I went to Paris this summer for the first time, and I traveled alone, on purpose.
I’ve taken flights by myself before, but I had never gone on a solo trip. I was too scared or too broke or too woman or too excuse-ive. And now I was worried.
I imagined myself at 80-years-old, afraid to do things on my own. What happens when everyone I love is dead and I’m like… Damn, what now? I don’t want that! I want to be 80 and be like, Yeah, bitches, I’m in Italy! Smell ya later!
So this summer, after I talked my sister down (“Have you seen Taken?!?!?!?!?!”), and on the way back from a trip to Egypt with my beloved friend, I planned a short solo trip in Paris all for myself.
Because I live in a city, I know how overwhelming it can be on a first trip (and how creepy it can be for women) so I super-prepared by googling like my life depended on it.
I googled things like “solo trip to Paris” and read dozens of accounts of pickpocketing scams so I could be mindful of the tactics and avoid getting robbed.
I mapped out all the places I wanted to go, then chose a hotel that would put me near it all. I knew where I wanted to eat, what the places I wanted to see looked like, and I familiarized myself with a map of the city.
And then, I did the damn thing and flew to Paris. As soon as I got there, I was like, Oh shit, I don’t speak French. I got super lost in the airport, at baggage claim, at the pickup areas waiting for an Uber which never came. But eventually, I climbed into a cab and met a French-Congolese man who drove me into the city.
I had the most mesmerizing cab drive, OMG. As we drove into the 18th Arrondisement (Paris is divided into a bunch of quarters) the very first thing I saw was a giant graffiti of “Allahu Akbar” spraypainted in Arabic in an underpass. I was like, Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh!!! (That is a sound of glee.) I made a video to capture some of the sights I experienced on my way into Paris.
After I checked into my hotel, I put on a cute outfit (of course I planned my outfits), grabbed my phone and juicer, and stepped out for a walk on the town with my handy-dandy google maps.
Five minutes later, I had walked past a charming bakery, taken a selfie in front of the freakin’ Louvre, and was standing in magical Tuileres Garden, thinking, Wow, Paris is definitely not overhyped.
And then I was like, What the hell am I doing here without my boo thang?!! We need to come here stat! So I scratched off all the touristy stuff from my bucket list – the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, you name it. The last thing I wanted to do was come here with my romantic partner like, Yeah, yeah, the Eiffel Tower… been there, done that. I want to swept up in the moment, not be a tour guide!
Honestly, I was so, so relieved! This meant that it was my trip, just for me, and I could and should do whatever I wanted! And what I wanted to do most was wander (the touristy streets during daylight hours).
So I did just that! I ate a croissant while sitting on the Siene. I walked in and out of old churches. I window-shopped at Chanel and all the magical couture shops. I outsmarted a group of pickpocketers – WHAT??!?!?! I’M FROM NEW YAWK! And I gazed at the magical ceiling in Galeries Lafayette.
And my don’t-mess-with-me NYC poker face and my outfits were so on point that people didn’t think I was a tourist (until I opened my bumbling American mouth).
When I was hungry, I decided to find my people in the city, at New Balal Indian-Pakistani Restaurant (not to mistaken with Old Balal), where the food and people were so great I cried (on the inside, not into my chicken tikka masala and garlic naan).
The next day, as I ate my leftover biryani for breakfast, I realized that France was playing in the final World Cup match. While I was in France. Like… literally that day. Did I accidentally do something cool? Like be in the right place at the right time?
I did! I so did!
::smugly puts hand under chin, arm slips off table::
My second day of wandering turned into me watching all of Paris celebrate the match as it unfolded. I knew everytime there was a goal because the whole city burst into cheers each time! Every bar had people spilling out onto the streets jumping up and down with anticipation. Parisians of all backgrounds, Black, Arab, White, were all excited.
I loved it so much. I loved watching people laugh and celebrate. All at once. Together. It was a rare moment of collective joy and I really appreciated it. And it also made for excellent, jam-packed people-watching.
By the end of my solo trip to Paris, I realized I was such a delightful travel companion to myself. It was so nice to be easy on myself, to treat myself and do what I love without judging it or needing it to be something else. I wasn’t crumbling with loneliness and regret, and I was able to take in the beauty and joy around me. And that, in addition to the croissants and crushingly beautiful beauty at every corner, was worth the trip.