Reflecting on Goals

How many people set goals or resolutions for the year and never go back to reflect on them to make sure you’re staying on track? 

Yep, I can say that typically that’s me.

BUT,

I figured there’s no better time than now to change that fact and see exactly where I am with what I plan to accomplish this year and maybe even add more onto the list! 

1. Start and finish a french novel. 

This was the first thing that I completed and surprisingly understood the basis of the story! Now I have moved onto trying to watch french tv series to keep up with the french!

2. Travel to at least 3 new cities

Done and well over 3. I ended up getting stuck in Montreal for a couple days on my way here so that was the first city I was able to see! One weekend I made the spontaneously decision to travel to Ghent, Bruges and Lille adding 3 more new places. I spent a week in Barcelona in February and just got back from Florence, Milan and Venice! 

3. Gain 10 pounds. 

How about 14! I couldn’t be more proud of myself for this accomplishment!

4. Read More.

This I actually didn’t expect to have read as much as I have but gosh, It seems like I’m flying through them lately. 

5. Pay off my student loans. 

Currently I have paid off my current school that I’m enrolled in, but those good old Canadian loans are still hanging around.

6. Take a cooking class in Paris. 

7. Enroll in the Integrative Nutrition Course. 

8. Actually start doing yoga or at least gain more knowledge on the sport. 

I was doing really good with doing yoga on a regular basis in the beginning of the year but since my knee injury I have taken a bit of time off.

9. Attend a language exchange meet up in Paris.

I only went once, but hey I still did it!

10. Go to bed before 11 every night. 

This NEEDS to become a priority. I know what I need to do, but the self control is not happening.

So after a short 4 months I must say, I’m more than impressed with what I have been able to cross off that list and makes me excited for what is yet to come!

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A quick trip to Bruges & the acceptance of living in the moment

I’m a futuristic person and am always thinking about what next. I can tell you more about what I plan on doing in the summer than in the next five minutes. Lately, my thoughts are constantly drawn to the two words: Five months. The amount of time I have left on this beautiful continent.

There’s so many places I want to see; so many things I want to do, and unfortunately only so much time to do so.

As per usual I’ve brought upon myself unneeded stress over contemplating what I want to do with my remaining time, trying to plan out the best possible path. With that being said I won’t get there if I don’t accept that no matter how much I plan or how much money I save, the future is unpredictable to a certain degree. Planning and organizing is great, I mean it’s gotten me quite far in life so far, but I feel like it’s time to let loose a little, and just live. I don’t want to look back on these next 5 months and regret that I didn’t take opportunities and enjoy my life here.

How many times have you heard your parents say “It seems like it was just yesterday that you were a baby”. 

I never understood why it was such a reoccurring statement until I grew up which what seemed like, in a blink of an eye. Life is short, theres no doubt about it, which is why I need to live for now; not yesterday, not tomorrow but where I am today.

I’m slowly starting to learn and feel comfortable with living in the moment, but I must admit it’s taken longer than I thought. When most people may find things such as TV, sports or video games to fill their free time … I think; often over think.

Last Thursday I saw an event for a trip to Bruges for the low price of 80 euros. At first I bypassed it and kept scrolling down my page. I knew that that 80 euros I could save and use for my summer trip I’ve been planning which seemed quite logical. Then I thought to myself, why wouldn’t I take an opportunity that’s put in front of me? I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and would have sat home and complained of boredom. Secondly I knew I had the funds to do so and the desire.

I proceeded to message Courtney to see if she’d be up for the trip, which honestly I already knew the answer to. 20 minutes later Courtney and I were booked for a weekend trip to Bruges alongside a group of other youth in Paris.

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After our bus trip to Amsterdam we had said that we would never take a bus again but when opportunities present themselves, you take them. The bus was small and cramped but for the price we couldn’t go wrong.

We stopped in Lille for a few hours which didn’t seem to have much to see or really do, but it gave us a chance to stretch our feet. Oh, and to warm up… the heat on the bus seemed to be nonexistent.

The next stop was Ghent which was gorgeous! I can only imagine what it would be like in summer with the canals and cobblestone streets. We met a Irish lad on the bus who ended up spending the rest of the trip with us. I’m not sure if it’s just the Irish people that I have met or not, but they have all been beyond friendly. I can see why my aunt fell in love with one.

We ended our trip in the quant city of Bruges. I had read that it was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and truth be told it didn’t disappoint. Yes, it was ridiculously cold, but the architecture was gorgeous!

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As far as trying to live in the moment, this life change has been by far what I needed. The past no longer is a worry and I’ve finally accepted that what’s in the past, is just that, in the past and can’t be changed. Slowly I’m seeing that by living in the moment, I’m living life to the fullest. My view on the future is simply an illusion as life hardly ever goes as planned. Of course I have dreams and goals that I wish to attain but I won’t get there unless I live for now and allow life to create it’s own path.

We often take for granted the things that most deserve our gratitude

We as humans complain, its natural.

Au pairs, myself included complain a lot. Once again natural, especially in our circumstances. It could be the smallest thing but yet we still have to let the world know that it’s bothering us. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather bringing me down but lately I’ve noticed a higher level of negativity towards not only my job but life in general. When I sit down and actually lay out exactly what I do have in my life, not only physically but emotionally as well, i’m beyond blessed.

I’ve decided to create a list of the things I take for granted to really show how fortunate I am to be in the situation I am in currently.

1. I have a safe roof over my head which I actually look forward to coming home to.

2. There is always more than enough food to eat and a variety at that.

3. A job that may not be what I want to be doing for the rest of my life but for now this is what I have chosen.

4. A beyond kind and caring host family. I may be 21 but it’s still nice to come home to a family that considers you their daughter and treats you as one of their own.

5. I get paid always on time or in advance which is something that the majority of my fellow Au pairs are having issues with.

6. I wake up in the morning and I’m alive and breathing.

7. Technology. t’s crazy how much I rely on it for the majority of the things I do throughout the day. I can call my family in Canada in the matter of a minute, or message my friends with a few swipes of my finger.

8. I have an abundance of clothes to wear and to keep myself warm. If you’re friends with me you’ll constantly hear me complain that I have too many clothes and I’m not going to be able to take them all back with me to Canada or I will have to take another suitcase. I’ve decided that the clothes that I don’t absolutely need I will donate before I leave instead of creating more stress than I need.

9. I’m not cheap, I’m just frugal. I’m fortunate that this was something that I acquired from my grandmother Cress, who can make a dollar last longer than anyone I know.

10. I have a voice. If you know me well enough I’m not the type that let’s things pass me by and always speak up when I am not happy with something. I know for a fact that my other grandmother Chute gave me this attribute and couldn’t be prouder.

Hearing the stories of my friends and their current situations within their families really makes me appreciate what I have. I’ll admit, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t want to pack my bags and head home but what I’ve learned in the past is that running away from a problem never solves anything. I’m fortunate enough to have a close enough bond with my family here where we can openly discuss issues that come about no matter what problems arise. I’ve come to the conclusion that living a life of perfect happiness may be acquirable but unrealistic, for me anyways.

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I’m in France, essentially living the dream and how many people can say they’ve done that?

The power of friendship & a trip to Versailles

I’m going to be honest and admit that these past couple of months abroad have been tough. The cold temperatures make it hard to find the motivation to even just step outside, let alone do anything. When you’re an Au pair your “free” time consists of during the day when your child is in school and then at night when the parents arrive home from work. Let’s just say there hasn’t been a night during the week I have left since before Christmas. I swear it must be the cold that makes me just want to relax every night with a hot tea and a good book.

Flashback to September and I was finding any excuse possible to leave the house. Having a schedule where your free time is limited to a block of hours a day has been extremely tough to find time to see my friends. We’re all in different french classes, love in towns on the complete opposite side of Paris and end up babysitting on different nights. Of course with technology in today’s age we’re constantly communicating but it’s still not the same as physically being together and spending time together.

This past Sunday all of  my three best friends here in Paris finally found a day where we all were free. It only took a month but better late than never! We all were coming from different directions so we decided on meeting at the entrance but I got lucky and found Katie on my walk from the train to the castle of Versailles!

Katie and I started our tour around the castle with our free audio guides might I add. Thank goodness for them because I learned A LOT, and I mean a lot. When it comes to learning about history typically the information goes over my head but this was short, sweet and fairly interesting.

Courtney and Julie met us in the hall of mirrors until deciding that we all really just wanted food; priorities. 

The day started off beautiful only to turn to rain at the exact time we were heading out to the gardens. Just our luck, but it didn’t stop us from attempting to see as much as we could.

We ended the tour with a trip the gift shop for the essential postcards! I’ve sent one home from each new city that I have gone to so far so i’ll be able to see what I’ve seen and done when I get home. Versailles is new city number 3 of the year I’d like to point out, which means another goal crossed off the list for this year! I’m also 1/3 through my first french novel which is another thing I want to accomplish before the year is up!

You decide your own destiny

People are going to talk, no matter what you do in life so please, don’t allow comments to dictate your life. What I’ve learned is that it’s your life, not theirs. Truth be told it took my 20 years to figure this out, but I`m finally at a point where I`m confident in myself enough to trust my choices in life.

In the past I always had a figure that I followed for everything I did in life but this time was different. I needed a fresh start, a new beginning and an adventure of a lifetime.

A common response I heard from people when they heard of my decision to be an Au Pair was “You’re just going to throw away your education?” I’m not quite sure how to exactly throw away my education considering my diploma isn’t going anywhere nor is everything that I learned throughout my years in school. There’s nothing saying that I can’t go back into that career field later on in life but for now, this is what I want.

Before I moved abroad I had many people that made comments on my ability to follow through with this. Fast forward to today, those same people have approached me a second time, but instead with a more encouraging outlook as they’ve been able to see how positive this experience has been for me. For 21 years I was always given a choice but a guided one with support in how to get there. Making the decision to change my life completely like I did was all made by me. Did I know what I was doing? Nope, but that’s why I’m here to learn more about myself and what I actually do want to pursue in the future. Maybe I`ll end up wanting to be a nurse or an entrepreneur when i`m done here or maybe I still won`t have a clear idea by the end of this journey. Finally I am able to accept that it`s okay not to know exactly how my life is going to plan out tomorrow, the next day or even the next year.

You’re only young once so use the opportunity before you have reasons not to.

So this is what happiness feels like

The feeling of guilt is not one that I really don’t enjoy, nor do many I’m sure. I’m constantly torn between if i should feel guilty for enjoying this life I’ve chose here or relish this feeling of happiness.

At the young age of 21 I’ve moved across the ocean, alone, and the feeling of being homesick hasn’t been apparent yet, but that’s not to say I don’t miss my family. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about the people in my life that have cared for me for the past 21 years of my life, but the lifestyle I was living is something I know I will not return to. Going from a village of 600 people to one of the largest cities in the world wasn’t as big as a culture shock as I had thought. Maybe it was because I knew it was time for a change of my comfortable life full of routine or simply the fact I am now living in such a beautiful city. I’ve always had a difficult time expressing my emotions and feelings because I rarely can determine the exact reason I feel a certain way.

These past couple of months I have experienced emotions that I never knew existed until now. Of course I’ve felt an absurd amount of sadness and shed some tears but above all of that I’ve found that it is possible to wake up and experience a sense of happiness each and every day. Then I have to ask myself, what has given me these new found feelings? Is it this family? The city? My new friends? or the lifestyle itself?

This past weekend I had a conversation with a really great friend about what being successful means to the both of us. Many people would think that acquiring money has a lot to do with feeling accomplished but I feel there are so many successful pleasures that come before that. For me, being successful is finding the things in life that don’t necessarily feel like work but bring joy to my life. Graduating college is obviously a successful feeling but I still didn’t feel that sense of accomplishment because it wasn’t truly what I wanted to be doing at that time. My decision to come to Paris has brought me great success as I have seen parts of the world I had only ever dreamed out and have been able met lifelong friends that I hope to keep ever when this journey of my life is over.

I believe that happiness is found when you are truly content with the choices you’ve made in order to have led to the life you’re living. Complete happiness is unbelievably hard to find because there will always be times when you’re not content with things happening in your life but having those moments where you feel on top of the world is something everyone should be able to experience at least once in their life. Whether that means hitting the home run in your final game of the season, or bringing a child into the world, you too can experience anything you put your mind to.

Fear is merely a four letter word

Fear . A four letter word that seems to affect us all differently in many ways. For me, I fear change so you can expect how I felt when leaving my life that I always knew of in Canada and flying across the ocean and being immersed into an unknown culture. there were so many things going through my mind as I packed up my life in a suitcase..

Yes I literally brought one suitcase to france… I’m not materialistic as you probably can guess.

So what exactly did I fear? Probably the majority of the same things many travellers are afraid of when starting any journey abroad actually but for me this whole experience was new and frightening.

The food is going to be disgusting.
When I thought of france i thought: city of baguettes and cheese. Two things that i never had any interest in eating at home because quite frankly they aren’t that good. The first couple of weeks were rough as I refused the traditional french foods but once I overcame my fear and just gave in, i learned that cheese and bread is actually delicious when you eat the real deal and not the processed packaged stuff. If you have never had camembert from France then you seriously cannot have an opinion on cheese!

No one will understand me.
Imagine living and breathing in a city that doesn’t speak your native language. Now i can get by in french but the fear of not knowing how to ask something or if I needed help in a situation was frightening beyond belief. Turns out when I get a couple glasses of wine into me i’m fluent; who knew.

I’ll be lonely
I feared that I wouldn’t be able to make friends,, which turned out not to be true. Thankfully I’ve met some of e best people here and now have friendships for many years to come.

I’ll get lost.
Heck I get lost everyday in paris but that’s what makes its fun. Wandering the narrow cobble streets without the access to google maps is the only and best way to find the real hidden gems in paris. You pay more attention to the little things that may be missed or passed by with a set destination.

I’m going to be homesick.
Sorry to my lovely family back home but I haven’t experienced that crazy sense of homesick yet ( knock on wood) yes I grew up with a very superstitious grandmother and it’s just habit now to say this. I have cried once since I’ve been here and the reason for that was far from being homesick but upset for what I was about to miss even more.

The family isn’t going to like me.
Welcome to the nightmare of my first two and a half weeks here. I felt so uncomfortable in such an unfamiliar setting which i should have taken as being normal, but i took it as they didn’t like me and that this wasn’t the family for me. Fast forward a couple days from there and something instantly changed. I’m not sure what it was, but since that day things have been amazing and I feel so at home; like a big sister to their daughter.

It’s not something new for me as I’ve always had a fear of changing what I’m comfortable with. I lived a very structured life full of routine before coming here. I knew exactly what I was doing, where I was going and what I would be eating the next day. Fast forward to today and I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 10 mins.

i’ve learned that change is something inevitable in our lives if we ever want to grow and move on. I could have stayed in Nova Scotia for the rest of my life without even attempting to explore the endless possibilities that are in this it world waiting for me, but i took the chance while I had it and faced the scary four letter word.

If I could give any advice to anyone that feels trapped in their daily routine and wanting to see what else is out there, just do it. Don’t think twice. Once you know where you want to go and what you want to do, you should go and experience it while you can and while you’re young. Talk to the majority of your elders from your hometown and ask them what they regret most about their lives and more often than not it will be that they didn’t travel and experience the crazy things that life has to offer.

Go, see the world now while you have the opportunity.

How to save for a trip abroad

For me personally I have always been a saver and not a spender. I am far from being materialistic but do enjoy my apple products that keep me connected to the outside world. I started working at the age of 14 and have been saving for “something” which just happens to be my trip to Paris. Here are some tips that I’ve been living by in order to save up as much as I can before taking my journey abroad.

1. Learn to live more frugal.

  • Don’t buy daily coffee, pack your lunch, walk to work instead of driving, watch movies at home or go on cheap night.
  • Get rid of the gym membership. Who wants to work out in a gym during a hot summer anyways?
  • Shop at farmers markets or grow your own food in a garden! I started gardening last summer and have great success with my vegetables so now I’m in love with the idea of growing my own food!
  • Start shopping at second hand stores. I find the majority of my clothes at a local second hand clothing store and it really doesn’t bother me.
  • Give homemade gifts. I actually recently started giving food gifts in mason jars for Christmas presents and now everyone looks forward to them even though they are only 5 dollars to make!

2. Sell your belongings that you don’t need anymore

  • I started selling my higher quality clothing on an online yard sale and actually both of my prom dresses that I knew I would never wear again.
  • I’m in the process of trying to sell my car now because I know in a year when I return ( if I do) then it will be another year older.

3. Work multiple jobs. It will be hell for a short period of time but just think of the payoff in the end. I currently am working 2 jobs, every single day and 50-60 hours.

  • I’ve become a workaholic and my daily schedule looks a lot like: Wake up, eat, work all day, eat, shower, sleep… And then do it all over again the following days. This may seem like complete hell but if you’re passionate about travelling then it won’t feel like work; it will be more of an investment.  
  • My second job is as a waitress for my parent’s local restaurant so I must admit the tips help A LOT. I have been putting my tips that I bring home every weekend into a little mason jar so I won’t be tempted to do anything with it and in the past 3 months I have over $2000 saved up!

4. Use travel incentive credit cards to build points while traveling!

  • I got the CIBC travel rewards card which normal has a $120 annual fee but had it waived for the year because I have so many investments with the company. I received 15 000 points just for my first transaction on the card and 1 point for every dollar I use! 
  • Rack up those Air Miles! Every little bit helps and over time you may even have enough to fly somewhere!

5. Move back in with your parents for a short time if you need to.

  • I had to do this for a few months after graduation while I worked at home for the summer months. It’s been tough coming back home but in the long run, look how much money I have been able to save without having to pay rent and for groceries.

6. Become less materialistic.

  • Do you really need those new shoes or to dye your hair? I haven’t dyed my hair in over 3 years and I don’t plan on it again. I don’t want to be worrying about doing my roots while abroad and its way too expensive and unnecessary.

7. Do your research! Don’t just settle on the first flight or accommodation that you find because if you search around there’s a good chance of finding a better hidden deal.

  • I looked at flights to Paris for approximately 3 weeks and actually found a site selling the same exact flight that another site had for $100 cheaper. Now this flight was with a company that didn’t allow for two free checked bags so I had to weigh my options.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. Ask for money instead of gifts at celebrations. 

  • For every holiday that comes up when we receive gifts I always just ask for money towards a trip because for me, I would much rather spend money on experiences to create memories than materialistic products that I will end up getting rid of some time anyways.