Well, the time has finally come. This trip to France has been in the works for almost a year now, and I can hardly believe I will be leaving in just 4 days! The details are all starting to come together, my suitcase is nearly packed, and I can almost taste the wine!
I'll be leaving Indianapolis on Tuesday, September 14th and flying to Chicago, and after a 3 hour layover at O'Hare (and hopefully a last goodbye with my best friend Erica, who lives in Chi-Town), I'll be on my way to Paris. When I land in Paris I'll take a train to Lille, the nearest big city to where I'll be living, and that's where things will get interesting!
You see, I'll be taking a pretty unique approach to my housing situation for the first couple of weeks, as I have about 15 days to kill between my arrival in France and that of my future roommates, who will be coming from the UK near the end of the month. There are no hostels in Valenciennes, my new home, and paying for even a cheap hotel for 15 days would still be very expensive, so instead I'll be trying out something new: CouchSurfing.
I'd heard of CouchSurfing before, but wasn't really sure how it worked. So I went to the official website, www.couchsurfing.org, and found a very open, welcoming community of people offering couches or guest bedrooms to travelers from all over the world, and I am happy to have joined them. So, basically, I've made some new friends in Lille and Valenciennes, who are willing to let me crash on their couches for a couple of nights at a time until my roommates arrive. I'm really excited to be able to get a taste of their culture from an entirely local perspective, and to experience their hospitality. Hopefully, when I get all set up in my new apartment, I'll be able to pay it forward and host other cash-strapped travelers and students in my own home.
If you're interested in traveling this way or hosting someone in your home, I highly recommend going to the website and seeing exactly what CouchSurfing is all about. It's a worldwide network that's been written up in many travel guides, etc., and I can assure you that it's legitimate.
So today I finish packing and work my last shift at Papa John's (not too sad about that!), and tomorrow and Sunday we move my stuff into storage, Laura's stuff into her new place, as well as her new roommate and her belongings (Laura will be sharing an apartment with our good friend Amy). Laura and I have decided to break up while I'm gone. We still care about each other very much, but we've decided that this time apart will help both of us to be able to grow in ways we may not have been able to grow in if we tried to stay together across 6,000 miles of distance. It will be sad to leave her and the dogs (I may miss the dogs even more than I miss Laura!), and to leave my family and friends, but I am really looking forward to experiencing this opportunity I've been provided, and to seeing all the ways in which I will grow and change in the next year. I will (hopefully) be updating this blog pretty regularly, to keep you all posted on how I'm doing, and I will be posting pictures to facebook as well. As far as contacting me (and I would love to hear from home once in a while!), my email is probably the most reliable method, at least until I get settled. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also do a video or voice chat with me (for free!) on Skype. If you don't already have it, it's a free download from skype.com, and you can add me to your contacts using my email address (email@example.com), or my Skype username, which is sarapwhitmer. When we are both online, we can talk for free! The time difference for where I will be is 5 hours ahead of Indiana (Eastern time), 6 hours ahead of Minnesota (Central time), etc. I hope to hear from many of you!
Well, that's all I have for now. My next post will hopefully be from France!