On turning the wrong way.
I am notoriously great at going the wrong way when I exit the metro. Not only in Paris. I do it in D.C., Boston, New York, you name it. If it has a public transportation system, I probably go the wrong way when I exit it. Every. Single. Time. It’s not necessarily that I have a poor sense of direction, it’s more that I don’t trust my gut. I almost always think I should go one way, but somehow convince myself that it’s actually in the opposite direction. Consequently, I seem to find myself turning the wrong way often.
So when I was supposed to meet some friends in an area I hadn’t yet visited for dinner, since I was already late, I made an effort to not get lost on the way. With the terrible habit of overthinking anything and everything, when I stop to think about something, I tend to get it wrong. This time was no exception. So my roommate and I turned the wrong way.
We realized our mistake after stopping and checking the map (after walking for about 10 minutes already). And while it was absolutely freezing, and drizzling—so basically miserable—it was one of my more fortunate directional errors. We found ourselves in Oberkampf, one of the areas of Paris filled with vintage shops, artsy cafes, and innovative bars.
I am positive that I would have made it to the neighborhood eventually even if I hadn’t stumbled upon it. But the thrill of a new city has made me less upset about getting lost. I am normally the person who plans out exactly how I’m getting somewhere, and gets frustrated when I don’t know where I’m going. But with all of Paris to discover, I now simply give myself more time to get where I’m going.
Of course, those moments when I’m late or I really need to be somewhere at a specific time, turning the wrong direction out of the metro can be infuriating. But as I’m getting to know the city a little bit better, and myself a little bit better, I make the mistake less often, and sometimes even do so on purpose.
I have surrendered myself to getting lost. Yes, I still ask for directions from time to time (when I really have no idea where I am or where I should be). But, I have found it more relaxing, and slightly more adventurous to allow myself to wander until I find my way. I now move through the city very differently than I would New York. I have my wonderfully small map of Paris that I never leave without—and that I end up consulting fairly often because I don’t look up specific directions when leaving my apartment.
By regularly turning the wrong way, I have been jolted into a Parisian perspective. Paris, through windy roads, long boulevards, and an inability to gain a sense of direction while you’re here, has given me countless discoveries and forced me to slow down, relax, and as cliché as it may be, stop and “smell the roses,” (or check out a vintage boutique and vegan restaurant).