After a wonderful send off at EWR I was on my way. The trip to Mauritius was going to be a much longer one than my previous visit, which was only 4 hours from South Africa. First I would fly 7.5 hours to Paris CDG, then a 12 hour layover until my 11.5 hour flight down to MRU. Here we go!
The first leg was fairly painless despite my lack of sleep. Even after a glass of wine and a bad movie, I was still playing the contortionist passenger game and flipping myself every which way to find a suitable sleeping posture. I arrived bleary-eyed in Paris at 7am and confirmed my flight to Mauritius would depart at 7pm that night. With plenty of time, I decided to leave the airport and explore the city. With the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo a few days prior I was a bit nervous to reenter Paris security with my drone and all of my other equipment, so I stashed everything in a locker and went out to cure my cabin fever & satisfy my craving for authentic Camembert.
The city was just waking up as I popped out of the Metro at Chatelet on the Seine. Having toured Paris previously, I decided to skip the Eiffel Tower and try my hand at the Louvre. It was freezing rain and I hadn't packed for winter, so indoor activities were crucial to this outing! After sourcing a consignment shop for a warm hat and an extra layer, I was ready to brave the Parisian winter. To my dismay, it seemed as if most of Paris' tourists also wanted to visit Ms. Lisa that day... it was a mad house. The bitter cold and wind abusing the square motivated me to make Plan B - the Picasso Museum. It was quite a long walk, so a stop for espresso and croissant were integral to completion of the mission. Revived and thawed, I wandered the quaint streets and eventually found the museum where I spent a nice afternoon with one of my favorite artists. It is a beautiful museum, with delicate architecture, a fluid layout, and of course, plenty of art to keep me entranced for hours. By the time I emerged it was nearing sunset, so my quest for cheese was accelerated. I got very lucky and caught the vendor of a small shop just prior to closing time. I procured quite a few delicacies to share with my Mauritian friends, and was off to CDG via St. Michel and the giant Christmas tree.
Security was light, which in the past has meant (for me at least) a bit more scrutiny. The drone drew no questions, but I was stripped of my Camembert treasure. No soft cheeses allowed?! The disappointment must have been obvious, because the sympathetic agent allowed me to at least try a chunk of that delectable cheese on my still-warm baguette before moving on. Ahh, protocol... As it turned out, I should have hung out much longer at security and finished that wheel, as my flight was delayed until 11pm. Instead, I curled up on my bag for a little nap. Boarding time eventually came, and I was off once again in the direction of summer...
After a wonderful July in Baltimore, it was time to find my next home. A friend in Philadelphia was going to be away during August and kindly offered her apartment. I was always curious about a life in Philly, so I packed up and headed north for a new adventure. I was familiar with the city having grown up 1 hour west, but was excited to experience life as a resident. A month in the 'big city' would be the perfect test.
I had no Philly clients, but within a few weeks I was offered short-term consulting work with a local non-profit. The position would mean a 3 month commitment - it had been a long time since I stayed in one place that long! But it was a great opportunity and the work sounded interesting. It would also enable me to work on a few other project ideas that had been brewing over the past few months. My friend agreed to having me around for a bit longer, so I decided to give it a shot and settled in.
It was a roller coaster transition. There were the wonderful things - reuniting with old friends, time with family, planning meals, geo-meetups, delicious craft beer, live music, and creature comforts like a french press and my own sheets. It was fun exploring Philadelphia, and it is a great city with much to offer - history, cobblestones, music venues, pop-up parks & beer gardens, yoga classes, art museums, the wonderful bike path along the Schuylkill River, new friends, train rides to my father's house, weekend festivals, & to ring in 2015 there was Mummers! It is a bikeable city with plenty of culinary offerings, and even 'bad' pizza isn't pretty darn good! Philadelphia is also accessible to the other east coast cities, and Baltimore was just a train ride or a Greyhound away.
Before I knew it, August became December, and my stay crept from 3 to 5 months. It was a new world - I was commuting to an office, developing a routine, making plans, and having friends and relatives ask questions about my future, weekend, work day, love life... I also came to realize that while I was traveling many of the people I love had moved onto a different stage of their lives. Weddings, engagements, baby showers, house-warming parties... there were many wonderful occasions, and I was grateful to celebrate with others. But these events also reinforced that I was becoming an exception. A single woman in her thirties without kids, pets, or a permanent address... I realized how much pressure we can put on ourselves to adhere to a certain lifestyle and follow societal norms. It was overwhelming at times. I don't even stay put long enough to have a house plant! I began to question things and to rely on the feedback loop. The confidence I gained and independence I cherished during my travels began to waiver. I missed meeting fellow travelers, trying mystery street food, being incognito, not understanding the language, and the excitement travel brings. I also missed warm weather - this was my first taste of winter in 2 years. Snow bird, I understand! When I hesitated to leave Philadelphia and follow some leads in Mauritius, I knew it was time to go. I needed to renew my faith in my own decisions, and continue to live my life the way that makes me happy and fuels my passion and love for the world.
My time in Philly reminded me of the reasons I travel and the relationships I cherish. I am grateful for amazing friends and family, and wouldn't be where I am now without their love and support. I had time and space to reflect on my travels and lessons learned. I was reminded to keep listening no matter where you are, and to find wonder in each day. In the end, do we ever truly know what tomorrow brings? What our partner, children, friends, or family will wake up thinking? If our job will be there in 6 months? If our health will? It is all the great unknown, and we can pay the final price only for ourselves. A wise friend told me that every day is a gift. I am grateful for each day, and believe that the beauty lies in how each of us choose to use that gift.
Today, I choose to find out why Mauritius beckons...
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference and a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born. A place to share stories, resources, and a way to inspire and support others in realizing their individual travel dreams.
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Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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