Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?
These questions from today’s daily prompt have stirred me.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Gertrude Stein:
When you get there, there isn’t any there there.
When I was 19, I moved to the French Riviera. A screenwriting major, I chose to study in Cannes. I wanted to intern at the international film festival and rub elbows with important people in the industry. I wanted to become fluent in French.
Soon, I’d be bilingual. And meet a director. Or a producer. It was my chance.
And so, I went to France. I had French classes in morning, I served coffee to celebrities, I carried sound equipment across the beach for TV crews, and watched movie premieres.
But ultimately, nothing materialized from the experience, or nothing tangible I could show for. When the semester ended, I went home. A year later, I graduated with a film degree, but eventually shoved my scripts in a drawer. End scene.
* * *
Several years later, after my first real breakup, I moved to Montreal for a summer, to escape to a new city and reset. I enrolled in a post-graduate program to “broaden my skills.” My plan was perfect. Something exciting would happen in my life.
And so, I went to Montreal. I studied French again, and I excelled in my courses. I fell in love with the city: the urban parks, the bustle, the culture. But at the end of the summer, I went home, and that period of my life disappeared into the past.
In the years that followed, I still hadn’t landed a job I liked. And I still could not speak French.
* * *
Not long after, I signed up to teach abroad. I went to Bangkok to begin my adventure in Southeast Asia. I could teach English to children in Thailand. Help them learn. Be part of something meaningful. Make a difference.
Plus, I could finally figure out what my path was. Find myself. Plan my future. And, in fact, that’s what I did on many nights. I sat on my bed, writing in a candlelit room, pondering what was to come next.
It was always about what was next.
And while my time in Southeast Asia was eventful, when I returned home, ultimately nothing had changed. What, truly, did I have to show as a result of my experience? So much for changing the world.
* * *
Why do we travel? Looking back at some of my experiences like these, I am not sure. Did these trips fail, given my intentions? Thinking about what Gertrude Stein once said, traveling may not have a purpose in the traditional sense, but rather something else, something that pushes us to keep trying. I suppose it’s fitting to quote yet another saying: maybe it’s not about the destination, but the journey.