I spent the night at CDG airport in Paris on what was supposed to be the last day of my epic 2011 Eurotrip. I missed my return flight to Singapore that morning, out of carelessness and sheer stupidity. I booked another flight for the following day, and to be sure that I didn't miss the flight this time, I decided to stay overnight at CDG. There, in the quiet of the Parisian night/dawn, in the midst of the sleeping vagabonds and fellow passengers, I experienced some sort of epiphany. I was able to finally sit still and take in what had happened for the past 17 days, to finally distill the essence of this trip.
Here are the insights I gleaned from this adventure:
1. Missing train rides, missing long-haul flights, leaving bags or hats or other stuff, last minute change of plans or routes, and getting lost -- these are part of the journey. There is no point in being stressed about these things. Better to just get over it and move on to Plan B, and be excited that these happened. Makes the trip more interesting.
2. The ATM and credit cards are one's best friends in any trip. The mishaps of #1 were always solved by these two. Always guard them like a hawk. Adventures and further misadventures are made possible by these two enablers. At the same time, the use of these should never be abused.
3. Beautiful people are everywhere. For some, you need to take a second or third or nth look to see how beautiful a person they are. And when you see the beauty in their souls and hearts, tell them so. It lights them up even more.
4. In the same vein that there are beautiful people everywhere, there are ugly people as well. Ugly hearts abound. Racists, bigots, idiots are all around. You can choose to fight these people, or just walk away. I mean, you can't cure ignorance after all.
5. A genuine smile, kind words, and sweetness will always melt a surly face. I used these often during the trip, and most of the time got kindness back. It disoriented a lot of Europeans (especially in Paris) but almost always they would often break into a wide smile and become very nice. So never leave home without your smile and your charm.
5. Tourist attractions will always be crowded with, well, tourists. I only would budget a day (or a few hours) for this. Snap some pictures and the get moving. Try to hangout with the locals, those who know the city. Get in touch with friends, friends of friends, or attend couchsurfing meet-ups. Get tips from them, go where they go, eat what they eat, feel what they feel, and absorb the place through them. Try the local beverages and liquor, visit that small bar that only locals know, listen to the beautiful lilt of their language.
The magic of travelling. Once you get hold of it, it is the most wonderful feeling.
Almost at par with being in love.