By Erica Rakowicz

I’ve met a number of people, terrified to do the things they want to for fear that failure will cast a dark and visible shadow over the rest of their time on Earth.

This fear is paralyzing and can truly hold us back from reaching our fullest self, a self that can be found during our youthful years. The early 20s are inviting. The years beg us to make changes to our surroundings in building for the future, urge us to stomp around the outsides of our comfort zones and dabble in whatever we’ve thought about for more than a second’s time.

I envision my excuses for staying put, sometimes on my basement couch, as these ropes that keep me stationary and tied down. This makes me think my excuses are justified, because, I really just can’t move. There’s too much here. That rope holding my arm down is my bank account, the other rope straining my ankle is my parents, and that rope around my waist is my shy and reserved nature, pleading that I stay holed up watching movies instead of doing something I’ve always dreamed of but never tried to implement.

These figurative ropes that tend to tie us down are just that, they’re figurative. What better way to break the figurative ropes than travel? What about traveling across the world?

It’s easy to be afraid of leaving your comfort zone in a setting where you are comfortable, aka where you live, where you flock often, etc. If you take yourself out of that zone, to let’s say, Paris, you’ve got to adapt to the culture, the area and your new “zone.”

Paris is another world it seems. Everywhere you turn cobblestone roads wind thinly through ancient buildings and berets rest on the heads of locals (and goofy tourists). Both images help you finish that picture you painted in your head of Parisian life. People even dash through the streets gripping two or three baguettes in an effort to make it home or to work in time.

It’s rare to see Starbucks or an equivalent in the heart of Paris. Parisians have time. If they don’t have it, they make it. They sit down to enjoy coffee, espresso, perfected cappuccinos and whatever else is worthy of a window conversation shared between new and old friends.

The languages and acceptance nearly pour out of the Eiffel Tower, especially when you see the rest of Paris by elevator ride to the top. The Sacré-Cœur and Notre Dame hold a history of memories in each pew and brighten visitors with the stained glass windows when the sun beams through.

The Louvre overflows with art of all origins, depicting a time much simpler than the one we live in. The architecture of the building itself tells a story, interesting enough to spend an entire day in the hallways and in the courtyard gazing at the brilliancy.

History is appreciated everyday by locals and tourists alike by walks along the Seine and across the Love Lock Bridge. The Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe center the busiest area of Paris, giving way to elegant shops and breathtaking sights that can barely be marveled at in a single day.

Montmartre is an art-infused neighborhood atop a hill with magnificent views of the rest of Paris. There was even a man feeding pigeons out of the trunk of his car. Walking on the same streets Salvador Dalí did is something of an empowering feeling. Seeing his art in the windows and galleries along the way is a reminder of inspiration and creates adoration for artists from the past.

Paris is culture. Being in Paris isn’t comfortable. Cars drive on a different side of the road, people speak another language and they speak it at what seems like lightening speed, and the métro is sometimes impossible to navigate. The roads, like I mentioned before, wind beautifully, but they’re tricky, too. It took me until my last day in Paris to realize the street signs are on the building edges, and no streets are truly corners, they’re more like curves. Asking people where things were using my high school level French pronunciation, “Où est le métro?” was initially embarrassing, but if you try and you’re kind, people will point you wherever you’re asking. Sometimes, if people see you struggling with your métro map in the middle of the sidewalk, they’ll come up with a smile and offer help.

My comfort zone in Paris was my hotel room, where I had wifi, and was able to check my email and FaceTime with my parents. The excitement I felt was when I left that closet-sized room, and entered another world, without the restraint of those ropes that tied me down at home.

If you can, but won’t, leave your excuses behind, I ask you to try. You might (and you will…Tom can only get his heart broken so many times before it gets old) regret watching “500 Days of Summer” 50 times in your basement, but you won’t regret gaining new experiences from a special form of adaptation. 

Travel while you can. Don’t wait until you have a hip and knee replacement that won’t permit it. Now that’s a valid excuse.



Comfort zones and different time zones