“You could be absolutely useless in everything except for one aspect or subject and you’ll be set.”
I was on a packed overnight train ride going from Munich to Paris when a teenage British cyclist named Archie told me that.
I had eaten a chocolate croissant from the train station because I couldn’t get enough of those golden pieces of heaven. Sure enough the buttery pastry gods struck me with a stomachache the next morning, so it was like “Welcome to Paris, City of Lights and Love and MORE CROISSANTS! You’re incapacitated!” As my cousin went to find the apartment we were staying at, I parked myself at a sidewalk café because I was sure that a cappuccino would be an effective cure-all. It turned out to be true, however I was equipped with zero euros, a dying phone battery, and an unimpressed French waiter. So I did what any resourceful American would do and whipped out my notebook, trying to look busy as I constructed a narrative of why I sucked in that moment. You think I’m kidding.
Anyways, the Brits are practical in a way that makes you feel assured, but as I talked to him more I couldn’t help but value the American sense of hope, that famous “anything is possible, would you like a slice of apple pie with that?” mantra. However, I really liked his perspective, because sometimes as Americans we feel like we have to be super dynamic and fantastic and great at everything (oh that’s just me? Huh hmm filled out a modern college application lately?)
Archie was biking across Europe with nothing but a tiny little pack. I think he mentioned that one leg of his route didn’t work out so he was going home, or redirecting or something. The memory is fuzzy because I was coming from Munich, Germany, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. (Kidding, I was just really tired and the obnoxious German train attendant kept yelling at us.) Although I’m not saying that I didn’t visit the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. Anyhoo I’m pretty sure we were talking about education when he offered that insightful comment about the British viewpoint. And with that accent we’d be fools not to listen to them.
On the other hand, there was a point in time when we didn’t listen to the Brits. And I would say that ended pretty well, don’t you think so Uncle Sam?
P.S. I love British people. Archie is awesome. Visiting Europe opened my eyes to so many cool ideas and different perspectives, and it also reaffirmed/quadrupled my appreciation for America. So basically what I’m saying is if you have any teaspoon of desire to travel, do it.
Also more on Paris later because it’s a freaking rad city.