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13 Things The French Do That Will Blow Your Mind

October 6, 2019

After living in France for months this year with my four children, which I will write more about soon, I’ve come to see that the French really do have a particular way–let’s say, often a very particular way–of doing things.

I’ve traveled and spent a lot of time in France over the years. There was that hot August month in Paris solo with my four kids, that time roadtripping along the Mediterranean after walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain (oh, how they were sooo tiny then), those times crewing and cheering at various UTMB trail running races, and that time hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc with the kids.

I thought these travel experiences, combined with what I had gleaned from my family’s French roots and my high school French teacher (who was unmistakably French in every possible way) imparted a decent education about France and its culture.

Pas Possible! How Wrong I Was and How Much I Have Yet to Learn

After living in France, I’ve learned this: there is so much to learn. Just when you think you’ve figured out something or you think you know something, you probably don’t.

If you stay in France long enough, some the things you’ll learn will surprise you, put a huge smile on your face, annoy you, drive you nuts, and perhaps even blow your mind.

Here are 13 things the French do:

1. Forget About Clothes Dryers.

The drying rack is your friend in France.

In France, what you’re going to wear for the week requires pre-planning. France is big into energy conservation. Hanging your clothes on a line dryer or drying rack is how you’ll dry your clothes. After the sun has gone down or on damp days, you may find your living room (salon) or kitchen overflowing with freshly washed, hung laundry. Clothes dryers just aren’t popular for energy reasons. You’ll find drying racks for sale in grocery stores, sometimes near the wine, if that says anything. 🙂

2. French Bureaucracy…The French Have a Thing for Paper.

Despite France’s eco-conscious push, it may come as a shock to know that France loves paper. Well, at least the government does. France even has its own standard paper size A4, which is slightly longer and skinnier than the American standard 8×11″ paper.

The first big purchase I made in France was a printer. Why? Because France requires many things to be printed, from visa forms to copies of electricity or Internet bills to medical authorizations to banking application materials. And on A4 paper. France simply doesn’t do the electronic thing like many other countries do; in fact, online banking seems like a “new” concept in France. French are big into presenting or keeping dossiers, folders containing your personal documents needed for various applications, such as applying for an identity card, an apartment, or even for registering your child for a short sports program. Even some banks insist on sending monthly paper statements. My kids were floored when we made a trip to the local Prefecture (government office) and saw a giant wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling paper filing system behind the main desk. They asked if this is what the 80s looked like when I grew up. Hmmm…. 🙂

3. Pass the Cheese.

When you get invited to someone’s house for a meal, there will be cheese. The French do cheese. And they do it at the end of dinner. In the Alps, one plate of five, local cheeses is typically presented, including the region’s specialty (in Savoie that’s usually Reblochon).

Cheese is life.

4. Forget Tampons on Sunday.

Unless you’re living in a tourist town, you’re going to find that most stores are closed on Sunday. That’s slowly changing. In some places, such as in Paris, there are efforts to create automated stores with zero human register checkouts on Sundays (similar to Amazon’s zero human interaction store in New York’s Lower Manhattan), as a way to meet consumers’ shopping needs within the framework of existing government regulations which are designed to give employees a rest day and to give people family time. Chances are though, if you didn’t plan ahead for the expected or unexpected, you’ll be out of luck in France. I love French culture and France, but I really wish stores were open on Sunday. And I’ve also got to believe that I’m not the only woman raising daughters who feels this way. 🙂

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Give Yourself Permission to Travel, Even if It Means Going Solo

July 2, 2019

Give Yourself Permission to Travel, Even if It Means Traveling Solo

So, you have this nagging dream to see the world. To travel. To feel alive. To meet new people. To be someone new, in a new place.

But, there’s a catch. You haven’t been able to do it yet. Perhaps you’re afraid, perhaps you have excuses, perhaps you’re worried you’ll let someone down or your relationship may end if you leave, or maybe these 7 Fears are Stopping you from traveling.

Sometimes, in order to make changes or take action we feel like we need permission. Permission from someone, anyone. We need to hear, do it. You can do it. It’s okay. Go for it.

When we don’t hear these words from family or friends, or to the contrary, our dreams are met by resistance, discouraging words, threats, hostility, or feigned support, it is easy to doubt or discount our dream–or the possibility that it could ever be successful.

Give Yourself Permission to Travel

This is your life. The time has come to make it yours. This means letting go of anyone’s expectations for your life, except your own. Anyone can include a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, partner, parent, best friend, child, neighbor, etc. … anyone.

The time has arrived for you to give yourself permission to travel. To follow your dreams, wherever they may take you.

Giving yourself permission to follow your dreams means accepting change. Change doesn’t always feel good initially, but it inevitably brings forth new opportunities. It means accepting that you may initially feel uncomfortable and alone, before you feel comfortable. It means accepting the good and the bad. While this certainly can sound scary, if you flip the view for a moment, you can see, it’s actually quite exciting–and liberating to shed other’s expectations and be free to be you.

You Deserve to Feel Happy

You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be doing things with your life that bring you satisfaction and put a smile on your face. You can begin to cultivate a life of happiness by making changes that bring you closer to your dreams. So, for example, if you wish to take a weekend trip out of town but your spouse or significant other refuses to go with you, you may need to give yourself permission to do it anyway. The consequences of doing something for you may seem discouraging or cause you to reconsider what you want to do, but that is probably all the more reason why it is important that you stay true to what your heart is calling you to do or experience.

How Do You Start to Give Yourself Permission to Be Happy and to Do What You Dream About Doing?

Start now. Start small or start big, by making changes. Tell yourself, I give myself permission to…. [fill in your own blank here]. I give myself permission to follow my dream of travel, and to come up with a way to make it happen.

Start to do things to love yourself. To accept yourself. Start saying yes to the things you want. Start saying no to the things you don’t want–or to the things you don’t want to do. Start listening to your inner voice, your intuition. Start being kind to yourself. Listen to your inner dialogue. Start replacing negative thoughts or words with kind, accepting messages.

Give yourself permission to dream. To travel. Even if it means going solo.

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Are These 7 Fears Stopping You From Traveling with Children?

July 2, 2019

Are These 7 Fears Stopping You From Traveling?

It’s easy to come up with real , real-to-you, or imagined reasons why you can’t travel with your children. But wait. Are these ‘reasons’ simply excuses or fears in disguise? Read on to see if these 7 fears are stopping you from traveling with children.

1. Money! I just can’t afford to travel.

It may come as a surprise, but you don’t need a lot of money to travel. If you want to travel, there are cheap ways to do it, especially if you are willing to be creative. For example, if you are traveling with a family, you can sometimes save a bundle by buying one way airline tickets – one outbound itinerary, one return itinerary. I recently was able to travel, 4 kids + moi, to Europe from New York for about $120 one way per person. Once in Europe, I was able to fly to different locations with my crew using low-cost airlines, such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air; I took one flight between London and France that was £ 4.99 per person/one way (that’s about $6.00 USD)!

There are a number of discount travel sites out there. You just have to look for them! There are also ways to stay cheaply abroad, from home exchanges, hostels, to couch surfing, to long stay AirBnB rentals, to family volunteer abroad opportunities that give you free accommodation in exchange for your time. Some families even rent out their home while they travel to earn extra cash. Also, depending on your destination, you may discover that some places are soooo much cheaper for a family to live in than home…you might actually save money being away from home!

There are many ways to make money online while you travel, too. I previously wrote this post about 21 side hustles, which might give you ideas. There are also job opportunities abroad, such as teaching English as a foreign language. If you already have a work-from-home job or one that allows flexibility, this may make it even easier financially to travel.

You can always start small too. You don’t need to book a six month trip to Europe to enjoy the benefits and experience of travel. Staycations, weekend trips, or overnight adventures close to home are also ways to soak up the travel lifestyle. One of my favorite travel destinations is only a few hours away from my home, and it’s always a fun, easy adventure to pack the kids in the car, fill up the gas tank, and go.

Yes, traveling costs money, but if you really want to travel, there are ways to do it affordably, cheaply, and sometimes free. With a bit of creativity, you really can’t hide behind this excuse.

2. They are too young to travel. They won’t remember any of it.

Recently I was talking with my children about tabula rasa. This is the concept that children are born as a blank slate, waiting to be shaped and molded. Somehow a child learns to walk and run, but they don’t necessarily remember learning it, yet it stays with them. The experience of travel is sort of like that too. Children are like sponges. They absorb, study, and soak up everything around them. You may not see the impact immediately, but somewhere the experience is stored and shaping them.

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