How will the ways we interact with a city change once we can again explore the globe according to our own free will?
We won't be able to answer this question until country borders open up and people feel safe enough to get back out into the world to curb their wanderlust. One thing that's for sure is that I can't wait to get back to some of my favorite cities once it's safe to do so.
In the final month of winter, I think about one of the most magical cities in the world, Paris, France. I was there a couple of years ago and fell in love with the languid lifestyle and cobblestone streets that make it unlike anywhere else.
Here's an ode to the French capital in hopes that we can get back to exploring our favorite cities sooner than later.
Around us on the hilltop's cobblestone streets, merchants and artists went about their business as if nothing's changed for hundreds of years.
My brother and I looked out over the sprawling sight of Paris from the apex of Montmartre, taking in the full scope of the city for the first time. In front of us laid the city whose beauty, history and architecture I'd read about, whose culture and lifestyle fascinates me, whose energy is constant and so uniquely real.
As we roamed the hills with its stairways leading towards the pale blue sky, my spirit became enlightened by the connection with the world. I was hungry to experience more. This I'll always love about travel. There's always another experience to be had that builds upon the last.
Unlike cities like London or Los Angeles, Paris appears intimate enough to walk from one side of its city gates to the other. Whichever route you take will be filled with so much beauty and exciting finds, that the Paris for one person could be so different from another's adventure. To see everything within its medieval walls is impossible; you could lose yourself in one district and be occupied for hours.
We set off down the hill through the base of Montmartre. Wonderfully green and lush with trees, the serpentine walkways serve as a threshold into the city's interior with its metallic streets and beautiful rows of iconic buildings. Our journey had begun.
It was a fresh morning. The neighborhood was dusting off the previous night and stepping into the rising sun. Parisians began perusing the local markets fresh with produce and vibrant flowers. My brother and I bought golden nectarines. We pulled off and ate them on the street, looking at each other with big smiles on our faces.
I imagined what it would be like calling this city home. What it may be like to see these streets as someone who walks them every day instead of as an outsider? I wondered. Paris is a city I genuinely want to know.
When traveling, there's nothing one must do. Our only purpose was to be there in the moment, observing our surroundings and being present. The space is different; the air is empowering, we're lost in something new. That's where the beauty lays.
As one of my travel idols Anthony Bourdain says:
"Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind."
When I'm traveling without a strict itinerary, I feel liberated. As I relate to this new world, the people and place, I further understand myself. People around me are going about their everyday lives in a way similar to my own. Yet to be in another city is to be in a different time, further ahead or lagging behind, but still in simultaneous movement.
That knowledge alone makes me feel smaller, insignificant. The mechanics of the world are constantly in flux. To discover how someone in another world spends the time that they have is a joyous experience.
We're all experiencing life no matter what city we're in. A moment can seem so important, so urgent. But to see how others live differently, how they view time with an alternate lens, this should make us reflect on what's really important. To continue speeding up, or to slow down, time is what we make of it.
Traveling isn't so much about seeing as much as we can in the time we have. It's about imagining a city from the eyes of someone who lives there, who calls that place home and loves it in indescribable ways.
"I'm a big believer in winging it," Bourdain says.
"I'm a big believer that you're never going to find a perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I'm always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary."
Sometimes the best way to change our perspective is to simply watch, to let go of all else and idle the day away.
From the Latin Quarter's classical buildings to the still, charming paths of Montmartre, each nook of Paris has a specific feel. To remain in one district for a day may be worth much more than hopping from monument to monument, seeing much but not truly being anywhere.
One area of Paris doesn't capture the vibe of the city more than another. Rather, it blends into one overarching identity. The history of the revolution is palpable as one lingers in the Latin Quarter, listening to thundering bells reverberating through the wide boulevards.
Elsewhere a cook may be gathering fresh produce for the day at a local market, thinking of nothing but those ingredients all the rest of the day. That is their Paris, and there's a beauty in it.
More than just a spectacle of tradition, Paris is a city that's alive and breathing, and it's the people who give it life. Each district has energy because, over centuries, Parisians have made the city their own, their version of Paris within the greater walls.
The buildings and monuments are the framework of what we know, but as in any great city, it's the variety of people who give it character, charm, and life.
To sit at a bistro or a garden, to ponder on the banks of the Seine or a bench on the Canal St. Martin watching the reflection of the trees in the water below. That to me was a feeling you can't have in any other city, not in the same way.
There's a rhythm to life in Paris, while the world moves quickly elsewhere, the sun sets languidly on this city as it always has. It's a wonderful place to be, to marvel in its uniqueness and wonder. I can't wait to come back to this ancient city with a fresh perspective.