A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
“A ship is safest in the harbor, but a ship is made for sailing.” a friend once told me. It was out of context at the time but it was just something that he lived by and he had shared it with me.
Now, as I sit in a café in Paris, feeling calm and pleasant, going through my notebook I came across this quote again. Only to find it funny how meaningful I found it at this exact moment. Sure, it always made sense to me but never had I actually related to it, mainly because I tend to choose sailing without even a second’s doubt.
Before coming to Paris however, something strange happened. I was a bit worried(?) I had been to different countries before but for the first time I was a bit nervous. Throughout the years people had told me things about how French people didn’t speak English, even if they knew the language. I had heard all sorts of horrible stories from friends about how they were lost and nobody would help them. It made me feel anxious. What if I couldn’t express my problem, if I had any?
Then I told myself to shake it off. (Yes, I talk to myself, don’t you?) I told myself that I was being ridiculous.
I was this girl who wanted to travel around the world, go to all sorts of places and possibly spend months in Latin America next year and I was worried about a country in Europe? Of France? Of Paris? That was plain ridiculous. So I shook it off, I was back to my confident state because Duh, sure I could do this!
So it began. The first day or two I stayed in and enjoyed the luxury of having some time for myself. This may sound crazy to you because I was in Paris but I was dead from hopping between friends places and needed some time before I could –at least pretend- to be a normal, decent human being.
Then I took it to the streets! Day and night. With my friend and solo. And oh did that feel good!
The weekend was over, my friend was back in the office and I was free to explore the streets by myself, find interesting places and observe the people, the culture. Anytime I found something extraordinary or managed to find the place I was looking for I felt proud, happy.
When my phone locked itself it had two downsides, that my friend wouldn’t be able to reach me and that I wouldn’t be able to take photos. But I was also very happy to realize that I could even survive without the maps and the internet, without a guide or a “cheat sheet” and that I would still find my way and be fine!
“A ship is safest in the harbor, but a ship is made for sailing.”
And just like that; I am safest at home, but I am born to travel and wander.
I will not let anything, especially meaningless worries to come in the way of my wanderlust.
Ps. The French are actually nice people, when you have a smile on your face, they’re likely to reciprocate and even if they don’t know English they will still try to help you. I had really nice chats at a market with the owner and my neighbor or just today with the lady at the next table.
Plus, after all, you can’t generalize a group of people as “The French” or “The Dutch” or “The Turks” and give them specific traits and characteristics. It’s PEOPLE that we are talking about so let’s try to avoid generalizing nations and its people.