How Traveling to France Made Me Appreciate Public Transportation
by Anjali Patel
When I traveled to France over the summer, I was definitely expecting to see the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre, and view all of the famous architectural sites. Although these typical tourist attractions were breathtaking, their images on travel brochures and websites have been so prevalent that they almost seem mundane in real life. During my eight day stay in Paris, I grew a strong appreciation and love for public transportation.
Being from suburban New Jersey, the only public transportation I rely on is the school bus. Besides the occasional trips to New York City, I rarely take the train or the subway. However, in Paris the metro was what we customarily relied on. Purchasing extra metro tickets, reading off of the maps, and tightly holding onto the poles during the actual ride were normal practices that we pursued. I can safely say that I am not the best navigator but throughout the trip I definitely improved.
Since I traveled to Paris with my French teacher and many other students, we were able to explore the city in small groups on our own. One other student and I wanted to go visit the little shops located in random corners of the city. So, we walked around aware that we had to return to our hotel to meet with the rest of the students by 4pm. After walking for a decent amount of time, we decided that it was best to take the metro back to our hotel. This was not the simplest task since two familiar metro stops were closed. After more strolling and asking the locals for directions, we ended up by The Louvre--very far from where we started.
We practically had no choice: we took the metro from the Louvre and had to make a transfer underground. We were on our own for the first time navigating through the metro system. Although it took a lot of perseverance, we somehow managed to get back to the hotel with time to spare.
Mastering public transportation around the globe is an art of its own. Through this entire experience, I learned that public transportation has the ability to put one into focus and become more alert of his or her surroundings. These are practical lessons that anyone can improve on throughout his or her life.
I also came to appreciate public transportation on more of an abstract level as well. During the various occurrences I got to ride to metro, I saw many faces. The individuals who I saw on the metro literally came from all walks of life. Some were also tourists/backpackers from other parts of the world while some were local Parisians going to their daily jobs. Some were mothers and fathers who had their children abroad while others were musicians and artists carrying their supplies and instruments. Being able to see such a diverse mix of humans riding the same metro was incredible. The fact that people can come from all different types of situations and share the same platform during some part in their life is pleasant site to witness.
After this discovery of my fascination for public transportation, I can certainly say that I am going to use it more as a means of traveling when I go abroad and visit other countries. Whether it’s taking taxis, trains, subways, or even horses and camels, I will always be ready to try a new way of reaching my destination.