Today I’m in Arles, France, a beautiful vibrant town with art everywhere and there’s this huge art festival with over 200 artists here. So it’s a pretty busy little town right now, but so friendly.
So today, I’m going to just talk to you about a few things that I’ve learned about myself on this journey so far and it’s only been a week:
Number one is I needed to give myself some time to get my travel legs. I don’t know what I was thinking that I would just land in France and feel immediately comfortable and fit in and be able to get right to work and feel productive. That’s what I thought, but that’s not exactly what happened.
For the first few days, as beautiful as the surroundings were, I feel disoriented. I certainly did not have a structure or schedule. I felt a little bit like a fish out of water but now I feel very much at home with the surroundings. I’m getting used to being totally uncomfortable with a lot of different things. So I’m determined to follow my dream to work three and play four in a foreign country and no matter what I was going to figure it out and I was going to do it.
Secondly, I need to get comfortable with the messiness that’s confronting me head on every single day. Logistics have never been my strength and I know that. I knew I’d be challenged going from town to town, city to city using public transportation, but yesterday, probably was the highlight of my journey so far in terms of being challenged.
It was Sunday, I had just gone to mass and I was right near a bus station. I said, “Maybe I’ll just take a bus tomorrow.” I bought a ticket and was told I’ll have to transfer. “Okay, no problem.” So I get dropped off and I was the only one there and the bus station itself was closed. I looked across the street, the train station was closed and I thought for sure there would be a bus coming.
I waited for about 30 minutes, but no bus. So I thought well, “I’ll call Uber.” No internet. No bus, no train, no internet… I walk down the street, and the only place open was a tiny little tap with four older gentlemen sitting at a table playing cards. They didn’t speak English at all but with my limited French I was able convey to them that I was stuck and asked them if they had internet and they shook their head and said “No.” Just then a young man walked in and in perfect English, he understood exactly what my dilemma was. He then told me that there was a hotel right down the street, he knew the woman who owned it, and he would be glad to introduce her to me, and I’m sure I could use the internet.
I go there and she did have internet, but she also said, you know, “My son will be glad to drive you there.” I said “That’s wonderful,” and offered to pay her. So when I got the bill, it was rather large, and I could have probably could have done a little better with Uber. But regardless, just the kindness of people and was really inspiring and you know, I was stuck and had to figure it out.
Perhaps the name of this trip is ultimately going to be called “Figuring It Out.”
The next big learning experience for me is planning. It was Friday, last week, I decided to leave Marseille and go to Aix-en-Provence. Aix-en-Provence during midsummer is the highest tourist season. I arrived at the hotel, I thought I made reservations and they had no reservation, I had no confirmation.
I was stuck in the middle of summer without a reservation in a brand new town. They were delightful though. They spent over 30 minutes with me trying to help me find a hotel and it turned out to be just fine. Just a little farther away from the city than I wanted to be. But in the meanwhile, I met some amazing people from London who were on tour and invited me to London.
So I guess what I’ve learned is a lot of flexibility, a lot of adaptability and, you know, going from Plan B to plan C, whatever the plan is, just to let go of the disappointment that you have initially. “Oh, I can’t stay in the middle of Aix-en-Provence in the middle of the summer? What do you mean you don’t have my reservation?” As it turned out, you know, it was lovely meeting this other couple and then having an invitation to go to London at some point.
Another thing that I’ve learned about myself is traveling alone you have a lot of time. It’s an opportunity to start seeing yourself differently. I have been traveling all of my life and I guess maybe I’ve just never really paid attention or observed, “How do I respond to uncomfortable situations?” What I’ve realized this time is that I’ve allowed myself to be real, to be uncomfortable, to be a little afraid, and yet to push through and also, of course to figure it out.
So what I’ve learned is just to be okay with being uncomfortable, be okay with being afraid, and not knowing. Given that there are so many wonderful people in the world, they’re definitely there to try to help you if they can. There are so many other things that I’ve learned but I think probably one of the biggest takeaways of all is that there are so many kind and good people out there and no matter what, they’re willing to work with you to help you. It’s being open, honest, vulnerable, and just being who you are. It’s been an amazing journey so far and I look forward to what new challenges I will be facing in the future.
I do hope that this is helping you. If you’re traveling alone, if you’re feeling some of the same feelings, I’m hoping that that this will be make a difference for you. What I’d love to hear from you would be if you are traveling, if you are have been traveling and face challenges, what are they and how did you deal with it and what did you learn from it?
I hope you are following my YouTube videos of this journey and I want to invite you to my website, www.Rita Wilkins.com and in the meanwhile I will see you tomorrow from Arles. By the way, I’m going to a bull running contest, or something like that, tonight in the Coliseum. I met some people today and they invited me to do that and to go to dinner. It’s all about five minutes from here and I’m looking forward to whatever that brings. See you tomorrow!