Within two days of ending my teaching assistant job and the appropriate celebrations that ensued, my mom was set to arrive at 6 a.m. in Charles de Gaulle and I was ready to meet her. We had planned her trip to France months ago and I thought playing tour guide and translator would be a welcome change from the normal town-wandering, McDonalds-line-waiting, flashcard-making schedule I had set up for myself. The year had been spent going around Evreux and France completely on my own or with like-minded friends who were my age, willing to pub crawl and line up for museums the next day. Bring on the family, I thought. I was excited to hang with people who had known me for longer than seven months (although I love y’all, Eure assistants! Shoutout!) and prove just how many curse words I had built into my repartee (years of education, finally paying off).
What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer length of family vaycay time I would actually rack up by the end of my Euro-tour. After my mom bid au revoir after 8 days touring Normandy and Paris, I was riding the RER to find my dad and older brother a few days later to hang in Paris for a few days until my older sister arrived and we embarked for Berlin, Krakow, and Vilnius (in-between was a short trip to Bordeaux with my friend Megan, who had lived in Evreux, too. If France had become my home, in a sense, then the assistants I worked and lived with became my family, in a sense, so it isn’t a stretch to include this trip in family-vacationing, but still).
I had forgotten how different it was to travel with the people who raised you. More explaining buildings, more restaurants, more embarrassment when your dad asks for ice and beers with the same vocal speed and familiarity at his neighborhood bar, less lingering over a single coffee in a cafe, no need to walk around and around town so you get back to your hostel bunk at an hour late enough to fall asleep, more excitement when you see somebody else seeing Paris for the first time, more inside jokes with your siblings, more insulting each other over Google translate in a rented Berlin apartment, etc. It requires a reconsideration of how you typically move: alone, I could quietly haul my wheeled bag or hiking backpack among crowded trains and stuffy hostels without complaint. On my parents’ respective trips, I realized I should have scheduled less trains and more time for relaxing. I wondered if rented apartments, gloriously outfitted with kitchens and maid-free, were the best pick for everyone. I discovered how pleasing everyone becomes increasingly difficult the more people you have & the farther you get from your home base. There were some surprises: I looked towards a 14-hour trip from Paris to Berlin in a 6-bunk sleeper car as certain doom for my six-foot-six father, but with creative seating, Polish vodka, and a deck of cards, the trip (the first half, at least) was a a hit.
As with most things, everything — that whole month from mid-April to mid-May— was totally worth it. Ending the year with my family in tow was stressful, tiring, wonderful, and the only way I could have seen myself out of this experience. It feels like it was a million years ago already.
*the adjective foreign should be taken lightly, as France doesn’t feel like a strange place to me anymore. Snaps.