How Traveling to France Has Helped Me Grow


Wanderlust (noun); a strong desire to travel.

For me, traveling wasn’t always something I wanted to do. A few years ago however, I got the wanderlust bug really badly, probably around my 20th birthday. I started to become less self absorbed, and realized there was a whole wide world out there I knew nothing about. There were other cultures so different to us in Australia, that I so badly wanted to see and experience them. Maybe it was because I was young, or maybe it was partly to do with my life that seemed at times sheltered, but I never had ‘the balls’ to travel by myself. I had the opportunity to do an exchange in France while I was at university, but fear lead me to make excuses about why I couldn’t do it.

I finally traveled to France for the first time over Christmas 2014, with my boyfriend at the time, and it opened my eyes to a city I thought only existed in romance books. France also taught me many important life lessons in the short time I was there, one of them being that I wanted to believe there was good in every single person. I learned the hard way some people wear masks to disguise their real selves, and sometimes people you thought were good people, just really aren’t deep down.

Turns out I didn’t know the person I was traveling with at all. It opened my eyes up to what I wanted for my life and the people who deserved my time, my then boyfriend not being one of them. The trip taught me time was precious, and life can be short, so why waste your time being with people who make you unhappy.

When I returned home, I guess you could say I was broken-hearted, and the job market in Perth was hard to break into. I guess I was asking myself ‘what do I do now?’ Now I’ve finished university what should I do with my life?

I was confused and upset, and I guess fate had other plans for me, as it gave me the push i needed to finally do something for myself, take a great leap of faith and finally do an exchange, I finally found the courage to travel by myself, which lead me to finding Greenheart Travel’s Teach English in a Homestay program. I wanted to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, and as the saying goes, ‘when in doubt; travel.’


At university I studied drama and dance teaching for secondary school, all my life I had only been a dance teacher, and I wanted to prove to myself I could teach things other than dance, and I wanted to really see France, not just in a tourist way. By the time I booked my exchange, my very broken heart had finally healed, and I felt in a way France ‘had my back’. France taught me to really evaluate the people in my life, and cut off people who didn’t deserve to be there. If I learned so much the first time, I couldn’t wait to see what this beautiful country was going to teach me the second time around. I also worried if I didn’t do it now, I’d never find the courage to do it.

I won’t lie, when my parents dropped me at the airport I was terrified, I knew once I walked through that departure gate I would be on my own, no one there to hold my hand or comfort me if I felt lonely or down. Maybe it was a case like Bella from twilight (you know how she didn’t eat the humans because she had all that time to prepare herself) but once I walked through the departure gates I felt excited. Surely that a was sign this would be a good thing.

It took me a couple of days to adjust to life here in Cherbourg. At first I felt like an outsider living in someone else’s house, but now I’m loving this and feeling like a friend rather than the awkward relative you have to be nice too. In Perth, people are up and at work by 8am, then home by 5pm, and dinner is at 6pm. It’s a go go go lifestyle where every one is always in a hurry and very impatient. Here in Cherbourg the lifestyle is different, it’s right on the coast and everything is relaxed. I wake up around 9am, and everything happens after lunch at about 2pm. The French eat a small meal called ‘gouter‘ before dinner around 5-6pm, then dinner is around 9pm while the sun is still up. The sun doesn’t set until about 11pm here, so that was weird to adjust too!


The house I’m staying in is a very typical old fashioned French style cottage, it is absolutely beautiful, the town is so bright and beautiful, just like something out of the pages of a fairy-tale. The French lessons are very relaxed, and my host family just enjoy doing activities like shopping or eating with me while having a conversation in English to learn. They have taken me around Cherbourg to show me beautiful scenery such as castles and gardens, and near by parks.

My host parents made an extra stop on the way home from a castle to show me a shop they considered special to their family, it was a lolly shop that has been there since 1903, and is still run by the same family. I appreciated the effort they made to show me places they thought I’d like. It was special to them because they used to take there children there when they were younger, and I must admit I could see why children loved it. The small child in me came out too as the place was huge!


They have taken me to the nicest restaurants too, where I’m kind of getting the hang of reading the menu in French! I asked them to show me ‘typical French food’ one afternoon, so we ate frog legs ( if your wondering they taste like chicken but chewier) French wine, French eclairs, and macaroons, being a part of all that culture was an amazing feeling.


I also brought over some typical Australian food, which they actually really liked! I made chocolate Vegemite pancakes, and we also had made ‘tim tam slams’. I’ve only been here a week and already feel like I’ve learnt so much.


I know if I ever have children, I’ll encourage them to leave the nest and chase their dreams, and I’ve also learnt that doing something like this for yourself doesn’t make you selfish. I feel like the generation above mine is always saying our generation is selfish for wanting to do things for ourselves, but it’s quite the opposite. Travel encourages learning and growing for yourself and others around you, it also makes you appreciate the things and people you have in your life back home. Cultural exchanges teach you so much that I feel it makes you a better person because of the experiences, and the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.


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