The travel bug bit me at a very young age — not because I was a child jet-setter, rather, my dad would occasionally hang a large white sheet against the wall so he could project his slides (yes, slides) from his days living abroad in the sixties. But it wasn’t just his photographs that drew me in, it was his stories. I didn’t even fully understand what pâté was, yet I could taste it,thanks to his vivid description. From the the sound of the olive trees rustling in the wind to the road trips across Europe in his ‘62 Renault to the copious occasions where he was able to share a meal with a local-turned-friend, I officially had wanderlust. Forget Disney World. I want to see the Acropolis, dip bread into a pot of Swiss fondue, and gaze up at the Eiffel Tower like Madeline.
Flash forward several years later, a little over a year until my 40th birthday. A life change prompted me to offload unnecessary material possessions and spend some time in Paris. Why the City of Light? The answer is quite simple: I’m enamoured by it. The memories I’ve made over the past several years traveling there have become a part of my soul — and thanks to my career as a freelance journalist, this adventure was feasible.
In terms of living quarters, I settled into a small — actually tiny — studio in the Le Marais. For the cost, a larger pad could have been an option had I decided to venture out into other arrondissements, but being in an area that was comfortable to me was far more important than space. By making a life change, my priorities changed as well. As long as I could stroll around the corner to Place des Vosges to work, take a lunch break on the Seine with a three Euro baguette sandwich, and head to the open air market for my groceries, life was good.
As Good As It Gets
Even though I don’t speak the language (yet), I was surprised with how comfortable I felt. Actually, not just comfortable, downright giddy. It was the awakening that I was finally exactly where I should be after struggling to identify with that for many years. It wasn’t too long after being overseas that I met a fantastic French gentleman who is now my boyfriend. It’s been an exciting journey so far and our cultural differences have helped us form a strong bond — and make us laugh on occasion, too.
Forget About Those Stereotypes
What was supposed to be a brief hiatus in Paris turned into yet another complete lifestyle change. Of course, when I first told friends and family about this newfound relationship, I was plagued stereotypical questions like “Is he married?” “Is he a lot older than you?” Response: NO. I’m the only American in his social circle, but I’ve been welcomed with open arms. I want to touch more upon how we as Americans perceive the French and vice versa in future posts, but I can tell you that I’ve had several wine-infused conversations with them about this and not to worry — they don’t think we’re awful because of our president.
While this may sound like a perfect fairytale, there are also some harsh realities to living abroad. For example, being away from family, the visa process (a post in itself), identifying true friendships, and mastering the language so you convert from tourist to local. Not to mention, maintaining a US-based job from abroad if you aren’t on a work visa — though I CAN say being here finally gave me the clarity I needed to continue my business venture. Of course, there’s always the fact that you have to accept that you’ll likely always be the loudest person in the room. At a French fete or dinner party, I sometimes feel like a hybrid of Zelda Fitzgerald and the Unsinkable Molly Brown — but I’m okay with that.
Look for future posts about my life in France. Is there something particular you’d like to know? Email me at Rebecca@welltraveledbeauty.com.