So one step at a time. My sister and I began our walk from our hotel on the Île St Louis, but my peregrinations here will travel back in time. Waaay back. All the way back to 1967 when I flew to London by myself to visit my grandma and meet the rest of my Dad's family. On that trip, I traveled on my own by train from northern Yorkshire to Glasgow and then from Glasgow back to London. When relatives failed to meet me off the train in London (because, I later realized, my letter advising them of my itinerary was sent to the wrong address), I even managed to find my way to my aunt's on my own. At 14. (And yes, I'm pretty sure I was first terrified, felt sick, tried very hard not to cry--and those big black Ldondon cabs never looked so comforting!)
I'd been prepared for that trip by many summer and/or weekend excursions around the Greater Vancouver area on public transit, in charge of younger siblings. The summer I was 12, for example, even if my Dad had left the car for mom, as he often did, she would understandably elect to stay home with the three little ones (4, 3, and 1) rather than try to go anywhere with the whole tribe. But she wanted to expand our horizons beyond the triangle of playground programs, library, and Kiwanis pool that structured most of our days. So regularly, she'd decide on a day trip for "the big kids" to take "the little kids" on. Stanley Park was an obvious choice, a relatively safe adventure in those days, as long as everyone made it on and off every bus in the chain of transfers. But sometimes, as when we went all the way to Lynn or Capilano Canyon to walk across suspension bridges and marvel at waterfalls, my 12-year-old self picked up worry skills to last a lifetime. Competence as well, yes. I learned to phone the Transit Authority for instructions on how to get from A to, well, at least M, if not X. Learned to write down all the directions, organize all the fares, collect and hold all my siblings' transfers or at least worry ferociously that they hadn't lost them. In fact, writing this, looking back at this paragraph and the one before, I see so clearly how intertwined those two have been in my travel narratives from early on: Competence and Worry.
Of course, if I organize my post around those two poles, I'm obscuring the wonder and discovery and fun that my mom surely hoped for when she sent the 6 or 7 of us (!! Yes!! Ages 12 down to 6) out to the bus stop at the corner with our packed lunches. Not only did we have all of that, but we built memories and trust between us that persist even now, although we might argue over which park so-and-so got lost in for those scary ten minutes or how many times that sister ran across the suspension bridge. Someday, I'd love to write more about that magical freedom we enjoyed, a freedom that seems rare to childhood these days. But that would be a wandering too far in this post. So for now, we could just agree that while Wonder and Discovery and Fun are huge motivators for travel, the actual logistics of getting to those have been marked, from early in my life,by an oscillation between Competence and Worry.
In Paris this past spring, I got a chance to see my Competence come to the fore in a way that it often doesn't when I travel with Pater. He and I are very good travel companions in many ways, and it would be very wrong to leave the impression that I don't shoulder my share of travel challenges, decision-making, way-finding, etc. But I haven't taken the opportunities I might have to test and strengthen my independence.
What's motivated me to get back to writing about what I learned while Google-mapping my way around Paris with my sister? Oddly, it's all the cycling Pater and I have been doing around the city lately. I'll explain what I mean by that in Part 2 of this little series, not wanting to lose your attention with too many words at once. For now, I'll leave you with a couple of photos taken on one of those pedal adventures. And I'll ask you: have you become more or less bold, confident, and/or independent in your travels, big or small, since you were young? Does the thought of doing things on your own discourage you from doing them at all? Do you or don't you have a significant other to rely on as a travel companion? And what difference, if any, does this make to your enjoyment of, and ability to, travel?
|Pater waiting patiently for me to take a photo|