Leaps and bounds.

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Today is Leap Day. The extra day we acknowledge when that 1/4th of a day we ignore until it actually equals up to something to recognise.

I know. I haven’t posted in a while and I start off all grouchy. I swear I’m not in a bad mood.

But it’s also a day that we can choose to make something more of our lives with this extra day we have been given. For no other reason than this opportunity only presents itself once every 4 years.

But today, my thoughts were more on the past rather than the present. Because it was this time last year I was traveling in India with Nomadness for the Holi Festival of Colors. During that week, we traveled to Agra to see the Taj Mahal in all is majestic glory, and rode camels through the Pushkar Desert. We even celebrated Holi with a local family and danced and drank under sporadic clouds of pigmented chalk. But it was in exploring the streets of Jaipur when I experienced the true magic of India.

Roaming about, allowing myself to become enveloped in all the sights, sounds, and smells that Jaipur offered, I began to see the world through a new pair of eyes. In a country that is overrun by poverty and still seen as “developing”, I was only able to see it’s beauty in the bright smiles of those who call India home. It was while walking the streets that I discovered that I needed to see more and do more with this life that I had been given.

I know there are people who say that visiting a certain place or having a particular experience while traveling “changed their life”. It’s pretty cliché, I know. But traveling to India definitely was that for me.

Perhaps it was the spirit of Holi in the air. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, a time to reflect, forgive and forget, and to repair broken relationships. And I did. I thought about my life and the things I wanted to change within myself and with those around me. It was then that I decided to take the biggest leap of my life, to leave all that I had ever known and move abroad with my son.

I guess it’s appropriate that I reflected on that experience today. A chance to make more of yourself and your life with the gift of an extra 24 hours. In thinking about my travels last year, forced me to reaffirm the commitments I made to myself then. To constantly immerse myself in new cultures and experiences, to live boldly and on my own terms, and to always choose myself first.

I needed to be reminded of that today. I feel like that last 6 months have become lost to me. I’ve been busy and have used that as an excuse to become lackadaisical about what I’ve accomplished and how much farther I have to go. Moving to Tokyo wasn’t the end for me. I’m content here, but I have never wanted to feel or become stagnant anywhere. There is still too much world to see and too much I have yet to experience. Today was the reminder and reset that I needed, I suppose.

Although this “extra” 24 hours was still a work day for me, spent juggling the problems of students and their families, it wasn’t wasted. I made time to reflect and give thanks for all that I have experienced thus far and found a new source of energy and determination.

One thing I have learned today is that India still speaks to me and continues to reintroduce me to myself.

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A layover in Paris: An opportunists guide to the city of lights.

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So once upon a time, I was a crazy traveling woman. In a 30 day span, I traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Haiti. Not all at once, but it was a fun summer. Right before I was to move abroad, I scored a deal on a flight to Kenya through Delta Airlines. The ticket was $400 and I used that flight to travel to Tanzania and Ethiopia as well.

On the way home, my layover was 10 hours, so naturally I left the airport and looked around the city for awhile.

Charles de Gaulle Airport is not close to the city, so you will need to take the train into the city. I stored my baggage in the airport and purchased a train ticket into the city. This is one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get into the city. For about 9€, you can purchase a ticket for the RER Blue train and find yourself in the city in less than an hour. Make sure you take the train headed in the direction of Robinson, Antony or St-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and the train will stop in central Paris stations such as Gare du Nord.

While you can make your way around Paris not knowing French, it was kind of challenging for me. At least the people I ran into did not speak English and I was looking like a crazy person. I got off at a stop and was turned around trying to look for the Eiffel Tower and tried to ask for directions. No bueno. But a kind stranger did point me in the right direction for the REC train where I got off at Champ de Mars station and found myself smack in the middle of everything and right near the Eiffel Tower.

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I saw the tower and walked around to Trocadero where I sat at a cafe and chilled for a bit. After I wandered around the Eiffel Tower, I found my way down an avenue with shops and a McDonalds where I ordered myself a “Royale with Cheese” just so I can send a photo to a friend. (We both love Pulp Fiction)

Not realizing it, I walked right past the Arc de Triomphe. It was a great sight to see. I also ended up seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral while trying to grab a croissant first thing in the morning. Because I was running low on time, I took a taxi after I passed the Arc de Triomphe to grab a quick view of the Lourve and other sights.

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I’ve since done some research and if I had to do a quick tour of Paris all over again, here is how I would do it (and how I suggest you do as well)

Free walking tours

There are a few options for free walking tours of Paris. The New Paris Free Tour will get you to all the Instagram worthy sights in under 4 hours. It works off of tips and doesn’t include any museum admissions, but you’ll be able to see the main sights that will give you a feel for Paris and having a guide will give you a bit of history and background to each place you see.

Apps

Ulmon is an app that gives you a city map that works offline, but it also gives you suggestions based on your interests. This is perfect because you can tell the app the highlights you want to see ahead of time and see reviews from other travelers and details about the place before you arrive.

Citymapper is another app that can help you plan your route via public transportation or a detailed bike route. You can chart out the sights you want to see and the app will take care of the best way to get there, helping you make the most of the time you have. If you’re not able to get a SIM compatible with Paris, you’ll have to plan your route ahead of time and take screenshots to be referred to later, as the app does not work offline.

The Paris Guide Monument Tracker is the best app I’ve discovered that offers descriptions to the monument and it’s history, and even has a quiz to test your knowledge later on and a treasure hunt that offers a fun way to get to know the city on your brief journey.

City Sightseeing Tours

In every city I visit, I often take a sightseeing tour bus. Especially when I don’t have a lot of time to explore or wander about. City Sightseeing Tour busses area. great way to see the city, explore the major sights by bus, and get some detailed and fun facts about the different historical sights and monuments. Most bus lines run in about 1.5 to 2 hours to competition, so you have time to hop off, explore, and catch the bus before heading back to your start point and dash back to the airport.

However long of a layover you have in Paris, I would suggest leaving the airport only if you have longer than 8 hours. It takes an hour to get to and from the airport by train – longer if you decide to take a taxi back. I would give yourself plenty of time to get lost, explore, and eat some good food.