I stepped off the plane, dazed but so excited… I was back in Europe! My life as a traveler was real! I was getting PAID to live in work in Southern France! What more could I possibly want?!
My summer was supposed to be the most incredible one of my life. I was going to be a marketing and PR intern for a very small inn in Southern France. I was going to rewrite parts of their website, work on their social media presence, and start a few other marketing campaigns. Not only was it to be incredible internship experience but I was in freaking France! Basically, life rocked.
That was my plan for the summer, until I actually arrived.
The first two weeks were amazing, my friend and I flew over together and lived a vagabond existence going from Amsterdam to Toulouse and many places in between. We had the time of our lives. Then we went our separate ways, she headed to Spain and I to the inn.
When my expectation didn’t align with reality in terms of the work I was supposed to do, I was able to stay lighthearted. I did work on the marketing, but that was more of a side activity to the manual labor I had to do. The inn is a 400 year old farmhouse, so it needed some restoration, and that is what I spent a lot of time doing: I worked with a stonemason to rejoin walls, helped put the roof on a dilapidated bread oven, and restored a bunch of old antiques. While this was unexpected, I was still optimistic, I was learning some really interesting new skills!
What I really struggled with, however was the loneliness. I saw about four people a day because the French countryside is pretty sparse with people (there are plenty of cows, though!). Later in the summer, when guests at the inn picked up, I saw a few more but not a ton. I also spoke limited French, I made it around just fine but I wasn’t at the level of having genuine conversations.
I am an introvert, I truly enjoy being by myself but I still struggled with constant loneliness for months on end. I found a few ways to entertain myself, I read a ton of books, I went on runs, I actually spent my free time working on the marketing stuff I originally thought I would work on. Plus I had one friend in a neighboring town that I visited a bunch. But nonetheless, I felt incredibly lonely.
Basically I had to learn to spend time with myself. And I found out that I actually really enjoyed it. I got to know myself in ways I never had before and you know what? I’m a pretty cool person! I know it sounds silly but I never had incredibly high self confidence before, I constantly compare myself to others and when I was no longer around people to compare myself with, I grew to like myself more. I learned that there is a difference between being self sufficient and independent. Before I was physically and mentally able to be alone, I used it as a time to recharge and prepare to be around more people. But now I enjoy being alone: I know I can take care of myself and I actually look forward to time without others.
Overall I had a good summer, even if it wasn’t what I was expecting and I’m glad I went.
I got to do a decent amount of solo travel all throughout France, I have a unique resume boosting job, I know how to make concrete, and I learned how to be alone for an extended period of time. It was a shock, for sure, but I made the most of the situation and learned some valuable lessons.