Find Your France
Leah Walker April 6, 2015

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 a 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.

Leah Walker

Leah has a marketing management company specializing in strategy, content creation and implementation for luxury brands and destinations. She's also a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. Leah documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. She sometimes freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for four years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

15 Comments

  1. Thank you for giving us your Finding Your France. I have traveled to a great many places since my first solo trip at nineteen in 1959.

    I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much in the last eight years. I treasured every chance to pack my bag and go. Lately I have bemoaning the fact that the opportunities to travel are few and far between.

    In reading Finding Your France, I realize I have other choices to make. I still may have a chance to travel, but can turn my thoughts to things that don’t involve travel. I will be going to clean out that corner of my basement and do all of those exciting projects that are running around in my head.

    Good luck in your new endeavor. I will look forward to reading your new stories. Janet L.

  2. Such a beautiful article Leah. It sounds like you’ve really found a place to call home in France and this has definitely given me food for thought about finding my own France – it’s funny, it hasn’t come to mind instantly so it’s something I would need to reflect upon a little more.

  3. Welcome in Paris!

    Would you need anything or just have a drink, drop an email. I am a dual Citizen French/US, father of 4 kids and grand-father of 2 and just love Paris where I was born and raised and equally the States where I travel to see my relatives as often as I can…

    Love what you write!
    Pascal

  4. I so admire your for taking this leap and can’t wait to read about your adventures in the coming months. I hope to find my own France someday soon, and perhaps meet you for a glass of champagne in the City of Light. Best of luck with your journey!

  5. I love this for so many reasons. We do all have a France – and it is incredible that you can give yourself this time and experience to be true to your dreams and live life to the fullest. Looking forward to following along on the new adventure!

  6. I find your writing delightful and your wanderlust is caressing my heart. It never goes away, believe you me. (I am 68; lived, worked ,and loved in five countries, including France). Home is where you make it-and when you have your babies, they will be traveling with you . Planes, trains, automobiles, camels and even Amtrak in your senior years will be on your side. I am so glad I found your blog. Reading you with a hungry heart. And to those you will inspire, supporting words of St. Augustine,” The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page.”

  7. Such an exciting time for you and a beautiful new beginning! I knew you’d end up there one day, and I’m glad you did. I still need to find my France…still looking. 🙂

  8. Craig and I could write the same for Chiang Mai as could 1,000 other travel bloggers. On second thought, maybe that is not my France. Glad you found yours, and I hope you make the best of it. If you need to borrow the fanny pack again, just let me know.

  9. Very well written article I am heading to Europe in five weeks, I hope I can find my France too, doesn’t necessarily have to be a country.

  10. Love the message of this post. It is important to discover and pursue our passions, or our “Frances”. Otherwise, what’s the point? Don’t know that I’ve found my France just yet; Italy comes to mind but I’m reluctant to proclaim it as my France when I’ve still so much of the world to see.

  11. Leah, I loved this article and agree that ‘find your France’ is a pretty cool place to call home, who knows, I might say the same one day with Nico. I think you must live in a place that accepts you the most, you might not know the local language just yet but you are tied to this place that allows you to enjoy simple acts of happiness on a daily level. I feel the same way about Italy, with the plethora of problems in this country, I feel so utterly tied to it, like that big sister who steals your dolls and pulls your hair on occasion but that you would fiercely defend on a moments notice. I’m so happy you are finding stability in such a beautiful place.

  12. New to your blog, but loved this article! Your “go where the wind takes me” attitude is inspiring and I am searching for that voice of my own.

    Stability and routine, even the smallest bit, is comforting. But any tips on addressing those who don’t understand your desire to roam?

  13. Very happy for you. It’s funny that some two years after I began my travel blogging experiment somewhat on the road to an eventual move to England I find myself just today realizing that I’m halfway to the deadline that was originally set at a time I’ve been miserable with a career decision I’ve made. I’ve been meaning to read this post for two weeks. I think I was meant to read it today and today only. It provides just the reaffirming message I needed today.

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