In June of 2022, I went to Paris.
I wanted to do a Paris trip in order to:
- Get engaged to my partner Megna
- Force the Greene family to leave the country - I think new perspectives are good for people and think traveling out of the country is a great way to force that. I wanted them to have this experience at least once in their lives.
- Force my mom to go back to Paris - My mom studied abroad in Paris many decades ago and has held a special place of it in her nostalgia centers. She likely harbored a hope she’d go back someday but I don’t like to play with somedays so pushed for an actual date.
- Give my brother a graduation trip - Even if he doesn’t like it at least he’ll see something new.
- Get Megna’s family and my family acquainted - They say that hardship engenders camraderie - what’s more stressful than planning a multifamily, international engagement trip?
- Go somewhere in Europe where Rimowas are discounted - I wanted a new bag and Megna kept telling me there was a discount.
- Do something outrageous and romantic - We can go anywhere / do anything, why not do the “city of love”? Also outrageous things tend to lead to better mems / content so shoot for that.
I don’t believe in surprises. In general, I do not believe there is anything that could be presented as a surprise that could not have been done better by including all parties in the planning and execution.
This is for a few reasons:
- More diverse groups lead to better outcomes
- This is doubly important when you realize that the person being surprised is typically the most important / valuable person to understand for the success of the surprise - and you’re intentionally leaving them out!
- Too many assumptions - like that the person would even enjoy a surprise, doesn’t have something planned already (dinner plans on a Tuesday, a work trip, a birthday), will be in a good mood for whatever you’ve planned (I’m tired, I went out last night, I was hoping to watch TV), etc.
- Too much overhead and stress to add “surprise” to any undertaking - doing a thing well is hard enough, why not focus on that?
This seems especially true when it comes to a large, important life decision like an engagement. Why add undue emotions and stress to a decision that should be well-thought through?
For all these reasons - plus the logistical necessities of a large international trip - we started talking about Paris in early-mid 2021 - approximately 15 months before the trip would take place.
What followed was:
- Blessing conversations with parents
- Shared Google Drive folder for asset organization
- Shared chat creation for communications
- Bucketlist creations for each participant
- Lots of meetings, messages, emails, calendars to align on a core calendar
In the end it turned out that some participants cared more about what we did than others (my mom) so they drove most of the hard scheduling and reservations (like 6 hours of guided tours per day with 2 different tour guides with a schedule that hit each of her dream locations). That worked for me and the rest of the group because we didn’t care too much outside of going to Paris and having the engagement.
We ended up splitting into several autonomous units:
- My family (minus me): All tours, all days
- Megna’s family (minus her): Some tours, lots of self-guided walking
- Me and Megna: Bouncing between the two / doing our own thing / hanging together for whatever was most valuable to us
Splitting up allowed each group to spend time connecting with the largr group while also having the freedom to do what they found value in on the trip and to rest / decompress when they wanted.
We hit a lot of famous places:
- The Eiffel tower
- Arc de Triomphe
- Palais de Tokyo
- Modern art museum
- Dali museum
- The Louvre
- The Seine
- YSL, Louis Vuitton, Dior, etc
(to name but a few).
And ended up walking a lot to do so. My devices clocked me at around 70 miles for the week (10 miles / day average) which left me exhausted and with sore feet and I didn’t even do all the tours. I’d guess my family walked even more at around 12 - 13 miles / day (and my mom was ready for more!).
My Garmin Fenix walking stats
And of course, we had our engagement. Megna booked a professional photographer she liked (a benefit of including her in plans!) and we got some great pics of the engagement.
- I’m engaged to my partner of 3 years!
- My feet hurt
- I got a Rimowa Original - black aluminum
- I got my family to leave the country once in their life
- We created some great mems together. Participants called it “a trip of a lifetime”.
I absolutely loved being able to have our families with us for this milestone. You don’t get too many chances to do that so I’m glad we seized this one.
We did a lot of walking and guided tours. I typially enjoy exploring a bit more unguided as it’s a bit more chill (and I don’t typically walk 10+ miles) but with large groups you must make some compromises. I’m pretty happy that this is my biggest complaint.
- I really don’t like french food. I don’t understand the hype.
- Luxury goods can have steep discounts in other places - particularly if you add on tax refunds.
Learnings / Takeaways
- Will try very hard to not travel at peak times again - way too expensive and crowded
- I like a diversity of experiences - 5 straight days of anything is too much
- It’s important to have an actively restful vacation - step away from work, projects, daily troubles, and free yourself to think about other things. Also: alcohol reduces your ability to recover with rest, not the other way around.
- It’s worth it to plan big, outrageous things for your life, friends, and family. We are made of experiences, make more.
- It’s important to be present and live your values - No matter how “good” something is / should be, if you are not living your values you won’t have an optimal experience.