Short vacations of a few weeks and living abroad for years or longer have their various benefits. But at this point in my life, where I have a happy home in Sydney, the unexpected opportunity to live in Paris for four months has been just right.
I like a bit of routine, admittedly, so I’ve liked the schedule of a full-time job (at work that I’m enjoying) and fitting in exploring around that. I’ve tried different cycle routes to work. I’ve found my favourite coffee shop (meaning they make coffee more like in Australia). I’ve poked around shops and grocery stores, exploring new neighbourhoods or our own quartier. There has been time to do that.
I’ve liked not being in a rush to explore. There is a lot to do in this city, but it has been enough to see art exhibitions and shows when we could and eat in interesting and fantastic restaurants, but also make quiet meals at home, to do laundry, or even to watch TV shows and movies on our laptops, somehow happier, for now, that Paris is bustling just outside our apartment.
It helps that Paris seems almost made-to-order for short sojourns. I’m surprised how easy it’s been to be here. Apartment rental was easy enough. There couldn’t be another city with so many websites for furnished apartments! Paris is so easy to get around, particularly with the Vélib free bikes. We’ve both had moments when our French has failed us but mainly causing only embarrassment or annoyance, no real problems. Today’s technology – free messaging and skyping to friends and family, local cellphone SIM cards, and international money cards – has worked just fine for us here.
A few months is not enough to delve deeply into one’s surroundings, but enough to observe, and make deductions and find one is wrong, and do more observing. I’ve observed the changing of the season, and the different rhythms of the city. Paris is slightly quieter with the colder weather… though really, always quite busy. I notice the different rhythms within myself. I think it took a full two months before I was slightly less breathless with amazement and glee for being here. Now, I’m merely happy.
My time here has also been an unexpected revision to my experiences as a younger man living in Brussels and London. Then, I was so invested in trying to understand the cities I lived in, to find a place in them, and find my way. I was serious, melancholy and often lonely. Years later, now I’m here in France with my partner. I have enjoyed the experience with little burden. The reporter Richard Boudreaux wrote in the Wall Street Journal in late December that ‘[t]he beauty of nomadic life is that you’re detached from the flaws of the surrounding society while you soak up the best it has to offer. You’re an observer. You have no stake. You’re just passing through.’
The Charlie Hebdo incident punctured a hole in the unreality of nomadic life, exposing more than I wanted to see. So, perhaps it’s a good time to leave, to return to my content life in Sydney. There, I’ll see how Paris has settled into me, after this perfect amount of time.