Like most of the world, I’ve been glued to the tv all day watching the devastating fire burning inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. And like most of you I’m sure, I’m entirely heartbroken watching such a monument burn, a place that is so well known and a place that has truly stood the test of time. But the truth is, Notre Dame for me isn’t just a monument, it’s not just a church. Nick and I stay across the street from Notre Dame every trip we take to Paris, we eat our croissants and Orangina from a local boulangerie in the back garden of the cathedral, we spend our evenings on the bridge of the Seine in front of the church watching the sunset and we eat breakfast at a little restaurant on the back corner of the church. Our visits to Paris always revolve around this area, around this landmark. And to see it burn, to know the loss this will yield to Paris and to France, it breaks my heart over and over again.
In my years of traveling, I’ve had a handful of experiences that I’ve seen and done that I always think to myself, thank goodness I’m here doing this now, seeing this now, because we don’t know how long anything might last. I’ve walked on glaciers that probably won’t be around in a handful of years because of climate change, I’ve walked through the ruins of Machu Picchu thinking to myself that those ruins might not stand the test of time and tourism in not so long and yet, in all my years of visiting Paris, my favorite city in the world, I never once thought walking those cobblestone streets and enjoying a croissant behind Notre Dame that I might not see it again, that it would never be again what it was the last time I saw it with my own eyes. And that perhaps is why this tragedy is so devastating to me and millions of other people, because the last time we saw Notre Dame, whenever that was, was the last time we’d ever see it the same way as it had stood for centuries.
As a traveler, as someone who adores Paris and gets there as often as I can, I am mourning this loss and it’s completely devastating. But as we look forward, I think it’s also important to note that the time for travel is now. I hear all the time people saying, I’ll wait to travel when I’m older or when I have more money or when my kids are grown. And here’s the thing, monuments like Notre Dame might not be there then. You might not get the chance to witness with your own eyes all these places that might not be around in 10 or 20 or 30 years. Go now. See it now. Witness it now. See this planet now. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, we aren’t sure what will happen in our own lives or in the world in the future. Today is all we have.
So as we mourn for Paris today, remember that while we might never lay eyes on the same church again, visiting it and witnessing it is still important. It’s still important to go and stand on the Seine and witness what remains of Notre Dame, it’s still important to support the local businesses that will for sure be devastated by this tragedy. And above all, it’s still important to go to Paris and every other place you want to visit. Go and witness the world, take it all in and then remember in your heart what it felt like to stand there and see it. I’ll never forget the last time I saw the landmark of Notre Dame, it was late evening in October as the sun was beginning to set. We ate dinner at our favorite restaurant near by and then wandered back to our hotel, the sky darkening and everyone out and enjoying the unseasonably warm evening with this famous church as the background. That memory will forever be etched into my mind now and when I return later this year, I’ll see the remains of whatever will be left and at least be glad I saw it standing all those times, that I was able to be a part of this landmark’s immense history. So today we mourn, tomorrow we travel.