Solo Travel – Facing My Ferris Wheel Fear in Paris

Journey Soulo Kristine Castagnaro travel solo trips

Check out this video! It’s 1 minute 26 seconds long!

One of the things that I love about traveling solo is how it opens up opportunities for me to face my fears. I’ve talked about this before… facing my fear of massages in Nepal, facing my fear of heights in Japan.

My fear of heights. I can’t seem to shake it. But I have had a lot of nervous fun trying in Belize, France, and even here at home in Hawaii!

Even though it was technically a “business trip” for Journey Soulo, my last trip to Paris was no exception.

My business partner, Toni Takeno, and I were there to research our upcoming trip with clients in May (psst! You should come with us!). When Toni & I saw that there was an opportunity to go high in the sky and film it…. well… here’s what happened!

I don’t like you, Mommy

“I don’t like you, Mommy,” I whispered into my mother’s ear. “I love you.” I giggled, tickled with myself. I thought I was the cleverest 5-year-old she could ever meet. I nestled into her lap, certain I would fit there forever.

I asked her a few years ago if she remembered this moment, which is still so vivid in my mind. She said, “No, but do you know what I do remember? I remember the exact moment when I realized your world no longer revolved around me.”

- The rest of this post is at Families in the Loop, an amazing parenting site where parents let loose.

(photo credit: arztsamui/


Dear Russell, don’t be mad…

paris-russell-dont-be-madDear Russell,

Do you remember saying goodbye to me before I left for my trip to Paris? You kissed the top of my head and said, “Be safe. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“Of course,” I promised as I got into the taxi headed for the airport.

Russ, honey… now don’t be mad but…

I kinda did something just a little bit stupid.

It was the fourth day of the trip. Toni and I were taking a leisurely stroll along the Seine, stopping to browse the wares of the various vendors. I felt so blessed to be there. The day was bright and it felt like only good things could happen – as though the sun was shining rays of luck down on us rather than the same old boring rays of light. Mere moments after I mentioned to Toni how much I loved you, we happened upon a group of six or seven elderly gentlemen gathered around a man crouching on the sidewalk. At first I thought he was a magician. He was shuffling three small boxes on a red square of carpet at his knees. He was asking those huddled around to guess where he had hidden a white marble. Of course, I realized almost at once that he wasn’t a magician at all, he was a scammer… taking the money of those poor elderly gents as they chose the wrong box again and again. It was a shell game.

I felt sorry for them in a way. It was apparent that their tired old eyes simply couldn’t keep up with this man’s flying fingers. But the crouching guy was smart… he let them guess correctly every once in a while to build up their hope and keep them coming back for more.

The thing is, honey, I knew where that white marble was every single time. It was almost frustrating, watching one man leaning on his cane guess wrong time after time. In exasperation, I pointed to the center box…

“It’s in the middle one,” I whispered to Toni. “I don’t see what’s so difficult about this.”

The swindler must have overheard me because he popped out of position and strode right to me. He pressed a 10 euro note into my hand and drew me to the middle of the circle. Before I knew it, I was crouching down too, scrutinizing the boxes, considering his insistent offer of double or nothing.

I decided to go for it. I felt like somebody needed to put this guy in his place. I reached into my wallet and pulled out ten euros to match his own. Suddenly there was a lot of angry hand-waving from the man and discontented mumbling from the grandpas behind me. The man disgustedly snatched the original bill out of my hand and snapped it in front of my face.

Oh. It wasn’t a ten. It was a fifty.

I stood up to go. “No, no. Merci, but there’s no way I’m betting you 50 euro.” I tried to back away but stumbled over a metal walker precariously supporting a man who must have been in his late eighties. I tried to apologize for my clumsiness. In response he reached into the frayed pocket of his wrinkled cranberry sweater and pulled out a fifty euro note.

Honey, two things flashed through my mind as he gently offered me his crumpled money.

  1. I totally couldn’t take this old man’s cash. He was disabled for heaven’s sake. He needed that money to keep the wheels on his walker oiled and ready to roll. And what if, by some fluke, the stupid white marble eluded me?
  2. That would NEVER happen, because I knew where the marble was, like six times in a row.

I knew I had to take the bet. I knew it with a certainty that in hindsight seems somewhat misguided but I felt like I had the potential to be a hero… to stand up to this rip-off artist and his hustling ways… to give the elderly men surrounding me some measure of justice or hope for a better, albeit limited, future or something like that. And I would get a good story out of it to boot.

I pulled out fifty euros to the cheers of the frail old men behind me. Toni later told me it was just a general murmur of approval, but at the time, I heard cheers. A man wearing a jaunty hat congratulated me with a hardy pat on my shoulder. I resumed my squatting position and concentrated as the scammer man arranged and rearranged his three little boxes in an arrogant attempt to confuse me. His movements slowed and he lifted his hands. Palms up, he invited me to choose. I pointed to the box on the left, confident and somewhat self-satisfied. He flipped the box over and there was only red carpet. The white marble was not there.

He was a magician!

I jumped up and shrieked!

And that’s when I learned that I can do magic too. With that single high-pitched yelp, I had managed to clear the entire sidewalk of every human soul except Toni and myself. The con-man scooped up his carpet, shushed me with a furious finger to his lips and took off down the walkway. The man with the cane – he disappeared. The walker guy in his cranberry sweater – vanished. The entire entourage (each of whom I now understand had their own unique role to play in this shakedown) had scattered.

My 50 euros? Poof.

I looked at Toni.

“Only you,” she said, shaking her head.

I couldn’t think of a clever response because the part of my brain in charge of self-preservation immediately started a mental list of reasons why you shouldn’t be mad at me even though I had just blatantly ignored one of only two simple requests you had made of me.

So, honey. I would like to humbly submit to you, in writing…

The Top 3 Reasons

Why You Shouldn’t Be Mad at Me for

Doing Something Stupid in Paris

Reason #1: What’s really important is that everybody is safe and that nobody got hurt.

Reason #2: In the end, it was a bargain. Yes, 50 euros is roughly $66.27. The whole experience was about ninety seconds long and both Toni and I learned a valuable lesson. So, if you give that lesson a monetary value of let’s say, $40, and divide it by two (for Toni and me) and subtract 30 seconds…the whole thing only cost about $12.50.

Reason #3: I promise never to do it again.

Russell, if it helps, I want you to know, I really enjoyed the whole experience. For that minute and a half, I was having the time of my life. Now, I must admit, for a couple hours after, I was acutely aware that you might not be as understanding as you usually are about this kind of thing. So, I’ve created a list of the trinkets and treats that I didn’t buy on the trip to try to make up for the money that I lost.


Sorry, honey. I actually bought everything I wanted exactly when I wanted it. I didn’t curb my spending at all. I couldn’t help it. For some reason, I wasn’t able to look at my run-in with this racket as a bad thing. It was a just a lesson learned. Another one of my “little moments” in a foreign place. Another entertaining story to add to my cherished collection.

I hope you are not mad. I almost didn’t tell you. But who doesn’t love a story with a surprise ending?


For those of you who have been wondering where I’ve been lately, I’ve been here: Journey Soulo. My good friend, Toni Takeno, and I have started a business that supports and encourages people who dream of traveling the world. We’ve got blog posts and videos, an online travel course designed to build courage and confidence, and we’re hosting a trip to Paris in May 2014. So, I’ve been a bit distracted. But I’m back!

Glad I’m Paying for those Karate Lessons


Mgazi: AAAAAAARRRGGGGGAAAAAAH! <– That’s supposed to be a scream

Zaffy: I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

Mgazi: You punched me!

Zaffy: I did not!

Mgazi: You did!

Zaffy: I smacked you with the back of my hand. It’s totally different!

Where was I during all of this? At my desk. Pretending it all wasn’t happening.

What Happens When The Kids Try To Break Into My Phone

The kids routinely try to figure out the password on my iPhone. This is what happens when they become bored after many failed attempts:

All Signs Point To Old

I had lunch with a dynamo of a woman recently. She’s 89 years old. Sharp, witty, and fantabulous. Everything I want to be at her age. Any age, really.

As we were leaving the restaurant she said to me, “Kristine, you are obviously in your late forties. I want to tell you, you look great. There’s not a wrinkle on you!”


I am not in my late forties. And I knew the polite thing to do was to accept the compliment with grace and thank the woman. But I couldn’t do it.

“Actually, I’m forty-two. But I appreciate the compliment very much.”

“Forty-two,” she said. “Well, you’re a young one then!”

Holy shit! Wait a second! That means that an eighty-nine year old woman’s gut instinct was to categorize me as NOT YOUNG?

I felt sick. A burst of heat emanated from the center of my body. There’s no doubt. It was my very first hot flash.


Coco is Dead. Long Live Coco.

I had been out of town for several days. My phone rang. It was Zaffron. She was crying.

“Coco is dead, Mommy! Coco is dead!”

“Oh, honey. I’m so sorry. Who’s Coco?”

“He’s one of the fish we bought for the new aquarium. There’s Zippity, and Sucker and Coco and… ”

She broke off into sobs. I waited, knowing the story would continue when she was ready.

“We found him this morning. He wasn’t moving so Daddy took him out and shook him. He still didn’t move. He’s dead, Mommy. Really really dead.”

Her wailing continued. When it turned to sniffles I said, “Oh baby. I’m so sorry. You know when I was a little girl I had a goldfish named Sprite. When he died, I got a new fish and named him Sprite Two. Maybe we could get a Coco Two.”

Silence. You know the kind. Stunned silence. The kind where you can tell the other person is actually stunned that you could say such a thing. It was only punctuated by a single hiccup. And then this:

“Mommy! How could you? Nobody can replace Coco!”

“Oh! Of course not, honey. I just meant –.”

“What? What did you say, Daddy?”

She paused and I heard my husband’s muffled voice in the background.

“Daddy says to tell you that I have only known Coco for less than 24 hours.”

“Ah, I see. But that doesn’t really help much, I guess.”

“No,” she said. “No, it certainly doesn’t.”

Mgazi Uses Her Connections

In the car:

Zaffron: Mommy, Mgazi is in the kissing family.

Mgazi: Be quiet! I am not!

Zaffron: She is too. It’s gross.

Mgazi: Ok. I’m in the kissing family. But only a little.

Me: I don’t get it. What’s the kissing family?

Mgazi: It’s a club where you have to kiss Vincent to get in.

Zaffron: Vincent created it.

Me: No kidding.

Mgazi: I didn’t have to kiss him though.

Me: Why not?

Mgazi: Because I’m friends with Sarah.

Zaffron: Oh, that makes sense.

Me: Really, Zaff? That makes sense to you? This whole conversation makes sense to you?

Zaffron: Of course. Why wouldn’t it?

The Unraveling of Me

I asked the child to do a simple thing. That right there was my first mistake.

“Mgazi, please get your shoes on. We don’t want to be late for school.”

Mgazi spends the next two minutes dawdling outside her bedroom door playing what she thinks is music on a hot pink harmonica.

“Honey, go get your shoes. Put them on.”

Another two minutes go by. I find Mgazi hunched over the cat bowl, sorting the food into pyramid shaped piles on the floor.

“Mgazi! Put on your shoes!”

Two freakin’ minutes… during which she decides to change from a perfectly sensible dress to a bikini top and pink tutu skirt with a cowboy hat garnish.

“Child, you better put those shoes on! Wait, what the heck are you wearing?”

I start muttering under my breath, realizing that if I don’t leave the house in exactly three minutes I’ll have missed the traffic window. You know the one. If you leave during a 10 minute window of time, you’ll get to your destination right on time, no hassle, no traffic. If, however, you leave a mere 30 seconds after that window of time,  you’ll arrive at your destination 45 minutes late and the entire ride will have sucked because you spent it sitting in traffic, giving stinkeye through the rearview mirror to your kid who is still, miraculously, not wearing any shoes.


She blinks at me. Unclear as to what it is exactly that I’m asking her to do.


“Fine!” She stomps off in her socks, “All you had to do was say so!”


Want to be a better mom? Leave the kids at home!

Families in the loop has posted my latest! I’m very grateful for their support.

Here it is…

I’m a selfish parent, which makes me kind of a crappy parent. I have a solid distaste for parenting logistics. I can’t stand making school lunches. I hate filling out permission slips. Counting out the exact change for a field trip, sealing it in an envelope, and tucking it into my daughter’s backpack for safe delivery drives me insane. Why? A rock-hard nugget of knowing nestled deep inside my belly tells me I’ll be counting out that same damn change the very next day because said child managed to lose said envelope.

It’s not that I don’t recognize or experience the joyful parts of parenting as well. I love the…

Read the rest at Families in the Loop.