In late March 2017, after a trip to Mexico City, I told Jason/my family that I was going to quit my job, sell most of my stuff, rent out my house and spend two months in France and then TBD. I’d been working in an office job for 9 months (after 5 years of working remotely) and kept thinking, “is this it? I just show up from 8-5, for the rest of my life?”
Quitting My Full-Time Job to Travel. Stereotypical Millennial Story?
I recently read a quote from Jesse Itzler saying, “what we do that DOESN’T fit into a resume is a better picture of who we really are.” Or something like that. But, really, why do we have to follow the prescribed path? Why aren’t we encouraged to take detours when our health is high and our responsibilities low? Is it really so horrendous to dream a little, to explore, to try something new and scary? When I told the CEO of the engineering company where I worked that I was leaving to carpe the hell out of the diem in France, he said, “shit, Eleanor. what about your 401k?!” Lol, exactly. It’s not that I’m financially irresponsible and didn’t think about not working for a couple of months…it’s just that I prepared ahead of time. At the time that I made the decision to quit my job and go to France, I already owned an Austin home, had been steadily contributing to my retirement fund, had no debt (except for the mortgage) and was working two different side hustles (Airbnb host and grocery demos) and selling stuff (road bike, new bed, etc). It was kind of a duh moment, like, “why wouldn’t I go right now?”
Going to France for Affordable Adventures and Learning
I knew I wouldn’t want to be in France forever. I’d miss Jason/family/friends, and having a purpose via working (and the income) and a daily routine. But, for a few months, I was going to pause regular life.
I chose France because of a hiking trail called the GR10, which runs along the Pyrenees and next to the Spanish border. Covering the entire trail would take 50 days. I decided to just dip my toe into the foreign backpacking world with a 10-14 day trip. I ended up hiking only 5 days on the GR10, which was totally fine with me and you can read about here. I knew only a few words of the language and had a feeling that such a communication barrier could be lonely and tiring.
With my backpack and trail route ready, what was I going to do for the other 6 weeks? I knew some Spanish but wanted to learn French. After some googling and forum-reading, I found a language school in the south of France in a town called Montpellier. I signed up for a 4-week intensive course and a family homestay. Read more about my experience trying to learn French in one month in my blog post.
I’d invited Jason/Vivian/parents/other friends to join me on the France adventure and was mostly greeted with a friendly pause and a respectful decline. At first, I was frustrated – “ugh! why won’t you come with me?! this is going to be great!” Ha. Didn’t work. Then I understood. Not everyone was in the YOLO stage of their life and that was okay. Working hard, pursuing a career and finding contentment in daily routines were/are admirable activities.
From Solo Traveler to a Mother-Daughter Exploration
I was comfortable with going alone and grateful to receive support from Jason, friends and family (eventually). Then, to my surprise and delight, mom texted me and said she’d booked a plane ticket and would join me for the first two weeks. This would mark her first time back to Europe since my parent’s honeymoon, almost 35 years ago. Tres bien! Below are some photos from our first few days. We had fun walking the streets of Paris, driving the roads of the Loire Valley, drinking French wine and watching the people, sunsets and slower pace of life.