Tag Archives: Family and Friends

30 Before 30: The Updated List

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Before the end of the last school year I decided to do something that gives me happiness in life–make a list! I love making lists. Even if I do something without having made a list, I will go back and make a list for the sheer joy of crossing things off the list. This past July was my 30th birthday. I must say, that I ended my 20s in the best and most unforgettable ways possible–surrounded by friends and family and making memories all over the world. I am truly fortunate to have so many people in my life who take the time to come and visit me in my new home.

When I sat down to make this list, I had no clue the direction it would take. Sitting here looking through the list, I must admit, that I am quite proud of this list. My original intention was not to just write down everything I had planned on doing before I made the list, but to really create a list that was about personal growth and challenge. Looking over the list and realizing how much of it I was able to accomplish makes me feel as though I was successful. I am actually happy that I did not accomplish everything, because if I had, I would be questioning the validity of the list. Also, it gives me a few things to look forward to planning for this year.

  1. Go kayaking in France, either on la Loire or le Cher: I spent my 29th birthday kayaking with my mom in Michigan, so this seems like an appropriate way to say good-bye to my twenties.
  2. Visit at least two new countries: My list of places I will be visiting this summer is growing by the minute, so this should not be a problem. In the end, I was able to visit 9 new countries! This does not include the countries I visited for a second or third time. I would consider this item to be accomplished!
  3. Bike across a country (Liechtenstein): I have my friend Chris to thank for this item making the cut. He actually suggested it and now it is on our list for when he comes to visit. Wasn’t able to do it on this trip to Liechtenstein as it rained stormed the entire time we were in the country. Oh well, maybe next time.
  4. Get at least two new stamps in my passport: In order to remain in France after my visa has expired I must leave the Schengen zone, thus guaranteeing me one new stamp. Only one more to go… Without a doubt I accomplished this. In fact, I was able to get 8 new stamps in my passport before turning 30. I promise, this is not as impressive as it sounds, as there are repeats of stamps for entry and departure. However, I am quite happy and impressed that I had to have pages added to my passport, as I only have two with no stamps.
  5. Finalize tattoo design: I’ve been mulling this over for years and have stuck with the same design and placement for 4 years, which means I am officially ready to actually get it when I am stateside in August. I still know exactly what and where but now I have to work on finding an artist, as my original choice moved to Arizona.
  6. Make a decision about next year:…See previous post for this dilemma. Given that I am writing from France, I believe my decision is quite clear. Now begins the fun process of trying to decide what to do next year…
  7. Stop worrying about money all the time (while still being financially responsible): I tend to become obsessed once I get into a routine, and I know it is not healthy. Now that I am only teaching online it is really difficult for me to know when to say enough is enough and to stop teaching and go out and do things with my friends. This summer was definitely the best summer of my life, but was also the summer with the largest price tag. I worked my butt off in the months leading up to the summer, as I knew that I would be spending, rather than earning, money for approximately four months. There were times when it stressed me that I was spending money all the time, but in the end, I don’t regret anything.
  8. Become confident in my ability to speak French: Give me a glass of wine and I can speak without any problems. In normal, everyday life I overthink it and make the silliest mistakes. Luckily, my French-speaking friends can tell when I’m thinking and force me to just spit it out. Turns out, when I stop thinking and just speak, I sometimes sound rather intelligent. I’ve had several meaningful and insightful conversations with my French friends over the last several months and continue to become more confident each day. I am also making DSCF6348an active effort to improve my written French by completing exercises. I feel like a student again!
  9. Speak French as often as possible: I’m actually very grateful for the number of friends I have made in France who only speak French (and the few who pretend like they don’t speak English). I need to force myself to spend more time with my friends and not getting so nervous that I won’t talk to them. I have been much better about speaking French whenever I have the opportunity. I also am speaking with new people more often and more confidently.
  10. Start watching the news (it turns out things have been happening in the world): In addition to being an informed citizen, it’s a great vocabulary exercise, as I’m only watching the news in French. I will still read articles written in English to gain a balanced perspective. I had accomplished this prior to my travels, but then I got out of the habit. I really don’t like watching television, so my compromise has been reading about the news while on my way to and from work everyday.
  11. Accept that fact that I am turning 30 (how is that even possible?!?): There are days when I am surprisingly okay with this fact, and then there are days when I want to build a fort out of pillows, blankets, and kitchen chairs and spend the day coloring there. Accept is a very loose term, but I will say that turning 30 has turned out to be an incredible experience thus far. I’ve made many new friends since turning 30, something that I believe I struggle with doing. I’ve also been told by many people that they never would have guessed that I was 30, which made me feel a little bit better.
  12. Rediscover geocaching and do it regularly: Matt actually inspired this one. Last week when we were celebrating my final day as a language assistant we got on the topic of geocaching and I mentioned that I had brought my handheld GPS with me. Within half an hour we were on the hunt. It was so much fun and I quickly remember how much I loved doing this five years ago (!!!!!) I did this for a few weeks, but then got caught up in the final steps of preparation for all of my trips. I am trying to get back into a routine now that the school year has started, where I can go geocaching one or twice per week.
  13. Become a more outgoing and adventurous person: In many ways I have already accomplished this goal. I have no issue with traveling alone and planning trips around Europe. However, being willing to go to a concert in Tours by myself or to try and strike up a conversation with someone in a café/bar is something I simply have not been able to do. It is terrifying. I hope to at least try to talk to strangers more often Apparently, everyone else thinks that I have always been adventurous and outgoing. I think visiting multiple countries alone last year helped me to begin to see and accept this side of myself. I would still like to become more outgoing, especially when it comes to social situations, but I have made significant improvements since moving to France.
  14. Ride a bike to a castle in France (Villandry? Amboise?): This has been on my list since 2007, but I’m yet to actually do it. Each time I come to France I say I’m going to do it, but haven’t. This summer is the summer. It’s 21km to Villandry and 25km to Amboise. The distance wouldn’t be bad for me, as I’ve done 50km on my bike in one day without any troubles. However, it is not an adventure I want to do alone, and it’s difficult for me to find friends willing to do these crazy things with me The ride there was no problem, but the ride back…I wasn’t sure that we were going to make it. Matt, Benoît, and Bénédicte all rode bikes together to Villandry. What was funny was that at the time, no one knew that this item was on my list.IMG_0353
  15. Find a better balance between work and my personal life: This year I spent the majority of my time working, both as an assistant and an online teacher. I hope to find a better balance between my jobs and my personal life so that i’m able to actually do things with my friends As an American, this is something with which I will always struggle, but I will say that I have become ever so slightly more French in this way. 
  16. Visit the remaining châteaux de la Loire: (Chaumont-sur-Loire, Angers, Langeais, Brézé, Cheverny, Abbaye de Fontevraud, Brissac, Sully-sur-Loire, Valencay, Saumur). I already have plans to visit two of these castles–Chaumont-sur-Loire and Langeais–with Chris. Jeannette and I were talking about doing Angers when she is here in June. The other ones I haven’t come up with a plan yet, but I will. This was almost accomplished. There are only a few that I have left to visit: Brissac, Sully-sur-Loir, Valencay, and Saumur.
  17. Go wine tasting in Chinon: I’ve visited the town of Chinon and the château, but I haven’t actually gone wine tasting here, which is just plain silly, as Chinon is one of my all-time favorite wines. It makes sense to stop in Chinon on the way to Angers, as they are in the same general direction and on the same general route. This was accomplished when Jeannette came to visit. Much fun was had!
  18. Visit the Natural History Museum in Tours: (I’m not sure how I haven’t been here yet). I’ve read many articles about this museum and have heard about it from a few people in Tours. It wasn’t until last week that I actually discovered where the museum is located. It’s ridiculously close to my apartment, so no more excuses! I’m glad I visited, but I’m not sure that I will be visiting again any time soon. I went during the mammoth exhibit, which was interesting, but in my opinion, not very well done.
  19. Go wine tasting in Bourgogne: Living in the Loire Valley I have gone wine tasting many times. It wasn’t until recently when I ventured to Tracy-sur-Loire that I did wine tasting outside of the Loire Valley. At the end of this month I’m going to be driving through this region with Chris, so I decided this would be the ideal opportunity to do some wine tasting. Chris and I stopped in this area during our adventures. While I did accomplish this goal, I am not comfortable saying that I have visited and discovered this region. I will visit again this year.
  20. Visit Monet’s house in Giverny, France: Again, this is something that has been on my list for many, many years. The reason I haven’t done it yet is that it requires multiple forms of public transportation from Paris, and traveling alone in France is terrifying for me. June is supposed to be one of the best times to visit, so I’m hoping Jeannette and I can make the trip together. While it was not easy to get to, it was definitely worth the long and interesting drive. It also hopes that I shared this experience with two of my favorite people in the world. I think it would be interesting to visit again during spring.
  21. Visit the remaining towns/cities in France with Tracy in their name: Tracy-Bocage, Tracy-sur-Mer, Tracy-le-Mont, Tracy-le-Val. So far, I have visited 1 of 5 towns with Tracy in the name in France. After Benoît mentioned that there were towns with my name in their name it became a personal mission to visit these places, simply to take pictures with the signs and walk around cute French villages. Normally, when I suggest a road trip like this, my friends look at me like I am crazy. My friend Trevor thought it sounded like a great idea, so we rented a car and went to Tracy-sur-Loire for the day. When my mom comes we’re planning to visit the remaining 4 towns/villages.Such a random, but unforgettable experience. It was absolutely amazing to discover these towns and all of the surrounding villages. While I would not recommend anyone not names Tracy set out with this goal, I definitely think it was worth it.
  22. Rent and drive a moped/Vespa: I’ve wanted to do this since I went to the Bahamas when I was 17. No clue where I want to do this yet, but I will be visiting many cities where this could happen. Well, I’m a bit of a klutz. After much discussion, my mom and I decided that this might not be the best idea, especially at the beginning of our trip. Our compromise? Rent motorized tricycles in Poland. We THOUGHT they would be safer. However, I crashed mine (neither the tricycle nor I were injured).
  23. Make time to discover and enjoy all of the parks in Tours/Saint-Cyr: This week I walked to the park near my apartment and sat on a bench reading my book. It was so peaceful and just felt so French. I looked around and was amazed that my life has become sitting in cute parks in France reading. I need to do this more often. Time got away from me. I will achieve this goal this year.
  24. Visit the Château de Tours: It’s actually a museum, but I’ve never been inside, and it is literally at the end of my street. There are always exhibitions of some sort in the château and entrance is free. Again, why have I never made the time to visit?! Every weekend I tell myself that I am going to visit. However, I still have not. Maybe next weekend…
  25. Visit le Musée de Compagnonnage: Again, how have I not been here? It’s a really small museum, and is at the opposite end of my street than the Château de Tours. I believe it is free on the first Sunday of the month (which happens to be this weekend). I sit at the tram stop and stare at this museum everyday. When I get off the tram, I walk right past it. Have I ever stopped to go inside? No. Maybe this month.
  26. Buy and play pétanque with everyone who comes to visit: On my first full day in France last summer I played pétanque. It was so French and so much fun. We drank sparkling wine and just had a blast being ridiculous (measuring the distance with sticks…). When I went to buy a pétanque set it was no longer pétanque season. However, I’ve begun my search and will buy a set this spring/summer. This was such a fun investment. Drinking wine and playing pétanque is so much fun. 
  27. Be happy with my body: This is something with which I’ve always struggled (and will continue to struggle). I have severe body dysmorphia issues and am never happy with how I look. I used to be obsessed with my weight, but have since moved on to being happy with how my clothes fit and how I feel. I’ve been going to the gym everyday for a few months and feel like I am finally starting to see the results. I will continue to go to the gym and to make healthy choices so that I can wear the dress I brought with me for my 30th birthday with confidence. I have decided that this is going to be a lifelong struggle. It doesn’t help that I am living in a country where clothes are not designed for curvy women. I am still making healthy choices and trying to go to the gym (it’s hard, as I’m still getting used to my new work schedule). I’m also going to begin doing yoga in my apartment. I rediscovered Bikram yoga while I was in the states this summer. Unfortunately, yoga is not very common in France.
  28. Accept the fact that every time I cross something off my list of places to visit, I add three new places: I’ve made lists for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first bucket list at the age of 13 and haven’t stopped. When I began making these lists it was more like a goal to see if I could cross everything off the list, rather than viewing each list as a new adventure. I oftentimes feel overwhelmed by all of the places I want to visit, but haven’t been to yet. But then I step back and think about all of the places I have been and feel extremely grateful. The world is a very big place and I will see as much of it as I can. 
  29. Visit the D-Day Landing Beaches and the American Cemetery: This is something I have studied extensively, but haven’t actually visited. In the past, I have explored only Paris and central France. Since moving here, I’ve branched out more, but not as much as I would like. Breathtaking. A truly touching experience. As my mom and I were standing on Omaha Beach the Star Spangled Banner played on church bells and French fighter jets flew over. Unforgettable.
  30. Watch the sunrise and sunset on la Loire on the same day: This is something I find every relaxing, but haven’t taken the time to do in far too long. I’d love to get up early, walk to la Loire and just drink my coffee and wait for the sun to rise and then spend the day discovering my city. I hate mornings. Simple as that. I might be able to accomplish this during the fall or winter.
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The End is the Beginning

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The original reason I came to France will be finished at the end of next week. I have four days of teaching left, and then it is over. Luckily, I will be remaining in France at least through the summer (and hopefully for another year). As my time as an English assistant is coming to a close I am getting really excited about all the potential adventures that lie ahead of me. In May one of my close friends is coming to France. I’m so excited to be able to share my new life with a friend I have known for years.

The more time I spend away from my family and friends the more I realize how much we actually have in common. It turns out that Chris is equally crazy and likes to do ridiculous things while traveling. When I was in college it was very difficult for me to find friends who liked traveling as much as I did, and also friends who liked to do the same crazy things. One of my closest friends in college was the first person I found with exactly the same traveling style. I’m talking itineraries planned to the minute, typed and put in paper protectors, and then put in a binder for reference throughout the trip. (Not to mention the three back-up copies, just in case…)

It’s funny how time, distance, and growing older changes a person. While I still like to do my research and plan my trips, I have found that I am a much more conservative traveler than I used to be. I think back to 2007 when I was a young and stupid student. I had no experience traveling alone while abroad, but I didn’t let that stop me. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and made friends (an extremely difficult and awkward task for me) and planned a week-long adventure through three countries. I managed to book train and plane tickets, reserve hotels, and make an itinerary of what we were going to do. Looking back, I have no idea how I did. There is no reason I should have been as good at planing these trips as I was. In a week we managed to do Paris, Barcelona, Rome/Vatican City, Venice, and Paris again. It’s crazy when I think about it, and I have no idea how the 21 year-old me knew what to do. Perhaps it was that I had a virtually unlimited budget (thanks to my very generous family), perhaps it was because I knew everything would work out eventually, perhaps it was sheer luck. Whatever it was, I’m currently trying to channel it as I am preparing for three very important visitors.

Luckily, Chris is very organized and has several awesome ideas for our adventures throughout Europe. We’re currently in the planning stages and I’m getting really excited. I’m not going to say exactly where we are hoping to go, but it is quite a lofty goal and I truly hope that we can make it come true. I’m also really excited because Chris has already been to Paris, so he only has a few things he would like to see/do there, and they are things I’ve only done a few times.

My next visitor will be my best friend (again!). Needless to say, there are not words to describe how excited and happy I am for her to come back to visit me. We’ve recently discovered that we have some sort of cosmic connection (i.e., my asthma flares up, her asthma does the same; her fingers go tingly/numb, mine do the same). It’s quite freaky, but is yet another example of how we are virtually the same person. We’ve begun trying to plan our adventures, but it’s still very uncertain. The one thing we must do is visit Monet’s house in Giverny. After my adventures with Chris are planned, I’ll begin coordinating with Jeannette about our adventures.

My final visitor will be my mother. She has never been to Europe, much less left North America. When she was a child she and my grandparents traveled extensively. When I was a child, my parents took my sister and me on countless vacations. I consider myself very lucky to have traveled so much as a child, with my parents, grandparents, and aunt. The first time I left my mother was around six months old. My uncle was in the airforce and my grandparents would travel to wherever he was stationed and I would go with them. Ever since the first time I left my parents, there was no turning back. My family struggles to understand my passion for traveling and seeing the world, but as we all grow older they have accepted it and support my choices.

The itinerary for when my mom comes to visit is the most extensive and overwhelming. She will be in Europe for one month and we’ve been discussing the places we would like to go and the things we would like to do. I’m taking it little by little, and with the help of my Sharpies, I will figure this out. However, at this time I feel completely overwhelmed by the task of planning these trips. While my mother is here we will also be celebrating my birthday (the real reason that she did not have a choice about coming to France). This will be the second birthday I’ve celebrated in France, and they were both monumental birthdays. In 2007 I had my “21st birthday do-over,” as my real 21st birthday was quite uneventful. This year, I will be turning 30 (ahhhh!!!!!!). I am not handling this fact well, and am in fact practically in denial about only having a few months left in my twenties.

Below is a tentative list of the countries/cities I will be visiting between now and August. Here’s to hoping they all come true!

  • France: Paris, Versailles, Giverny, Èze, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Normandy, Douai
  • Italy: Pompei, Venice, Florence, Almafi Coast, Pisa
  • Poland: Krakow, Warsaw, Zakopane, Wieliczka
  • Liechtenstein
  • Austria: Salzburg, Vienna
  • Switzerland: Zermatt
  • Turkey: Istanbul
  • England: Bath, Wiltshire

Here’s to the adventures of a lifetime with some of my favorite people in the world!

Matthew’s Surprise!

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Matt’s birthday is this week. He is not a big fan of birthdays or having a lot of attention given to him. We’ve been talking about his birthday for quite some time, especially what he might want as a birthday gift. Let’s just say that his ideas and suggestions were less than helpful. Luckily, I had a few ideas up my sleeve, so I did not have a problem coming up with what I thought was an awesome gift.

As awesome as I thought my gift was, I would never be able to top the gift he received a few days before his actual birthday. There has been a surprise in the works for many months. When I say surprise, I am talking about a surprise of epic proportions. I was fortunate enough to be in on the surprise and to help Ben plan some of the details. Keeping things a surprise is very challenging, especially when Matt has a way of finding everything out.

On Tuesday, October 21st Matt’s dad, Roger, and stepmom, Toshi, arrived in Paris. This was both of their first trips to France and the occasion for their visit was Matt’s birthday. Ben went to the airport to pick them up and I stayed in Tours to make sure that everything went according to plan. Matt worked the night before at the hotel, which meant that he was going to sleep until early afternoon. My job was simple: make sure he was awake and did not leave the house prior to Roger and Toshi’s arrival.

Luckily, I had some online classes to teach that morning, and as I am still waiting for the Internet to be installed at my apartment it was the perfect excuse for me to hang out all morning at Matt and Ben’s. Of course, the one morning that Matt had to be awake at a somewhat normal time he decided to stay in bed and hit snooze four times! By the third time I was up and about moving around trying to wake Matt, without making him mad.

Eventually, Matt got out of bed and came downstairs to the kitchen. We talked for a bit, while I was texting with Ben to get constant updates on their ETA. After what seemed like hours, the door bell rang. A little back story, Matt loathes the doorbell. Every time it sounds he becomes enraged and has a one man show about how much he hates the doorbell. This time was no different. Except that on the other side of the door was his dad and stepmom. Ben filmed the event from the street and I filmed from the house. It was an awesome moment to witness!

Of course Matt had not showered and was still in his pyjamas, however he was so overwhelmed by the moment that he didn’t really seem to care. Until he realized we had filmed the whole experience. The next several hours were a blur, but so much fun! This was the first time I had met Roger and Toshi and I was very happy to be included in this very personal moment with Matt.

For Matt’s actual birthday there was a bit of a ‘surprise party’ at his house. I spent the day preparing from my upcoming vacation and cleaning my apartment. Because I don’t have the internet I’ve been spending a lot of time at a bar/café on the same street as my apartment. I’ve become a regular, and the best part is the resident border collie, Goomba. I now can get puppy cuddles on a daily basis! 🙂 That afternoon I was hanging out at le Bartók being productive when I saw Matt and Ben wander by and then come in. Turns out, they had just stopped by my apartment to invite me to grab a drink in honor of Matt’s birthday. Since I was already at the bar, I put my computer away and spent time chatting with them. (The whole time Ben and I were having a secret combination about the upcoming events for the night).

Once we finished our drinks we parted ways. Matt wanted me to return home with them, as ‘we were having a traditional French dinner’ for his birthday. I told him that I had to stop by my apartment and drop off my computer and to get his birthday present, but that I would come over shortly. I arrived at his house and it seemed like any other night. We were hanging out in his kitchen and talking. We were all drinking either a coffee or a water and were about to being our apéro. During this time Matt opened his gifts and was completely oblivious to the impending events.

As we were opening presents and talking the doorbell rang. (This completely reminded me of the book “The Doorbell Rang.” The first guest was our friend Céline. Matt was completely surprised, as he had only moments before finished saying how he had to introduce his dad and stepmom to Céline. Over the next 90 minutes the doorbell rang many, many more times. Each time, Matt had the same reaction. It was such a low-key relaxed night, but also a perfect way to celebrate Matt.

We ate, drank, and talked for many, many hours. This was a turning moment for me, as it was the first event in France that I felt neither intimidated nor out of place. I was comfortable starting conversations with each of the guests. Also, I was able to act as a translator for Roger and Toshi, which was a huge boost in my confidence.

Around 1am many people started to leave, but I hung around talking with my new ‘family.’ After several more hours and several heartfelt conversations, I decided it was time for me to head home. At this point it was about 5am. What an experience walking home at 5am. I was not scared, but it was a new experience for me.

All things considered, I would say that Matt’s birthday was a huge success. I also think that this birthday is going to be near impossible to top!

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