France for the frugal

Jayde Atchison (she/her) // Columnist

If someone were to approach me three years ago and say “everything happens for a reason,” I would have furrowed my brow and cursed them silently. When I was ensnared in the dark, I refused to look for the sliver of light that was around the corner. I firmly sat down and decided the bad news was going to be my new identity. It took a lot of growing up, a whole-a** pandemic and some great friends to help me see that nothing is for nothing. Travelling through Europe with only a carry-on and a handful of French sentences, solidified this ideology. 

Europe was a 2020 pipe dream that I had to let go of, and I hadn’t planned on resurrecting. In September 2022, I was meant to go frolicing through Disneyland with a friend for a week. I had the time off work, the flight loads looked good — but as the time came to book, her vacation request was denied. I had to think quickly and come up with a plan to not waste my week off sitting in my apartment. One of my neighbours was planning on going home to France to spend two months with her family, and I jumped at the opportunity. 

I asked if I could join her in France for a few days, as I knew I could get on a flight to Paris and find my way down to wherever she was staying. She agreed without hesitation and suddenly a few days in the south of France turned into planning out a night in Paris, a night in Amsterdam, four nights in Lisbon and several nights in different cities throughout France. We kept getting more enthusiastic about where we wanted to explore and revisit. It was not only an opportunity for me to revive my dusted dream of gallivanting through Western Europe, but it was also a chance for us to get to know each other. 

It was not just a gamble of seeing if me and this neighbour would get along while travelling, it would also be the first time that we would hang out just the two of us. Before hopping on the plane to Paris, I would have considered her a friend, but not a close one — because we hadn’t had much of a chance to learn about each other. It was simultaneously a risky move, and a safe bet. We both are honest women who don’t agree to things unless we truly want to do them. Deep down I knew that we would flow well together, even 7,916 km away from home. 

My gut was right because when I landed in Paris, I was greeted with a warm hug and an excited travel buddy. What truly tested our travel compatibility was when we were faced with an unplanned second night in the city of love. When we checked out from our Airbnb, we brought our luggage to a rent-a-locker station so we had less to drag around the cobbled streets before our red-eye bus to Amsterdam that evening. It was cheap, convenient and located close to our apartment (meaning we would remember how to get back to it). What we didn’t factor in was that the metro system is tricky when you’re running late, and Parisians are not flexible on time stamps. 

This was proved when we were sprinting past Notre-Dame, trying to get to the locker station before 10pm, yelling motivational chants as we looked down at my watch to see that the time was 9:55. We realized our cardio was in need of improvement  and we were losing steam in the final stretch. We got into the room at 9:59 and when we were trying to punch in the code for the locker, we got rejected and the PA system started to threaten us in French — we left dejected, and concerned because all of our clothes, documents, and medication were unavailable to us. However terrible we initially were frustrated that we couldn’t make it to our next location the way we planned, we quickly wiped the tears (me) and started contacting the bus company and hotels in the area (her). 

We both agreed that it was no one’s fault, and that this hiccup was not for nothing. Maybe we weren’t meant to be on the night bus for a variety of possibilities. We chose to look at it as a positive situation that we were happy to adapt to, instead of harping on a negative. Paris isn’t the worst place to get stuck in, and it taught me to be ready for anything while away from home. I also learned the hard way, that if you are short on time, grabbing a macaron on the Champs-Élysées isn’t the best idea. 

When things don’t go your way, it’s hard to see the benefit immediately — but plans being cancelled and changed: rejection is redirection. Take everything for what it might bring you, and make sure you have an “oopsie” fund ready for your trip. 

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