When I first moved from New York to Paris, France people told me all the time how lucky I was. I understand why everyone thought that. I worked as a lawyer for a prestigious firm and lived in a beautiful apartment a stone’s throw from the Louvre. I traveled all over Europe for business: I would be in five-star hotels in Milan one night and Frankfurt the next.
But I didn’t feel so lucky. I never had time to enjoy the countries I visited, not to mention the one I lived in. Work was tough. I was always so stressed and tired.
I remember the exact moment I decided to make a change. I was standing on the balcony of my office one evening, looking at people milling about on the street below. They looked so free, those people. They were strolling arm-in-arm down the avenue…laughing…sitting in cafes…drinking wine—all of them truly enjoying their lives. I thought, I have to find a way to become one of those people.
Writing had always been a passion of mine and it dawned on me that if I could write a legal brief, I could use my talent with words in other ways—ways that would both provide an income and give me the lifestyle I dreamed of.
Checking out the sights of Paris
So, I began investigating freelance writing opportunities. Within a year, I quit my job and started writing articles for a company that needed reviews of different sites around Paris. What an incredible pleasure it was to finally be able to soak up Paris. Better still, I was visiting museums and restaurants—and getting paid for it.
Later, I realized I could get even more lucrative assignments. I started writing marketing copy for local American-owned businesses. I wrote content for websites, press releases and newsletters. Most assignments took only a few hours, but they pulled in a couple hundred dollars each. I had become a copywriter.
But the aspect I cherish most about my new career is that it gives me time and money to travel to other parts of France. One particular trip stands out in my mind.
Back when I was practicing law, I spotted the website of a beautiful 18th-century B&B in the Loire Valley—but I had never found the time to visit it. So, after quitting my job, my husband and I planned a long weekend there.
After a 90-minute drive from Paris, we were in the countryside; surrounded by grand chateaux and rustic restaurants. We spent our days driving from castle to castle, dazzled by the splendid architecture and landscape.
One day, as we were headed to the next chateau on our list, we spotted a series of small hand-made signs that read: “Fresh Goat Cheese Ahead.” We decided to follow them.
We eventually found ourselves on a muddy unpaved road that led to a modest farm. The farmer greeted us as we pulled up.
“You’re here for goat cheese?” he asked. “I just made some a few hours ago. Entrez-vous. Meet the goats.”
We spent the next 20 minutes hand-feeding the goats grass while the farmer sliced off hunks of fresh milky goat cheese for us to taste. Heaven. We bought three fat rounds for about $6 that day, and gloated about how it would have cost three times as much back in New York.
We took our cheese, along with some wine, baguettes and sausage bought at a nearby town, and headed to the grounds of a magnificent hunting lodge. But instead of doing the tour, we spread out a blanket on the grass near a large pond next to a weeping willow. We laid out our wine, cheese, bread and sausage—and feasted.
Bellies full, warmed by the sun, we dozed off in this incredible setting, feeling like the luckiest, wealthiest people in the world.
This trip characterizes everything I wanted from my life when I stepped away from the rat race. Even though I don’t earn quite as much as I did as a lawyer, I work only a fraction of the hours. And what I have discovered, is that you don’t need stacks of money to enjoy life in France—just a willingness to step away from the beaten path.
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