Yesterday I walked into a kitchen store and asked for a spoon sharpener. The patient woman behind the corner looked back at me and with great hesitation, asked, “couteau?” (knife)
The communication thing can be quite humbling. Yes, yes, yes, we are looking for a KNIFE sharpener. I don’t remember being a toddler and having to put more effort than is normally required into communicating but I’m sure this is how it felt. We don’t think about the words we use, it comes out instinctively. Because my French is rusty, I have to plan my requests out in advance. Speaking on the fly is fine, but I am not used to having to actually think before I speak. While this is a trait I could do well to re-introduce into my daily habit even in my native language, in a foreign language, I find myself trying to hurry to get my thoughts out and realizing I need to pause and figure out what I’m trying to say. There is nothing wrong with a pause, just like when I’m on the stage, speaking. It seems interminable in length to me but not to your audience.
Let’s also address the fact that we now have a new item in our travel checklist – our new travel knife sharpener because knives are never sharp enough for the chef, aka Patrick, when we stay in Airbnbs.
Last week, I explained why we are spending a month living and working in in France. Many of you have expressed interest in doing something similar and have asked how we’ll be managing work and how we made it happen so I’ll tell you about that today.
Before we even get started, let’s be clear you have to have a modicum of caring more about yourself than others. I don’t mean to their detriment, or that you should in any way shirk responsibility and leave people hanging or neglected. But to a degree, you have to know who is Number One in this scenario and enforce that. I have no issue doing this. I know many of you do. I also know many of you have complicated lives that would not be possible to get away for a month. I get it. I initially wanted two months. I couldn’t make that happen. So maybe you shoot for two and the compromise doesn’t leave you feeling short-changed.
This is precisely why I gave us three years to figure this out. Three years to ensure I didn’t have any engagements or obligations that would forbid me from getting away.
The financial piece
Three years also gave us time to set some extra money aside. In actuality, only a few things cost more than if I were just staying at home, or taking a one week vacation. The airfare, for example, is the same for a one-week vacation. So, let’s say you have lodging, rental car, dog sitter. The rest is money we’d be spending at home anyway, with maybe a bigger restaurant/entertainment budget than normal. and yeah, we’re buying wine. So we have an extra chunk of change set aside for these bigger expenses, otherwise, once we’re here. We’re living and being here, instead of in our house.
Which leads us to lodging. This fantastic freaking “gîte” we rented for the month cost us less than our week in St. Barth six years ago. So my suggestion is to choose a location that isn’t spendy and touristy. In other words off the beaten path, which you’re more than likely going to want anyway! Because you don’t want to be that person on the Riviera sighing after the third week under the crush of “those damn tourists.” That’s just totally unsightly. So is the look of you being crushed by an expensive rental. What’s more, many Airbnbs and VRBOs offer discounts for monthly rentals, sometimes up to 25 percent off the nightly rate! (Also, pro-tip: check Google Earth before you book anything. That St. Barth trip was almost a St. Maarten trip with a lovely major airport runway in our backyard.)
We’re in the Aveyron, in the southwest of France. I have lived in France, and have visited here several times but never visited this region. In fact, an added bonus is that everyone I’ve spoken to here is surprised to learn we’re American. And because Americans aren’t typically here, they have no preconceived notions and therefore I do not have to carry that Canadian flag with me everywhere I go now. I’m kidding about carrying that flag of course, I welcome the opportunity to have conversation on the topic. When I arrived in Mexico in January, the taxi driver said “thank you for trusting us.” This gives us the opportunity to make positive impressions and change any preconceived notions that do exist.
To get beyond the obvious places requires extra research and questioning the status quo. For example, everyone probably says “go to Provence.” But what else is there? Of course it’s a risk to go somewhere that isn’t talked about. You might even think there is a reason it isn’t talked about. But it is stunningly beautiful here, for example, and we both agreed we nailed it. (See, as evidence, feature photo above and our cottage rental)
Let’s get down to essentials for running a business. And wifi is the water of the whole deal. Our airbnb included wifi and it’s out of service since the day we arrived. Good thing we didn’t leave things to chance and have our handy POCKET WIFI which we always rent when traveling internationally. You can typically rent these in airports when you arrive. In Japan, we picked ours up outside of customs. In Paris, it was delivered to us. You connect to it, and boom, you are on wifi instead of data roaming everywhere you go. Not only does this keep you connected for work purposes, but hello, Google maps and travel apps for when you are out and about and need a top rated lunch spot on the fly or can’t find your way back to where you started in the morning.
Simply Google “pocket wifi and your destination” to find yours for your next international trip. Each time we’ve done this, we’ve paid our money in advance on a website we have no idea is legit, wondering if we’ll ever actually see the device and each time the service has been impeccable.
Time zone differences
I already work with clients around the world but now I’m putting myself out of sync and so of course I’m going to accommodate my clients’ and prospects’ needs and not burden them with the fact that woe is me, I’m working and living in southwest France, please don’t make me have a meeting at 7 pm. That just doesn’t fly, of course.
Depending on where you are, you’ll find the right chunks of time to work. For example, we both love waking up early and getting some work done while everyone is sleeping soundly in their bed and no one can “talk back.” Get a bunch of work done, make it look like you are all over it, and head out for a run in the Parc National de Cèvennes and afterwards to the caves of the Chateau Lagrézette for some wine tasting. No one will be the wiser. Don’t get too drunk though, because everyone will be on the Internets at 5 to 9 your time and you’ll be needed. A sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Changing the mindset
This is the topic of an entire post I think I’ll work on for next week. International travel simply requires an open-ness to doing things differently than we are used to. This very statement, or lack of willingness to accept this statement, is likely what gives us Americans the worse reputation when we travel. We are used to things being done our way, and as it turns out, our way isn’t always the best way. Certainly not simply because we are used to it – that’s not good enough. Anyway, more on that next week.
In the meantime, I’m making reservations for dinner tonight so I have to run. Patrick asked me to please not make a reservation for a spoon. I suggested he zip it and go sharpen some knives.
So, what did I leave out? What questions do you have?[ssba]