Packing Thoughts

Here’s another awesome post by our very own, Erin B., who is currently studying abroad in Rennes, France.

“Today’s update will be a short one, I imagine. It’s now somewhere around midnight, I’m wearing whatever clothes were left after the packing and the laundry, my room is looking oddly empty and smells of at least three different cleaning products. In a few short hours (in which I would like to think I’ll sleep, but between nerves, excitement and my poor track record with being able to fall asleep on a normal night, it’s far from guaranteed), I’ll start my 17-day-long Spring Break (read it and weep, American college students). This trip is something I started dreaming up with my mom only a few days after I accepted my spot in Rennes, when we saw that our breaks overlapped. Now, it’s turned into basically the coolest trip ever, with basically my favorite people ever.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll take an early-morning bus to Paris, then hop a flight to Budapest, Hungary where I’ll meet up with my mom. After spending the weekend in Budapest, we’ll take the train to Poprad, Slovakia, and then a rail car to the High Tatras Mountains where we’ll be exploring for three days before heading North to Krakow, Poland for our last stop. We’ll head back to Budapest for our sad parting after a week’s travel, but for me the trip won’t stop there. After flying back to France, I’ll meet my sister in Paris and together we’ll fly to Marrakesh, Morocco, where we’ll spend far too short a time wandering the city as well as touring the desert (yes, with camels). The final weekend of the break will be spent in Paris, before returning to real life and school in Rennes, but luckily I’ll be taking Liz along with me for a few days to show her my French home and help soften the blow of the end of what is looking to be a life-shatteringly awesome trip. 17 days, 2 relatives, 5 countries, 2 continents, 1 backpack.

Of course, this is all just the outline of the trip, and I expect, and hope even, that plans will change, we’ll get lost a few times, we’ll find something better than what we had planned. Luckily, these days I seem to be rather a jaded traveler, though I suspect it may have something to do with surviving travel with a horrible cold over the winter break and still managing to enjoy it. For me, travel has always felt a natural thing. When I was young, there was always some crazy road trip or other that we were going on, I never had the experience of feeling nervous for a first plane ride because I was too young to remember mine. From there, it took me a while to shift from “traveler” to “solo traveler” but after making my way to Malawi and back (heavily assisted, albeit), I felt much more confident in my ability to go it alone. And since then there’s been what felt like such a long gap in international travel, but countless flights to and from Austin that solo travel became second nature. Something I was surprised to learn transitioned very easily into “solo international travel”. Travelling is scary and confusing and exhausting and difficult. But for me the benefits so far outstrip the costs I’d chose travel over stability almost any day. I’ve spent years now studying the world and dying to travel not just anywhere but everywhere, and now, finally, tomorrow, I can do it. In fact, I must do it, no backing out now.

Now, imminent vacation aside, life here in Rennes has been really quite idyllic. The sun, for the most part, stayed around. I finished off the projects and presentations that were looming over my head, and now only a few more class meetings and the exam period remain. And, most significantly, I finally made the mental switch from “homesick” to “never want to leave”. There is, it seems, no in between. I’m not really sure what did it, but for so long I couldn’t shake the feeling of dissatisfaction with life in France. I had great friends, class was easy, things were good, but when you’re living somewhere different it’s so easy to be bothered by the little unfamiliarities, to yearn for what you’re used to. I missed Taco Bell and a decent milkshake and the bluebonnets in Austin. No matter how much I wanted to be present and enjoy the crazy experience that is study abroad, I felt blocked somehow. But one day, it just changed. I realized I have the entire rest of my life to live in America and eat Taco Bell, but I’ll only be here, now, with these people for another few months. After that, it became much easier to enjoy life here, but it also makes me much more aware of how fast time is passing. I am now, officially, not ready to go back. At all. Certainly, I’m still bothered by the dog poop on the sidewalks and my constant battle with the French language, but those things are sideline to the rest of the great things about my life here.

In the spirit of full enjoyment of living in France, I took a day trip recently to the near-by beach town of Saint-Malo. I had heard a lot of hype, but wasn’t really sure what to expect. Even though we only got to spend one afternoon there, I fell in love. Just seeing the ocean is a therapeutic thing, especially when you’ve been living in cramped little dorm room. The color of the water was incredible, dotted with tiny, rocky islands along the bay, each of which had some sort of fort precariously piled atop it. We arrived at high tide and immediately wrote off the possibility of being able to walk to the islands like we’d heard about. Instead, we walked on the walls of the historical city center and then spiraled our way through the city throughout the sunny afternoon. By about three or four o’clock, we decided to take another look back and the beach and saw that the tide had gone down more than we’d thought possible and there were even stone walkways appearing along the dried-up ocean floor to walk to the islands. We climbed up and down the ridges of the islands, saw mussels and tide pools, and stood atop Grand Bé, where Chateaubriand is buried, to take in a full view of the sea. With perfect timing, the rain we’d dreaded all day started as we headed back to the city, where we found a dry and warm place to eat some mussels as the end to our day. It’s probably not possible for me to be more excited for my trip, but I think at the end of this 17 day excursion, I’ll be pretty excited to come back home to Rennes, too.”

Thank you for sharing, Erin! We’re so glad to hear you’re making the most out of your time abroad!

If you want to read more about her crazy adventures, check out her blog:


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