Category Archives: Travel

Oh, France.

“It’s not what France gave you, but what it did not take from you that was important.”
-Gertrude Stein

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I haven’t written in 4 months for a few reasons. I’ve been busy, but also mildly depressed. It’s hard to be here. I’ve made some great friends, but I’ve also come across some of the meanest people I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. People are cruel, everywhere. It’s hard not to let that break your spirit, and that’s what I’ve spent the past couple months doing. Trying not to let it break me.

Needless to say, I’ve won.

If any of you have ever read The Paris Wife, you will understand a little of what I mean. Maybe it’s something about this country that does it, but it changes people. For better, or for worse. It’s the “for worse” part that you don’t expect.

I came here to find something. I was searching for a reason to keep going, something to validate my life’s work of learning French and learning to teach. I’ve found bits of things. I found things I was not expecting to. I found things that I would never have wanted to. I’ve learned a lot about teaching, about life, about love. It’s been wonderful, beautiful, and also excruciating.

I came to the realization the other day that maybe writing about this would help. So I got out my pen and paper and let my notebook have it. All the things I’ve been feeling for weeks. In order to ride it out, turns out you have to write it out.

I plan on writing more. I just wanted to let you all know that I’m still here.

“Travel is the great equalizer. The world will rip your heart out of your chest, and you’ll realize it belonged to her all along.”
-Me

Walking is addictive.

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At the top of La Citadelle in Besançon

I’ve been thinking this morning about what my life will be like when I go home. I’ve been here since September 20th. That makes 4 months and 3 days. I knew it would go by fast, but I wasn’t prepared for how that would feel. It feels like I’ve been here forever, and it feels like I’ve been here for 5 seconds. Some days I want to go home so bad that I almost pack everything and leave. Other days, the prospect of going back to my normal life scares me half to death.

Some things I will miss? My Monday morning yoga class. It’s in this tiny little apartment in the city center. You type a code into this door on the main street, then it takes you through a long, dark corridor. You eventually come to a courtyard and there is another door which leads to an old wooden staircase. I climb up two spiraling flights and enter into the little apartment filled with light. There are only six people in the class. It is yoga bliss.

I will desperately miss walking everywhere. It was the hardest thing to get used to, and I think will be the hardest thing to give up. In the US, we have to drive everywhere. Whether it’s to the coffee shop or the grocery store or to get a haircut, you have to get in your stupid car and drive there. Unless you live in New York City or somewhere walkable with public transport, you are doomed to live out your days behind the wheel. I used to think this was nice, even a luxury. Now I think it explains a lot about the American psyche. For example, we buy so much more than we need at the supermarket simply because we don’t have to carry it. We can take as much as we want anywhere we want because we don’t have to worry about our arms breaking off.

In France, you most likely do not have a car. Especially if you live here on a temporary basis like I do. This means that everything you take with you, you better be willing to carry the entire day. If you bring your computer, you have to lug it all over town and on the bus home. If you go to the grocery store, you shouldn’t buy milk and juice on the same day unless you want a serious workout. You have to carefully consider everything that you purchase. This has made me (slightly) more reasonable with money, but also with how I spend it on food. I eat everything I buy. I have become much less wasteful with food. Part of this comes from having to really think about what I’m buying and when. The other part is that I’m so pissed I had to schlep that jug of milk up four flights of stairs because my building doesn’t have an elevator. You better believe I’m going to drink every last drop.

When I first got here, I hated walking everywhere. My body was not accustomed to having to walk long (for certain Americans I mean) distances to get where I needed to go. My mind wasn’t used to having to rely on public transport and my own sense of direction instead of Google maps and my very own vehicle. I didn’t like having to give up control of where I could go. I didn’t like having to be reliant on a “system.” I was used to being reliant on myself. I have now realized that having to walk everywhere was just a different way of relying on myself.
I love every second of it now. It makes me feel like I’ve earned the right to go home at the end of the day. Maybe this sounds stupid because there are plenty of Americans who do have to walk everywhere. Maybe I also used to be lazier than I am now. This is my personal experience with it, but I’m telling you now that I’ve learned something new about myself. That’s the thing about being a stranger in a strange land, you have to adapt and do things that you normally wouldn’t. That’s also exactly why I came here.

In the end, I think it’s good for us.

À bientôt,

Resolutions and Bagels

When I discovered blogging, I thought I had found the thing I was looking for: something to do with my time. This year, I have a lot more of it than I am used to. My teaching schedule is just packed enough that I get to leave the house everyday, but I am still finding several hours to myself. I wanted to do something more meaningful with this gift I’d been given. Hence, the blog.

I quickly figured out that this was going to be more work that I realized, but here I was with my very own already-paid-for website. I had to stick with it. A ready-made New Years Resolution.

My main trouble has been deciding what direction I want this to go in. What should it be all about? Honestly, I haven’t quite figured that out. At the very least, I wanted to give people some insight into what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land in the daily life context. To my readers, if you’re out there, I hope that’s what I can give you.

Today I’m sitting at the Bagelstein after I was done teaching, which is not my favorite place but it has food and good tea, so here we are. I walk in, order my bagel sandwich, and in the middle of the transaction I miss a word that the girl behind the counter says. It’s usually not a big deal if you miss a word or two, but this time it was a key word and led to me completely misunderstanding what she asked me. I’m sure that normal people just ask her to repeat the question when this happens, but as I am myself and have a little bit of social anxiety, I panicked. So I said something along the lines of “sorry, my French is terrible.”

And down the awkward rabbit hole we go!

Then we go through the whole, “I speak English, too! Where are you from?” She ends up giggling through the entire conversation, and I end up with 2 things on my sandwich I didn’t ask for. This doesn’t bother me, because I’m not very picky, but now everyone in the shop knows for sure that I’m not French. So when I go to sit at a table at the same time as another customer, she smiles at me and says “Let’s go!” then walks away. I’m just standing there, confused, because I assume that “let’s go” either means “let’s take this outside” or “let’s share the table.”

She sits down somewhere else, I sit down at the table I somehow just won. Then feeling inspired, I get out my computer and start writing it all down. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad experience. Just super awkward. I will look back on this and laugh.

For now, I will do my best to keep up with my Resolution of 2017.

Thanks for reading and à bientôt

My new home: Besançon, France

My new home

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The view from my kitchen window

If you happen to be in France anytime soon and want to check out a city that is not normally on any travel guide, come see the lovely Besançon. This city is the capital of the beautiful Franche-Comté region, full of cheese, white wine, and cool people.

Besançon is majestically located between 7 hills, which is why the Romans dubbed it “little Rome.” This quirky city is the birthplace of Victor Hugo, hence their crazy obsession with him. Discover good eats and ancient fortresses in my article for Travelicious.

Click here to see the full article !