A very quiet Rennes 2 Campus

Misadventures are inevitable. Just like at home, shit happens. &, just like at home, you can’t really plan for it. Instead, expect that things will go wrong & prepare for how you will deal with them. Learn from my mistakes.

I’ve done a reasonable amount of travelling, most of it on my own. I’m only now starting to do some travel with others & enjoying it. As I’ve mentioned before, I think travel is incredibly important & I think travel on your own can be invaluable. I personally learned a lot & a lot of that is because I wasn’t fully prepared. I had a lot of growing up to do when I first went travelling.

I’m going to take a bit risk here – the risk that you may think I’m a bit of an idiot for some of these mistakes I made while abroad. That’s a risk I’m currently willing to take though. For one, they happened long enough ago that they’re now funny & for another, I learned a lot from each of them.

As I’m a fairly long-winded storyteller, I’ll be splitting these stories up. I don’t want to overwhelm you too much with all of my silly stories. Here goes with the first…

The view from my residence

The first time I left North America was in 2005. I’d been dreaming of spending a semester in France & it finally happened. My parents were to meet me in Paris a few weeks after my arrival in Rennes, but I was on my own flying to France, catching a train to Rennes, & figuring out this little french town that would be my home for the next six months.

I really thought I was prepared. I’d read about Rennes a million times & I’d looked at maps of the area near the University where I’d be living. I didn’t print any maps though & smart phones weren’t exactly commonplace. Was Google Maps even an app yet? I’m not sure that it was.

Anyway, I missed the 9am train to Rennes by a few minutes when I arrived in Paris so I had a few hours to kill at the airport before the next train. I found some food & wandered the airport before settling in to wait for my train. I was too excited to sleep so by the time I arrived in Rennes, I’d been up for well over 24 hours.

Place St Anne

Rennes has this incredibly efficient, albeit tiny, metro system. It’s awesome & extremely easy to navigate, so I found my way to Villejean, the area where I’d be living, without incident. I also easily found the University, but since it was a Saturday, it was closed. Unlike so many other exchange countries, no one from the Université de Rennes 2 would be there to meet me either. I was on my own to figure everything out, something that I’d expected, but was not the least bit prepared for. Could I remember the map for the life of me? No. Were there any other students around? Of course not. School wouldn’t officially start for another 2 weeks so, as I’d later find out, there were only a handful of exchange students scattered around different residences nearby.

I started wandering, figuring I’d run into my residence eventually. I probably wandered for forty-five minutes, lugging close to fifty pounds worth of luggage, before I swallowed my pride & decided to ask for help. I fluently speak French so this shouldn’t have been an issue, but I probably didn’t ask very clearly for what I was looking for so the only response I got was that there was a pay phone down the street. Little good that would do me since I didn’t have the proper card to activate a French pay phone.

Metro République

The combination of lack of sleep, being abroad for the first time on my own, & feeling like I’d already failed just a few short hours into my séjour lead to this scene: a blond (very, by french standards) 19-year-old girl in lululemon sweatpants & pumas, sitting on her giant suitcase, crying in the middle of the sidewalk.

I let myself feel wallow for a few minutes before picking myself up. It was time to find somewhere to sleep that night. I headed back into the centre & found a hotel, leaving the search for my residence for the following day, when I’d be clearer headed & fifty pounds lighter.

When I returned to Villejean the next day, I got off the metro & immediately, clearly, saw the residence building. It was literally right in front of me, plain as day.

So what is the point of this ridiculous, long-winded story? Was I just a foolish, young kid? Probably. In fact, I was most definitely young & often, quite foolish too. But there are three things I’ve taken away from that day (three main things, at least).

Rue St Michel, Rennes – all bars

The first thing is that it’s okay to ask for help. The thing I didn’t realize at the time was that I was completely overtired & desperately needed directions. At the time though, I was fiercely independent (Obviously – I moved to another continent by myself…) & hated asking for help. I saw it as a sign of failure. But I should have asked someone for help long before I’d reached a point of feeling so completely lost & exhausted.

Next, anytime you panic, you inevitably make the situation much worse than it needs to be. There’s no point in panicking about something you can’t do anything about. So try not to (I realize that can be nearly impossible sometimes. It’s something I’m still working on too).

Lastly, you’re going to get lost. Embrace it. Yeah, getting lost while you’ve got all your luggage with you isn’t great, but it’s bound to happen. Get a little bit comfortable with being uncomfortable. Getting lost has become something I actually enjoy about travel. Perhaps not while I’ve got all my luggage with me, but one of my personal favourite things to do now is just wander. Funnily enough, that’s actually the meaning behind the name of this blog – Au fil de mes balades, which roughly translates to while I wander.