It’s My Party I Can Be Alone If I Want To.
Studying abroad in Granada, Spain, definitely has its perks. The food is great (and really cheap), the tapas are free, and the clubs are always blasting the best Latin hits. As a result, after several weeks of enjoying all these amenities, I came to the conclusion that Granada was the perfect place to spend my 21st birthday in November. I had it all planned out a few weeks before the big day: I knew the place I wanted to go to for dinner with all my friends, I knew which club I wanted to go to, and I knew which late-night shawarma place I wanted to eat at after. However, the week before my birthday, I stumbled upon cheap, cheap tickets to Paris for the weekend. I mean, insanely cheap tickets, because normally, flights to and from Paris are some of the most expensive in Europe. I then asked my friends if anyone wanted to come with me so that we could celebrate there. Unfortunately, everyone had other plans that weekend and nobody could go. So I had to choose, do I go to Paris alone, or do I stay in Granada and celebrate with my friends? As the title of this post suggests, I bought the tickets, went to Paris, and figured the rest out later.
I remember getting into Paris late at night, not knowing a word of French (other than what Phoebe taught Joey in that one episode of Friends), and Googling “Top free things to do in Paris”. I knew I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and eat a crepe, but other than that I had nothing on my itinerary. With this rather flexible schedule, I was able to really explore the city and be spontaneous, discovering little gems along the way that I had no idea even existed. To me, this is one of the most liberating aspects of traveling alone. But more importantly, discovering what is new by yourself allows you to stop, think, and process what is right in front of you. Traveling with friends makes for great memories and unbreakable bonds, yes. However, from my time in Paris, I learned how much I can feel, truly feel. I know this sounds sappy, but it’s the truth. I remember a few instances of this, one of which was at the Louvre.
I decided to go to the Louvre later in the evening in order to get the student discount (duh), so it was as the sun was setting and the crowds were beginning to thin out. Before leaving, I made sure to go see the Mona Lisa, you know, the painting that was featured in Beyoncé’s and Jay-Z’s music video. When it was my turn to view it front and center, I just stood there, silently, not taking more than one or two pictures, just thinking. I was thinking about how this was the canvas that Da Vinci touched, how this piece has defined the study of art, how this painting is the gem of the largest museum in the world. When my turn was up, I moved out of line, and stood just to the left of where I was previously. I was there for around 15 minutes more, making sure I took note of every little detail, every shadow, every highlight. There was something just so powerful about this moment. For the past 21 years of my life, I have heard about this painting, seen it in movies, read about it in books, and known it to exist solely as one of those “wonders” that seem almost too mythical to be real. Yet here it was, and being alone allowed me to experience and explore all these nuances of emotion to the fullest. It was a moment that was unique, that was special, that was mine, and this memory was one of the most valuable things I could have ever received on my 21st birthday.
This post was contributed by David Zulli, a 2019 Global Ambassador majoring in International Relations and Global Studies and Anthropology. David is studying abroad on the AIFS: Granada affiliate program.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about David’s experience in Spain>>