As I head out the door to catch my train to Paris, I look my outfit once over in the mirror. Once outside, a cold breeze blows over me so I quickly dash inside to grab a pink scarf, the one that’s been on the coatrack for months. And just like that, fall is here. Days like today the rain is relentless and the sun isn’t guaranteed. Instead, our lawn is more likely covered in orange foliage and drizzle. With this new season blowing in, a new season is coming for us, too, so I thought it was time for an update.
Somehow we’re already ten months into this year and the last time I gave you a personal update, I was five months into living back in France, happy to be back in Paris where it all began, and navigating partner life at INSEAD with my husband. Months have flown by and it’s been a wild time.
A whirlwind year of travel
Having Paris as a base for our experience this MBA year has been surreal. It’s no secret that I’m in love with the City of Light, so it’s been a treat to be close and to fill my days there with exploring, hanging out, working in the city, and meeting up with friends. The city still has this hypnotizing effect on me, and I’ve been happy just to be back again. The thought of leaving in a few weeks makes me sad, but I also feel somehow, someday we’ll be back. I really hope so at least.
As I reflect back on the year so far, I realize it’s been an extraordinarily busy one, our busiest ever.
It’s been a year with much less predictability and lots of spur-of-the-moment planning. Realizing this year ‘off’ is a luxury for us, we decided to go full force after it and our aspirations. For me, that meant trying my hand at becoming a full-time travel content creator. For Laurens, it meant putting work to the side and enjoying his MBA experience with people from all over the world. The door of opportunity opened up to us and so far, it has meant traveling more than ever.
It’s been ten months of many feelings, changes, and events, but mostly it’s been invigorating, exciting, and eye-opening.
The year isn’t even over yet, but I can proudly say I’ve visited thirty cities in over ten countries: France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Lebanon, and the USA. With each country I’ve touched down in, I have felt alive and completely in my element. For some of the trips, I’ve been lucky to travel with my good friends, sometimes I’ve traveled alone; either way, like the addiction travel can be, I’ve been chasing the high of discovering new places, knowing this year probably won’t repeat itself again.
This kind of constant travel has been a dream, but with all the coming and going this year, I have to admit my energy has been a bit scrambled. There were moments where I needed to slow down and take stock of all the change, challenges, and amazing moments we were having. There were weeks of going, going, going and being back in Fontainebleau meant recharging and planning my next trips.
When that free time did come, it invited me to reflect. A year without a normal schedule or job has given me a clear and honest look at the life I want to live and the conditions I thrive in.
From a creative standpoint, the time off this year has rejuvenated my passion for photography and travel in a major way that reaffirms my dreams and aspirations. From a personal point of view, it’s been a bit more ambiguous. My level of homesickness has been high, but my idea of home is still murkier than ever. I’ve reached peak expat fatigue (do I still want to live abroad in the coming years?), and I miss my tribe and the people who know me best. Those people are scattered around the US, Europe, and Asia, but definitely not conveniently in one city or country. And maybe it’s my age (hello-almost-31), but the craving for stability and the familiar has crept up on me in a surprising way. All of this at a time when I’m enjoying traveling more than ever. It’s a lot.
For the first time, my energy to keep moving and meeting, shuffling, and reshuffling is starting to wane. Although I always considered myself a diehard nomad, I’m also open to the possibilities that my values are starting to change and that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to plant some roots. Maybe the doubting is a phase, maybe it’s not. What I know for sure is forcing ourselves to have all the answers right now won’t help anything. More on this later, though. 🙂
Learning, trying, and learning some more
Just like everyone said it would, Laurens’s time at INSEAD is speeding past. It’s been an intense, fun, and good time, although I’ve been pretty removed from the experience myself. He’s doing really well in his classes and I’m proud of him. While he’s living his best student life, I’ve been pursuing my blog growth goals, the ones I set in January.
Here’s a small summary to get you up to speed:
As a photographer and travel writer, my ultimate dream has always been to work with hospitality brands. In the last few months, I’ve been able to travel to some of the best cities in Europe taking on assignments for this blog; that in and of itself has been an immense experience, an experience that has me pinching myself long after the trip is over.
As I look back, these last months have been a master class in honing my photography skills, learning more about cuisine, design, and architecture, and most of all, navigating the content creator niche.
I’ve worked with ten businesses – boutique hotels and restaurants – in France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy to create travel content like articles, photography, and social media consulting. By choosing to work with the best boutique hotels possible, I’ve been opened up to an amazing world of design and architecture, a world I know I want to be in. With the productivity and progress I’ve made, now it’s time to take what I’ve learned from these press trips to grow my business even further. I’m really excited to update you with a longer post about my experience with sponsored travel, soon! In the meantime, check out my dedicated Gorgeous Hotels page.
The endless summer
In June, Laurens’s classes stopped and since he decided not to do an internship, we had two consecutive months off! Realizing how rare of an opportunity it is to have that much time to ourselves, we decided to go home for a month to the USA and spend the rest of the time enjoying summer in Europe.
We did a road trip of road trips, exploring Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and then Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, and France to finish things off. It was a dreamy and surreal display of beauty, culture, and nature in most places we went to. We experienced the wild beauty of the desert southwest and the mountainous nature of Colorado. The trip was jaw-dropping in terms of beauty. We covered thousands upon thousands of miles, and I took almost as many photos. Those are coming soon as well, but here’s a preview:
As amazing as the trip back home was, it was also bittersweet. I visited my grandfather in Brownsville for the very last time. It was a tender visit, one filled with long chats and quality time; completely clear of mind, he told me things I had never heard before and joked like he always did. I said my goodbye to him knowing it was our last visit. Sure enough, as soon as we were about to drive off to Italy on the second leg of our trip, my brother called me to tell me the news that he had passed away.
Although I wasn’t completely shocked, it still hurt tremendously. He was proud of me no matter what, happily championing me to pursue my passion for writing and photography. He bought me my first DSLR camera as a graduation gift, the same one that jumpstarted my love for photography. I miss him and think of his face lighting up at my travel stories and mishaps, his mischievous laugh and joking manner. Unfortunately, Laurens also lost his grandfather just a few weeks later. It was a sad and heavy experience for us both since we had never grieved something like that together as a couple.
Full circle moment
The year might be winding down, but our plans definitely aren’t. In a little over a week, we’ll be moving to Singapore to finish out the INSEAD MBA year. It hasn’t really hit me yet that we’ll be moving for such a short amount of time. I’m starting to get excited, though. As our time in France comes to a rapid close, I’m packing our things slowly, all the trinkets we’ve collected over the last eight years, the ones that deserve to make the many moves with us. After three and a half years of leaving our life in Asia, we’ll be back to close out this busy, fulfilling, and change-inducing year.
So the planning and looking forward continues. Two of my best friends are flying to Bali to visit and I’m planning on taking as many trips as I can fit into two months. I’ve missed many things about living in Asia (the food, the massages, the kind people!), so I’m ready to dive back in if even for just a few months. Also, it will be so nice to see our old friends again who still live over in Malaysia and Singapore.
As for the next steps, we still have no idea about our next move after two months in Asia. That element of mystery isn’t new to us, but the excitement surrounding it remains the same…As soon as we know, you know I’ll be writing about it.
Here’s to more updates coming soon,