This is the first instalment in a multi-part column on travel overseas.
When I was a little girl, it never crossed my mind that one day I might be able to travel somewhere foreign.
Going on a vacation or a holiday was never something that was an option growing up. Now that I’m older, I’m finally able to travel but no matter where I go, I always miss home and my family. This latest trip was no different. We were only gone for 10 days but I found myself thinking about the community of Hay River and the surrounding nations and how everyone, including my closest relatives, were evacuated due to the fires. I thought about my son and the many firefighters who are out there tirelessly working to keep the fires from destroying the entire town. Mahsi to all the firefighting heroes from the communities across the North who came together to protect everyone.
I thought about cancelling the trip altogether. It felt like there were just too many reasons not to go. I also tend to worry that something bad might happen before I go on a trip, and with all of the devastation that is occurring around the world it wouldn’t be a surprise. But if I let that stop me I wouldn’t be fully living my life, so I put my doubts aside and packed my suitcase. I made plans long ago to go to Europe to attend the Architects Against Housing Alienation Not for Sale campaign at the Venice Biennale. There, a national collective of housing advocates, activists and architects came together to try to stop the commodification and financialization of housing by taking over an international platform to gain worldwide attention and make calls for action on ending the housing crisis. Working with Ouri Scott, a Tlicho architect, our group focused on the need to bring back on-the-land housing in the North and explored what that can look like from a cultural lens. I had my reservations about travelling for work purposes when it comes to housing but chose to attend on my own dime since the cause was important.
I brought my daughter with me on this trip because not only was it a trip to celebrate the fact that I made it through law school, but I had promised her when she was a little girl that I would one day take her to Paris. So when the opportunity to go to Venice arose, I thought we could squeeze Paris in while we were overseas. Little had I known that you can’t just squeeze Paris in. You must allow the culture of Paris to slowly present itself to you. You must stay long enough to see past the endless lineups and crowds of people. Paris truly is its own way of life and now I see why so many artists flock there. It has a certain vibe that lends itself to a refined old world movie star.
We departed for Paris on Mother’s Day. We would stay in the City of Lights for a few days then make our way to Italy. When we arrived in Paris after a long and tiring nine-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean, we were immediately confused about how to get to our hotel. I asked for directions from other passengers who were getting their luggage and they told us the cheapest and fastest way was to take the Metro (subway). We heeded their advice, but first my daughter had to stop at the airport McDonald’s and order a chicken burger in French. Once on the Metro, we had no idea which stop was ours and we scurried off the train once we realized we were going in the wrong direction. Finally, after a few hours, we found our hotel in the middle of the bustling city streets where every building was made of beige-coloured concrete and looked identical to the next. The tall, colorful double doors on every building looked like they were made for giants. They were so big, yet the balconies looked like they were made for fairies, they were so tiny.
The roads were chaotic. Ambulances flew by every few minutes. Bikers ran red lights (one got hit by a taxi). Jaywalkers stepped in front of honking horns. Every other person either had a cigarette or a croissant in their hand. We strolled around the city realizing how different it was from Canada and settled into the reality that we were all alone on the other side of the world.
Next week: The Eiffel Tower, a high-end restaurant and the Louvre.