thankful I took the chance to go abroad.
Yes, the streets of Paris and London are not paved with gold, but they are two of the most visited cities in the world for a reason. Both are incredibly gorgeous in many ways; you just have to look.
When you travel, what you expect from an experience and what you gain are usually not going to be identical. However, there is always beauty to be seen and appreciated; just open your eyes. Sometimes you will be surprised to find it is right in front of you.