France takes dogs.
It was as simple as that. Here we are moving to Paris--sold our house, quit our jobs, accepted the good wishes and good advice of our friends and relatives--all because we wanted to take a year off in our lives and France takes dogs.
Actually, the best word for what we're doing is a sabbatical--a time for rest, travel and study. We plan to do all of that, though beyond round-trip airline tickets and an address for our first 3 1/2 months, nothing is planned.
Appalled by Notion
It was my idea. Really. My husband, Ritch, well, he was initially appalled at the notion. No matter that he wasn't particularly happy at his job, one just doesn't take off for a year. Maybe at 20 you do, right after college and before starting real life. Or maybe at 60, after the children are grown and your career is winding down anyway.
But this was something we had talked about. Traveling, seeing the world, having adventures--these were as inherent in our shared goals as having a good, challenging job and a nice home. We'll do it when we're 50, we figured, between leaving Los Angeles and moving to Carmel (another shared dream). We have no children, but we do have dogs and by the time we're 50, they'll most likely be gone.
Then it happened. The moment when--you're turning 40, and even unconsciously you're looking at your friends, your parents, your own life and thinking about life, death and risks. Somehow there seems no reason to wait. We're both 40 this year; we're feeling good; we're at a place in our careers where the break is easy (I'm convinced my career will only be enhanced by the experience) and they love dogs in France.
And it's all been so easy. (Which convinces me even more how right this is.) It began last fall with a conversation with a friend, one of those talks about life, love and jobs, and her offhand remark, "it seems to me you need a sabbatical." Until she said it, I didn't know I did. But immediately, like a light bulb going off in my head, I knew she was right. Within minutes after lunch, from a phone in her office, a call to Ritchie and the first of many should-we-why-not-what-can-possibly-go-wrong-wow-what-are-we-doing discussions.
I've never been to France. My husband has, but not for 13 years. Neither of us speak French. He, however, has a flair for languages while my tongue has been known to massacre English.
But I'm not without some talent. I'm fluent with my hands and, despite my ineptness, remarkably (at least I think it's remarkable) uninhibited when it comes to conversing in a foreign language in a foreign land. I am also blithely convinced that as offended as the French may be at my destruction of their language--Toni, our Queensland Heeler, with her great sense of balance and wonderful smile, will win them over.
(Actually, England would have been the logical choice for our Great Dropout, but though they love dogs, they quarantine them for six months.)
Anyway, we plan to sign up for French instruction within moments after arriving.
Steps to where we are today:
--We made lists. I don't think we referred to them that much. But it was a productive thing to do while daydreaming.
--We sold our house. It made more financial sense than leasing it.
--We renewed our passports. We also checked into visas. Since we plan to be going in and out of France (who knows, maybe we'll settle in Italy for the winter), we were advised none were needed.
--We shopped movers, storage facilities, insurance (of all kinds) and ways of shipping things to France. There is no short way around this. You've got to call around. Storage facilities, for instance, varied from $310 a month at a large multistoried building run by a veteran moving company to $135 a month (with the 12th month free if the entire amount was paid in advance) at a super-duper self-storage facility. We chose the latter. As for shipping, there were advantages to both air and sea. If we weren't taking the word processor, we could have done it most cheaply just by paying excess baggage. (But without my Leading Edge, I knew I'd find it very easy not to write.)
--We told people. Our friends were delighted, if disbelieving at first. Nearly all started looking into cheap airline tickets. Our parents' reactions were mixed. Ritchie's folks were overjoyed. Mine thought we were crazy. But in the end they agreed to store our cars, forward our mail and be "representatives" of our real life.
Christmas Card Picture
A year away--I wonder what it will be like. Back when moving to Paris was more fantasy than reality, I had this vision of Ritchie, Toni and me, all looking wonderfully fit and happy, on the Champs d'Elysee, the Eiffel Tower in the background--sort of a Christmas card picture. Now, sometimes late at night, I lay in bed and try to imagine. . . .