I just got back from a weeklong Pilates adventure in the south of France, and I have only one word: Wow!
Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical about the trip. For one, it was a group trip with planned day excursions — something I’ve never done. Second, as someone who enjoys warm, friendly people, I was put off by the reputation of rudeness that the French people seemed to have earned. Third, the trip was gay — and the idea of being surrounded by a group of gay men for a week was nothing short of overwhelming.
In my mind, group trips were to travel what McDonald’s is to food. Everything seemed packaged, processed and lacking flavor. I was wrong; traveling with friends-to-be enhanced the trip several-fold. As someone who has only traveled alone, I quickly realized that group trips are safe, easier and free from logistics. All the work was done for us. We’d start each day with a Pilates class and the hop of the van for the day’s adventures. There was no thinking, planning or fretting over maps. It was all the fun of traveling without the stresses and tensions.
When it comes to rudeness, the reputation of the French people precedes them. I anticipated upturned noses and well-honed attitudes, but found only warm, loving and hospitable people. In fact, shopkeepers, waiters and residents alike were all genuine and friendly. After buying some cheese, a storeowner gave us some free samples of her Parmesan frits for the car ride home. Another, a complimentary bottle of wine to serve with dinner. Maybe it’s different in Paris — but the south of France is teeming in good energy and loving people. I couldn’t help but think that some sort of cosmic karma was at work; if you are warm and friendly, people will tend to mirror that back to you. Maybe a smile really can go a mile.
Not only was the trip a group experience, but it was also gay. Very gay. The trip was organized by a husband-husband team and all the vacationers were gay men. That’s a lot of gay, and the idea of being surrounded by so much gayness seemed a bit overwhelming — but my hesitation proved to be unfounded. The organizers were incredible and each of the vacationers brought something amazing to the experience. We bonded over our gayness, and it was insightful and empowering to hear the stories of our varied experiences and across different generations. We made something of a community within a community, and I’ll cherish the connections we forged.
The moral of the story is pretty-straight forward: Challenge yourself, what you believe and what you’ve been told. Despite the concerns of myself or others, my Pilates adventure in the south of France proved to be one of the best vacations of my life. If you’ve never taken a gay group trip, do it. And if you’re looking for a place to visit, I hear that the French people are very friendly.