A Nomad in Paris, Part V: What I’ve Learned

Clothes, groceries, computers and books—the stuff of a nomadic writer.

Clothes, groceries, computers and books—the stuff of a nomadic writer.

Five months in the City of Light have come to an end. These last months were just the latest along this road I’ve taken, one where being uncomfortable and unsure are the new norms. Determined to stay in Paris and write despite my own apartment being under water, I had to string together alternative housing month to month, not knowing where I’d land. But I embraced the life of a nomad and would not be dissuaded by circumstance—nor fear. That’s a commitment I made to myself. Thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers, I managed to find some very wonderful places to lay my head—four in all, over five months.

Moving myself and all my belongings three times in five months was a huge test for someone who resists change. Having a sense of stability when you’re in a foreign country—particularly in your place of lodging—is very important. I’m no adventurer; my parents taught my sister and me to seek security—steady jobs, stable homes. Instead, I left all stability behind, especially in these last five months. But looking back, I’m astonished how much I grew. Here’s some of what I learned:

I bought this cup at Monoprix when I was in the first apartment and took it with me from place to place. The one constant in my every-changing circumstances.

I bought this over-sized teacup at Monoprix when I was in the first apartment, and took it with me from place to place—the one constant in my ever-changing circumstances.

Wherever you hang your hat is home. Home always meant familiarity, history. Longtime memories. I’ve been in my New York home eighteen years. But here I was, in other people’s apartments, short-term, and it was surprising how easily I settled right in. Once I found places for all my things, the apartment became home. Just like that. Maybe it was survival, a way to compensate for the fact that I was missing my own apartment, but I found myself nesting, fussing, primping, and loving each place as if it were mine. Seems home was no longer about history or familiarity; it was about feeling happy where I was. You can make home wherever you go when you’re grounded in yourself.

It is possible to live with just a few essentials and not feel deprived (including clothes!). True! This fashionista managed to pull it together with just a few key pieces. I did buy some things along the way, but basically, I lived out of a suitcase—okay, three suitcases and four tote bags—and felt as if I had everything I needed in the world. This is no mean feat; I’m an accumulator with an emotional attachment to things, who also likes to hang on to something “just in case.” But when you’re moving house three times, you learn to get over it and go without. After a few months, I actually pared down my wardrobe and possessions further, packing up things I wasn’t using. Still, it felt like I had plenty, and if I had to relive this again, I’d cut everything down by half. Freeing yourself of need is the ultimate feeling of wealth.

Change will not kill you. Mess with my routine and I’m miserable. Yet, I had purposely set up a scenario of change here in Paris, moving every few weeks. I’d attach to a home, then detach and reattach to the next home. I’d develop a routine, become a part of a neighborhood, then have to rip myself away. It filled me with anxiety every time I moved, even shedding tears when I had to vacate the sunny studio on the courtyard. But I pushed through it. Disruption was the new routine I’d created, a classroom that taught me to stay in the moment, and remain flexible, adaptable. Letting go of expectations and flowing with life can make you happier than you’ve ever been.

Nomadic Highlights:

The first apartment I stayed in had a beach theme and a terrace. Read more about it, here.

view from kitchen with lantern

©Lisa Anselmo

Apartment number two was a tiny, sunny studio that came with a courtyard and a cat. Discover it, here.

©Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

Location, location, location. The third apartment came with convenience—and noise. More about that, here.

©Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

The final accommodation, courtesy of a friend, had a view of the rooftops of the Marais, and the Eiffel Tower. Proof that trusting the universe reaps a wealth of rewards.

©Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

3 responses to “A Nomad in Paris, Part V: What I’ve Learned

  1. Thanks for the update, Lisa! Your gumption and persistence in your Paris life is admirable. That new view looks close to ours on rue du Temple. We are in Paris for two weeks, and can look out the window after dusk and see Eiffel Tower “twinkle time” every hour. This is much better than the rez-du-chausse caves we have rented in previous visits. My WordPress account seems to have gone south, but I can still read your Posts and enjoy them. Keep up the good fight, and please write a book about your odyssey! When you have a book signing, I’ll be there to buy copies for my friends. Your fan, John Schnick

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