Year Abroad in Retrospect, Part II
So, aside from the sexual evolution and realizing I’m my own individual – you know, separate from the opinions of others – these 365 days abroad offered an expansion of mind.
It’s an amazing thing stepping into another culture, realizing that everything you’ve ever been taught isn’t actually the norm. Traveling for an extended period of time, and being exposed to multiple perspectives and life philosophies allowed me to assess my own, and adopt new ones, sometimes eliminating old ones entirely.
Traveling offers a buffet of wisdoms. If you never move, your buffet is an assortment of what your parents, family and friends lay out for you. And if these people also haven’t dabbled in the art of cultural exploration, there’s a good chance that buffet will be fairly similar in colour and texture; offering very little diversity. This makes for some limited pickings.
Now, if you’ve had the opportunity to immerse yourself in lifestyles beyond your own, that buffet expands, and you begin to have more choices. You choose what best suits you based on the additional experience and exposure you’ve had. This is a great way to challenge belief systems that have been engrained by society.
A few of the greatest shifts I underwent during my year abroad include the following…
Is this one really a surprise? The education around food in France was shocking to me. As a Canadian-American this took a lot of adjusting.
“You mean I can’t just go out and buy chips and dip when I feel like it?” Probably one of the most frequently asked questions Master J received during the year. I was flabbergasted that I couldn’t just eat, you know, when I wanted to. I think the most incredible part of seeing the French routine around food was that, it didn’t matter whose house you were in, the structure was the same:
Breakfast was usually something small, like a yogurt and fruit, cereal, or, yes, croissants and other sweet pastries.
Lunch took place between noon and 1PM. Regardless of what the main dish was, the meal always included salad and bread, and the occasional glass of wine (depends on the family and/or the occasion).
Dinner was eaten around 8PM every night, and similar to lunch regarding portions and quality.
Lunch and dinner were always followed by cheese and the optional fruit. The products were always fresh, and cooked for a minimum of an hour. French people know how to take their time and use whatever is available to them to make delicious meals!
But in addition to all of this, there was no snacking in between meals. Seriously. Zero. Snacking. And their products (specifically meats and dairy) had no added shit (antibiotics or steroids).
Through food alone, my body found its natural weight and maintained it throughout the majority of the year (minus a few months I spent in the mountains, where I consumed copious amounts of cheese…mmm!). I’ve always struggled with not having a clear complexion, as well, I have strong body odour. Both of these issues disappeared after just a few months in France. I’ve been home for only a few weeks, and they’re already resurfacing (joy!).
There’s so much I could harp on about regarding this topic, but the basic message I took away about food during my time in France is this:
My fellow North Americans, education on nutrition is lacking, hard! We live in a society of convenience. What happens when there’s no education on what should be going in your body and when, combined with 24/7 access to cheap, junk food? You got it, the highest rates of obesity in the world.
So, I’ve adopted the French way of eating. Three times a day; however, I try my hardest to stay away from meats (especially red) while in my home country.
Sex, Friendship & Exes
Alright, switching gears on this one…
Maybe it was just the people I surrounded myself with, or perhaps it was the messages I was receiving throughout my childhood…
But I was always told there were two kinds of people I could NEVER be friends with, especially when in a relationship:
Exes and past lovers (one night stands, friends with benefits, etc.). If French culture taught me anything, it’s that this is sheer bull shit.
The number of people I’ve since met who not only still speak to their exes or past lovers, but actually hangout with them WITH their current lover is astronomical compared to home. People (and don’t get me wrong, I once existed in this category, too) are so afraid and jealous of what “being friends with an ex” might mean, they eliminate the option altogether.
The thing I’ve learned about this is, quite simply, we have the right to make mistakes in life. What I mean is, there have definitely been men in my life who I’ve had romantic relationships with, only to discover that we were much better (and much more compatible) as friends. But, because we had sex, we cut all ties. Think about the awesome humans I probably missed out on getting to know all because our encounter went a step further than it should have.
Now, I used to be a jealous person, so I can understand
the insecurities that can arise from this, but the truth is if you have a solid foundation with your current partner, past sexual experiences should not be an automatic threat to that. In fact, it should be the opposite. If you had sex with someone and aren’t having sex with them anymore, there’s probably a good reason for it. Isn’t that a very good indicator to your partner that something wasn’t working? Now of course this is oversimplified, because there are a lot of elements being overlooked (like maybe your ex stalked you for six months, or took your cat hostage because they wanted to see you again…), so, for the sake of this post, I’m speaking between fair, respecting, trustful and loving parties.
Let me give you one personal example of this. When I met Master J, he was sleeping with a woman he’d met through a friend. They were having some kinky sex, and even went further in some areas than I’m willing to go (ooh, good topic for another post!). A month or two after Master J and I had been dating, I’d discovered that he’d slept with her the night we met. For some reason, at that time, this broke my heart. Blame it on the baggage I was carrying from past relationships, whatever, all that mattered then was he’d somehow betrayed me. That’s honestly how it felt.
Of course, as time went on I’d let it go. Forgotten about it. That was until they started working together. It was inevitable; I’d have to meet her. I was a bit nervous, on edge; I’ll be honest, my guard was up. But you know what happened? She turned out to be a cool fucken human. We drank and danced, and she quickly became a woman I was fond of, not just some lady my Master had fucked before. Now, to give some defence, she was also French and had no hard feelings towards me either – like, for example, that I’d stolen Master J. That could have very easily been her mentality, but wasn’t. She understood it was sex, and since he’d found someone, that part of their relationship was over, and therefore another kind would begin: friendship. She wasn’t malicious or manipulative or looking for trouble. She was chill, easy and the situation was a positive one.
So, now if ever I start feeling jealous or uneasy about past partners of Master J’s, I see it as an opportunity to get to know a part of him that I otherwise wouldn’t; as well, a unique way to make friends. And, if we’re really lucky and connect very well, maybe just ask if she’d like to take him for another spin (and…can I watch?).
365 days is now behind me. I can actually speak (some) French – coming from the girl who nearly failed French in high school! – and truly believe I’ve come out a much more open and strong person.
You won’t find regret in travel.