So it’s been 4½ months since I first arrived in France, and in many ways, the time has crept by like “dog years.” That’s not a bad thing—rather, it’s pretty much what I expected by exchanging my comfortable, big-American-city life for a slower and much different one in a French village. On days when I’m at home writing an article or blog post, I could be anywhere; on days when I or take the 40-minute train into fabulous Paris, I’m in my favorite city in the world. I sometimes have to pinch myself when I round a corner and the Eiffel Tower pops into view, when I’m breaking off a fresh piece of a crispy crusted baguette after a stop at a boulangerie, or when I look out my front window and remember that the river flowing outside is the same Seine that snakes through Paris. WOW.
This is what I call the “Under the Tuscan Sun” or “Before Sunset” part of my French experience, when my days contain happenings—or involve real-life French folks—that seem right out of a Hollywood script.
But although there’s much that’s fabulous about living in France, it’s not like every day is a holiday or that I’m constantly planning a last-minute vacation to some fabulous place (my Travel writing work notwithstanding). It’s REAL LIFE, with all the pressures, challenges, errands and occasional hassles that go along with it ….
Continue April 19, 2012
When you move abroad from the United States—and even when you move to a progressive, equally developed country—the adjustments you need to make in daily life are huge. That’s not to say that they’re BAD; they’re not. They’re just different. You might not find the same cough drop brands at the local pharmacist; out in the villages, you’re not likely to find a walk-ins-are-welcome manicurist seven days a week. But obviously, you’ve decided small changes like these are worth making in order to live the life you have now.
As I go about my daily routine, I’m finding that many of the experiences I have here in the lovely village of Samois-sur-Seine, in the surrounding towns, and 40 minutes away in Paris are nearly identical to ones I faced in Florence, Italy, when I lived there back in 2004 and 2005. Thank goodness this time around, I feel much more prepared to tackle the inevitable challenges that crop up on a daily basis. As anyone living abroad can attest, it’s during your first experience that you learn to juggle the truly unfamiliar until it becomes comfortable ….
Continue February 29, 2012
For the past couple days, I’ve been listening nonstop to one of the soundtracks of my childhood: straight-up, good old-fashioned African-American gospel music. And for that, I can thank Sister Whitney Houston, whose Newark, N.J., funeral at the New Hope Baptist Church was broadcast live around the world on Saturday, giving fans like me who never knew her a chance to say farewell in the way that we black folks do. In a “homegoing service,” one that focuses on the heavenly destination of the person being celebrated.
So sitting here on the other side of the world, in a quiet French village far, far away from the urban center that is Newark, I watched Whitney’s funeral on CNN.com and “had church” right here, all by myself. Such is the power of modern Internet technology—and the far more enduring power of gospel music and the Christian source from which it flows ….
Continue February 20, 2012
When you decide to pull up stakes and leave your home country for a much different and far more challenging life on the other side of the world, you’ve already convinced yourself that the move is a good one. So once you arrive at your destination and start settling into your new routine, you’re psyched. Every errand—whether to pick up a few items at the grocery store, drop off a sweater at the dry cleaners, or pop into the boulangerie for a crusty baguette—is loaded with the excitement of a 3rd grade field trip. (Remember how jazzed we used to get about THOSE?)
Such is the “grande aventure” of moving abroad. And I’m officially residing in the “honeymoon phase” of my journey, when everything is new and different and COOL ….
Continue January 22, 2012
So I’m headed to France in a little over one week, and am alternately super-psyched, nervous, thrilled, stressed to the max, giddy with excitement, and worried. While part of me cannot WAIT to board that Iberia flight headed for Europe, my evil twin fears that I’ll spend all those trans-Atlantic hours obsessing about … STUFF.
Will my limited French-speaking skills make me feel (literally) like the “village idiot” when I get to Samois-sur-Seine, the picturesque place south of Paris where I’ll be living? Will I find enough freelance writing and consulting work to keep me challenged—but not so much that I end up overstretched and fall back into my workaholic ways? Will I finally meet a decent man who is what he claims to be—or will the language gap (and his sure-to-be-charming French ways and accent) make it that much tougher to figure it out?
When you decide to pull up stakes and move by yourself to the other side of the world, the tasks you need to handle before leaving home are LEGION….
Continue December 20, 2011
Those of you who follow this blog know how much I love Europe—and that there’s a super-special place in my heart for France, where I’ve spent many incredible times over the past several years, from the north to the scenic south. FINALLY, I’m getting the chance to actually LIVE there … and I’ll be a mere 40-minute train ride from Paris, my favorite city anywhere in the world!!! The plan is to leave the States soon after Christmas and launch my “new life” in France—JUST in time to ring in the New Year ….
Continue December 4, 2011
¡Hola, salut et ciao, UrbanTravelGirls!!! Lo siento, je suis desolé, et mi dispiace–in short, my apologies for having gone off the grid for awhile. My freelance consulting and writing has kept me très busy the past several months, but I promise that I’m back, ready to inspire my chicas to experience the world and let it experience THEM!!
Since I last wrote, I’ve had incredible experiences in Panama City, Panama, and am counting on loads more of overseas trips in the near future. (More on that later!) But I’ve also been living vicariously through the adventures some of YOU ladies have been having this summer… which leads me to this post. None of us is an island—and neither should we be, even when we love hitting the road solo (as you know I do). It’s one thing to visit a city or country on your own, but quite refreshing to see it through the eyes of those who live there. And even if you don’t happen to know anyone in Amsterdam or Hong Kong or Cape Town, chances are someone that you know DOES. That’s why it’s a great idea to find out in advance if folks you know have any local connections in the place you’re heading….
Continue October 16, 2011
I like to think of vacations—especially those that take me abroad—as more than a chance to check out new museums, sleep late, and struggle through whatever language is spoken in the country I’ve chosen to visit. Rather, I see them as fundamental to helping me work through “life issues” I’m wrestling with at the time.
I like to spend the hours on long overseas flights—whether to South America or someplace in Europe—in the company of my trusty, well-worn journals. I absolutely cherish the time spent hurtling through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour. FINALLY—I’m not under pressure to immediately return e-mails or answer a mobile phone call I’d rather not take, anyway. So instead of mindlessly wasting time on some second-rate film, I pontificate. About WHO I want to be when I grow up. WHERE I want to live. And WHAT I want to do when I get there.
Then, once I arrive at my destination, I make it a point to spend at least SOME of my “holiday time” contemplating ME….
Continue May 1, 2011
For some international travelers, NOTHING compares to the moment of arrival, when they touch down in a new place and are ready to check out the scene. Others love arriving back HOME, posting their photos on Facebook and Flickr, sharing their travel memories with family and friends. But for me, a pseudo-obsessive Type A, what I love most about travel is the PLANNING that goes into crafting and shaping a trip.
Take my trip to Europe early next week. A wonderfully thoughtful friend in the south of France owns several beautifully furnished Riviera Experience (www.rivieraexperience.com) vacation rental apartments and had a vacancy in one that overlooks the breathtaking Bay of Villefranche. During an e-mail exchange, she invited me to come for a visit. I thought her offer was far too generous and started to decline, but finally graciously accepted, as I’d LOVE to see her and return to one of the most gorgeous places on earth. And for me, a planner to my heart, that’s where the fun begins!
Continue March 13, 2011
We’ve all read books and watched films about folks (often single women, it seems) who travel to some exotic locale in search of self-discovery, fall in love with this new place, and decide to trade in their not-quite-right lives at home for a new one overseas. You UrbanTravelGirls know the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun” motivated me to move to storybook-perfect Florence, Italy. The Frances Mayes book that inspired the film, Under the Tuscan Sun, has been translated into dozens of languages and prompted countless reader pilgrimages to Mayes’ adopted Tuscan hometown of Cortona.
Author Peter Mayle jump-started the modern expat-exchanges-hectic-urban-life-for-adventure-abroad trend with A Year in Provence, a book that when became an international best-seller when first published in 1989. In it, Mayle chronicled his life as a British expatriate in Ménerbes, a town in this gorgeous part of southern France. This former London ad executive and his wife traveled to Provence on vacation but eventually took the plunge, relocating completely from the UK to France. And once his books caught fire and made him rich—no doubt inspiring legions of folks with visions of living abroad—Mayle became the patron saint of reinventing oneself in a foreign land.
But when does an UrbanTravelGirl decide that a mere vacation doesn’t do it, that she’d rather pull up stakes and actually MOVE to another country and build a life for herself there instead of here (wherever that happens to be)? ….
Continue December 21, 2010