Once upon a time I was going through customs at Heathrow with Mr. Trent. The gentleman at border control asked us why we were coming to London, and how long we would be staying.
“We’re here for the week,” Mr. Trent said. “We’re going to do some sightseeing.”
“You’re staying in London for the entire week?,” the gentleman asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Trent said.
“No!” I said, rallying out of my fog of jetlag.
I had campaigned hard for a day trip during the planning stages of this London excursion. International travel can be intimidating. And expensive. But after organizing our exhaustive itinerary (it included everything we wanted to see, do, and eat in London. We’d both never been and our budget was modest, necessitating much planning), it was clear that we’d have time and the means for a day trip.
Where did I want to go? Cambridge? Stonehedge? The White Cliffs of Dover?
“Why not Paris?” My sister suggested, when I told her we were trying to pin down a destination.
I wanted to go to Paris. I had wanted to go to Paris since learning about Gothic architecture in seventh grade. I had missed out on all those international travels young people are supposed to take between semesters of college. And here was my chance at last to see Paris.
My eyes grew very wide at the prospect. “You can day trip from London to Paris?”
“Yeah,” she said. “You take a Chunnel train. They run all the time.”
Mr. Trent took some persuading, but we eventually booked a day trip package through a travel agency. Discount round trip train tickets and a boat ride on the Seine.
So back to customs at Heathrow.
“We’re going to Paris too,” I told the border control officer.
“For how long?” the man asked.
“Just a day.”
“Well, a day in Paris is better than no day in Paris.” He stamped our passports, and handed them back to us.
He was so right.
There is a saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” But I think that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.
Paris is worth seeing. It is worth seeing even if all you can afford is a day trip and a baguette from the food truck at the Trocadero. Paris is worth seeing even if you have to wake up at 5am to catch your train and then take the same train back at 7PM, red-eyed and exhausted.
The value of something isn’t dependent on how well we can execute or experience it.
If the opera is worth seeing, it’s worth seeing even if you are in the very back row of the theater behind the lady with the beehive.
The instrument lessons are worthwhile even if you never learn more than “Twinkle Twinkle.”
The 10K is worth running even if you get a cramp 2K in and call it a day.
The honeymoon is worth taking, even if it is just a weekend spent camping at a national park.
Things that are worth doing are worth doing badly. They are worth attempting. They are worth the risk of false starts. We don’t need to be experts at things to reap benefits from giving them a try. And we certainly don’t need old maxims intimidating us into never starting.
If everything that was worth doing needed to be done well—I’d have a pretty empty life. Because I can’t spend a week in Paris, or even a weekend, thoroughly exploring all it has to offer. There are too many constraints to my time, money, energy, and ability. I can scrape together a day trip that won’t do the city any justice OR I can not seeing Paris at all.
I’d already lived out a good stretch of my life having not seen Paris at all. It was time to make a different choice. I was going to see Paris, even if it meant seeing it under less than ideal circumstances.
So yeah… The first time I did Paris, I did Paris poorly. Sprinting around the Louvre, Trocadero, Ils de la Cite, and Champs-Elysees is not ideal. But you better believe I was overjoyed to have memories of standing inside Notre Dame and eating that baguette, particularly when Notre Dame went up in flames, and then travel became impossible for everyone everywhere. I saw enough of Paris to know it was worth seeing again. I saw enough of Paris to know for myself that it wasn’t all hype, that there was something magical there.
I went back to Paris at the beginning of this year with Mr. Trent and my kiddos. We took the same train from London. But this time we spent a week. We climbed the Eiffel Tower, spent an entire afternoon in the Louvre, saw the catacombs, the Sacre Coeur, the Sainte-Chappelle, and l’Orangerie. We ate really, really good food. I practiced my very bad French. My daughter bought a pink beret.
Anything worth doing is worth doing badly because, “A day in Paris is better than no day in Paris.”
And often, a day in Paris will lead to several days in Paris.