I got this idea from my good friend Molli at Once Upon a Prologue. She’s been doing letters to herself that are basically helpful blogging tips for new bloggers, or bloggers who might be looking for answers about certain things. I might do that eventually, but my first ‘letter’ is more personal. Please be sure to check out Molli’s letters, they’re super helpful!
Eleven years ago now, I was having the adventure of a lifetime. Ten days in France on a school trip with my best friend, Suleena. It was 4 girls from my school, plus our French teacher, and 25 or so students from a school three hours away, and their two French teachers. Suleena and I were inseparable, and when we found out about the trip, we knew we had to go. It was the best ten days of my life, and I always get sentimental on the anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been eleven years. At times it feels like yesterday, and other times it feels like a lifetime ago. I was ready to go back the minute the plane landed at Toronto airport, but I haven’t been back yet…hopefully someday soon!
This is a letter to my 17-year-old self. Knowing what I know now, this is what I would have told myself back then. Take from this what you will - amusement, sharing in my sentimentality, or maybe even tips for travels of your own.
Dear 17-year-old Marie,
You’re about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. This is your first time away from home without Mum, and your first time leaving North America. Here are some things you should know before you go:
|Pont du Gard, Nimes|
*Be fearless. You don't know it yet, but 6 months from now, the world will change in ways no one could have imagined. As nervous as you are to fly, it's a piece of cake compared to how it'll be after September, when planes fly into the World Trade Centre, and the world is changed forever.
*Take more pictures. The dozen or so roles of film you bought are great. The ones Cheryl will give you before you leave are gravy. But even the ones you run to the store to buy an hour before the bus leaves for the airport won't be enough. Take more. Even with the hundreds of pictures you plan to take, years from now you'll wish there were more.
*Buy more souvenirs for yourself. The stuff you get for family and friends is great, but years from now you'll wish you had more souvenirs to point at and say, 'I bought that in France'. That is, after all, why people showered you with Francs as gifts - to buy yourself things. Appreciate the gesture - it'll be the last time anyone gives you money to travel!
|The Louvre, Paris|
*For the love of god, get a fashion clue! How many times are you going to wear that white t-shirt with the sparkly orange seahorse? And that hair?! *sigh* Years from now you will cringe at your complete lack of fashion sense. Cringe, Marie.
*Despite the bad hair and poor taste in clothes, be in more pictures. Pics of scenery and landmarks are great, but hop in front of them. Be in more of those pictures. When you get home, the whole thing will feel like a dream, and you'll wish you had been in more of the pictures as proof that you were actually there.
*Embrace your independence. You'll do a fantastic job and be really proud of yourself, except for the time the chaperons try to separate you and Suleena so the two bitches from your school can share a hotel room, and you throw a tantrum and bawl your eyes out because you have to be separated from Suleena in a strange country. Your roommates will be nice girls - see it as part of the adventure. You've been attached at the hip to Suleena for over a decade - a few nights apart won't kill you, and you'll still spend every waking moment together anyway.
*Speaking of which...enjoy every single moment with Suleena. You always do, but really let it sink in this time. All the plans you have for the future, all the traveling you want to do together...it's not going to happen. You'll remain friends, don't worry about that, but things are going to change in ways you never imagined. You'll need to make a lifetime of memories in these ten days.
*You know that beautiful Eiffel Tower journal you bought specifically for this trip? The one you said you’d keep notes in and write in faithfully? USE IT. Write down all the things you see and do and eat and drink. Write down funny little anecdotes, and how much things cost, and the things you and Suleena do while you’re running loose on the streets by yourself and doing occasional questionable things. You’ll wish you had. Trust me.
|The Palace of Versailles|
*They warn you about pick pockets for a reason. Constant vigilance, Marie! (Sorry, that Harry Potter reference would be lost on you at 17, but had to throw it in anyway.) Some little dink on the subway in Paris will very subtly feel you up while trying to get his hand into the money belt under your jacket. You will be so surprised, you will smack his hand. He will yell indecipherable things at you in French, and you'll be afraid, but there's no need. It'll become one of your best stories in years to come.
Overall, enjoy every second of this momentous trip. Drink it all in. Savour it. Wring out every drop of pleasure. It will be complete sensory overload, but every minute of it will be amazing, whether you’re enjoying the mind-blowing views in Eze, climbing the 200+ stairs of the Arc de Triomphe, barely making it back to the hotel before curfew every night, peeing in a hole in the ground that constitutes a bathroom in Aix-en-Provence, or splashing in the Mediterranean Sea in Nice. Go wild, have fun, don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself a little bit - you’ll never see most of these people again! You’re so lucky. Some people never get to do this their entire lives, and you’re only seventeen.
Be good, be careful, be brave, be bold.