Although this site celebrates travel in Maine, my intended post can wait for another day.
Today, I wish to celebrate travel in France, a favorite place for me.
I visited Paris, and Notre Dame, at the age of 21. I was studying in London for a semester and met my Danish roommate from Colby College/Maine in Paris for a trip. We two sweet girls visited the gardens of Versailles, saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and ate the most delicious picnic on a park bench on the Champs Elysees of jambon (ham), an airy baguette, green apples, and the most delicious brie I've ever eaten.
At the age of 50, I returned to France to once again celebrate what that country means to me. I pretend I'm a French girl. A favorite audio book I've listened to 100 times is "French Women Don't Get Fat" which explains their tiny tricks to never diet but instead live life, savoring it in tiny bites to enjoy it more deeply - the French "joie de vivre."
I've written much about my travels throughout France, but I share this piece, originally written in 2013, because it is inspiring, full of hope and wonder, and reminds me of the magic of Paris and the grand, storied cathedral within walking distance of where I stayed during both visits on the Ile de la Cite.
Vive la France!
Taking that First Step
I was first introduced to Susanna Liller when I was in my 20’s at a Business Women’s Networking organization where she and Connie Gemmer, through their business, Ruby Slippers, came to speak. I instantly loved them. They were a comfortable team, playing off each other like well-tuned musical instruments.
Fast forward 25 years, and I re-discovered Susanna through her coaching business and entered a writing contest she was hosting titled “The Heroine’s Journey.” I placed 2nd in the contest, and my prize was an opportunity to attend one of her weekend retreats for women in Bath.
And I’m not being dramatic.
I feel better any time I’m in Susanna’s presence. The positive energy she emanates is palpable. That weekend began a positive and thrilling momentum that continues to build and build for me. I see that now.
Through Susanna’s website, I knew that she and Barbara Babkirk (owner of Heart at Work) hosted an annual women’s retreat to France. I read about the trip, starry-eyed and desirous. How I would love to do that!
A couple years went by. I didn’t. No time, no money, too extravagant to splurge like that on myself.
Needing a “Susanna-fix” in the fall of 2011, I thought maybe I’d book another retreat if she was hosting one….and then, I saw that retreat to Paris, Chartres, and Giverny (Monet’s home) again. I was more starry-eyed, more desirous.
My family said, “Go! It’s so you.”
For a matter of weeks, I chewed on it. The thoughts that came up frightened and surprised me: you’re not worthy, this is too extravagant.I pondered the thoughts. Where did they come from? That’s not the girl I used to be, to be so doubting and lacking in confidence. What has happened to me, I thought?
Life and aging happened to me.
On a Saturday, while running (where I always believe anything is possible), I made the decision to go to France. It’s what I wanted most in the world; I was turning 50; my family supported my going. Why wouldn’t I?
And then, I felt the earth shift. No kidding.
I made that decision on a Saturday. That Monday, I learned my first book had won first place in a national writing contest for nonfiction. (Wow.) On Tuesday, THE agent I wanted to work with on book #2 emailed me to say she wanted to read my entire manuscript (WOW). Something had happened, shifted. I could feel it. When I took one step in the direction I was supposed to go, the entire universe opened up “possibility” to me. I sure wish I could harness this stuff – it’s SO COOL. But I can’t. It’s rare….and it only occurs when I am being truly authentic…which seem to be times few & far between.
The retreat to Paris occurred in May of 2012. Susanna and Barbara were the perfect hosts. It was the trip of a lifetime. I will be grateful to have done it for the rest of my life. As I left my fellow retreaters on Day 1 to head out alone to the Champs Elysées, I wasn’t that girl I’d become (hesitant, lacking self-confidence), I was my 21-year old self. The world was at my fingertips. and I laughed and skipped, spoke French (badly), and ate, drank, smelled, and saw everything French. Gratitude coursed through my veins. Joy pulsed through my entire being.
Taking that first step in the right direction……hmmmmm…. can be magical. If we let it.