Going from OMG I’m actually doing this to WHY am I doing this to YAY I did that.
Here are three things that I learned from climbing the Eiffel Tower:
1: MY FITNESS LEVELS ARE APPALLING
I mean, I joined a gym, but I did not train for this. I’ve also now quit that gym. My performance up those 674 steps did not reflect a well-invested $900 into my gym membership. But by no means do I regret taking the stairs. It’s part of what made the experience. Ignoring the internal pressure I felt to keep up the pace, I liked the fact that I had the liberty to take my time and enjoy the view on the way up as opposed to being crammed in a cage in near 30 degree heat with other sweaty tourists. There was also some stuff to read along the way (which I occasionally pretended to read in order to catch my breath) which you would completely miss taking the elevator.
2: DON’T GET RIPPED OFF BY YOUR FUTURE SELF
When I finally reached that premier étage, I felt both relief and awe at the amazing view I had just worked so hard to get to. At the time I wasn’t sure why I felt compelled to capture the view from every point along the the nord, est, sud et ouest – covering the full 360. Maybe it was the excitement from realising I was actually standing in the Eiffel Tower. About a half hour later I had over 100 shots taken, the majority of which were just slight variations of several others. Oh, and to make sure I really didn’t miss anything, there were videos too. At this point I was quite content that my camera held all the scenic shots I needed to prove I actually made it up to the first floor, that I was actually in Paris, and I was ready to feel the burn again and level up.
The heat was torturous and my legs had still not recovered from Day 1 of Europe Adventures in London. To cut myself some slack, I might also add that this Eiffel Tower climb took place in the afternoon, right after a 3-4 hour “warm up” exploring the Louvre. When I eventually reached that second floor, I decided to reward myself with more photo-taking and shameless vlogging and again, walked the entire round snapping away. I took a quick break and started flicking through the photos on my camera, mindful that I had to reserve enough storage on my SD cards to last me through five more cities. As I was scanning through the couple hundred photos I’d taken in the last hour, I noticed that my shots taken from the second floor of the Eiffel Tower were really not that much different from those I’d taken from the first floor merely “a few” metres below. So there I was with a bunch of near-duplicate photos, thinking about the headache I know I’d have back home trying to decide on which few out of a couple hundred would make the cut. And…there was one more floor to go.
To be honest during that time it took to get from the ground up to the second level, I’d spent maybe 70% of it admiring Paris through the 3 by 2 inch LED screen on my canon, instead of appreciating it all with my own eyes. I remember thinking that if I didn’t try and take a photo of every single thing I saw, I’d miss out on capturing a really good shot that I could later look back to for memories’ sake. I kept thinking, this is my only chance to take photos from up here, I have to take advantage of this for later – and this “for later” part was probably what prevented me from being fully present at that moment. I think nowadays we almost have to be overly conscious about being present given how easy it is to start future tripping or act on things for superficial reasons. This realisation was one of the reasons why I have much less footage and photos from Barcelona – with only 36 hours to explore the city, I wanted to make sure that making the most of it really meant making the most of it.
3: $$$ – IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS, DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
During the early stages of planning for this Europe trip, it came to my attention that this was already going to be way over my initial budget. I wanted to try and squeeze in as much as possible for as little as possible. By no means was this a boujee Europe holiday at 5 star hotels with daily breakfast trolleys piled with assorted pastries and fresh fruit and lavish fine dining whilst watching the sunset every evening. It was actually way better than that. Our within-budget accommodation was rather pleasant and conveniently located to get to and from by public transport. There was a lot of on-the-go croissant and pain au chocolat munching whilst commuting from place to place on the trains, which left us in a comfortable position to experience a mix of both nicer restaurants and cheaper eats (and the occasional DIY charcuterie, cheese, and dip platter). I wanted to take whatever chance there was to reduce any expenses incurred during our travels while still allowing at least one splurge in each city. At times, this worked great. For example, taking the risk of not having the free cancellation option in order to get a cheaper hotel booking; or waiting around at the station in London until it hit 9:30AM so we could buy the off-peak hour tickets; or purposely not allocating any time for shopping because I just know myself too well when it comes to these things. To a large degree these were sensible decisions and I stick by them. However, in some instances, I found myself taking it a bit further than the optimal balance between being rational and 100% YOLO.
So back to the Eiffel Tower. The original plan was to take the stairs up to the second floor as it was the cheaper option and the stairs only takes you that far. To get to the third floor, you have to catch the lift up – but for an extra however many euros. We were finally at the ticket counter after an hour of waiting and up until that point, I didn’t think that going all the way up to the third floor was worth it. I figured that after the first two floors, it’d be pretty much the same view, and this is kind of how I felt after completing both rounds. For a minute there I deliberated back and forth between that little bit extra and thankfully, was convinced to just go for it. After 35 combined hours of flying, transfers, and travelling by rail to make it to Paris, I can’t believe that I almost didn’t do it. What was I thinking?
In many ways, part of the satisfaction of travelling well but on a budget is getting to see and experience the same things as any full-price-paying person would. In this case, the “rational” side of my mind felt that I wasn’t going to miss out by not going up an extra floor. I could still say I climbed the Eiffel Tower, and as a bonus I’d have saved some euros. But then I had my YOLO strings pulled and that internal voice was like, Audrina, how could you make it all the way here and not go to the top?!
I’ve noticed that I sometimes need a bit of a push or reminder to swing over to the YOLO side every now and again – whether it’s an instrinsic motivation or someone whose opinion I value actually nudging me along. I can get into the habit of being a bit too ‘must know all and plan all’ and not enough ‘say yes and go with the flow’ – something I’ve been working on a lot this past year for my mental health.
To wrap this up – I had to ask myself after all this: In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? What is that extra few euros in my pocket going to do for me in the long run vs. what memories am I going to keep with me forever if I just say yes to even the most touristy of touristy things to do? And when I consider my main reason for travelling in the first place, my initial way of thinking made absolutely no sense. I wanted to see and try new things, and go about life differently from how I had been used to. In 10, 20, 30 years from now I’ll be nothing but happy with my decision on making this trip. I don’t care that I ended up going way over budget and I don’t care that I later decided to sacrifice three weeks of salary for extra annual leave. What I can do with that time is so much more valuable that what I can do with that extra bit of cash.
So next time I’m stuck between two places, I’m going to ask myself: In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?