If I could describe my current life to my December 2019 self, she would think I was crazy. Of course, the whirlwind that was 2020 would take anyone by surprise. But the most notable change that last year brought for me was quitting my stable full-time job in the middle of a pandemic to move across the world, to a place I had never been before: Paris.
After about a year of working a corporate job post-university graduation, I realized that it really wasn’t the right choice for me. I would come home from a long day at work, and think to myself: Is this really it? Am I just going to work, eat, and sleep for the next 35 years? There was so much more of the world I wanted to see, and my two weeks of paid vacation weren’t going to cut it.
By January 2020, I made up my mind. Within the next 12 months, I would quit my job and live in Paris. I had saved up enough money by working full-time over the last few years, and thanks to the Canadian education system, I already had a solid foundation of French. I imagined my life in Paris, spending mornings leisurely drinking coffee, afternoons perusing through endless art galleries and museums, and evenings having an apéro by the Seine. With my free time, I’d have the rest of Europe at my doorstep and could spend weekends in some of my favorite European cities, discovering new ones along the way. My next few months were spent quietly planning as anticipation built for this next chapter.
But I couldn’t have predicted what would happen to our world in March. Borders were closed. France stopped issuing visas. Still, I was five months out from my planned departure. We’ll be back to normal by the end of the month, I kept telling myself. As the pandemic evolved and worsened, there was still never a doubt in my mind that I would get to Paris, one way or another. At the end of July, France started issuing visas again. So I quit my job and had three weeks to pack up my life in two suitcases and prepare for my move.
After a tearful goodbye to my family outside of the airport, I made it through check-in and security in record time. Since Canada was on the EU’s “safe list” at the time, I didn’t require any additional documentation to board the flight. My first plane ride in over eight months was uncomfortable. The flight was fuller than I had anticipated and wearing a surgical mask for over seven hours felt restricting to say the least. I tried to sleep, but my racing thoughts wouldn’t allow me to. When the lights turned off, I felt a few tears stream down my face. Have I made a huge mistake? What if I get there and it’s nothing like I expected? Once I got off the flight and made my way into Paris, my worries were put to rest.
Though there are some drawbacks to moving Paris during the pandemic, I feel fortunate to experience this quiet side of the city, visiting the Louvre and Versailles with just a handful of other people present. I enjoyed tourist-free terraces, as Parisians experienced a quiet summer. I was even able to celebrate my birthday just before curfew hit us in October. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of life in Paris under Covid-19, I’ve learned to appreciate the little things. Whether it be trips to my local boulangerie for a warm crunchy baguette, the view of the Eiffel Tower from my apartment, or walks around my local park. It’s easy to see the beauty in everything here in Paris. While living in Paris might not be exactly what I had in mind, I wouldn’t want to change a thing.
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Written by Jessica Johnston for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.