focus on the solutions

level three - exit the door

I wake up with a sudden jolt and a tingling excitement shaking me to my core.  I look at the clock: 9:07am.  I smile.  ‘I’m in paris’  I think to myself as I put on my coat and scaf and I hear someone getting their bike from the backyard.  joy, let’s leave now.  I still haven’t figured out how to exit the building on my own.  I grab my things quickly and she somehow opens the door, what a magical thing.  I walk over to the metro and put my amex in the machine.  it doesn’t work, so I try at the window, maybe the man will be able to help me.  I walk over to the window and am stopped suddenly in my tracks.  

the most beautifully handsome man looks at me with his big, shining hazel eyes and I communicate with him better in french than I expected.  d’accord, the machine doesn’t take amex.  I left in such a hurry to make the door opening, my other cards are back at the room, ok… let’s go back.  "come with me" I say to the metro man.  he throws off his uniform vest and picks me up off my feet and carries me back to the apartment.  we make sweet, beautiful love and he holds hands with me as we walk back to the metro station to continue our days.  I snap back into reality and back to my senses in the underground.  my short daydream makes me smile as I say 'au revoir' to the man with hazel eyes.  

I go back to my apartment alone and fuss around for a little bit, hoping for the faint sounds of someone exiting the building.  I head to the dreaded doors again, god.  no one’s coming in or out of the apartment building, as it's now past the time where the majority would be leaving for work.  I need to figure this out.  I message paul and ask him if there’s a trick to the door… no response.  I close my eyes and breathe.  I have been here already, I have done this already.  I do not believe time is linear, or how we see it at all.  

I stare aound the perimiter of the door.  b u t t o n… the thought pops in my mind.. I look to my left AHA.  a panel of buttons, I slap one, it’s a light.  the next, buzzz and the door opens, oh my freaking god.  some of the simplest things in life seem so difficult when we are focused on the problem and not the solution.  

I go back down to the metro and handsome metro man smiles at me.  I come over to him with cash (I know the machine will take this but am just looking for an excuse for him to help me and he most certainly doesn’t mind.)  he comes out of his booth and guides me over to the machine.  he helps me buy the carnet, a book of ten tickeets.  he looks at me with the brightest eyes as I descend down the staris. 

as the train arrives to the platform (rather quickly, I think the longest I waited for a train was five minutes, even at odd hours)  the train arrives and I depart for my first parisian adventure.  I get off at palais royal musée du louvre and make my way straight for the newstand.  “une cart” he points to a stand where several maps are diplayed.  I take one, cinq… I look at him blankly.  numbers have never been my strong suit.  ‘funf?’ he’s trying different languages now, this time in german.  it always amuses me where people believe I am from when I am not at home.  I realise now it's five dollars (I took a semester of german in university, the beginning was fun, but it got really difficult, really quickly.)  

I took my map happily away and began walking, my first mission of the day was to find a phone charger, second mission is a place to charge my phone, it’s at less than twenty percent at this point.  third mission is to find something to wear tonight, to the yann tiersen concert.  I realised quickly how extremely unhelpful a giant map of paris was, and paris is huge.   

6. find apple store? nope, I couldn’t do it, even with several kind locals (especially the girl at pret, who wrote down what to say and a good-bye hug) giving me directions.  for next trip, I know to buy any adapters and chargers before leaving home country.  I planned on purchasing at the airport, first not a smart move because it would have been three times the price.  second, I wasn't focused on anything except for finding my way to my new home once I landed.  

I walked down the streets that had higher foot traffic in hopes of seeing an electronic store, and alas, after about an hour of wandering around, I had found one!  mission number one of the day had been accomplished, and I was now reconnected with one of the most important things to me on this trip, my camera.  take as many photos as you feel like, but also remember the importance of seeing your experience through your own eyes.  feeling through your senses, listening to the foreign language and most importantly, slowing down, and breathing in your new environment.     

tomorrow is a different day

level two - find a grocery store

it seems like it would be a simple task to exit the building, something that you don’t really think about but.. nope.  took me forever and a day to figure this out, which I will explain in a later post. 

I found a giant pear and was excited to try it for breakfast the next morning (it didn't taste as juicy or sweet as a pear, I didn't care for it)  I’m super awkward, almost running my cart into a man.  fortunately, we all smile in the same language.  I wait on line, listening and watching.  even though I don’t totally understand the spoken language, I have a super power of reading body language very easily, in combination with some common sense- maybe I don’t understand ‘next please’ in french, but I’ve been to a grocery store before and understand the flow of conversation.  it’s my turn, I plop my basket on the mini conveyor belt and wait staring off into my sleepy mind. 

the cashier says something to me, and I have not a clue what it is.  the woman working next to her makes some motions to take my groceries out of the basket, oh shit I hope I didn’t offend her, I guess that's not how they do it in france, as I awkwardly and rapidly remove my items.  she does her thing with them and puts them to her right side, on another mini conveyor belt.  I look at the people next to me, they all have their own bags and are putting their food inside… shit, really.. no bags?  or the others are not buying as much as I am.  that’s better off for our mama earth anyway, I am happy to see this, but it doesn’t help me in this moment, I have a cart full of groceries to carry home. 

I pay and she moves on to the next grocery contestant, and I am standing there looking at all of my food in front of me.  how am I going to carry this?  gaaaahhhh, I look down and their is a reusable bag with a £.99 sticker on it, so I throw my hands in my pocket as I search for my change.  I have never seen any of these coins before, the cashier helps me out and at this point says something to the likes of ‘forget it’ gives me the bag.  she’s definitely annoyed with me and maybe feels bad for me.  I put my food in the bag like I am on a speed shopping tv show and run out of there, I am so frazzled and embarrassed.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, I was so overtired at this point and completely out of my element.  why did I think I could do this, that traveling to a foreign country alone was a good idea?  d’accord.  


I make some quinoa and ratatouille in a weird cut up pan pot without a handle and avocat, très bon.  this ratatouille so good, and completely worth the trip!  I could eat this everyday, what joy!   I climb up the lofted bed and pass out with a slight headache, fetal position- the first position our body remembers.  I have faith that tomorrow will be a better day, I mean it was my first night in a completely new place, did I expect to fit in right away?  yes, haha, well now I know.  don’t expect to fit in right away.   this world is huge and we are all living lives in a different reality simulataneously.  we are all here in this one minute of time together.  this unifies us, bringing our experiences to a collective one.  our differences are what make life interesting, life and exploration worth seeing and experiencing first hand.  I am filled with faith as I fall asleep that tomorrow will be a better day.  

what I learned - the french grocery stores I have visited do not take items out of the basket for you and do not give you plastic bags.  nor do many speak english, but they do have the largest wine aisle I have ever seen in proportion to store size.  I wanted was to grab some food before I went to sleep, wandering around the neighborhood of crimée I stumbled upon a brightly lit food shop close to the apartment I was staying, hooray.  their prices of food are SUPER, I was greatly surprised as I make my cart basket with £.99 three heads of lettuce, artichokes, avocats, beets, quinoa, quinoa, quinoa, jars of ratatouille which ended up being a staple, how delicious. 

digging deeper into the disorientation

my intentions are to take the train when I land.  I wander around for ten minutes at the airport looking for the trains or even a sign to the train.  I do not understand where I am going, or see anyone to ask.  I decide to get some water, I didn’t drink so much water on the connecting flight from reykjavik.  I stop at the shop in the airport and receive disapproving stares from blank eyes at the service counter for not speaking french.  I’m physically and mentally exhausted, and quite frankly, intimidated to speak the little french that I do know.  I have been practicing the language on duolingo for about a year and a half prior to this day, and in this moment I cannot recall anything.  I’m practically delirious right now- tired and dehydrated and confused.  I pour the water into my kanteen as I’m sitting, feeling extremely out of place.  I see a woman walk past in a blazer, skirt, tights and small pumps... she looks so sharp, she looks like she knows where she’s going.  

I feel defeated and decide to take a taxi.  I definitely don’t feel like wandering right now, especially not around an airport.  its no later than 2pm in paris and I am super ready for some sleep.  I step outside and light a cigarette, at least I’m not alone in smokng this french air, I’m trying to calm down as I listen to my thoughts, ‘you are fucking crazy, how did you think you were going to be able to do this?’  they don’t deter me, and I only partially believe them.  I am so disorientated. 

the warm sun is adding weight to my surprisingly heavy feeling bags- I tried to pack light, thank the heavens I left my SLR camera at home.  I meander in to the taxi line, listening to others communicate in their native tongue.  I realise I haven’t contacted well with paul, my airbnb host.  as the people in front of me fill the black taxis, I wonder how this is going to work out.  the most attractive cab driver I have ever seen waves for me to come, joy.  my french skills are now at a .5% as my mind enters a numb dream like state, real life is so much different.  he puts my bag in the trunk and I collapse into the back seat.  as he gets into the drivers seat- he turns around and says something while pointing at the door.  I give him a blank stare and a ‘désolé’  he repeats in english and I close the door all the way, phew.  let's make this a game, I made it through level one.   

I tell the driver the address of my host and he begins driving.  I am immersed in the city, how the outskirts near the airport are reminiscent of queens, the outskirts of the nyc airport.  I am partially panicking and partially shocked.  I can’t believe I did this.  I am here, and here for a while.  I tell the handsome driver that I have always dreamed about coming to paris and now that I am here, I feel like I am dreaming.  probably also because I haven’t slept in a very long time.  after a longer while than I anticipated and some frightened small talk, we make it to my new home for the next nine days.  

the driver gives me some advice: 

  1. take a taxi at night because crimée is a shady area

great! thanks for the reassurance, just what I wanted to hear.  it looks more safe than my neighborhood in brooklyn, the un-gentrified part of bushwick, so in retrospective it’s all relative.  

I get out of his audi and give him an (unknowingly) generous tip.  apparently, people don’t tip in europe.  

I had several minor panic attacks today, the mash up of saturday and sunday.  my body is confused with the changing times and the sleepless overnight flight. my trials birthed several desires- one of more peace and two of more confidence.  I have hope that tomorrow is going to be a magnificent monday, but today is undoubtedly a shitty sunday.  

what I learned-

1. prior to departing, resolve details with where you are staying.  literally, every single detail you can.  if you are not staying in a hotel, let your host know what time you are arriving and what time you are expecting to arrive at their home.  ask them if they will be there, and how to enter the building.  ask if there is a number button to press, any codes to enter in the keypad.  for me this was airbnb.  I thought that by looking up the neighborhood and putting myself in the vicinity of this, paul, my host, would magically pop up and greet me (not really, but I didn’t really think that far ahead)  as I realised I had no idea how to enter the building or what apartment I was even staying in, my phone had no internet access because I shut off my data, I was just confused.  at the front door there is a key pad with numbers, I believed at first it was a buzzer system with each number corresponding to a different apartment.  staring at the keypad I breathe and remind myself that this has already happened, I have already figured it out later in my timeline and I am most definitely not going to be standing here forever.  I start pressing all of the numbers on the keypage and hope that at least someone will answer.  nobody’s there.  I begin to walk and I see the audi that carried me here drive away.  shit, I hope he wasn’t waiting for me to get in.  well if he was, he would have been waiting a while.  oh well.   

2. I walk down the block to find a park, light another cigarette and try to connect to the free wifi, later do I learn it only works if you have a local sim card.  when traveling international, make sure your phone is unlocked so you can purchase a local sim card, this way you can use your maps and phone to even call your host (imagine that!)  I see a man sitting across from me eating an entire baguette.  I’m hungry.  children are playing in the park, I start walking back, hoping I will figure it out.  feeling extra delierious now and completely exhausted now, I just want to get inside.  I press the buttons again and look up and see 181.  shit, that’s not even the right building number.  all of these doors are blurring together and looking the same, my vision is fading out.  I walk to 179 and push a button and then I realise, these aren’t apartment numbers, it’s looking for a code to enter, omg.  I turn on my cellular data and I need to get inside.  I have an alert from airbnb- it’s paul.  he messaged me an hour ago to tell me hhe has a personal problem come up but tells me the two codes I need to enter the front door and vestibule door, and also where to find the key and which apartment is his.  AHA HALLELUJAH~  I struggle with the key door for a moment, c’est normal por moi... and the door swings open, holy shit.  I cannot recall a time that I have felt a greater sense of relief.  I inhale deeply, it smells kind of like a hotel, hm.  it’s small, but its my home for the next nine days.  I made it.  


3. "je suis désolé je ne parle pas français."

4. breathe and relax


the first departure

its raining, I have a feeling in my stomach... what is it? 

I put my hood up, my headphones in and light a cigarette finding shelter under the J train platform.  I’m ready to embark into uncharted territory... is this how marco polo felt?  I’m sure at least comparable, but not even close to say the least.  the train is ready when I am. 

I have plenty of time to make my flight to paris, even with typical MTA service interruptions.  I hop onto the shuttle bus to cross the williamsburg bridge.  I have a strong aversion to busses for some unknown reason, but popping on the bus this time doesn’t feel so bad.  I give my seat to a young girl.  I love children. 


as I pass over the water I wonder what adventure awaits me after what feels like forever I make it to union square. 

I need travel snacks!  one of my favorite parts of pre-travel.  a time to get excited for the journey that awaits.  a definite bridge into the unknown.  I speed walk down 14th street, it’s still misting, to my food mecca, hu kitchen.  100% organic, no sugars, no canola oil, no peanuts, no soy, no bullshit.  I love them because of their integrity to pure food, the way food should be.  I go to order some babaganoush and a salad and my love angelica is working.  she reminds me a lot of myself a few years ago. 

I wave down a taxi outside... I’m completely over the public transport system by now and I’m lucky as it’s raining and a cab comes over to me immediately.  it’s saturday afternoon, everyone’s inside.  “penn station please” as I prepare to take the NJ transit to newark.  he asks if I’m going to LI or NJ... “newark airport”  he pauses...

ahm, "do you want me to take you there?”

do I want to pay the price?  ermmm, I weigh the pros and cons for a brief moment, but once my mind settles on the fact that I’ve taken the NJ transit once before and got incredibly lost, I realise I don’t want to do that again, for it was not a simple ride.  I still need to exchange my dollars for euros though, which is right across from penn station. 

“just go to penn, I need to exchange money.”  he can hear uncertainty in my voice, and asks me again.  he takes me to a closer money exchange booth on broadway after calling them on his cellphone to make sure they are open.  as I’m about to exit the car, I wonder... is this a scam?  he seems way too nice, is he going to drive away with all of my bags?  I guess I don’t have anything too valuable in there, but then what would I do?  I am all packed and ready to go.  as I step out of the cab with the biggest breath of trust I can muster, I dash across the street.  as I wait behind the man in front of me, I turn around and see my cab driver, exiting the car and locking it… now I am confused.  what is this guy doing?  standing outside of his cab with his arms crossed.  he comes towards the entrance of the currency exchange and is standing there, watching me and in that instant I know he is protecting me.  as I finish, he shields me as if from a thousand bullets and escorting me from the window across the street.  he knew I would be an easy target walking out of a currency exchange booth.  I laugh to myself, at my luck and rightful paranoia as we sprint back to the locked cab. 

“thank you so much.”  I do the time math in my mind and relax knowing I still have an abundance of time.  his music sparks our conversation and our ride to the airport was shared with peace and compassion.  he spoke of his guru in rishikesh, whom he listens to with his family every sunday.  me and gaganjit talk about life, spirituality, india, ashrams and sadhanas and I feel so blessed to have hopped in his cab, for him to have chosen to pick me up, and for our paths to have crossed. 


there is no traffic at all, and he explains to me he was worried for my safety when I said I was going to newark alone.  an angel in passing, allowing me to feel more relaxed for my journey into the unknown. 

he drops me off at newark airport and I smoke another cigarette and light some sage as I make my way through security, starry eyed and blissed out from the magick that the universe has just surprised me with.  a positive promise to commence my voyage.