March 6, 2012

How To: Move To Europe (Or Anywhere)

You say things like...
"Oooohhhh, that would be really fun!"
"Someday, for sure."
"Oh, I totally will, I just have to finish A, B, and C."
"It's on my bucket list!"
"I definitely would, except I have all these [name your nouns] keeping me here right now."
And everyone around you echoes whatever you just said because they feel the same way, too.

Guess what?! You ain't movin' to anywhere anytime soon! You ain't even takin' a trip!

Here's the difference:

You are literally OBSESSED.
The thought of your dream place...
a) gives you chills,
b) alters your breathing,
c) dims the current reality, or
d) all of the above, at the same time.
People make fun of you because they either do not believe you, or are terrified you are telling the truth.

Check it out:

In 4th grade I did my California Mission report on Mission San Buenaventura because my mom had lived close to there growing up. I learned the word "buttresses" and received a hated A- for only drawing the mission instead of making a 3-D model like all the other 9-year-olds. The missions still fascinate me, and rightly so - they are some of the only buildings in California boasting 200 years. But my heart would not latch onto 21 nearly identical stucco churches.

In 5th grade I did my state report on Ohio because I was born there and had never been back. I learned that Ohio was not very interesting at all, but for reasons that I still do not understand, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. Actually, the most interesting thing we now know about Ohio is that a certain basketball player was also being preened for supposed greatness during this time, but he even skipped out of the state when he got the chance. I visited this middle-of-America state after I had written my report and realized I had done an incredible job making Ohio look like The Place To Be! If you like a lot of humidity, snow, and an occasional tornado, feel free to obsess over Ohio. I cannot.

But in 6th grade I did my country report on France because I wanted to live there. Someday. Someday, like never, according to the doubts of my own mind and the laughter of my peers. It was then that I became obsessed. Birthdays and Christmases showered me with Eiffel Tower imitations: picture frames, purses, photos, miniatures, fact books - you name it, I got it. I had found my dream place, and it took up permanent space in my soul and on my bureau.

I am positive I had more bought-in-USA Paris souvenirs than most people who had really been there.

It actually broke my heart that my makeshift high school didn't even offer French as a class. I trudged through two years of Spanish, every class sad it wasn't French. Then my first trip to France back in 2001 was amazing! Except we only went to the very north in Lille, and our European bus driver refused to drive the extra 3 hours to Paris. So close - but at 15 years old, there was only so much I could do in controlling my own destiny (a.k.a. nothing).

Ten more years passed before I stepped off my train from Belgium into the Paris Nord train station. I had no idea how to get anywhere, so I got on a tour bus to the Louvre. I was wandering around outside the Louvre when I turned to my left and there...there it was...

To break it down:

Step 1: Find your "spark." Hopefully it's not just something you're passionate about, and you're actually decent at whatever it is. [For me: volleyball and travel.]

Step 2: Find your spark job. Teach English at a French or International school. Teach anything at the American and British schools. Guide walking tours. Find a company in your field that has interests or offices in France. Work at Starbucks, or any of the other hundreds of American food and clothing companies here. [For me: volleyball. And I'm not even in the highest tier of my field.]

Step 3: Jump. It's not really off a cliff, it's more like just up and down. What is the worst that can happen? Really ask yourself that. They say "no." That's really the worst possible thing, and then you're still just in the same place you were before (on the ground). But if you keep jumping, chances are you are going to swept off your feet. Keep jumping. You have at least Marc and me to cheer you on! [For me: the European tryout I went on last year was psychotic intense - you have only 10 days in Europe guaranteed. If you receive an offer and accept, you stay. As in, you don't go home to re-pack for an entire 3-4 months, you just have to make-do. That is still one of the most outrageous concepts to wrap my head around.]

Step 4: Fall. Fall in love with everything (not everyone, please) around you! [For me: first I fell in Belgium, and now in France. We are currently processing arrangements to stay here for next year as well. This was a really fabulous tumble.]

I'm having to listen to my own advice right now. My summer will be spent submitting my blog articles to various publishers. Again, what's the worst thing that can happen? I've already done all the work anyway, and if nobody wants to pay me for writing, it's not like I'm going to stop. This blog is my ultimate scrapbook.

Why was it Paris and France that first consumed my 11-year-old self? If I recall correctly, I think it had something to do with the romanticism of the Eiffel Tower, the language, and the beauty of every picture I ever saw of the country. All I knew was I wanted to be there, lounging next to the Eiffel Tower. And now I can do that any day of the week.

Look at my map for inspiration. Not everyone loves Paris like I do, but maybe you have another place you have set your mind to.

I hope you get to your Paris even sooner than I did.