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.
Our croquet set was the first thing I missed upon arriving in Paris. Fixing my eyes on the exquisitely manicured lawns of the Jardin du Luxembourg immediately made me want to arrange some hoops and pick up my mallet—despite the fact that Parisian parks are notoriously protective of their grass (read: keep off it!). But taking off across the Atlantic for half a year leaves little room for the comforts of home, including my favorite leisure game.
Taking a sabbatical overseas requires a lot of sacrifice and discipline, from saving up adequate funds before the trip to paring down the items that you can pack in your suitcase.
TIPS FOR SAVING
A bit of background: Andrew and I made the decision to move to Paris last November, knowing that we wanted to arrive in the spring. This timeline gave us roughly six months to save what we needed in order to (hopefully) live worry-free for our six-month stay. By spending hours perusing Airbnb for apartments and comparing prices in Paris’s different arrondissements, we found that we could afford to rent a modest-sized studio apartment for the same price as our one-bedroom flat in Toronto. This kind of research provided context for the monthly cost of living in a new city and assured us that we could enjoy similar comforts while staying on budget.
(Disclaimer: I want you to know that the below tips stem from a serious learning curve that I experienced in planning for this amazing adventure. To be honest, I’ve always been rather intimidated by personal finance; before Paris, I had never saved for anything in my life. What I found reassuring was that once I had a goal in mind—a target I needed to reach to make it possible—my spending priorities started to shift. There isn’t a magic number I can share—each person and travel plan is different—however, the tips and tricks below formed the pillars of our plan.)
Look at your savings.
What do you have to work with? If, like us, you’re starting a sabbatical fund from zero, set a budget and decide on a realistic amount to put into savings from each paycheck.
Research your travel visa options.
You can only stay in France for three months without a travel visa. Be sure to obtain and closely read all resources provided by your local consulate. The information on consulates’ websites is very thorough and should answer all of your questions; however, it can be dense and overwhelming, so be sure to consult the “Frequently Asked Questions” section. Depending on the type of visa you apply for, you may be required to pay a fee. Research this before you do anything else, as it will inform your entire plan. Give yourself a full month to collect necessary documents such as medical insurance forms, bank letters, etc.
Open up a specific savings account.
Limit your access to the account so that you can’t touch its funds unless you physically go into your bank. This helped me immensely, as I’m a bit of an impulse shopper. Give the account a fun name so that you feel proud whenever you deposit money into it (it’s the little things!).
Set up automatic deposits into that savings account.
These deposits are initiated via your bank and are customizable depending on your pay period. Say hello to good habits!
Determine your expenses abroad.
When setting your savings goal, figure out how much you’ll need to save each month while abroad, then multiply that figure by the number of months you plan on staying. Accommodations are an obvious essential, as are your flight(s) and groceries. Beyond the basics, you will also want to consider the following: Wi-Fi (does your housing include it?), phone bills (services are fairly easy to set up and can range from 20 to 40 euros per month with carriers like Orange or SFR), entertainment and splurges (how often can you afford to dine out?) and travel (once you’re in Paris, it’s so easy to travel within the rest of France and throughout Europe).
Build in a buffer.
Every solid budget should include a contingency fund. Unexpected costs always come up, so it’s better to overestimate every line item in your plan.
Find ways to pinch your pennies.
Say no to expensive dinners out—host your friends at home while you save. Make your morning coffee at home (just think—that could be a coffee enjoyed on a cool terrace in Le Marais!). Don’t buy anything outside of the “essentials” category without really thinking about whether or not it supports your plan. These things add up really quickly—and oh, what a thrill it will be to see your Paris account grow.
TIPS FOR PACKING
I’ve never been much of an outfit planner. I love clothes and I’m particular about my style, but I don’t like to overthink it. What a shock it was to have to compress my wardrobe into one suitcase! After purging my closet (a totally freeing experience, by the way), I realized I was hanging onto pieces that I hadn’t worn in years. The good news is that there simply isn’t room for “just in case” items—you must choose, and you must choose wisely. But this isn’t just any trip—it’s Paris! One must always look stylish in Paris.
Consider the season(s).
Our stay spans from the mild spring to the sticky summer, and right through downright chilly November. I’ve learned that the weather here is quite fickle—warm and sunny one moment, and raining the next. Layers will be your best friend, so do bring a trench coat, a nice jacket to wear out to dinner and a great sweater or two.
Edit, edit, edit.
Debating whether or not to bring an item? This is the time to get ruthless. If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t bring it.
The classics go a long way.
Ballerina flats, a little black dress that fits you just right, striped tees and cuffed jeans are all necessities. Add accessories and a swipe of red lipstick to polish each ensemble.
Leave certain beauty items at home.
Do bring your makeup; it’s easy to pack. But I left my skin care products behind—they don’t travel well (plus, the French brands are so amazing!). Don’t bring your hairdryer or flat iron either—European outlets aren’t compatible with those appliances! Don’t squander precious room in your suitcase.
It takes a lot of work to prepare for an adventure like this, but the process is a rewarding one. After all, nothing in the world beats the view of Parisian rooftops on a summer’s evening. And while I certainly miss croquet matches at home in Toronto, games of pétanque in Place Dauphine sound alright, too.