It was only our second day in Paris, and we’d made it to the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysee, Tuileries Gardens, L’Orangerie, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, and too many cafes to count. It was time to get lunch in the Latin Quarter. Overwhelmed by the choice and my hunger, I started to panic (I’m fun, she sobbed). Sam helped choose someplace nearby and we were ready to rock and roll after a nice mid-afternoon steak – I love France.
I can be – how you say? – a bit of a headcase when I travel. I want to do everything, but I want to relax. I want to see paintings, but I don’t want to be stuck in a museum for 5 hours. I want to see famous resting places, but I don’t want to linger too long on my own mortality. I want to try every wine bar in the neighborhood, but I want to get up at 6 am to see the sunrise. I want it both ways.
Part of my self-care journey has been learning to accept that I am the way I am. There are things to work on and strive for, but some things are just a part of my personality. This trip, I wanted to accept that I am only adventurous to a point, and that I need to have my needs met to really enjoy the unique things Paris has to offer. Society often tells women that having needs makes them high-maintenance or needy. Breaking free from the burden of these labels, I decided to regard my impulses for a relaxed pace, regular meals, and plenty of cups of champagne as prerequisites for a great trip, rather than outrageous preferences.
Did I succeed? Of course not, but boy did I try, learn, and get better. The trip was beautiful, fun, romantic, and restorative, even when I sometimes struggled to take care of myself. Here are some strategies I tried out.
First, I tried to always verbalize my needs. I told Sam when I was getting too hungry to look at another tomb. I asked for naptime in our weird loft bed with the skylight. I requested a slower pace down cobblestone streets. Another thing I noticed myself verbalizing was apology after apology for these needs. This is something many of the women around me are working on. Most of the time, “I’m sorry” was unnecessary and triggered a bit of guilt in me – food for thought on my next trip.
Next, I limited the number of sites planned to two a day. Eiffel Tower and L’Orangerie naturally turned into Champs Elysee and the American Embassy, but having two clear goals meant we didn’t feel like we were missing out, and the rest was gravy.
Of course, when I needed a breather, there was only one thing to do: find une coupe de champagne. Breathing and relaxing while enjoying something so quintessentially French helped with our barking dogs (do we all know that means hurting feet? Is this a Midwest thing?), our sunburnt noses, and our non-stop sightseeing fatigue.
Finally, I practiced the ancient Martin family practice of the “No Thank You Pee.” This might be too personal for some. I ask that you come with me on this journey. In France, people queue up to use pay public restrooms that are hit or miss, cleanliness-wise. To avoid this, I used the restroom everywhere we had already paid to be: Museums! Cafes! Bars! Gift shops! If there was a free bathroom, I was checkin’ it out. This was my tour de French toilettes.
My last bit of self-care on this trip was choosing an amazing travel buddy. Whereas I struggled to remember how to pronounce bird (hint: it sounds like whazzzupppp), Sam spoke French even when they spoke English back to us. He illuminated the French practice of bringing you a check for your drinks before you’ve had a chance to contemplate a second round. He knew the subway system frontward and backward – but he still conscientiously checked the map. He reminded me to look in someone’s eyes before saying, “Santé!” This made the trip a lot more fun and infinitely easier. Sometimes, taking care of yourself means choosing people who care about your needs.
Now, I’m going to sleep for 36 hours. Santé!