Being with the Unfamiliar in a City

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I am not a shy person and yet being in Paris for the past week has made me somewhat hesitant to connect with others. The two years in college that I studied the French language help me with the very basic of conversations, but once I summon up the nerve to walk into a store or restaurant I suddenly find myself sweating and feeling slightly uncomfortable.

I so want to say the right thing. Use the correct words, tense and pronunciation and speak in this country's native language. I so want to converse with ease, to fit in and feel like I belong here, but I don't. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why my husband and I are traveling in Europe this summer - to be with the unfamiliar and the unsettling. Might it be possible we've grown too comfortable with our lives back home on Maui?  Maybe. I have a feeling that the longer we're away from our established routines, the more illuminated we'll become about what's most important to each of us as individuals and as a couple. To make those things a priority now and when we return from our travels is my desire.

Being with the unfamiliar in a huge city feels more disruptive to my ego and identity than being with the familiar on a small island. It's easier to remember and know I am not those things when there is sand between my toes and the Pacific Ocean is my horizon and my touchstone. Mother Nature reminds me of who I really am more so than man-made structures, although my soul sighs whenever I'm nearby or inside the walls of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur.  

So instead of being surrounded by palm trees and a fresh breeze, I am now embraced by concrete buildings and cigarette smoke. The steady noise and constant light I'm slowly adjusting to as it never gets completely quiet or pitch dark here. What I haven't quite gotten used to yet is asking others for help.

And there it is. The illumination I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago just showed up.  Part of what is familiar for me is helping others. Being in a place where I need to ask for help is exactly where I need to be right now.  Now, that's a different kind of environment for me to immerse myself in. 

Who am I and who might I be when most everything I'm familiar with is no longer the same?  I'm curious to live into these answers this summer.