Welcome back to another post about Wander Design Co.’s origin story. If you’re new here, check out Part 1 of this mini-series here.
Today, I continue my pre-Wander Design Co. adventures in chronological order. I had just burst through the bubble I grew up in and was rapidly expanding my horizons. But with growth comes pain, and at times it was so painful I questioned why I wanted this in the first place.
It’s easy to romanticize travel and adventure through rose colored glasses, and how fitting that I chose Paris for my first big, committing trip. La vie en rose can only be rosy for so long.
But you know what? I don’t regret it for a second. Read on to take a peek at the making of a wanderer.
It was Derek and his friends that introduced me to rock climbing our sophomore year. I welcomed the new, exciting activity to share with friends under the California sun in exchange for my usual beach lounging. I didn’t have a clue that it would take over my life years later…
Like many things, my progression into a climber was slow. Consistency presented itself after Derek fractured his heel shortly before our third year at University, causing him to miss the highly-competitive golf season. When he recovered, we harnessed his free time and energy to climb and backpack in the wild.
I was amazed by it all. People do this? This is normal? How are we going to get down? Are we there yet? Fear crept in due to unfamiliarity, but as we continued to build our experience and appreciation for the outdoors, I became confident and wanted more. I stopped being afraid, and I started taking it in.
Climbing became the closest thing to flying – taking off with my own hands and feet.
I chose California Lutheran University because I could study abroad and still graduate in four years through their signature program. After completing my first year at CLU, I continued to save money by landing a summer job at a small eLearning corporation named Relate.
What started as a temp design position transformed into a three-year employment. I am forever grateful for the Relate family for teaching me what’s possible, for being flexible with me, for letting me wander and welcoming me back over and over, and for supporting my ambitions.
When January of my junior year arrived, I had a healthy savings account, a French visa, and a French family waiting for me in Paris’ 13th arrondissement. The drive to LAX had never looked so green and inviting, the ocean had never been so blue. I cried my eyes out at the airport, heavily questioning if this was a good idea. I was stepping out of my comfort zone far beyond I had ever done previously, and it was terrifying.
A snowy Paris welcomed me, as well as my host family, American roommates, and the International Studies Abroad staff. The adventures of my time abroad are plentiful and best saved for another time. Every step, every bite, every sip, every word slowly made me fall for France in a way I never expected. I got to make friends from all over the world, learn the rich artistic and cultural history of Paris, indulge in the sweet and savory French cuisine, and explore all around France as well as Florence, Barcelona, Spain, and London.
By spring break, it was my turn to welcome someone to Paris: Derek. I felt nothing short of excitement for our trip since I was confident in my conversational French and newly developed ability to not get lost in new cities. We took a 3-hour train down to Marseille to backpack the coastline on foot until Bandol. We explored calanques, scrambled mountains, hiked mile after mile, to arrive at the next beach town for dinner and a hotel room. I climbed my first mountain, and it was one I recently studied in Art History: Cézanne’s muse, Mont Sainte Victoire! Did I mention I did all of that in a white faux leather jacket and a crossbody purse?
When it was time to say our goodbyes at the airport, I felt my heart leave with Derek. I returned to my house empty. When my host mom asked me how the trip went, I hardly got a word out – I began to cry uncontrollably. It was Easter and I felt empty, so far away from home. But this is home now, Giselle. Make the most of the time you have left here.
And so I did. Paris was a mixture of growth and heartbreak. Thrilled to be immersed in its artistic history, to know almost every street, to get free crepes from restaurant owners I befriended, to connect with people around the world… I arrived as a stranger to a cold and aloof city in the middle of winter, and left as a friend in the flowery, warm late spring.
I had bloomed.
Our world is amazing, isn’t it? To live in this age where travel has never been so accessible. And despite the pandemic we’re faced with currently, we as a world feel so connected.
Where in the world is your mind wandering these days? I’d love to hear it on Instagram.
Until next time,
Coming next: full-time wandering and the freelance roller coaster life