Most people associate college spring breaks with beaches, road trips and lots of bro tanks yelling about that it is in fact, spring break. We think of memories blurrier than the pictures taken after too many shot-skis, and troubling headlines in the newspapers.
And while these are our years to get away with that, I’m excited to return from spring break with some of the best memories of my life.
Many of these are thanks to my best friend and travel partner, Kate. There’s something exciting yet comforting about traveling with people you know well- especially ones you have so much in common with. Morning runs or yoga sessions were a given, anything that was climbable needed to be conquered, there was an unspoken limit on the word “Wi-Fi”, and dessert was never debatable.
However, my favorite thing about Kate is her fearless and unique confidence. Although this applies to many areas of her life, her willingness to ask questions or make requests is what really stands out.
I have noticed this before, from the time when we were at a deli and she asked for a “baby bite” of a pasta salad, when I’m pretty sure samples weren’t suggested. Or the times my blood pressure has gone up after she has said the familiar words, “well I’m just going to ask.”
It’s this odd phenomenon that we are terrified of being shut down, or thought of as annoying. When did it become preferable to eat a subpar meal than to request a specialized order? When did you become more correct by avoiding a teacher’s gaze and keeping your arms glued to your sides, rather than risking saying the wrong answer? When did it become a safer bet to only talk to people you know, than potentially make friends by starting up conversations?
For Kate, the answer is never. And luckily, it’s a contagious mindset.
Many of our favorite memories, and people, from this trip all began with a simple ask- backed by confidence. Friends were made on walking tours just by asking someone where they were from. We slept peacefully in empty couchettes on our trains by taking up too much space or switching seats unapologetically. Locals showed us around Munich and treated us beer and pretzels after we asked if they spoke English. The list continues.
However fearless you are, the trickiest part of this mindset is having the confidence to not shut yourself down.
I haven’t seen the movie Taken, but from the amount of references it has gotten this semester, I feel like I have. From what I can gather, and from my interesting memories of each visit to Sacré Coeur, I feel like it would fit the scene well.
Rather than crying, panicking or staying at Sacré Coeur for the rest of the weekend, I decided to make my way back to Jenny’s apartment after a half hour of waiting to spot them.
Relying on my familiarity with the metro, my memory from running on the side streets that morning and meditative breaths, I placed complete confidence in my ability to get back to the other side of Paris. After studying the metro map, I sat peacefully, switched lines seamlessly, and only stress-ate one Ladurée macarone along the way.
Once returning to Jenny’s apartment building, I stopped a student leaving, explained the situation and asked if he could let me in; he sympathized and agreed to help. After discovering they still had not returned home, I went to the lobby and sat outside the elevator door. With little concern of how I would be interpreted, I asked every person coming through if they knew Jenny Pedriani.
They were all no-go’s but I learned a lot about where these strangers were from, what they were doing that night, and even helped a girl trouble-shoot after witnessing vandalism. She was very confused to find out later that I did not live in the building, or in Paris as a whole.
Even though we worry so much about how strangers will react to random conversations, it’s our instinct as humans to make connections. That’s why we can sympathize with the random girl asking where you live, or find similarities with said girl sitting on the floor of an apartment lobby.
Eventually, the first kind stranger returned, so I asked him if he had Jenny’s number. Once again, this gem pulled through and let me use his phone to let Jenny know where I was. I don’t know how Taken ends, but this was a rewarding reunion, especially considering we skipped the main plot of me being taken.
We’re able to enjoy so much more when we aren’t afraid to branch out, connect with so many more people when we aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, and learn so much more when we aren’t afraid to risk being wrong.
As the U and many colleges approach spring breaks, I suggest you take a page out of Kate’s, and now my, book and don’t hesitate to ask for a trip worth remembering.