How Disneyland Paris Changed My Mindset

A Disney direct bus, a blackberry sky, and a horoscope.

I’m gripping onto a silver metal pole on a bus with seventy people packed in. I’m on the highway, heading back from Disneyland Paris with my two friends to our Airbnbs elsewhere in the city. My plastic bags full of Halloween Disney gifts I’m giving to my family at Christmastime keep hitting my leg as the bus jerks to a halt at every red light. Little five-year-olds are conked out in their deluxe French strollers as they squeeze onto stuffed animal vampire Mickeys and witchy Minnies. After shivering all day and not being able to bend my fingers from the cold, sweat now drips down my back, making my white fuzzy jacket stick to me. I just want to take it off but can’t even move an elbow due to all the people. The humidity and smell in the bus is like being stuck in a small bathroom that exceeds the maximum space capacity of people—a wet and musty mixture. My throat is so dry because I haven’t drank water all day. But this feeling of not being able to breathe is also because I have a newfound freedom.

I smile to myself. The sky is so dark—a deep deep purple, like blackberry. I want to turn this feeling of sky into a blanket and wrap it around me. It is so comforting to the usual blackness. I think to myself, Today was the perfect day. I got the rush of adrenaline from smiling, laughing, and screaming for an entire day. You know those days that just seem so full, where all the empty parts of your life seem so small and distant? This was that kind of day. I gallivanted through Disneyland Paris’s park with the energy of a small child seeing the pink and blue castle for the first time. I did not have my revelation inside the Notre Dame church or on a boat ride through the Seine. Everything from the first half of this semester abroad hit me on a bus ride back from Disney Paris—such a cliché or cheesy place most people would say. But it’s true that my moment of change was at 10:00 at night on an unventilated, crowded Disney Direct bus.

Disneyland Paris
A day full of smiles. PHOTO Amanda Dettmann


Disneyland Paris
Heading over to Magic Kingdom. PHOTO Amanda Dettmann

The bus keeps chugging along and one of my friends whips her phone out, suddenly asking me my zodiac sign. “Sagittarius,” I say. She takes a moment to read my horoscope. Mind you, I never even asked for her to do this. She gasps and says, “Manny, this is amazing. Oh my gosh.” I smile sheepishly but reply, “Don’t tell me it. I don’t want to know!”. But then my other friend grabs the phone and says, “You have to hear this.” So I let them tell me my horoscope for the current day and the next day since technically it’s almost midnight. I quickly realize these two horoscopes are linked together. They read:

“You must follow your passion. Keep writing. Keep exploring and take all negative experiences and learn from them. Take all positive experiences and learn from them. You have just completed an entire journey. Now you will begin a new one.”

I let out a breath, feeling the space on the bus suddenly expand. There is now so much air. I can breathe. What I had been thinking all day was finally said aloud.

One of the friends I hung out with at Disney is not as close to me as the other friends I have been living with in Florence and traveling with elsewhere. I have not known her for very long. And yet she taught me in one day what it means to live joyously. For one whole day I hung out with a person who had so much positive energy, who motivated me instead of putting me down. We ran through the Disney park almost tripping over our own shoelaces, eating foods we’ve never tried like ratatouille, and hopping on upside-down rides that would usually terrify us. We took risks. We pushed the limits of what we thought we were scared of. We challenged ourselves on the biggest rollercoasters. We got lost in the park near the haunted house and screamed. We found our way. We had no timeframe. We expanded time. We were kids again.

Disneyland Paris made me realize that I need to stick up for myself more often and be around those who uplift me, who make me laugh so loud that others connect can connect to this thing called shared joy. I also need to write more. I love writing poetry and used to journal at the beginning of this semester but stopped after a couple of weeks. Last night I sat down to write again because I wanted to do it, because it was actually fun and not work. Acknowledging the creative side of myself is a huge part of who I am, just like how I experienced all the creativity Disney has to offer with its crazy characters, unique attractions, and funny French designs that cover the park. If I don’t have that creative side to me, a piece of me is lost.

Disneyland Paris
Monsters Inc antics. PHOTO Amanda Dettmann


Disneyland Paris
Disney’s glow at night. PHOTO Amanda Dettmann

* * *

I start to tear up on the bus ride back. Some strangers give me a look but I don’t care. The person I had been this entire abroad experience was colliding with who I wanted to become. My hands begin to slide off the pole; it’s hard to hold onto anything now but at the same time I feel that I can hold so much. If I want change, I have to create it myself. Sometimes we have stop sitting and watching and instead, run—run wild through a foreign park filled with Mickey Mouses, or run wild with the thought that we can accomplish anything if we take the driver’s seat and push the pedal, even on a smelly Disney Direct bus.

“That was my moment,” I whisper out loud in front of my friends, all of us still falling over slightly every time the bus changes lanes. I glance back out at the blackberry sky. And I just know it’s one of those days. Like a sky so deep that anything can happen.

Amanda spent four days in Paris, France.

Amanda Dettmann


Amanda is an avid traveler who calls Maine her home, but her favorite places include Amsterdam's Christmas markets and Shakespeare's Globe in London. She is passionate about poetry, theatre, and teaching writing to kids and adults with disabilities. She thinks the best part of traveling is hearing strangers' incredible stories. Her ultimate mission? To find the tastiest cappuccino in the world.

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