France, Inside My Head

Paris Then and Now

11 Comments 28 September 2010

Summer in Paris

I arrived in Paris in 2002 – it was the first time I set foot in Europe and only the 3rd country I had visited overall with my first passport. Paris was new, exciting, and scary to a novice traveler like myself. I traveled with two girlfriends, Angie and Veronique, before the term ‘girlfriend getaway’ was even coined. Angie and I had recently broken up with our boyfriends and used the 11 day trip to heal the emotional void up with crepes, wine, and shopping; the best kind of boyfriend breakup therapy around!

In 2010 when I stepped off the train from Brussels and into Gare du Nord, I looked around and just smiled. The last 8 years had brought on many, many changes; I found my self in the same exact train station I was in 8 years ago an entirely different person. This 36 hour trip to Paris was supposed to be a photographic trip for me; a little quick getaway from my house- sitting responsibilities in Brussels made possible by a very fast train and a willing couchsurfing host. I had come to photograph Paris since my first trip to Paris consisted of no photography; my life behind the lens has been a rather new development in the last 8 years.

Announcing my arrival

As I looked around the train station with my little daypack and SLR camera, I was transported back to that first trip to Paris; the memories came flooding back and my brain churned through the changes that had taken place in my life. As I walked around Paris with my camera I couldn’t help but contrast the then and now.

Then: I had every second of the trip planned. Hotel reservations, car rentals, sites, tours, and even restaurant reservations.
Now: I had organized a couch to surf on for one night. My only plan was to simply wander and take photos; I didn’t even have a map. . I went into local grocery stores and bought food for a picnic. I sat in parks and simply soaked up the atmosphere. I took my time, I thought about things, I let Paris sink in

Then: I stayed in nice hotels, went to trendy clubs, and shopped until I could fit no more in my oversized suitcase.
Now: I travel with a small backpack. I couchsurfed at a French woman’s apartment, slept on her futon, and played with her cat. I took her out to eat at a simple, local restaurant. I never set foot in a store.

Then: I packed high heels and makeup in my suitcase.
Now: I have tennis shoes and sunscreen.

Then: We took taxis to get around Paris and occasionally used the metro system. However it was the first time I had really used a metro. It was confusing and I had to pay a fine because I lost my transfer ticket.
Now: I quickly adapted to the metro system using it as my primary source of transportation to get around.

Sacre Coeur

Then: I bought souvenirs
Now: My photographs are my souvenirs.

Then: I mourned my relationship and mended a broken heart.
Now: My relationship is with my passport. It never breaks my heart.

Then: I carried a disposable camera
Now: I carry a DSLR with 3 lenses, filters, and a point and shoot camera.

Then: I let my friends make the decisions of what to do and where to go. I was a travel novice and simply followed their lead.
Now: I travel solo because I honestly like making all of the decisions now. I have a very specific way I like to travel, and specific things I want to experience.

Then: I devoured crepes and never set foot in the Louvre.
Now: I devour crepes and still didn’t go to the Louvre.

Then: I had no idea how my life would transform into what it is today.
Now: I have no idea what the future holds.

How have your travels changed over time; please share some of your ‘Then and Nows’ in the comments!

Your Comments

11 Comments so far

  1. Kaitlyn says:

    Love this post. It reminded me so much of my time doing a photography study abroad in Paris 5 years ago. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Jen Laceda says:

    My first trip to Paris was ’89, then ’95, then ’96, then ’04, then ’09.
    ’89 – I was 16, no boyfriend but in love with Paris. I travelled with my mother.
    ’95 – Still in love with Paris, had a boyfriend break-up and I travelled solo.
    ’96 – Still very much in love with Paris, still no boyfriend and I travelled solo. Again.
    ’04 – Returned to Paris very much in love with my new husband. Travelling a deux!
    ’09 – In Paris again. This time, I am wife to a good man and mother to a good daughter.

  3. T-roy says:

    Wow loved the photos on this last trip girl! Stunning and can see your work getting better and better all the time. I esp liked the last photo, colors, light, everything just came together and it looks great! I want to see more!!! jajaja

  4. Alison says:

    What a great post Sherry! The way I travel has changed so much since my first trip to Europe too. I definitely relate to your first point. I used to schedule every second. Now I go with an idea of what I’d like to photograph and an open mind. Some of the best moments have been those I never would have experienced if I was on a tight schedule.

  5. Rodney says:

    I stumbled upon your blog last week and I totally loved this story. I’m a photographer as well and in process of embarking on a similar journey, so I found your post today particularly engaging. Thank you for sharing it.

    I think it’s very poignant to come to the realization that we discover more about a destination (which it’s never really about) as we learn more about ourselves when we travel in this unhurried and unplanned way.

    Bravo!! You’re inspiring many, you certainly inspired me.

  6. Alisha says:

    What a lovely post. I am considering Paris for my 30th birthday. I wasn’t sure if I would want to venture Paris alone since it is known to be the epitome of a romantic city. Thank you for helping to remind me that my passport will be just as good of a companion, and in fact, will never break my heart.

  7. Mark H says:

    I think back and almost shudder at some of my early approaches to travel – rushing from spot to spot, city to city with little chance to enjoy the culture, people and ambience of a place. I am so glad that I quickly learned to slow down and take my time and simply enjoy without a very clear schedule. Your beautifully written article captures those thoughts so well and ironically Paris was the first overseas city that I ever explored. I am so glad that I have returned a few times since and truly enjoyed this truly wonderful and expressive city.

  8. Jools Stone has just guest posted on my blog with an article about Paris … he seems to share your love for the place but is still a little confused, I think:

  9. Veronique says:

    your pictures were stuck on your new york fridge door between, I suspect, a 1-800 magnet and a cheap souvenir one. You’d glance over it saturday morning with coffee.
    your pictures are absolutely gorgeous and inspiring, they delight us all around the world, anywhere anytime and no need for a fridge!

    You had friends who loved to travel with you.
    You have many more friends who do travel with you.
    Some just drink more wine.

    So the good things stay, the better things improve… I could continue the list forever!

    Bien le bonjour d’ici,

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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