Forget your map at home

Life in the United States is mapped in the form of a simplistic grid.  My time, my life and the streets I travel on all seem to be rigidly planned and set before me.  When I walk through the streets of pavement and concrete I don’t exactly pause to admire the scenery.  The mechanically direct streets of the United States differ greatly from the colorful winding roads of Perpignan.  I think this small difference speaks volumes about the differences of French and American culture.

The grid plan of the U.S shows to me that Americans must always know exactly where they’re going and exactly how much time it will take them to get there.  Exploration is equated with lack of productivity or danger.  In contrast, the roads of Perpignan spark curiosity and invite exploration.  With the bright blues, yellows, purples and greens of each building, one can appreciate becoming lost in this city.

I had one such experience my second night in Perpignan.  I was more than sure I knew my way.  Of course I did; I had already spent a whopping 30 hours in the city.  I mean, I was practically French, right?  But as always, I had not only gone in the opposite direction but also around the corner from the middle of nowhere, down the rabbit hole and through several miniature doors.  My group and I became slightly nervous, walking a little faster than usual and becoming more eager to peer over the next corner in hopes of spotting a familiar landmark.  But one particular turn presented to me a lesson of France.

The small roads opened into a large square full of people watching a lively musical performance.  The quartet of vocalists was dressed in horizontal black and white shirts and sang to the melody of an accordion.  I found this quite stereotypical for my second night in France, but those tenors had some serious talent.

While the square was full of energy and life, it also possessed a calming emotion.  Even with all the excitement, life seemed to move more slowly, more simply and with a smooth elegance.  I was halted by the picturesque scenery and the emotions that it evoked.  And then I stood and stared.

I decided my map would no longer be glued to my hand.  There I learned that whether it be a physical road or a figurative path of life, if I keep going, I will find my way to something beautiful.