In 2016 I took the plunge and carried out a plan that I had been working on for almost a year. I was taking six months of unpaid leave from the Department of State to go abroad, and try my hand at teaching English. I had no concrete plan for those six months themselves, just that I would start in Paris for a four-week certification course, and then hoped to find a short term position for the remainder of the time. If I had to find opportunities elsewhere, that's what I would do. But for at least those four weeks, I was going to be living in a small apartment in the Latin Quarter, knowing hardly anyone and on an extremely tight budget.
The time I spent in Paris was one of the loneliest I have ever had. I did make a few friends, one in particular who I met in my certification course to whom I became very close. I am still in regular contact with Lori to this day. She's become an inspiration to me in many ways. After the course was over, she returned to her husband and her life in the south of France. I went on to look for private tutoring students and a teaching position for the summer. I avoided extraneous costs whenever possible, which meant that I didn't have a heck of a lot of a social life. I avoided taking the metro to see tutoring clients. Instead I walked.
I walked all over Paris. I took as many new routes as I could to the same destinations. The city isn't short of little backstreets, side streets, alleyways, hidden courtyards and architectural gems that don't cost a thing to see. While I walked I looked up as often as possible, because while many of the buildings are relatively uniform thanks to Haussmann's city project back in the days of Napoleon III, the tops of the buildings is often where one finds differentiation. The top-floor windows were capped by frames that were rounded, scalloped, topped with sculpted vines, fleur-de-lis, lion heads, etc. The carriage doors built into the front and center of most old apartment buildings also had an array of unique frames, including coats-of-arms, nymphs, goddesses, or art-deco flourishes. On a grander scale, I never, ever, became tired of walking by the proud towers of Notre Dame, the Palais Garnier Opera House, through the Jardins de Tuilieries and Luxembourg, over the Pont Neuf, down Boulevards St. Germaine, Rue de Faubourg Saint Martin, and St. Jacques, and through the warrens of the Latin Quarter. I observed Parisians and tourists, immigrants, children, dogs, cats, poor, wealthy, students, retirees, loud Americans and drunk Australians, garbage men, homeless beggars, and the occasional nun. Becoming familiar with this absolutely breathtaking city so intimately simply by walking around it all day, every day, made it feet vastly less lonely.
I did treat myself to the occasional restaurant meal or espresso in a cafe (it's PARIS), museum ticket, and bar night. I made a little money tutoring. I took a trip to the Provence to take advantage of the hospitality of Lori and her kind husband, Pascal. I even found a samba class that gave me a taste of the familiar life I had left behind in DC. However, the pleasures of walking through those streets to occupy myself or get to appointments are perhaps burned into my memory the deepest.
I eventually had to leave Paris due to visa restrictions. I found a position at an English summer camp outside of Istanbul, Turkey. That's an entirely different story. However, I will never forget my adventures by foot in the city of lights.