Bonjour from Paris!

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 1. Introductions, Paris by Howard1 Comment

Hi! My name is Howard Zheng, currently a sophomore year concentrating in Philosophy and Photography. I’m originally from Shenzhen, China, a large city right next to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, I’m pursuing my passion in the city of light – Paris. I chose Paris for its art culture already engraved and beyond. For my concentration, I anticipate to integrating conceptual photographs created by my camera with philosophical ideas. However, in some sense none of my work was originated by me – I simply take pictures on artwork and try to snap it from a different angle where both audience and the work itself can meet inside just one frame. This looking from different perspective enables me to see more not just in artwork, but also in travel. This semester, I hope I can put myself into more works of art, in a role of creator as well as an audience, and also to get lost often in the city, so I can let all those been-there-done-there mindsets redefine my reality.

When I travel, I leave everything I know behind. All my conceptual maps about reality, all the rules and frameworks related to the normal world in which I dwell are up-ended when I am exposed to a different culture, when I am exposed to a different language and all of a sudden that unfamiliarity, that sense of first sight unencumbered by knowing this and hurls me into the present. It puts me into a state of flow, a state of openness.

It is also through travel I have that free play of imagination, that pumps of inspiration, that loads of creativity I rarely had when living in a familiar place where I have knowledge of most things. These experiences are ineffable and indelible. I cannot anticipate it if I’ve never been on it. I have to see it to feel it.

Travel is never just about what to do or where to see. I want it to be who I am and where I am going.

For the last Spring break, when I accidentally saw the round-trip ticket to Norway only cost $350, I bought it without hesitation. It did not come to my knowledge until I arrived there that during spring time, around March, it’s the raining season there. I took a train to Bergen on the third day and expected for an adventure there. I eventually did. Since I don’t have internet access there, I read the map carefully before leaving for a famous Fjord. No surprises that I went on the wrong trail, and finally got me somewhere that only appeared in the movie—a direction dilemma. All I remembered at that instant blank of mind was Robert Frost kept telling me to take the road not taken. So I went with the left trail, hoping to get to the top. But then it was pouring rain and there was no path anymore. I was soaking wet, and yet I kept walking. After a while of rain, like all the movie plots go, I followed the lead of sundown beam where suddenly I saw the views that I have never seen on my way here and, later to knowledge, the way back either. I took only one picture of it since more parts of me want to stay in the very moment instead of trying to capture everything in the viewfinder.

Had I taken the “right” trail, or had I not got lost, I could never have witnessed this view of mine.

I had fears when I walked alone in the trees, but that fear led to the fear in sublimity and awe.

I wish everyone a great time studying abroad!


  1. Hi Howard,
    I find your story of your trip to Norway incredibly interesting and definitely relatable for fellow experienced travelers. Like de Botton had mentioned in the chapter, the reality of traveling is often quite different from what is anticipated. Your experience of getting stuck in the rain and not being sure of what to do is a journey similar to what almost all travelers face at some point on a trip, but not necessarily what is mentioned when sharing stories of travels to others. De Botton also explains how often we are told where to travel, but not how or why to do it. I believe you have proven that how or why is not advised because it is up to the individual to create their own journey. It is up to the traveler to explore the unknown and find the beauty in it.

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