Ashley Bartlett, a Toronto-based Glitter Guide contributor and the founder of Quaintrelle, is taking us along for the ride as she heads overseas for a six-month sabbatical in Paris! We invite you to follow along as she shares her personal essays on life as a Parisian transplant.
When you announce to your family and close friends that you are planning to take a six-month creative sabbatical in Paris, there are generally two reactions: one of excitement (“When can I visit?!”) or one of shocked perplexity (“Mon Dieu! Why? What about your job? How?”). Luckily for me, most of my people reside in the former camp.
There are places in the world that we fall in love with well before we ever have the chance to visit. Places that are built up in our minds through old films, literature and art. Like many others before me, I found Paris at the top of my list. It’s a place that has been pored over by romantics, writers, filmmakers, painters and daydreamers for centuries. I have gushed about its winding cobblestone streets, manicured gardens and storied cafés for as long as I can remember. And when I finally had the chance to briefly skip across the pond and experience the magic for myself last year, I knew I’d be back as soon as possible.
AWAY WE GO
There are two things I want from my life: great love and great stories. While I’m charmed in the relationship department (the love of my life, Andrew, asked me to marry him earlier this year), I’m lacking in the story department. Instead of taking the typical post-college Europe trip, I jumped right into the workforce as a fashion-slash-lifestyle PR professional. As my friends spent their early twenties collecting stamps on their passports, I worked tirelessly here in Toronto for almost a decade to build a career I am truly proud of. But although my student debt is paid off and I have an impressive résumé to my name, I’ve always had this nagging feeling that something was missing. I’ve felt as though my personal identity lacks vital experiences, and the kind of character that can only be built through the personal growth that travel allows.
As that nagging feeling intensified, it began fueling the possibility that I might be able to take some kind of break to travel for an extended period of time. Paris was always a place in which I could picture myself living, so I finally put two and two together. A sabbatical in this grand city began as an idea and soon evolved into a larger conversation with Andrew. The more we talked, the more I realized how doable it actually was.
Before I knew it, we’d begun putting a plan in place. Our aggressive savings goals meant compromising on everyday luxuries. Instead of expensive date nights out, we opted for home-cooked meals in. I even left the job I loved for one I didn’t like so much, simply because it paid more. (I wouldn’t normally recommend doing anything just for the money, but I had my eye on a prize—and that prize was Paris.) We spent our free time hatching our grand adventure: researching visas, scoping out apartments and learning the ropes of banking overseas.
YYZ > CDG
Fast-forward nine months to today: We have given notice on our apartment, and I have resigned from my full-time job. I will spend the next six months exploring a new city, learning a new language and making new friends. My days will be focused on feeding my curiosity and developing my creative ideas, outside the constraints of my usual nine-to-five schedule. I will wander the winding cobblestone streets, take in the beauty of the manicured gardens and spend my afternoons on the terraces of those storied cafés for myself, instead of living vicariously through the films, novels and paintings I have devoured only from afar.
If it seems like I have it all figured out, I don’t. Am I nervous about finding a job and an apartment when I return home to Toronto? Of course. Do we have enough money saved up? I hope so. Does the language barrier worry me? Sure—but what better way to learn French?
All the question marks begin to fade when you realize those fears aren’t necessarily a bad thing: We grow when we welcome uncertainty and embrace change. While I don’t have all the answers, I’ve allowed myself the chance to be brave and experience something new. Because who we are is just as important as what we do—and I want to have my own stories to tell.