I went to Paris on a whim. One month earlier, a friend called me, casually asking if I’d like to join her in Santorini to shoot a wedding. Why not? I booked the cheapest flights I could find and found myself in a place I’d never been before, in a city I’d always dreamed about, for only 18 hours, before I was off to my next destination.
When the door to my Airbnb in Le Marais shut behind me, I realized that I had no plan. The last 5 months of my life had been filled with planning, pivoting and good old hard work. I graduated from college, applied to countless jobs, moved back home and ended up starting my own business. I was in a constant state of stress and dissatisfaction, keeping my head down and hustling hard until I found myself without a laptop in my lap or a phone in my hand and zero access to wifi. I finally looked up. And here I was, a girl alone in the middle of Paris with no plan, no to-do list, and nowhere to be but right where I was. I had unintentionally forced myself into being present. Once you get over the first moments of panic, it’s a freeing feeling to not have a plan. To have no expectations. Your brain is forced to pause and ponder. I took a big, deep breath for the first time in months. It was as if all of my senses were slowly coming back to me, one by one.
I walked aimlessly for hours. Window shopped. Ate a three course meal over a span of two hours at a real brasserie. I chatted with the Parisian girl at the table beside mine, exchanged laughs with my waiter and drank two glasses of the best wine I’ve ever had. I ducked into a cafe on a street corner as rain started to pour down, and slowly drank an espresso under the awning as life in Le Marais kept rushing on around me. It’s a refreshing experience, to feel so still while everyday chaos is going on around you.
Paris taught me to slow down when I am going through the motions at a thousand miles an hour. Since returning home, I find myself breathing steadily, eating slowly, and lingering longer on street corners to observe the causal wonderment around me. Sometimes all it takes is booking a ticket and escaping to appreciate home in a new light, even if there are no plans and for a mere eighteen hours. Most of us are just winging it, anyway.
Ashley O’Neill is the social media manager for KREWE. A New Orleans native, she’s instinctually creative, and has worked as an art director, stylist, brand strategist and occasional interior decorator. You can find her work at byashleyoneill.com, and keep up with her daily musings online as @byashleyoneill.