This post comes from our blog intern, Aubrie!
La vie à Montréal… life in Montreal.
Quaint bakeries and boutiques lined the cobblestone streets while horse and buggy carriages trotted by. The distinct architecture spoke profoundly while I sat by the river savoring every last bit of my buttery croissant, while gazing at the many pedestrians who passed me by. Although I could not understand the romantic words I heard as strangers strolled past, I admired the language’s authentic beauty. When I got up to leave the winding alleyways of the Old Port and all of its medieval nostalgia, I took in in the moment and all of the rich culture that surrounded me.
I threw one leg over top my bicycle seat, climbed on, and pedaled down the length of Rue University. When I came to the intersection of the famous Boulevard Saint Laurent, I decided it was time for a coffee break. Strolling down the bustling street with a cappuccino in hand, I gazed up at the monstrous murals painted on building after building, each one unique to the artist’s own aesthetic, the grungy appeal of the boulevard with all of its funky cafes and tattoo parlors always drew me in. I always found it funny that within a few blocks you could be in a rustic fairy-tale setting by the river, or a street art mecca filled with skaters and cyclists.
I hopped back on my bike and ascended the hills into Mount Royal, or as many locals referred to as “the mountain.” It was my favorite place to escape the busyness of the city and look down onto it from afar. I was baffled by how beautiful the homes nestled into the sides of “the mountain” were, with massive brick exteriors and large windows looking out onto glorious views. Once I reached the entrance to the park, I locked up my bike once again and meandered through the trees and past the ponds. The solitary hike to the top of the mountain was always worth the impeccable view and peacefulness it brought to my mental state.
These flashbacks represent my life a mere eight months ago, when this enchanting city in Canada had become my temporary home. I had left all of my family and friends behind and embarked on an adventure. Living in the United States my whole life, I felt lucky to have the opportunity to see what it was like to live in another country. I can’t say that the move was entirely seamless however. Adapting to a new lifestyle, especially completely alone can often be very difficult. I found myself feeling homesick and lonely in the beginning, yet after getting through these obstacles, I think the experience helped me to grow as a person.
When I first arrived, I stayed with a local family for a few weeks and the subtle cultural differences between us could be noticed from all angles. When I went into the local market, it wasn’t “Hello” that I was greeted with, but “Bonjour Mademoiselle.” The simple differences, like complicated parking signs and coin dollars struck me as so entirely foreign. Uprooting myself from what I was used to helped me to learn so much more about myself than I could have ever imagined. The rich culture that is so prevalent in Montreal became very important to me; I began to appreciate the advertisements printed in French and the local eats — like poutine — because it made the city so unique.
Upon arriving back in Philadelphia after six months abroad in Montreal, I felt a sense overwhelm me that I think I had lost touch with before the move. I felt very appreciative of home. It was amazing to be able to live in a new place, meet new people, and experience new things, but it was never home. I remember a phone conversation with a friend while away where I said, “It feels like I’ve had a very long vacation.” Even though I loved my experience, I can not tell you how great it felt to cross the border and return home to my loved ones. Sometimes displacing ourselves physically can help us to mentally prioritize what and who is most important in our lives.
Moving into this holiday season, I am more thankful than ever to be surrounded by those I love with a stronger sense of home.
What experiences have made you appreciate home?
Follow Aubrie on Instagram!