Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Comparative Metropolises

Three major cities in three countries in less than two weeks is quite an accomplishment to the average American. Not that it shouldn't be to anyone in general, but Europeans tend to be a bit more blasé about country hopping. You can easily drive a few hours in any direction and if not hit a new country, at the very least hit an entirely different region of your own. In America it's much trickier to accomplish this feat. Some states are larger than several countries combined, and even in the Northeast where you can hit several different states, you haven't made your way out of the country by far. There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to both, and for the determined traveler the main difference comes down to money. $300 can take you on a 6 hour flight from NYC to California and back, while you would be lucky to cross the Atlantic for that amount, only one way. While living abroad I am doing my best to make sure that I see as much as I can, though so far I seem to have mainly hit up places that I have already been to, and even lived in.

But rather than regret the fact that I have yet to really venture too far out of places I've experienced before (save certain parts of the South of France, though utterly determined to return and even live there some day!), I will relish in their comparisons. I lived in NYC for approximately 10 years, moving at least 12 different times at last count, haunting neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan for various lengths of time. It's a large, expansive, thoroughly overwhelming city, full of opportunity, adventure, and extraordinary intensity. I have yet to experience another city that is so incredibly crowded all of the time. Funnily enough, being in London again, though much quainter, more historic, and full of so many outlets of Anglophile joy that I have always shared, I was astonished to realize that on streets and avenues of far less concentration, I was repeatedly walked into as if I just didn't exist. When I studied abroad in London over ten years ago, I honestly can't say I remember this being the case, but this time around I was repeatedly challenged by people ignoring the laws of physics who unquestionably seemed bent on walking through my physical being. Though I have already mentioned my opinions on Paris in several past diatribes, I rarely feel the same pressure to fight for my space on the sidewalks in the City of Light. Equally as historic but more aesthetically pleasing for me, perhaps I make allowances for Paris out of sheer adoration. But who doesn't gloss over defects in the things they love, even cherishing their beauty?

New York is a city of grit and intensity for me, sprinkled with pockets of amazing accomplishment, fantastic friends, and ridiculous adventures, but one which I never quite knew how to master. London is a city of learning and education, where I can dance around in the worlds of Shakespeare and Harry Potter, The Beatles and David Bowie. Paris is a city of light and love where I continue to flourish and grow, honing in on the decadence I wish to share with the world. NYC is "Gangs of New York", London "Bridget Jones", and Paris "Moulin Rouge"... Take from that what you will...

I have noticed, however, that whenever I leave an English-speaking country, I tend to long for that location for a while once left. After a bit of reflection, I have come to the conclusion that it's not the city itself so much as the people and language. I adore learning French, but being such a communicative, expressive, emotional sort, I tend to feel rather suffocated when I can't articulate what I truly want to say. The people I meet, those who tend to know and love me best are often the ones who can comprehend my essence with or without words, but at the end of the day, I do sometimes wonder if half of what I say tends to lose its meaning when lost in translation. The good news is that I don't have to give up one language to learn another. And now that I have come to terms with the fact that I want a life where I can easily travel and meet new people while also visit and see the ones I love as often as I want, the challenge is now set... Live in France, get paid for writing about my adventures, and learn to apparate, right???

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