Photo from my current trip in France, it’s a great time but not as exciting as this story 😂
Currently writing this article from Paris, I’m right near the center of it all. In one of the picturesque cafes with rows of twin wicker chairs behind small tables.
I love this city, it’s seen my best and worst times. That’s why I’m writing this today, to recount the first time I went to Paris and how I ended up sleeping on the streets.
It all started in Thailand
A shot of much younger Loren in Koh Pha Ngan
I was in Koh Pha Ngan, a beautiful island in southern Thailand. I had just finished doing a week of intense Muy Thai classes in Phuket and I was looking to relax for a bit.
I woke up early one morning, shuffled downstairs from my dormitory hostel room and put my shoes on to go find some breakfast.
There was only one other person up that early, and she struck up a conversation with me. So we chatted for a bit.
From her appearance and kindness I thought she worked at the hostel. But as I became more and more aware of her French accent, I realized this wasn’t the case. I mentioned I was looking for a breakfast spot, and she asked if she could join me.
At the time I was 22 years old Thailand was the 3rd international country I had been to meanwhile she was in her late thirties and had seen nearly all of the world.
I’d ask her about countries I had only dreamed about visiting and she would recount a story she had from each of them.
That night we went to the Full Moon Party in Koh Pha Ngan. Where a large expanse of the Koh Pha Ngan beach is overtaken for the night by backpackers, partiers and hippies. It was amazing…
A photo from the beach at the full moon party, it’s a wild time. I’d recommend it
While we barely drank, I felt a high. The high of meeting someone new, of exploring a new country, of being surrounded by so much positivity at that beach it was intoxicating enough.
This wasn’t her first time in Thailand so she showed me the ropes. We rented a scooter and rode around the islands of Thailand, flying past beautiful beach views and palm trees drunk on the high of it all.
I remembered I cried as we walked to the train station, I never thought I’d see her again. We lived too far apart, I barely scraped together enough money for one international trip a year. I couldn’t afford to see her again.
I walked back to my hotel room in jungle alone. It felt like the last 3 weeks was a dream I was now waking up from.
A shot of me cruising around on the motorbike we rented
Then She Messaged Me
She told me she had made it to the airport and that she’d let me know when she landed in France.
We ended up starting a long-term relationship. She came out to the US for 6 weeks, and the moment I started summer break I was on the cheapest plane I could find for Europe.
I ended up finding a cheap round trip ticket to Brussels, Belgium.
I Flew to Belgium Then Hopped A Bus For Paris
I grew up in a small blue collar town (read more about it here) I didn’t know anyone who had visited France.
The sophistication, the architecture, it felt like the opposite of my humble upbringing, and I loved it!
I started listening to famous French songs and learning France through applications. I was ready to go full steam into this relationship as well as France!
By the second day she was tired of stopping every time we saw a castle so I could check it out. It was all so exotic, so picturesque, so all-encompassing.
As we went around France I collected bottles of wine and cognac. I loved sitting and hearing about the stories behind the wines, how the soil, the weather and how tradition shaped their world famous wines and spirits.
We slept in her car, and a tent so I could afford to pay for the wine and cognac (worth it😂).
We would sneak into the vineyards at night to setup our tent, opening it up in the morning to the dewy green rolling hills of Saint Emillion and Grande Champagne.
I was doing it! I had made it. As far as I was concerned France would be the pinnacle of my life there’s no way I could top this.
A shot of me in Saint-Émilion, a beautiful place with my favorite French red wine
Then The High Began To Fade
When we landed back in Paris from our road trip around France I still had 3 weeks left. The streets that had once looked like a movie set became mundane. The food lost it’s flavor, all the wines started to taste the same.
She started to get delusions that I was going to find another girl in Paris and leave her. That I had only used her to get to Paris and now I’d find a better match and leave her for a younger, better looking woman.
She was 16 years older than me and eventually became angry every time I looked in the direction of a younger woman.
At a certain point I told her that I may never return here again so instead of arguing, I’m going to enjoy my time. Furthermore, when I returned to the US we were going to be finished.
This news devastated her, and this only fueled her nightmares. That I didn’t care about her at all, I was simply using her, and now that I had gotten the trip I wanted I had nothing left to take from her.
This resentment grew, and as it grew it drove me further away until we were in a toxic cycle. A toxic cycle of her arguing with me that I didn’t care enough and me pushing further away because of all the arguing (a cycle I’ve found myself in a couple times actually 🤔).
But We Had One Trip Left
A photo of Michelangelo’s David, definitely one of the most impressive art pieces I’ve seen
We got some cheap tickets to Florence surely this would build some of the excitement back.
It didn’t, I was miserable and so was she. Our constant fighting had eroded my love for her, and furthermore I had no motivation left anymore in my life.
I had dreamed about leaving my small town, of being sophisticated and high-class of traveling the world. No where was more high class than Paris, and Florence. Yet here I was. But what was left to do now?
Nothing, I had nothing to look forward to, the city streets became as bland as the cheap canned beans I resorted to eating to save money.
I’ve gone through these cycles many times in my life of finding a goal, fighting to achieve it, then achieving it and feeling this deep existential dread. See my full story about how I became a digital nomad for more info on this.
A shot of all of the wine and cognac I bought over the trip. At this point, I was drinking a lot, and it became the only thing I looked forward to.
I Got Back To Paris With 80 Euro And 10 Days Left
While we were in Florence, we had both agreed (or at least I thought) to enjoy the remaining time we had together.
In this attempt Karolina told me that if I wanted to spend some extra money in Italy that was fine, she could cover me in Paris until I took the bus back to Belgium to fly back home.
Furthermore, we had a plan to visit a family friend of mine in London. I knew once in London I wouldn’t need much money either as she was a great hostess.
Soon after landing, I went to the grocery store to get some more of my delicious canned beans and rice to live on until the Paris trip.
I Came Back to The House in What Felt Like a Murder Scene
I walked back in the tiny apartment with my groceries and looked to the left to see Karolina sitting on the couch with her hands hugged around her legs staring out the window.
I tried to get her attention, but she kept staring like a trauma victim out the window unable to respond.
Well that’s a bit weird, so I went to the kitchen to put my groceries away.
What the Fuck? From afar it looked like blood. Then as I got closer I saw the empty bottles of wine next to the sink. All of the bottles of wine I had collected to take back home she poured down the sink.
At this point I was apathetic to any of her crying, and outbursts. The empathy I had for her deteriorated over the last 2.5 months of daily bickering and fighting and feeling trapped in a foreign country that I couldn’t afford to leave.
I recognized that this was her last ditch effort to get me to show emotion, to fight back, to show I cared, to get a response from my otherwise stoic face and voice when I talked to her.
I realized that she had used the wine as a way to get me to respond to her again. She knew that my journey of discovering those bottles, and the excitement I had to share them with my friends and family in the United States was the only thing that gave me any semblance of excitement anymore.
I quickly realized this and started laughing. I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction she so desperately needed. I wasn’t going to allow her to break down my apathetic distance from here.
A shot from of me in short shorts on my first international trip to Costa Rica. Another time I was depressed and drinking far too much.
This, Obviously Didn’t Help The Situation
I don’t think there’s a psychologist in the world that would recommend laughing when someone is furious at you, but that’s what I did, and it went as expected.
I wasn’t even worried about this, I had hitch-hiked a lot around the US from 19 – 22 and was ready to sleep on the streets or in a tent at the park, no worries. I was finally free, she could no longer hold any power of me.
Sure I was going to homeless for the next 9 nights but the challenge of figuring out a way to get through the next 9 nights and get to Brussels was re-vitalizing!
A shot of me from my hitchhiking days, stories of my hitchhiking days are coming soon!
I was struggling… I needed something to excite me, and here it was! A challenge to overcome.
How do I last on 70 Euro for 10 days in western Europe?
As I packed up my things I asked her if I could buy the tent from her, her only response was “get zee fook outz of my howss”
So any chance of help from her was gone. Shortly after leaving the house I realized something.
But there was no way I ws going back. I went to an internet cafe and began to plan.
Ideas and plans starting flooding through my mind
So I can get a ticket to Brussels, but then I’m in a major European city sleeping outside for 9 more nights, I don’t want to sleep in a city for that long.
I sat staring at the screen for along time, how am I going to figure this out?
Then I started looking closer at the map. We’re not in the US anymore these countries really aren’t that big in Europe. Brussels doesn’t look too far from Paris.
I pulled up Google Maps and saw the directions. If I walked 8 hours a day it would take me 8 days to get there.
Perfect! I Could Just Walk To Brussels From Here
A shot of my bike trip from Athens To Istanbul. While long distance physical fitness is something I enjoy, I wasn’t ready for this walk…
Since I didn’t have my phone I had to print out 20 pages of walking directions, fold them up and get started on my odessey
It took me one day just to get to the outskirts of the city. Paris, and it’s surrounding suburbs really are huge.
But it didn’t matter, I now had a purpose, I had a challenge to complete.
I walked with confidence, walking 7 – 10 hours a day with two backpacks in a pair of blue crocs.
The first day was intoxicating, my joie de vivre was back!
The second day my legs starting getting pretty sore and my back starting to ache from all the weight.
By The Fourth Day I Was Crying Alone Walking Along The Country Roads
A shot of a French country road, very similar to the roads I was walking along. Quite beautiful, but still depressing when you’re in the headspace I was in 😂 Photo Credit: The Guardian
I didn’t want to be with Karolina but I still missed her. I missed our inside jokes, I missed making fun of her English and her making fun of my French.
I missed the breathtaking experiences we had in Thailand and around France.
That night I struggled to find a place to sleep. The mania that drove me to do this in the first place now turned on me and was quickly building into a panic attack.
After hours of walking around looking for a place to sleep where no one could find me. I finally found a spot. Then it started to rain which kicked up my anxiety again.
On my way out of town I had stopped off at a sporting goods store to buy the same tent her and I had slept in during our trip around France. It was high quality and cheap.
But back to my anxiety. How could I hear someone walking up to the tent with all of this rain?
So I sat up in my tent in a full on panic attack convincing myself that people could be coming at any minute to coming to attack or rob me.
After An Hour of Freaking Out, I Finally Fell Asleep.
At some point I had this vivid dream that Karolina was next to met in the tent, nudging me to wake up like she had done so many mornings before.
I woke up, and looked to my right and she wasn’t there. In fact I was half way across the world in a country where only one person knew me, and she hated me.
Then the panic attack came back. I remember envisioning a helicopter coming out to the countryside picking me up and taking me back home.
Every ounce of my being wanted to be lifted out of there and go back home, go where people knew me, where I had a place to sleep, home.
These visions lasted for a while until I realized there was no escaping this.
The next day was the worst, more crying, worse pain and zero motivation to continue with my conneries.
So I got to the next small town, and found someone who would let me use his phone.
It was August and everyone was on holiday. It was incredibly difficult to find open stores in these small towns, much less someone who cared enough to loan me there phone.
But finally I got someone to loan me there phone. So I quickly opened up their web browser and hopped into Facebook. Before I left the cyber cafe in Paris for this epic journey I messaged my sister for Ruth’s phone number on Facebook.
I figured if things got bad, I could rely on Ruth.
As you recall, Ruth is the family friend who lived in London that I had planned to visit with Karolina before the sh**t the fan.
But after logging into Facebook I couldn’t see any of the messages between my sister and I.
I rationalized that I was in a small town and it must be the internet connection.
Then I saw a notification
So I clicked on it
It was a friend of mine who had liked my last post, which was weird I hadn’t posted in a while.
I clicked through to see which post he liked and I came across something more shocking than the kitchen scene in Karolinas apartment.
So I Guess It’s Time To Come Clean
Ruth and I did have a past, a fling that lasted maybe 1 month total. We had slept together at my uncles wedding, and continued with long, detailed sexually charged messages for about a month afterwards.
A shot of me from that weekend at the wedding, man that was a wild time
But keep in mind this was in August / September. I hadn’t even gone to Thailand until December of that year.
This all happened 3 – 4 months before I even met Karolina.
We had a brief exchange after I met Karolina explaining that I had a girlfriend and that we needed to return friends and couldn’t have anymore sexually charged conversations.
She agreed, we moved on and didn’t have an inappropriate conversation since then.
However, while I was buying groceries, Karolina had apparently skipped through all of the platonic conversations between Ruth and I and found what she was looking for.
The proof that I was a cheating bastard, that I was going to use her to get to London then leave her for Ruth.
She found one of the more explicit messages between Ruth and I and posted it to my Facebook page for all to see.
I quickly realized that she was also deleting all of my messages
I quickly went to login to my email account, the account with the airplane tickets, and she deleted the account! 😳
So I frantically typed a message to my sister on Facebook
Please! Send me Ruth’s number now I’m stranded in the countryside, and Karolina is deleting my facebook messages
I stood there waiting for what felt like an eternity as the guy who lent me his phone stood outside the now closed kebob shop waiting to go home.
What if this dude just tells me to give him his phone back? I’m stuck in this horrible plan of mine! Dammit
Thankfully my sister got back to me with the number, I wrote it down, and called Ruth on a pay phone.
I got to London via cheap buses and Ruth put up with me for the remaining days I had. I sat depressed in her living room eating sweet biscuits and watching Friends re-runs. If you’re wondering, no Ruth and I did not kiss or do anything sexual. It was all in Karolina’s head.
Ruth was kind enough to buy me a ticket to Brussels, and I figured out the tickets to get back to the US
So What Do I Take From This?
A shot of my second trip to Paris, with my Mom. I will continue coming back here my entire life. Check out my digital nomad guide to Paris here.
If I get kicked out of another lovers house I’ll make sure not to leave my phone or any accounts open on their computer.
I don’t blame my ex girlfriend, was her response extreme? Yes, but I understand with the age difference and my apathetic attitude that she was desperately searching for some way to get me to care again, and these were the only things she knew to do.
I could’ve handled things with more empathy, and if I had done that things wouldn’t have gotten so bad.
😂 Just Kidding
If you’re looking for a digital nomad guide to Paris, check it out here!
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