A couple of years ago, a friend of mine had a child who was
accepted to study in France. We thought
it would be fun if we went to see him and stay in Paris for a week. She was not an experienced traveler but I
assured her that I would look out for her and we would be just fine. Paris is a gorgeous city and I knew this
would be the trip of a lifetime for her.
We decided to rent an apartment so we would have plenty of
room and privacy during the trip. That
was the first big mistake – the owner of the apartment was still living there
when we arrived and wanted us to share the apartment with him for the week. I immediately said no and that we would find
other accommodation – my “friend” told him it would be fine! I was stunned and felt very vulnerable and
insisted that we go to a hotel.
We found a lovely small hotel in Central Paris that would be
perfect for our stay. I did tell her (more
than once) that we needed to be cautious about our belongings and personal
safety while we were there. Neither of
us spoke French very well – although she thought she did and proceeded to
insult almost everyone she spoke to.
As we headed out to see the sights, I told her that we
needed to take all of our valuables (passports, money etc.) with us or leave
them at the front desk. I left the do
not disturb sign on the door and we were on our way. It was a lovely day and I was sure the drama
was behind us and our trip could officially begin. When we returned to the hotel someone had
been in our room and gone through all of our things. I was very surprised when she said that not
only had she left all of her valuables in the room (some of which were now
missing) but she had mentioned to a nice person in the hallway that we were
leaving for the entire day! To say I was
surprised is an absolute understatement; this was an otherwise intelligent
woman who was clearly out of her element and making both of us unsafe!
That was just the beginning; this woman was the classic
American tourist. Everything from
carrying her Rick Steve’s book to wanting to go in secluded areas after dark,
she was a walking target. She grew tired
of my trying to educate her on safety and ultimately went off on her own. Fortunately, we were able to get back home
safe and sound but not before we had a few more episodes – like her arguing
with Customs getting back into the US.
That trip was a great example of why I travel alone. You really don’t know someone until you have
traveled with them. Perhaps I should
have titled this – who not to go anywhere with!
The ultimate lesson for me is to be far more selective about my travel
companions in the future.