À la prochaine, ma belle Paris …

According to the screen on the airplane, I’m at 33,500 feet over the Atlantic Ocean.

I can’t quite believe that my adventure is drawing to a close. It has been an extraordinary two weeks. My only regret is that it flew by so quickly.

When I set off on September 9, I felt a little lonely. I was also a bit apprehensive about traveling to Paris by myself. What if I got sick or needed help?

In hindsight, I had nothing to worry about. Esteban and I found some creative ways to stay in touch. I also made some new friends. But perhaps most importantly, I discovered the joy of traveling solo.

At the beginning of my trip I’d decided to be a quiet observer. In some ways I succeeded. Traveling alone lends itself to the detached study of individuals and their culture.

But in other ways, I was an utter failure.

I couldn’t help but get sucked into the small dramas of the lives around me. The couple giving each other a high-five as the plane took off. The beggar whose sign read simply “I’m hungry.” The Algerian baker who greeted me cheerfully in English each morning. The Scottish bagpiper who was getting ready to go back to Glasgow. The Israeli photographer, the expat Brit who practically lives in a cemetery, the dear friend whose time in Paris briefly coincided with my own … these were the characters in my two-week Paris play.

In the end, I learned once again that there is an amazing, unifying commonality to the human experience: We all want to love and be loved. We all need meaning and purpose in our lives. We are happiest when we feel a connection to our past — and to those around us.

I’m also delighted to say that the French and their culture remain a wonderful, paradoxical mystery to me.

I can hardly wait until my next visit. I’m eager to continue the endless process of discovery that is Paris.

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