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Moving to Paris: Part 1

I am missing Paris this week. We have been home three months now and I have been trying to process the whole experience. I wanted to write down my thoughts on the subject before I forget everything. Moving abroad was definitely one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Before we went Paul and I had always talked about moving abroad like a lot of people do. But the motivation really came when I was at a photo shoot for Anthology Magazine and the photographer and the artist (whose home we were shooting) were talking about the time they each had spent in Paris. And it sort of clicked, I realized that a lot of creative people I knew had “done their time” in Paris. I don’t think moving to Paris is necessary for being creative but I decided if there was any way we could make it happen, we should try.

We started to research about visas and we realized if we could both keep our jobs and work remotely from Paris then we wouldn’t have to go through the challenges of finding a job and getting a work visa (very difficult). We were also happy to find out that rent in Paris is cheaper than in San Francisco. Our two bedroom apartment in Paris which was in a nice neighborhood and had a small view of the Eiffel Tower was about $2500/month. In San Francisco a two bedroom in an equivalent neighborhood would be more like $3200/month. If you don’t live in a city that probably sounds like a lot but all the New Yorkers reading this I’m sure are rolling their eyes about how affordable it is! (On a sidenote, my sister moved to the French countryside at the same time and they have a huge Farmhouse for about $1500/month. She covers all of that in this post.)

The financial aspect for me was the most frightening. I don’t get nervous very often but it was terrifying putting ourselves in a place where we weren’t sure how much we would make (as freelancers our income is always inconsistent) or how much our monthly expenses would be. Sometimes people use words like “lucky” about us moving to Paris, and I know we are. But I want to sit them down and explain to them how scary it was moving to France. It put us so far out of our comfort zone in every way possible. We didn’t speak French, we didn’t know a soul, we didn’t even have a place to live, or (continue reading below)

even have hard numbers of how much it would cost.

We applied for long stay tourist visas at the French consulate in San Francisco. I made an appointment three months in advance of our tentative flight date and then started preparing the documentation. This should have been a clue at the bureaucracy we would face when we moved there. They pretty much wanted every document that ever existed pertaining to all four of us. And the copies! They wanted 3-4 copies of each document. I put together an extremely organized and detailed binder with every possible document they could ask for. They also wanted proof of income so we had to show all our bank account statements (we made sure to print it out before we had to pay our bills that month so it looked nice and full.) And they wanted letters from our employers that they were planning to continue employing us while we were in France. With a long stay tourist visa you are required to maintain your US insurance policy so we got a letter from our insurance agent saying our policy was still in effect and that if we needed to be flown back to the US for medical treatment they would cover it. They also asked for our place of residency in France. We didn’t have an apartment yet but were tentatively planning on renting a temporary apartment for a month while we searched for a permanent place. The owner of the apartment gave us a letter indicating that we were planning on staying there while we looked. When we went in to our visa appointments we dressed very formally and tried to make a good impression. They called us a few days later and asked us about our plane tickets. There was a place on the application where they wanted you to book the tickets before you got approved. It made me nervous to buy the tickets before they were even approved so I had left that part blank. On the phone they told me to purchase the plane tickets and bring them in the next day and they would issue our visa.

We were so nervous and excited. Up to that point we had spent a few hundred dollars on visa applications but we could’ve still backed out of the whole thing. Buying the plane tickets was expensive and once we did that we couldn’t go back. So scary!!! We had a nice long discussion about if we should really do it debating all the pros and cons and after some deliberation that evening we purchased our non refundable direct flights to Paris, France. We picked up our official French visas the next day and we were on our way! (to be continued…)

  1. Ruth

    August 6, 2012

    I love reading about your time in Paris, thank you for sharing that with the world. I am still dreaming of one day being brave enough to move to France for at least a year. You guys are very lucky that you were able to do this with kids in tow!

  2. Lily

    August 6, 2012

    I think what you did was extraordinary! You only live once!!

    Yes!! The details you provide are great!! This was a really informative and eye-opening post (for me anyways), regarding the amount of preparation & paperwork involved. I have never lived abroad anywhere for an extended period. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Lindsey

    August 6, 2012

    Ahhh, that sounds so nervewracking, yet liberating and amazing. What stories you will be telling for the rest of your lives! I so wish to do this some day.

    Et tu, tutu?

  4. Serena

    August 6, 2012

    Such an inspiring post! You prove that exciting life decisions don’t need to be offered to you. That you can go out and get them yourself. Can’t wait to read more!

  5. Leecy

    August 6, 2012

    Wow! Im so excited to have discovered your blog. We have 2 little boys and have just started seriously considering moving abroad for a year. I.m curently enjoying reading my way through your blog in my spare moments :)

  6. sya

    August 7, 2012

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jordan for writing this post! The move to Paris that you and Paul decided to do was very gutsy and exciting. You guys are such an inspiration! I can’t wait for more details 😀

  7. Trix

    August 7, 2012

    Thank you for sharing about this whole process. I dream of working & living overseas in the future and it’s great to find out about the fun and not so fun steps that are needed for such a huge venture. Can’t wait to read more!

  8. Shelby

    August 7, 2012

    What an honest, intriguing post.. Thank you for sharing such details with your readers… I too have moved abroad and it’s comforting to read about the similar risks of others to feel good about your own decision… I look forward to reading more!

  9. Victoria

    August 7, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your experience and more importantly your emotions and thoughts about moving abroad for so long! Living in another country is one og the most exiting things I’ve ever made – we went to Thailand to live there and give birth to our baby :) We lived on Koh Samui for 6 months and I loved Thailand forever… And our youngest daughter was born on Koh Samui.

  10. Natalia

    August 7, 2012


    Very excited to read the rest of the story


  11. Fiona

    August 7, 2012

    Wonderful to read. thank you for sharing. Your worries and concerns were similar to ours ( we moved to Bali) Hope paris is next for us. I look forward to part 2

  12. Benthe

    August 7, 2012

    I’m always thinking about living in a foreign country, I just love the different cultures, but I never thought about the visas etc! I’m only 16 years so I still got plenty of time, but these are difficulties I hadn’t thought about yet. Although Paris/France would be easy for me because I’m from Holland and they are both members of the EU.

  13. cloum

    August 7, 2012

    I wish i could have met you in Paris.
    How sad..!
    Just discovered your blog, and love it.
    Cloum (from paris)

  14. engquist@see what i sea designs

    August 7, 2012

    My husband and I are currently living in Cyprus. Almost daily I get emails or calls from friends and family saying, “You’re so lucky!” While we are, and we know it, the nitty gritty of living abroad gets overlooked in the allure of life as an expat. That said, once we got through the immigration process, our opinions and outlooks brightened tremendously. It is a challenge, but I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else right now.

  15. sara (sushi lover)

    August 7, 2012

    I didn’t doubt one second how scary it must have been!
    It’s easy to look at your blog and say you’re lucky! Everything looks so beautiful and effortless, of course if you have even attempted at something similar you know that is hard work and demands lots of confidence.
    When I moved to Japan (and I was going on a “safe” exchange program) people didn’t say I was lucky. They said I was crazy! That’s very hard to hear but you gotta trust you intuition and go for it.
    And it’s such an achievement feeling!
    Looking forward to hear the rest of the story! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Melanie

    August 7, 2012

    Jordan, I’m so glad you’re writing about this process. My husband and I would like to spend at least a year living abroad at some point, and I love reading about people who have been able to make a plan and do it. We have a two-year-old son who is very adventurous, and I think it could be lots of fun. I’m just getting my own freelance business started right now, but who knows what can happen in a year? :) xo

  17. Meghan, RVA

    August 7, 2012

    Thanks for sharing! Moving to Paris is one of my dreams, and I started following your blog right when you were preparing to move there. My husband and I are slowly decoupling from cube-based jobs, and I love to think that we could do this ourselves, and even with little ones in tow.

    You and Gabby are such inspirations. Can’t wait to read more.

  18. Tan

    August 7, 2012

    So amazing! How long did you end up staying for?
    The Visa process is definitely scary. There was a lot of back and forth between the Japanese consulate and I when I moved over there.
    My fiance and I want to move to Europe in the next couple years (maybe Paris). I have dual citizenship through Portugal so I’d be okay to work there, I’m not sure what we’ll do for him for work though. So many things to figure out.

  19. Laura

    August 7, 2012

    I wish you the best. I sure this would be an amazing experience. The best part, you are all together as a family, I think that is all you need to be happy.

    Good luck, eat a lot of cheese and drink red wine for me! :)


  20. Air comme Renée

    August 7, 2012

    Well, ouaho ! That must takes some courage to move abroad ! I’m impressed ! I can’t wait to hear more of your trip ! I’m french, born and live in Paris, it is so great to hear from a total new point of view ! Besides, I really enjoy your blog ( and sorry for my english :à )

  21. rachel

    August 7, 2012

    you should just move back.

  22. Sara

    August 7, 2012

    What an adventure! I have been wanting to live abroad for a year ever since I left school, but 5 years on I’m yet to take the plunge… one day!

  23. Eva

    August 7, 2012

    Ohhh, can’t wait to hear the rest! What an adventure :)

  24. Jennifer

    August 7, 2012

    hi, I’m in the process of applying for an extended tourist visa in France. I’ve provided all of the required and additional documents (similar to yours) the Boston consulate of France requested and I haven’t heard a peep and it’s been just over a month. They don’t have a phone you can call to speak with someone, only email and making another appointment.

    I even have is a letter from a friend saying she’s letting me stay with her for free at her house.


  25. Mary

    August 8, 2012

    I’m looking forward with the continuation. I love traveling and adventures. I can see myself with you when I went to Singapore by myself. It is really scary because it will be a first time for me, but I’ve pulled it off and I really enjoyed it. Thank for sharing your experience.

  26. Stéphanie

    August 8, 2012

    We did the same move with 3 kids, but from Paris to LA. We went to the same hard time! (we spoke no english and left everything behind). It was 7 years ago. We’re back to Paris after 5 years in LA . Our kids are now bilingual and they just want to travel the world!: my 19 years old son is now alone in Auckland (gosh, just the other side of the world!) at the university and the two others want to go abroad too as soon as they could!

  27. Julie

    August 8, 2012

    Dear Jordan,
    As a French lady, I just wanted to thank you.
    everytime I read your comments about Paris, I feel more and more lucky ot live here.
    I’ve spent 2 years in London and even if I’d like to go back there one day, I love being in Paris…
    Take care,

  28. kate

    August 8, 2012

    we would love the opportunity to live in paris (or anywhere in france) for a year. we just celebrated 9 years of marriage and have been remembering our honeymoon in paris for the past week. it was the summer of the crazy heat wave and still the city was lovely and inspiring. one day we hope to travel there again.

  29. valerina

    August 8, 2012

    I thought you’ve forgotten us…! Love your Parisian storytelling ! Can’t wait for La Suite, Miss U Much—v.

  30. Megan

    August 8, 2012

    Love this! I agree – 6 months for a new place to feel like home, even in a familiar city. Excellent, can’t wait to read more!

  31. Notes from Holly St.

    August 8, 2012

    Fascinating! You guys were so brave to take such a leap of faith. Can’t wait to hear more about your journey!

  32. Carol

    August 9, 2012

    I introduce this on my post . Take a look if you would love it too ! I love there too . Thanks for sharing this stunning place .

  33. Dorkys Ramos

    August 9, 2012

    Thanks so much for writing out your process. I’ve also looked into visas to live abroad, but it’s scary to just take the plunge. Good for you for going for that dream. Can’t wait to read more :)

  34. Jenny

    August 9, 2012

    I LOVE Paris. I’ve been several times, and I’ve taken my little ones once. We’re headed back in April and every time I go I dream of what it would be like to live there. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventure!

  35. leti

    August 10, 2012

    this is amazing. thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us.

  36. Elissa Shaw

    August 12, 2012

    Your story sounds exactly like ours (my Chef and I). He went on a student visa and I on a spouse visa. I couldn’t work, but he could. Tons and tons of paperwork…and a dozen or so trips to the consulate.
    What did you think of the medical examine once you got to the Prefecture? I seriously felt like I was in a third world country!!!
    Not sure if you got a bank account while there, but we did and it was the most horrifying experience we’ve ever encountered!!!! Would make a great short film for sure.

    We came home this past winter and we miss it everyday. We’ll probably move back later in life–they make it easier on retirees to live there. Too bad we didn’t know one another–we could have been terrified in Paris together!

    This is our story:

  37. Susan

    August 14, 2012

    So brave…I am bookmarking this in the event we have the chance to do the same someday! Here’s hoping 😉

  38. Jessica Murray

    August 16, 2012

    Bienvenue à Paris!

    Congratulations on the move! I moved to Paris a year ago and like you, didn’t know anyone else or speak any French (well, I’m still really bad!), but have since found an amazing expat community that now feels like home. If you have any questions about moving here, getting around, or just want to have coffee and visit a museum with someone who speaks English, please feel free to email me!

    Hope you have an amazing adventure!

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