A MONTH IN PARIS

RETIREMENT COACHING – DEBBIE DRINKARD GROVUM-After a lifetime of dreaming and a year of planning, I arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport, excited to start my month-long adventure of living in Paris.  I had visited Paris twice before, but I wanted to live in Paris, not just visit it.  Since my husband works from home and I am retired, we now had the freedom to spend more time in another place.  Armed with Rick Steve’s travel guide and believing wholeheartedly in his philosophy of living like a local, we settled into our Paris apartment for a month of French living.

Each morning I walked to our neighborhood boulangerie for baguette or croissants, and we patronized our favorite produce and cheese vendors at the twice-weekly market in our neighborhood.  Although my French language skills were more limited than I expected and my husband’s were non-existent, we were able to communicate just fine and became part of our community.

Traveling and experiencing another culture is more than just a good time.  Numerous research studies have shown that traveling improves creativity.  Adam D. Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago and William W. Maddux of INSEAD, a business school in France conducted a study that showed students who had lived abroad performed better on puzzles and problems than those who had not.

Living in another culture expands our world.  Travel is a great way to combat the feeling of our world getting smaller that we may have as we age.  After a month in Paris, we felt we could live there.  We learned how to use the Metro and bus system, get a carafe of tap water with our meal (rather than pay 5 euro for a bottle), operate our temperamental kitchen appliances, and other Paris-living skills.

Traveling expands our self-knowledge.  Always super planners, we learned the joy of strolling new areas and being open to exploring whatever we happened to encounter.   Putting ourselves in a new cultural environment with a different language taught us how resourceful we could be.

Navigating life in a new situation builds confidence.  Success in one area of life encourages us to take on new challenges.  Before attempting a new French-language encounter, I would practice how to say what I needed to say.  Some encounters went better than others, primarily because I couldn’t always anticipate what I would hear in response.  I am sure my blank looks told a lot about my fluency.  Regardless of how fluently I communicated, I always felt energized afterwards and ready to take on a new communication adventure.

A great trip provides joy long after the trip is over.  On the plane coming home we were already starting to reminisce about our favorite experiences and sites.  I have no doubt that we will continue to enjoy looking at our pictures and remembering our wonderful trip.

Thinking about a trip?  Want it to be both fun and enriching? Think about the following:

  1. Travel with an open mind.  It won’t be like home, and that is what makes travel exciting.  Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but they don’t pick up after their dogs.  We learned to watch where we were walking.  Seek to understand rather than judge.
  2. Leave time for the unexpected.  Many of our most rewarding experiences were unplanned; they were discoveries.
  3. Try something new.  My husband wanted to take the Paris Sewer Tour.  Although I went along reluctantly, it turned out to be an enjoyable (and just a little smelly) adventure.
  4. Live like a local.  We intentionally lived in a non-tourist area and scouted out streets and venues off the main tourist routes.
  5. Savor each moment.  It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of being in a new place that we forget to be grateful for the experience.  We made an effort to remind each other how lucky we were to have the experience of living in Paris for a month.

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” – G.K. Chesterton

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