Montreal

My feelings always surprise me. I’ve been so ready to leave Providence, yet when the anticipated moment comes, I’m sad. I’m filled with a sense of emptiness and loss, the loss of a life and community I’ve slowly built over the past two years. The loss of a community to which I belonged. Reflecting, I board a plane en route to Montreal, fully prepared to lose myself in the unfamiliar streets of another city. Sometimes I forget that I’m connected to everything, everyone.

Talk to strangers. That’s my best life advice. Consumed by my thoughts, I smile at the man who sits next to me and we talk for 2 hours. We talk about identity, life in Montreal, travel, and I barely notice when the plane lands in Montreal. My French host in the Gay Village tells me about life in France vs Montreal as we walk around neighborhood, as I look at the world through someone else’s eyes. I meet fellow vegans, equally excited about Montreal’s amazing vegan food scene, French pastries and plant based sushi. By the second day, I forget that I felt lonely at all.

I may travel solo, but I am not alone. I walk down the street with a man from Burkina Faso, somehow filling in the blanks between our limited language, a French – English hybrid conversation. Aimlessly walking the cobblestone streets of downtown Montreal, I forget I’m in Canada, but imagine I’m in Europe, a French city with friendly Canadians and endless vegan food. I laugh at a woman talking to Siri and we walk to a cultural theater together, to a local show.

I meet yet more people and drive around the city at night, climbing mountains, looking at bridges that drip with lighted raindrops. A Cambodian immigrant who grew up in Montreal explains his identity, first Quebec, then Canadian, third Cambodian. I realize I can find fulfilling connections with others wherever I go, regardless of the time period, for a few days or a few years. A smile can turn into a conversation, a conversation can turn into an experience. An experience can bring about change, change of feelings, change of perspective.

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