In 2014, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to study art in Europe on a study abroad trip. My experience in Avignon, Arles, Nimes, Paris, France, and Barcelona was mesmerizing. I was fortunate to learn from locals about their unique differences and our commonalities that continue to resonate with me today. So without further ado, enjoy the visual walkthrough of Europe along with my reminiscent thoughts.
Having a casual drink with friends in America is often backed with line-dancing and club hopping, but truth-be-told, I’ve never been inside a “pub” before we landed in Avignon, France. We arrived late at night, and on the inside, it was warm and quiet with a vintage aesthetic (Like the candy store scene from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory). It seemed like the people there exude art, sophistication, and passion.
I didn’t fully realize how European people approached life, activities, and other pursuits until I came across a park filled with people enjoying a typical day out. Above I captured a group of older men playing “Pétanque” (thanks, Google). Side note, if you’re hands aren’t behind your back, or in your pockets, you’re not playing to win!
Something I learned, which I love to this day, is that while eating dinner in Europe, it’s best to order wine for the table along with a pitcher of water for refills. It may sound commonsensical, but I wasn’t as affluent as I am today. It reaffirms the collective and family culture, which I learned from a few locals. At first bite, I was immediately turned off by the unusual taste, but now I know it’s because the food here in America is loaded with chemicals and hormones — I lost a few pounds while I was there.
This image is, by far, one of my most treasured. I noticed this man walking down an alley (I know, a bit creepy), and my curiosity was on fire! He walked with a cane in one hand and the other a bag of groceries. I followed for a bit, and I just started snapping at a distance because I didn’t want to be noticed. Then it happened… he saw me. And there was a part of me that felt as if I had betrayed him. I nervously smiled, waved, and turned around to catch up with my classmates. If our paths ever happen to cross again, I’d definitely love to grab a bottle of wine and learn more about who he is.
I remember some locals I met in Avignon shared how the city would close everything around eight o’clock, allowing people to get home as safely as possible. After work, people would visit local parks where they’d play their instruments, go to clubs, and sit out at restaurants and converse. I had never seen people enjoy life this way. Seeing this form of enjoyment spoke to a special place in my heart; spending intentional time with those you love. I love the fact that no one was enslaved to their phones — being intentional with their attention.
I’m a hopeful romantic, and being an artist surrounded by other passionate human beings fueled that energy of romance, spontaneity, and beauty. The people I noticed conveyed a different form of intimacy and closeness; it seemed like it was more about learning the essence of a person, their interest, and what excites them about life.
Everywhere I looked, there were either bikes or motor-peds. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to nag one and scoot around. I did appreciate how local grocery stores were within walking distance from our hotels allowing us to make quick runs without having a bike.
My time in Europe ignited a more profound curiosity to learn more about people and deeply explore new spaces. There’s so much to people I believe we’ve yet to learn. Make space for a unique experience.