A few weeks ago, a fellow TAPIF assistant and blogger, Anne à l’aventure, published a post about reasons NOT to travel, which got me thinking… It may not be a popular opinion, especially in the Instagram Age where #wanderlust is the most noble of ambitions, but I am increasingly coming to terms with the notion that I’m simply not cut out for the “traveller lifestyle.”
One look around my bedroom will tell you why: I have only lived here six months and already my walls are covered in postcards, train tickets and children’s drawings. Dozens of books are stacked on the floor next to the slowly growing pile of flashcards and worksheets used at school. Markers, pens, post-it notes and girl scout cookies clutter my desk and my window sill is home to not one but two plants. This is not the kind of place that you can easily pack into a backpack.
Cultural exchange, discovery and exploration are extremely important to me, but equally so is having a place to belong, a home base. It’s really easy to feel like every weekend spent watching Netflix at home instead of jetting off to Rome, Bordeaux, or Brussels is wasted, especially for us Americans who should be profiting from our time in Europe. But honestly, I love my casual, low-key weekends; these moments of pure ordinary life will be some of my most cherished.
So, in that spirit, I would like to propose my list of Five Things to Do With Your Free Time Instead of Traveling:
1) Watch a movie! Chambéry especially has tons of cinemas that frequently change their lineups. We’ve managed to see a few Oscar winners and some French movies as well. As an added bonus, it’s a fun way to practice your language skills, whether you choose to see a film in French or with French subtitles. That’s how we learned while seeing Birdman that one translation for “redneck” is paysan bronzé (literally tanned peasant). Or you can watch a movie at home. Maybe it’s just the people I know, or because Americans in general consume ONLY American media, but my European friends have a much wider knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish and even English-language film than me. They’ve introduced me to films like Sept Femmes, La Vita è Bella, Caro Diario, Los Amantes Pasajeros, and several more truly great film experiences. In return, I’ve introduced them to Spice World and Life Size.
2) Be a tourist where you live. I’ve spent a fair amount of time scrolling through the tourism website to find “must-see” recommendations. In Savoie, this mostly consists of different hiking trails, but I have been repeatedly amazed by what we’ve found right in our own backyard! Charming parks with waterfalls, personal guided tours of the Natural History museum, sprawling views, painted buildings: it’s there and all you have to do is find it!
3) Share a meal. Splurge a little at a local restaurant that serves regional specialties. Have a picnic, or split groceries for a proper dinner. I’ve spent hundreds of evenings in the company of wonderful friends sampling Italian, American, Costa Rican, Spanish and French foods. Nice for your wallet and your stomach!
4) Take a day trip. I wasn’t sure this necessarily fit under the heading of “non-travel activities” but since it involves sleeping in your own bed at the end of the day, I’ve decided to include it. France’s rather extensive (and rather inexpensive!) train system makes traveling to nearby cities so easy. And you don’t even need to go with the intention of being a tourist in this new city; I am unashamed to say that I have taken an hour-long train to Lyon with the sole purpose of eating Mexican food and seeing Interstellar in VO.
5) Do nothing. Seriously. Don’t feel guilty about closing your bedroom door and cuddling under the covers with a book or season 3 of House of Cards…We all need to rest sometimes. The most surprising part of my first experience with living in a foreign country had nothing to do with cultural differences but with how tiring it was to live in an immersion environment. It’s impossible to imagine how much energy it takes to achieve that extra amount of attentiveness while listening, not to mention contributing to a conversation in a foreign language! 8 months later it’s become much easier, but I still need to take a break from time to time to relax into the ease of my native language.
To summarize: The trips around France and Europe that I’ve been able to take so far have been wonderful, and I am positively brimming with excitement for our planned April vacation trip to Portugal and Spain, but ultimately travel is exhausting, and my job is exhausting and I don’t like to be exhausted all the time. I had enough of that in college. I would much rather be unstressed and having fun at home, than be grumpy while on my Grand Tour. Besides, every “bucket list” item that I don’t cross off this year is only further motivation to come back!!! ❂