Closing remarks

Travelling is a skill. It is something which must be practised and refined although it is probably never quite perfect. There will always be museums you miss, or free shows you don’t know about until they’ve already happened, and countless delicacies you never quite get round to tasting. It is impossible to do everything, and I find that this is especially true in Paris.

In a little under a week, I will be leaving Paris, and returning to Blighty. I always knew this day was coming, but as it suddenly leaps into the path in front of me, I’ve become increasingly reflective (no, not like a high vis jacket).

During this year I have learnt and discovered and realised so  many things about the world and my place within it. But whenever I’ve tried to start this blog, I find myself churning out horrific and hyperbolic Erasmus clichés: “It’s been the best time of my life”, “I’ve loved every minute”, “It was the best thing I have ever done”. Back in September, I believed that all these (and more) were possible. Now, however, I’m not so sure.

Don’t get me wrong: I have definitely enjoyed this year. But I cannot deny the fact that whilst it was certainly a time in my life, and I truly did love certain, specific minutes, there have also been minutes where I have felt so overwhelmed by a nausea of homesickness and loneliness, wishing desperately that I could teleport back to safe, comfortable England, never to leave Ol’ Britannia again. As for the best thing I have ever done – I hope not. It’s certainly up there in the top five, but I never top this I’ll be pretty disappointed.

‘Erasmus’ seems to conjure up mad images in people’s heads, of tipsy sunrises and insanely colourful parades; the kind of stuff that pollutes tumblr tags and saturates your instagram feed. In reality, life here has been largely ordinary, with a few choice peaks of tumblr-worthy material. I won’t bore you with the details of either, but one of the main things I’ve realised this year is that the fairy tale, whilst wonderful to lose oneself in, can’t really spill into everyday life. Yes, some days you see incredible stained glass windows and take selfies in front of medieval churches, but there are also plenty of days when you have to do your laundry and wait in all afternoon for the repairman and go to the supermarket. Those in the latter are constants, whether you’re in Peterborough or Paris.

Like I said at the beginning: travelling is a skill. But it’s also a tool, which can be wielded with great effect, or with very little, depending on your style. It’s a tool for enabling confidence, in order to become as pretentious as possible (à la Sybil Fawlty: “Pretentious? Moi?”). But crucially, it is a tool for development. To soak up your surroundings, to process les environs effectively, and to come out a better person for it. For introspection, via extrospection. Like almost all things, travelling is what you make of it.

To finish, I choose a single cliché, but one that I find wholly justifiable: I would not be the same today if I had not done my Erasmus year.

Au revoir, Paris.

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