Just last week, I had my first ever visit to France. During that stay, I did not see Paris, never visited the Louvre, saw no chateaus, and pretty much avoided all famous sites and activities... but ended up having one of the best trips I ever had. I laughed harder than any time I could remember, was introduced to an array of new music, ate delicious food, played fun games I'd never heard of, and danced like a wonderful fool in a local flat late into the night. And none of it would be possible had it not been for the people I spent time with, which includes this next awesome person: Marie. Now let me introduce her.
I arrived at her flat with my friend Lea (also on Awesome People page) and Marie instantly greeted us with coffee, food, and a beaming smile that never faded throughout our entire visit. Right away, I was able to feel relaxed and welcomed by her willingness to share everything she had. This went from food, to music, to Australian travel stories, to artwork. And while she and Lea were life long friends, Marie made sure that I never once felt like an outsider. She did not hesitate to introduce me to inside jokes and discoveries such as a bizarre and creepy/absurd musician she found called Francois Juno (look it up... if you dare). It was as if I was thrown into a whirlwind of novelty and joyfulness that included such activities as a walk to the Mediterranian coast and being instructed on how to dance salsa (and I wasn't quite as bad at it as most of you readers probably imagine!) All the while, she gave off this warm and playful feeling in everything she did.
The best part about this was how genuine the kindness she showed happened to be. All too often, people will put on a nice front just for the sake of appearances, but Marie was real. It all just seemed to flow so naturally from her. Any time anyone of us needed some help, she was right there with a laugh, smile, and glass of wine. She is someone who deep down, honestly cares for others, and works constantly to make the world around her a better place. Instead of going along with a standard path, she went her own way to work to provide medical care for people and volunteer in animal shelters. In a world where most people just try to get through the day, it was incredible to meet someone who just seem to radiate this other kind of positivity, which ultimately made the entire atmosphere of the trip feel celebratory.
Speaking from my own perspective, I've had near death experiences on mountains, hitchhiked with elderly Kyrgyz couples, befriended numerous stray dogs, and (against my better judgment) jumped into a Siberian lake, but this hospitality on this trip will be just as memorable as any of those. Screw the Eiffel tower, Champs Elysee, and any of those other generic ideas of France. This visit had curry-banana rice, salsa dancing, and Francois Juno music. It could not have been more awesome!