Turn Adversity into Adventure
When Jennifer Krissilas had her wallet and camera stolen in Nice, France, she felt like giving up and going home. Instead, she said yes to a travel adventure and found herself in the charming city of Toulouse — and the home of new-found friends.
I used to think I could never travel without a camera, until someone broke into my hostel room in Nice, France, while I was sleeping, and stole my brand-new DSLR and the contents of my money belt (save my plane ticket and passport — hey, he was a thoughtful thief). Knowing I’d partly been at fault because I’d foolishly left those things out on my bed, I bawled for days, mourning the loss of my photos and feeling so violated I wanted to go home. I still shudder when I think what could have happened had I woken up while he was hovering over me. It was my worst travel experience ever, but it soon led to one of my best life experiences: falling in love with Toulouse, a city I’d never heard of before then.
When I look back on the events that brought me to Toulouse, it seems meant to be: Toulouse is my ideal home away from home, with an awesome cycling infrastructure and bike rental services; a bohemian vibe reminiscent of Toronto’s Kensington Market; a lovely little independent cinema; a gazillion cafés and outdoor markets; and a picturesque 360 kilometre trail along the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Saying yes was something I did quite well. It started when my bunkmate, Kazuno, who, insisting I shouldn’t be alone, invited me to Toulouse, where she was going to visit a friend. As luck would have it, there was a Canadian consulate in Toulouse, and I could have my new credit and bank cards sent there.
Good thing I took her up on her offer to pay my way, for her friend and his girlfriend promptly took me in when I showed up unannounced on their doorstep at midnight, half-crying while Kazuno explained that I had no money. And then, believe it or not, the next day they whisked us away for the weekend – to their quaint cabin near the Pyrenees!
Yes, without thinking, I took off with strangers to a remote cabin in the mountains. Stupid? Maybe. But I easily trust people when I travel, and I knew Kazuno was right that a weekend hiking with strangers was better than sulking alone in a hotel. And what could have been slasher-flick fodder turned into friendship, as I continued to crash with my new friends even after Kazuno left.
While I was waiting for my cards, I learned to immerse myself wholly in Toulouse, freed from the barrier a camera usually places between me and my experiences. Instead of snapping pics of the pink brickwork of centuries-old buildings, I’d spend my days relaxing in the park on the bank of the Garonne River, listening to students strumming their guitars, and my nights watching non-subtitled French films at the cinematheque or dining with my friends.
Oh how quickly I fell in love with Toulouse, spontaneously signing up for French classes at the Alliance Française before my cards even arrived. In fact, that’s the first phrase I learned to say there: Je suis tombée amoureuse de Toulouse.
It’s funny how things turn out. My fellow students had specifically chosen to come to Toulouse, while I unexpectedly found myself there. But the truth is, I didn’t end up there by accident – I chose to say yes, and I’m ever so happy I did.