Find Your France

Find Your France
From, by Leah Walker

Most of us have something for which we yearn. Without it we feel a void, an aching that can only be satisfied with it present in our lives. I’ve been fortunate to find several passions during my four decades, two of which are travel and writing. Although a few have flickered out, my obsessive pursuit of these interests left an indelible mark on my life, and eventually led me to where I am today.

And where am I? That’s a good question, and one that I have difficulty answering. Literally, I’m on the Rhône River cruising through southern France, exploring the gastronomic and historical city of Lyon, slurping on Syrah in the Rhône-Alpes region, and otherwise watching spring in the French countryside unfold from my stateroom’s terrace. Metaphorically, I’m at a crossroad about to embark on an unscripted adventure that even Alice would envy. Certainly, my recent move to Paris is akin to falling down a rabbit hole.

Alice in Wonderland 2

It’s curious life I lead, and one that I sometimes question. My ragged, hard-side suitcase has seen its better days, along with more countries than most people. I’ve slept in hundreds of hotel rooms and flown thousands of miles; however, it was only a few years ago that I was trapped in a bland business building writing oil rig control manuals. I had a mortgage and all the responsibilities that go along with owning a house. It was a mainstream existence—normal, for sure.

As trite as I make that life sound, I sort of miss it. No, I don’t mean the mind-numbing life of a technical writer, but instead, having a home—a place that is mine, one that holds my giant televisions, Depression-era green glass, and unread books. And rather than lining shelves and hanging on walls, these and the rest of my belongings, are nestled in boxes and crates in a warehouse somewhere in Houston. I don’t long for any of the items, per se, but I miss what they symbolize: a home.

Alice in Wonderland 3

For two years, I’ve gallivanted the globe with no discernible address, other than the hotel printed on my itinerary or the family and friends who generously have taken me in. This way of living is rewarding, but draining both emotionally and physically. I’m now ready to inject a bit of normalcy into my life. Though, ‘normalcy’ is a relative term and one I’m not sure I can accurately determine. Thus, I’ve created a ‘new’ normal, one that is set in France.

Rather than 2,000 square feet, I’ll have around 200. Rather than a mortgage, I’ll pay rent. I’ll carve out a little place in Paris and create a routine, at least as much as I can stand. My suitcase will still see plenty of miles. Having a home doesn’t mean my travels will stop, but they will slow a bit. After all, I want to enjoy my new hometown, along with the friends I’ve made there.

Alice in Wonderland 4

Those that really know me aren’t the least bit surprised by my move to France. In fact, my closest friends didn’t bat an eye when I delivered the news. Of course you’ll live in Paris, as If I announced I was going out for milk. I’ve always been determined and stubborn, if not a bit obsessive. Whether it was making 100 free throws before I could leave the gym or systematically organizing my closet in a manner that would satisfy even the most OCD person, it simply doesn’t occur to me to do things half way. I love Paris, so why not just live there? Make a plan. Make it happen.

The fact that others find my life perplexing is not lost on me. It’s different, and certainly not for everyone. For over three years, I’ve followed my passions of travel and writing, and in the process, I’ve discovered another: I found France.

Alice in Wonderland 1

Figuratively speaking, we all have a France—a place or activity that fulfills us. Perhaps it’s painting or swimming. Maybe it’s the solitude of a lake house in Ontario or a place in the heart of chaotic Bangkok. I firmly believe we need something that revives our spirits and injects fulfillment into our lives. The mundane slowly smothers our best selves until we’re unrecognizable. Find your France.

How long will you live in Paris? Lately, this is the most common question I’ve been asked. True to my peculiar existence, I answer with a sly grin, “Until I’m not happy or can’t afford it.” Of course, I have an idea, but no real set plan. I’ve learned that even the best-laid plans often go out the window. What I do know is that I’ll have place to call home in Paris, and that makes me happier than happy.

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