I have so much I want to share with you. Right now I’m sitting with my bare toes sunk into in our fleshly cut lawn.
The sun is out in full force and I’m looking out into our garden that has since started to feel more and more like home. This small French village that we chose to live in isn’t the most convenient place to be, but being here on a day like this makes the location completely worth it. What used to be a large area full of bare trees and a grey garden has since turned into a lush green jardin with wildflowers and loud chirping birds. First, it started with a big cherry blossom tree, and from one day to the next, there was a cherry blossom explosion; then the tulips came; then the rose bushes were in full bloom with fiery reds and pinks. The lake nearby is even more beautiful than before with all the foliage surrounding it, and I try to walk there as much as I can.
Days like today I sit outside to unwind between the hustle and bustle that our lives have become. It’s the busiest I can remember being and yet, it’s also the most solitary I can remember being. On any given week, there are so many activities and things to do at INSEAD, the school where my husband is doing his MBA. To give you an idea, we recently traveled with 100+ students to Lebanon for a five-day trip excursion and last night (on a Tuesday night) there was a giant party at a club. I pick and choose what I can when I’m feeling social, but other days and weeks I keep more to myself, writing, working, or traveling into Paris.
I’ll admit that as someone who is very social and needs close connections, at times it’s really lonely out here. It’s also that distance from family and friends that makes me channel my busy energy into something positive, something productive. Loneliness can help me write and stay creative, and I’m not really complaining because it’s great to have loads of free time to do what I want every single day. When else can I ever say that again?
Back to school
The MBA experience has been amazing for both of us so far. The environment here is open and international with people taking advantage of every chance to explore and have fun. My favorite part is that we’ve met people from all corners of the globe, countries I never even dreamed of going until this year. Most of all, this break of a year has been a welcome change to the routine that started to wear us down towards the end of our time in Belgium. Laurens is doing well as a student, learning a lot, and we’re just really happy overall. I can honestly say it will be one of the best years of our lives. As for the partners’ community? I guess I expected it to be more close-knit and active, but that’s not really the case. Luckily I feel connected to the students and have so much fun when there are events and outings.
These days I’m a student as well. I’ve been taking French courses with a group of Americans and some are even from Texas. Because of that, we can relate to each other really easily and there are no real nerves when I get to class. Our super small group also means that discussions are a must, so it pushes me to learn more and try harder to express my opinions about things. It always makes me laugh how outside of class I’m more relaxed at speaking. Suddenly when I’m in an Uber my walls come down and I’m able to tell my life story when they ask, complete with French inflection and nonchalance. I can manage on my own when I got into Paris and that feeling of satisfaction is amazing. I power through an exchange without going into English and at the end when they ask where I’m from, the vrai Parisien will say, ‘pas mal, eh’ with a nod. That sense of accomplishment keeps me beaming for hours.
Pinch me, please. The start of sponsored travel.
Although our lives have been so busy because of INSEAD, I must admit to biggest update I have to share with you is about this blog.
These last few months have been a major source of fulfillment and joy for me, a type of creative joy I haven’t felt in a while. In one of my earlier posts, I shared my plans for this blog and how I wanted to enhance and evolve it for the better now that I had a full year to dedicate myself to it.
After doing restaurant reviews for years and highlighting the design and concepts behind them, I started to dream of traveling to hotels to experience and write about my stays there. I knew that being in the heart of Europe I could find hotels that merged history and beautiful architecture to create the dreamiest of stays. The dream turned into determination and so I got to work.
I spent weeks and weeks of research and pitching myself to different hotels with my portfolio and media kit. Eventually, I landed my first official press trip at 25Hours Bikini Berlin. The experience was amazing and the hotel even more so. It was a hotel unlike anything I’d seen before and I knew from that point on I was hooked.
So far, I’ve worked with six hotels in four different European countries. (Here are the first and second reviews and there’s more coming!). As I finish up this post I’m also multi-tasking and packing. I’m traveling to Portugal tomorrow on a press trip for a five-star hotel complete with a stellar restaurant they want me to review. I’ll be joining a group of journalists to cover the establishment as well as one other restaurant up north.
Honestly, this whole situation is unreal and I can’t really put it into words how ecstatic I am. I’m fulfilled, busy, and living out a sense of purpose that isn’t always easy to find when you move so often and to so many different places. I’m living out my passion for creating travel content – taking photos, writing reviews, and growing this community, but I’m also learning about the stories behind these world-class hotels and the cities they thrive in. I really can’t wait to share more with you soon.
This city still has a hold on me
Being close to Paris is a big part of what keeps me busy and happy here. I travel 2-3 times a week into the city where I find a coworking spot, settle in, write, then head back home before rush hour. A few weekends ago I walked by old apartment and couldn’t believe how much bigger the street seemed in my mind, and this past weekend Laurens and I went to the exact restaurant the night we met. I love that I can revisit those places and memories.
Every time I arrive at Gare de Lyon my heart flutters a little bit. Yesterday I kept thinking to myself how lucky am I to get to walk around this city and live in it if only for a short year? Truth be told, I have a serious love affair with Paris in a way that will make it hard to leave at the end of the year. I dream of having an apartment there and living a bohemian writer’s life. Probably won’t happen anytime soon, but I’m not crossing it off the list just yet…
Summer, Singapore, and what’s to come…
As if we don’t move around enough, we’re adding three more stops to our list before the year is over. First, we’ll go to the States in July. That means BBQs, floating the Guadalupe, 4th of July, and summer nights outside with live music and family and friends. I’m excited to be there and to settle in for more than just a week because it often feels too rushed. I’ve been getting more homesick lately so it’ll be good to get quality time in. After Texas, we’ll come back to Europe for a month, and then…Singapore!
As part of the exchange program at INSEAD, every student has a chance to spend a few months at their sister campus. At first, I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea of going back to Asia. The thought of leaving France made me sad, but as weeks went by and the chances increased we’d be going I started to warm up to the idea. Since graduation is in Singapore in December, it’ll be a nice way to escape the beginning of winter here in Europe, travel more, and to revisit our old friends that we made when we lived in Malaysia.
As for after Singapore we still have no clue. It could be Europe, Asia, or somewhere in between. I’ll keep you updated. I can’t believe how fast time has flown by and how much has happened since my last update, but I do know that there will be lots to share very, very soon…