In this Paris memoir, Lisa Anselmo, who is reeling from her mother’s death, decides to run away from her life in New York and move to Paris. Of course, to afford this option, she needs to still keep her job in New York. So she buys an apartment in Paris and adopts a Part-Time Here, Part-Time There lifestyle.
Which is good if you’d like to avoid the challenges of work visas.
In Canada and the USA, you can go to France (and the rest Schengen zone) for three months, twice a year without a visa. So you can go for three, return home for three, go back for three, return home for three… and you never have to visit the prefecture and suffer their wrath. It’s a challenge to be legally living in France, even when you qualify, even when you know exactly what you’re doing, even when you can (mostly) speak the language.
I can’t speak for the fallout of Brexit and what UK visa issues that mess will bring.
(Anselmo doesn’t get into this visa business in her book. I’m just telling you because you outta know how to get thee to Paris and avoid the wrath of the prefecture.)
In her book, she talks about the good and not so good aspects of having a part-time life in a part-time apartment in Paris. There are the new friends, the food, the beauty around every corner. But in an old city like Paris, things leak, black mold is an issue, impossible neighbors can make renovations nearly impossible and certainly lengthy, and the administration is astoundingly unhelpful. She describes a real Paris: the dark side and the light.
“I used to wonder about that myself. Thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. A magical power holding together good and evil, the dark side and the light. Crazy thing is… it’s true. The Force. The Jedi… All of it… It’s all true.”
–Han Solo, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
So I’m sitting at a book signing for my book, Paris Letters, and the usual question finally comes up. A lady raises her hand and says:
“I could never drop everything and move to Paris. How can I relate to this book?”
An excellent question. People do have social, financial and emotional ties to the lives they’ve built. Though they would love to spend days walking around Paris and buying baguettes, they can’t and won’t drop everything to make it happen.
I usually answer with the practical life skills you can take away from Paris Letters, like the list I included of a 100 ways I saved money in order to quit my job and do my own thing. Sort of a financial health book with Paris as a backdrop and a hot romance thrown in for flavor. I also remind them that my move to Paris was born out of the hopelessness that happened when so many aspects of life weren’t working out. If everything I wanted would have worked out, it’s likely that I would have been that woman in the audience with my hand up.
Life is funny that way.
Anselmo’s book opens with this line: Who do you think you are?
And this question is the hidden question behind that lady’s question to me at the book signing. Who do you think you are? Taking off and leaving everything behind? Who do you think you are to not have to slug it out like the rest of us? Who do you think you are? So often the bully in our own head is the one asking this question. Who do you think you are? To spend your extra cash on a flat in Paris? To dare spend time outside our corporate cubicle confines. Who do you think you are to dare to make the dreams in your heart a reality? Who do you think you are?!
Usually, by the time we have enough strength to answer this question, we stop listening to this voice and just do it anyway. For Anselmo, it was the death of her mother that gave her the permission to go. For me, the permission came when my car broke down on a freeway in LA and I nearly had a car crash. I said, “DONE. I will be so mad if I die on the freeway coming home from work.” I gave notice the next day.
I gave it all up and went. You may be surprised to learn that one of the things I like about Anselmo’s book is that she didn’t give it all up to go. She added rather than took away. She kept her New York life but added a Paris life. It doesn’t have to be this or that. It can be this AND that. Who do you think you are? You can be an AND person, not just an OR person.
Even if you’ve got the kids, the mortgage, the tenure or health insurance that keeps you 9 to 5-ing, there are ways to augment your life to make a few of those dreams more achy dreams come true. You don’t have to disrupt everything, but chances are, you will need cash to fund the start up of your dreams, so now is always the best time to Frugal Up.
I’m going to tell you what I told Amazon about this book:
“Charming. This book feels as if Lisa Anselmo is telling you her Paris story over coffee at a café. An intimate account of learning to grieve the loss of a parent while, at the same time, striving to live your dreams.”
Anselmo’s book launched today. Buy the book and start dreaming up your own version of a part-time Paris life.