About ten days ago, we celebrated our 2-year anniversary of living in Paris. It’s hard to believe that all that time has passed. I think of life now versus how life was back in Michigan…working lots of hours, only getting one real vacation a year, having to drive everywhere, and just constantly looking out the window into the distance wondering if it was possible to bring my life’s dream to reality.
Michigan was not necessarily ‘bad’, it just wasn’t allowing me to live the lifestyle that I (and my husband) truly wanted. Being a relatively traditional part of the world (the American Midwest), I did not fit in to the typical ‘married with two kids’ model like [almost] everyone else. My expectations were much different, and I felt regularly judged by others for wanting that.
It’s strange, because I actually feel like I fit in much better here in Paris! Why do I feel that way? There are a lot of reasons – the appreciation of food and wine, starting and ending the day later (night owl mode!), the ability to travel a lot more often, gorgeous architecture everywhere you look, the health care…I suppose I could go on! I also think mastering the language was very essential to what I consider to be ‘fully integrated’. That is not to say I speak perfectly, because I do not. But there was a kind of ‘hump’ I went over at about the 1 year and 10-month mark. Suddenly, I could sit with a large group and follow (even contribute) in conversation as well as understand jokes. This helped me a lot both personally and professionally. I noticed that I was connecting with clients much more, and friendships were more quickly blossoming.
In addition to the personal connections, we started feeling more comfortable traveling outside the country. In France, we get 5 weeks minimum vacation. This means, we no longer have to limit ourselves to going one new place per year. And now that we are on the other side of the ocean, we are much closer to many countries on our ‘to visit’ list. Our first year in France, we did not travel as much, but still tried to visit lots of towns within the country including Aix-en-Provence and Giverny. We ventured twice outside the country – once to Belgium and the second time back to the US to attend a wedding. In 2018, we did much more however, having traveled to Morocco, England, Germany, Austria, Italy, and back to the US for Christmas.
All in all, I can say that two years later, both of us have evolved and grown so much. Our experiences here have truly changed us, and I am so happy we took the big risk of moving here. Otherwise, I would still be staring out the window, wondering if I would ever realize my dream.