Unfortunately, we cannot ignore 2021, it did happen just like 2020 did! Here we are, in month 977846768 of the worst global pandemic in over a century. Just like 2020, 2021 was a really crappy year for a lot of people in the world. A second year of the pandemic, lockdowns, and travel restrictions has been hard for everyone. And unlike in 2020, the pandemic has dominated our lives since day one of 2021. We’ve all had to adapt to a “new normal.” 2021 was an incredibly hard year for many people, (including me,) but I’m hopeful that 2022 will be better.
In 2021, I quit my two jobs, and moved to Paris, France in the middle of a global pandemic to study at a French university. That probably wasn’t the best timing, but hindsight is 20/20. But, despite the obvious challenges of 2021, I have much to be grateful for this year. I want to stop for a moment, take a step back to appreciate all that I have been able to achieve during the year, some of my low points, and what I’m looking forward to in 2022.
At the top of the year, my vision for the year was to move to Paris, France, travel Europe, and enjoy a career break. I had already been issued a French student visa in November 2020, but with the continuing lockdowns and travel restrictions to France, I was unable to travel there on my initial planned date.
It had also been almost 1 year since the first case of COVID-19 was detected. I was in the thick of things working at not only one, but two major hospitals in the Dallas area, and saw first-hand how deadly this virus could be. Little did anyone at the time, expect that the virus would persist for as long as it has. At the same time of working two jobs, I was also going to school full time, studying to earn my bachelors in public health. What a perfect time to become a public health professional, we’re needed more than ever. To say the least, I was tired and past ready to start my new adventure in Paris, but Covid was steady blocking that.
….still patiently waiting for things to get better, so I can move to France. It had been a year since I decided to start prepping and preparing for my move.
I finally made it!! On March 16, 2021, I moved to Paris!! But I moved ALONE and during a PANDEMIC!! What was I thinking for doing this? Am I crazy? Will I regret this decision? What if I fail at this? So many questions had gone through my head, but it was too late to talk myself out of taking this crazy risk, I was already in Paris. After my fears started to go away, I was finally feeling elation. After hours of being buried in a ton of paperwork and dealing with French bureaucracy, I’M FINALLY getting to live my dream of being an expat in France! But then….on March 18, 2021, the French government announced the implementation of a third lockdown in some French departmentsstrongly affected by the COVID-19 epidemic, this included the Paris region. Then, on March 31, 2021, French President Macron, announced a third national lockdown to begin on April 3 2021, and to last for at least a month. The measures included, a declaration (attestation) was required stating where you were going, you couldn’t travel beyond 10 km of your residence, the closure of non-essential shops, the suspension of attendance at schools and higher education for three weeks, non essential domestic travel was banned and a nationwide curfew from 7pm-6am stayed in place. I finally made it to my dream country, but now I can barely leave my apartment.
I now have this life-changing experience, to be independent in another country and carve a new life for myself, while speaking (or at least trying to) another language. I found that being on my own, in a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, pretty tough. Loneliness can be a difficult emotion to sit with, which was completely understandable. Living under lockdown was turning out to be an overwhelming and exhausting experience. Being physically separated from friends and family members, with no clear end in sight, started having a significant impact on my wellbeing. Like many people, there were entire days when the only human interaction I had was through a screen. During the months of March, April, and some of May, the only way that I was able to take my French course was online. I was now making the most of video calls with family and friends, and became a Zoom expert like so many people. I had to look at ways to make this difficult time a positive time! Finally, on April 29, President Macron announced dates for the easing of restrictions from the third national lockdown.
Even as lockdown measures began to ease and the country progressing safely and steadily towards a “COVID normal,” the ongoing impact of the pandemic was still being felt. Since I lived alone, the lifting of restrictions came as a welcome relief to me. I had stretches of time without any face-to-face social interaction. But, now that I was vaccinated and the curfew was lifted, I started having some small in-person get-togethers and even doing a little dating, (thanks Bumble) but my social life is still a lot more digital than it used to be. Frankly, it felt so good to go out and find some happiness with having a social life again.
Through much trial and error, I learned how to take care of myself. After several months of living in France the “ups and downs” started to diminish. I was finally feeling comfortable living on my own, and navigate the cultural and emotional challenges of living alone in a foreign country. I also had a basic grasp of the French language and was able to communicate enough to get my thoughts and feelings across. I had some help from fellow American expats in a similar situation, but I largely had to figure out how to live in France on my own. The nightly curfew was finally abolished on June 20, and I finally felt that I could really start “living” in France.
France offers endless tourist attractions, and some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Through house sitting, I was able to travel to various cities in France. And with Paris being a major hub, it was easy for me to travel from city to city. I traveled to Bordeaux several times (my favorite city in the world, now), Lille, Chantilly, Saint-Émilion, Nice. This is probably the best perk about being an expat, being able to travel and explore your new home country. This is what I was waiting to do since I stepped foot into France. And, let’s not forget about all the great attractions and museums that Paris has to offer too. Being able to see the Mona Lisa, in an empty room is something that will probably never happen again.
This was also a year to focus on a lot of my professional goals. One of the greatest things to happen to me this year was starting my travel blog. I never intended to start a blog and it was a scary decision at the time, but I’m so glad I have dived into this world and hope to be successful at it. While I’m still trying to figure everything out, so far it has been great! Writing has been a great outlet to share my love of Paris and France and hopefully inspire other aspiring expats around the world. Let see where it takes me!
It is the end of the year and I cannot believe that I have been living and surviving in France for 10 months now. I have experienced a lot of good times and a lot of bad times since moving here. I have met so many wonderful French, American, and other great international people since I’ve moved here. Everyone has been so helpful, especially during this crazy time in the world. But it is Christmas, and this is my first time away from my family during the holidays. I miss my mother greatly, and it times like these that I ask myself, “Did I make the right decision to leave?” I ended up spending Christmas alone in Nice, due to unexpected circumstances. but I didn’t let it get me down. This is all part of the expat life, you gotta take the good with the bad. New Year’s Eve was a little bit better. The NYE fireworks at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris were canceled due to concerns over the new Omicron variant. I instead met up with a few friends and had a small soirée together. A great way to end 2021 in the City of Love.
Looking Ahead to 2022
My 2022 goals are going to look a bit different than past years. For 2022, I’m going into the year taking a different approach to what I want to accomplish. I’m looking to focus more on growing my blog,(I want to double my web traffic in 2022.) And of course, in 2022, I plan to add lots more good quality content to the blog. There are even more blog posts in the draft stage, lots of ideas waiting to be written about. I’m still catching up with blogs posts from 2021. And since so many of the days seem to run together, I want to focus on putting better boundaries in place with being a blogger and playtime so I can recharge and refuel my spirit.
Let’s see what 2022 brings, and if I can keep up with those goals…
I feel lucky that I haven’t personally been affected by loss from Covid, but having to witness friends, co-workers, and the general public suffering so deeply has been heartbreaking to say the least. To date, more than 10 million people in France have contracted the virus and with it mutating into new variants, the numbers keep rising. Currently, France is empiercing it’s fifth wave, with a sixth COVID wave, fueled by Omicron, is expected to hit France sometime in January.
Leaving this year behind for the next, I have a huge amount to be grateful for. I am lucky to be healthy and well. I have managed in this crazy year to move countries and continents, find a new home, make new friends, and set up a new business.
I hope that despite all of the challenges this year has brought, that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. I hope you’re just as excited and feeling hopeful for what the future has in store.
That’s about it from me, see you in 2022…