When I think of France two images come to mind: the Eiffel Tower & Mont Saint Michel.
Both are almost synonymous with the country of France itself (at least for someone like me who previously got all of her travel information from apps like Pintrest and Instagram on 15 minute lunch breaks between 12 hour shifts).
If you haven’t heard of Mont Saint Michel look up “10 Places to See Before You Die” (or something similar) because it will definitely be on that list. It has a really long crazy past and has lived many different lives including once being a prison and once a monestary. But mostly it’s just a magical-fairytale-like-tourist-magnet (that you should definitely see before you die)!
During a particularly grueling shift I would look at beautiful pictures from all over the world and promise myself that I would see all of them in person one day. It sounds cheesy, but sometimes you have to go there to get through a long restaurant shift.
(Working in the customer service industry in the United States BLOWS with a capital B. It’s a fact. Look it up.)
The thing is that even though it did help me during those low moments and even though I was totally and completely sincere about traveling to all of the places I desired to go to, part of me never really knew if I could actually follow through with that particular dream. I mean…
I am not a college graduate
I am horrible with money.
I have a lot of medical debt.
I am a waitress.
I am from Alabama.
So statistically all signs point to probably not.
It doesn’t help when you have to keep your plans relatively quiet because almost every time you tell someone of your plans you get that “Oh honey, I remember when I had dreams too” look.
(That may or may not have made actual sense, but you know what look I’m referring too.)
The thing is I have a really hard time working for money. Partly because I work very hard for very little, and partly because it makes me depressed to realize that if I do want to have a comfortable life (a house and a nice car etc..) I will always be working
just to pay for that lifestyle. My next paycheck will always be going towards my brand new car (that will only depreciate in value)
Or it will pay for the oversized house where I will spend all of my time..you know:
managing the garden..
keeping up with the latest home decor..
in front of my brand new 8ft 5D television..
or on my iPhone9 looking up holographic pictures of the Pyramids in Egypt while I pop the latest label of antidepressants and drink a whole bottle of wine to myself because I’m a 45yearoldrestaurantmanagerwithahousepayment
Okay. That’s all a bit dramatic. But I really do think about these things..
Then, once the trip was coming closer and it was more or less planned and paid for, I got the sassy “I wish I didn’t have (kids/a dog/boyfriend and could blow all my money on a vacation like that”.
Because I don’t wish that I was a wife. I don’t wish that I was starting a family right now or getting a super awesome promotion that I totally earned.
** DISCLAIMER: I think that all of these things are great! I am so proud of all my friends who are awesome mamas out there! It must be really cool to put a down payment on a house after all the ramen noodle years of putting yourself through law school or whatever…buttt **
I just don’t desire these things. I never have. I have even tried to make myself desire these things, because I felt as though I should. But I don’t. And that’s okay.
Travel is definitely a privilege. There are many people on this beautiful planet who would probably like to see more of it. Many may never get the opportunity. They may not have many opportunities in general. This is sad and extremely unfair. I am not under the delusion that I am not in a way lucky to be where I am from and to have the opportunities that I do.
t h a t b e i n g s a i d
The people who scoff or act as though they have too many responsibilities to travel. The people who treat you like some free-spirited-hippie-child-living-in-a-dream-world. These people almost always totally have the ability to travel if they want to. It’s just not usually their priority. They want children or a career so they sacrifice things like travel to make these dreams happen. Cool. And most people support them. Also cool. But why is it still such a taboo to not want these things? Why aren’t people more supportive of (for a super American lack of a better phrase) off-brand dreams?
Why world? Why?
It honestly took a lot for me to buy that initial plane ticket to Iceland when I knew I could be putting that money towards continuing my education. Even after my month in Ireland, It took a lot of deep breaths to dissolve the guilt I felt for not putting the money I was spending towards a car (which I don’t have) or an apartment (which I also no longer have). But now I realize that I simply made travel a priority and that’s okay. I am tumor prone. I have no idea what this means or how it will affect my life in the future. I do know how I have let it affect my life in the past (one effect being that I’m twenty five and this is my first time out of the country).
I have always made freedom a priority. I have made sacrifices in my life they are just different than most people’s. I have sacrificed having serious relationships and missed out on real life adult career opportunities.. Because somewhere deep down I knew that not only was I not “ready” for these things, but I genuinely didn’t want them.. At least not yet. I do have goals, dreams, and priorities. They are just different than most of the people I that I am surrounded by in my day to day life. Which is fine, but I cannot lie and say that it isn’t lonely at times.
I may not know what it feels like to walk down the aisle or the feeling of holding a little pink human that I made for the first time, but I do know what it feels like to achieve a dream. For me this feels like fresh air and costal winds. It looks like your own legs dangling over a round stone edge as water surrounds you. I used to look at the pixelated site of Mont Saint Michel on a screen in South of Nowhere, United States and tried to comprehend the fact that it was real. Now, as I stand on its edge watching the tide engulf the tiny-castle-island and I’m trying to remember what it was like to be that girl in Nashville. She looks different to me from here as if I am seeing her in focus for the first time. I know that she is me and I am her, but I cannot remember the exact moment when we became separate. I cannot remember the exact time when she became my past and I became my present but I do know what the difference is. She had good intentions but little confidence and I feel so powerful. I now have one less place to visit before I die. Now when I look at a dreamy over edited pixelated picture of Mont Saint Michel I will not wonder if it is real but try to find myself on its stony edge. Travel is a privilege, but that doesn’t equate to it being a waste of time or indulgent. It is a way to learn about things. It is a way to learn about yourself. It is one of the best ways to open your mind. It is a powerful experience that can change you in a really big and important way. It is something that everyone who can should do. It is something to be encouraged and it is definitely not something to fear.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
Now as to how I got here..
Joey, Millie, David and I wanted to see more of our area together. Millie wanted to go to Paris. I wanted to see Mont Saint Michel. Millie decided to go to Paris at a later time and we all took the same two days off to travel to the island together.
Mont Saint Michel is three hours away if you take a direct route. We figured that we could hitch there in about 6 hours. Apparently workawayers in the past have done it in record times, the fastest being three hours and twenty minutes. We decide that with four people, two guys and two girls, it would be fun to make it a race. I choose David to be on my team because he’s super sweet, he loves Harry Potter, and we both speak about twenty words of French in very poor accents. I feel that the two of us verbally equate to one drunk French person. Joey speaks high school French really well, and Millie speaks Italian but she’s pretty and blonde and therefore more likely to get picked up. They might have a slight advantage, but I like our odds.
We book a BNB family room with five beds for €96 and decide to try and catch the morning work commuters at around 8AM. Millie and Joey leave first and we watch them with their thumbs up out of our dining room window. It takes them about twenty minutes and ten cars to get picked up which is pretty good for Ticheville. David and I are outside for forty minutes and start to get nervous. David is a really sweet overly polite twenty one year old. He has shaggy blonde hair, a perfect proper English accent, and a bit of anxiety. He is really nervous about hitching. I keep making him jump up and down trying to keep his positive energy up. We start to walk to the nearest town when a woman finally pulls over. She is very kind and her car is very clean. She does not speak English, but David can kind of understand what she is saying. She drops us in Vimoutiers and David is really amazed at how kind she was. He is smiling ear to ear and suddenly really into hitchhiking. I’m really into winning this race even though the opposing team has a pretty hefty head start. Our combined excitement has turned us into delirious giggly school children and it’s hilarious. We where wondering how far the other two made it until about fifteen minutes a we get a text from Joey. He and Millie can see us as they are just up the road. They have been waiting for an hour. We offer for them to move closer to the center of town so that they can be sure to get picked up first but they decline. So we get picked up about five minutes later. Game on Australia. The woman who picks us up is traveling with her teenage daughter. We provide minimal conversation using all the French phrases we know and then the two of them banter amongst themselves as David and I watch the scenery fly past. They listen to the worlds top charted pop music and chat animatedly. The leaves have only just started to change color and fall to the ground. It is a beautiful time of year for Normamdy. We make it to a nearby city in the basic direction of where we need to be but slightly out of the way. We barely wait ten minutes here to get picked up again by an older man wearing a leather fedora. He only takes us five kilometers and he seems to lecture us about learning more French the whole time but he drops us off in a great spot and makes sure we are headed in the right direction. The next person to pick us up is an over weight French man with a large mop of curly hair. He has a tiny run down car covered in bumper stickers and he smokes with the windows rolled all the way up. He too can only take us about 6 kilometers but Joey has texted us and we are about forty minutes ahead of them. We ride with a hipster self sustaining farmer who speaks in flowery language about the firey red leaved trees for a short while. We ride with a mom traveling to see her nineteen year old daughter. She is soft spoken and in an even mix of French and English she tells us of their strained relationship. David sits in the front seat and consoles her and they seem to form a little bond on our 45 minute journey. We are well over half way there now and only slightly off route. The others are catching up and we put our biggest smiles on waving at all the cars driving past. We wait in a good spot for awhile and then decide to walk about half a mile to a nearby round about. We wait here too for about half an hour and things aren’t looking good. Finally a white van pulls over but it is heading in the opposite direction. A bald man gets out and starts waving is over. I am skeptical. He says he is going to a nearby town and there is no traffic so we thank him and crawl into the back of his van. There are no windows and it is obviously a work van as we move rusty tools etc off our seat. There are also no seatbelts and the ride is long and bumpy. There is a woman in the front seat who speaks English. She has lots of makeup on, bright red hair, and smells of cigarettes. There is also a small child seated between them. The woman tells us that she had a hard life. She left London when she was 17 with £500 and never looked back. She has lived all over France for the past 20 years. The bald man is her ex-boyfriend. The boy is their child. She says her ex loves to help people. He is always picking up hitchhikers and taking them as far as he can on the way to and from work. The man is quiet and stern but kind. He asks us where we are staying and decides to take us all the way to our BnB. The ride is a little less than an hour long and the Australians have beat us by almost an hour. David says he doesn’t care. He says that he never would have thought to hitchhike before because he is really shy and that this has been the best part of his trip so far.
The BnB is really nice and our room is huge. We haven’t eaten since our breakfast kale smoothies and we are all starving. We decide to get crêpes and hitch/walk to Mont Saint Michel which we can see just off the coast. It’s a funny sight actually. Rows and rows of harvested crops and water and then suddenly and awkwardly there it is.
The crêperies are closed until 6pm and we want to watch the tide roll in so we walk past the small tourist restaurant area toward the island. When we arrive all the shops are closing down and all the tourists are leaving before the area is surrounded by water. Which is perfect. Why are tourist shops even allowed on the actual island itself? It’s pretty criminal and very surprising since there are plenty of places to buy I heart NYC lighters right off the coast. We walk through the narrow stone paths and up the winding stairs until we are as high as we can possibly get. The area feels absolutely mid evil and surreal. I am so glad that we made it here. We walk back down and the wind picks up. We sit along the rocky edge in the dark and silently watch the sea begin to engulf the structure. We could have sat there for hours but hunger called. We caught a shuttle back to the tourist area and bought vegetarian galettes and cheap carafes of wine. A taxi back to our BnB is about €60. Not happening. So we call our host to ask for advice and she generously offers to come and collect is herself. We are exhausted. We buy chocolate. Relish in our unlimited wifi and sleeeep. The next morning when we wake up we decide to go ahead and hitch back in case it is harder to travel in the opposite direction. It’s not. David and I catch a ride with a Moroccan man who speaks 6 languages. We then wait for an hour in the next village and again run into Joey and Millie. Right as we are debating finding a bus, a man pulls over who is traveling all the way to Lisieux which is two hours away and well over half way to Ticheville. He takes all four of us in his small car and gives us pumpkin seed biscuits to eat. From Lisseux to Vimoutiers to Ticheville the going is easy for me and David and we make it back by 3pm. We beat the Australians by about an hour though Joey says it wasn’t a competition anymore. Millie and I cook spiced chickpeas and steamed kale for dinner. The boys and the new American couple cook pasta. We watch Harry Potter and drink way too much wine in “celebration” of both our victories and go to bed really late.
Hitching is pretty easy, even if you don’t speak the language. It is also a bit heart warming to travel long distances solely by the kindness of other people. Not to mention it is better for the environment to carpool in general. Most of the Europeans I meet are pretty disgusted by the sight of traffic full of solo drivers. I wish it were more common in The States, but to be completely honest I don’t think I would ever hitch at home. I also wouldn’t recommend for you to hitch across America. Seriously. But if you ever find yourself in France, you should definitely travel by thumb (even if only once).
Hope y’all are all chasing your dreams and doing things that might scare you today!
Til next time fools