I love reading about how other travel bloggers got their start and how they realized this was what they wanted to do. It hit me very recently that I still hadn’t told my whole origin story. I’ve told bits and pieces, sprinkled throughout other posts, but I haven’t explained everything. So, here goes!
I had originally travelled to France to be an Au Pair for the whole three months of my “big Europe trip” with a family who I was semi connected to (6 degrees of separation and all that…but really more like 3). I was so excited. As you can read about in one of my very first posts, the plan came together about a month before I was intended to leave for France and start the “nanny” job.
The perks were obvious. I would have room and board paid for, plus a small monthly stipend, a cell phone, and a transit pass – all covered. I would work in the mornings and evenings and have my days free to explore Paris and the surrounding areas. I had major plans. I was going to return to Canada speaking fluent French and I would have a new found knowledge of French cuisine. I joked with my friends that I would become a wine snob. I was going to have three months to soak in Parisienne culture. I would have time to do this all slowly.
When I accepted the opportunity, I had just finished my master’s degree and was working part-time at a grocery store while I looked for a serious Big Girl job. I had given myself a deadline. I would work for no more than one year at the grocery store before I “did something cool with my life.” Either I’d find a job or I’d travel with my small pile of savings. The Au Pair job offered me a way to travel without depleting my savings. And it offered me a way to get to know a French family, their children, and their culture.
This whole Au Pair thing seemed to fall into my lap at exactly the right time. it was perfect. I couldn’t say no – and I didn’t! I was terrified, of course, because it seemed like I had no idea what I was doing. But the thought of being out there in the world and figuring it all out – that’s what I live for.
So off I went. I left Canada December 1, 2014. I would be away from my family for my birthday and the holidays for the first time in my life. They threw me a surprise party to wish me well. They even made cute selfie accessories.
When I arrived in Paris, the father of the family picked me up from the airport and I thought we were off to a good start. I met the mother and the kids. When we first spoke over Skype before everything was set, we had talked about the first week being about learning. The mother would accompany me for the first week when taking the kids to school and daycare and show me how she does things. After arriving, I realized this wasn’t the case.
I was there for less than one week before it was determined that “It wasn’t working”. I took this as a personal failure for a very long time, before I realized it was probably more a case of miscommunication and unstated expectations. They wanted me to be like them, like someone they could immediately relate to. They got a quiet, shy Canadian girl, when they wanted an outgoing, outspoken Mary Poppins type.
I have other observations about the whole thing, which I will keep to myself, because that isn’t what this is about. This is about how I got to where I am now.
I’ve never actually told the story of my first week in Paris. I actually started this post with another topic in mind, and instead of that, I word vomited all over the page about this.
Ironically, I dressed up as Mary Poppins for Halloween this year, so I think I’m finally ready to let go of that one week in Paris.
Imagine you’re in a new place where you don’t speak the language and you have this plan. Everything is in place. It’s all new and you don’t expect it to be easy, but you’re ready. And then, in a second, you have to change everything.
I had already booked my return flight for three months from my arrival. I could have moved it up but I was in France! I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I had so much to do and see! But I had this giant suitcase that I had packed planning to be in one place the whole time.
I could have stayed. The family said I could stay and try again if it was something I really wanted. But they said that after 10 minutes of tearing me down. I worried aboit what my family woild think – that I failed, that I gave up, that it was my fault and I should fix it. And especially after they threw me an amazing party. But how could I stay in Paris after knowing what my “employers” thought of me?
So I called my mom on Skype and Googled different options for ditching my luggage. I thought about shipping it home or renting a locker somewhere. Then my sister put me on touch with her classmate with family in Germany, who said I could keep it there. This was the best plan so far, so I went with that. But first – I had to find a new place to stay in the more immediate future.
I checked out hostels and Airbnb but everything seemed so expensive. I was wary of depleting my savings too early on in the trip before I knew how much I would really need. I found couchsurfing online and quickly made a profile. I didnt have a plan yet, so I decided to look for a host in Paris and finish seeing what I wanted to see before I left – like Versailles and the Café des Chats. I had doubts that anyone would take me in with a brand new profile and no reviews, but luckily, someone did.
And that’s where the adventure began. Check back soon for my next post on the people you meet couchsurfing (which is what I really started to write before something else came out instead).
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