Here’s the news: Jenna and I are packing up, leaving Toronto, and moving to France. For an entire year. Starting in January 2012.
If you’re family or a close friend, this is probably not news. We’ve been planning this for almost three years, and though we haven’t kept it a secret, we also haven’t widely publicized the fact that we’re moving. Until now.
With less than five months to go, I suspect I’ll be writing more about our plans here on this blog, and I bet Jenna will do the same over at ahbon.ca
Why are you doing this?
Because we can. We’re child-less, mortgage-less, car-less, and for the most part, responsibility-less. Which won’t always be the case. If there was ever a time in our lives to pick up and skip town, it’s now.
I’ve lived in Toronto for seven years now, and Jenna’s been here for more than a decade. Part of the goal is to escape the scale of a city like Toronto, and simply to live somewhere else for a change. Right now, the plan is to move to Lyon, about two hours (by train) southeast of Paris.
How are you doing this?
France and Canada have this thing called the France-Canada youth exchange agreement. We’re eligible for 12-month “Working Holiday” visas (2E), which are for “Canadians wishing to travel to France for touristic and cultural purposes, all the while being authorized to work for financial sustenance.”
Neat, huh? It’s great being a “youth.”
So, why France? Why Lyon?
First off, we’re moving to France to learn French. Right now, my French isn’t great, but it’s halfway passable. I can order food and get directions, but I’m can’t have deep conversations about philosophy and literature. Jenna’s French is much better than mine, but we could both stand to improve. We figure immersion will help, and where better to immerse ourselves?
We chose Lyon for a few reasons. First, because it’s not Paris, and thus, we can afford to live there. It’s the third largest city in France, and feels not too big, and not too small. Plus, it’s la capitale gastronomique française, so chances are we’ll eat well.
Lyon is decently well-connected to other parts of Europe by rail and air, and we’re really hoping it’ll be a good home base for a bit of travel.
What about your jobs?
One of the perks of a staff job at the CBC is the Deferred Salary Leave Plan (schoolteachers have something similar, which they call “4 over 5”). Essentially, I’ll be on an unpaid leave of absence for one year, after which I come right back to the job I left. Appropriately enough, 2012 will be my seventh year with the CBC, so I’m calling this “roll your own sabbatical.”
As for Jenna, she’ll be leaving her plum position at the HDI. She’s done a lot there over the past few years, and it’ll be tough for her to leave. But with so many successes under her belt (2500+ WWII veteran interviews!) and fluent bilingualism by the time we return to Canada, she’ll be unstoppable.
While we’re in France, we’ll probably both do a little bit of work. Financially, we won’t have to worry too much about housing and food (we’ve been squirrelling cash away for a few years now), but the degree to which we’re able to travel will depend on how much part-time or freelance work we’re able to pick up.
Personally, I’m also planning to spend part of the year doing some serious self-directed study in the service of becoming a programmer-journalist.
What about your super-awesome apartment in Toronto that you really love and would hate to give up?
Um, yeah, we’re working on that.
Know anyone who wants to sublet a super-awesome apartment in downtown Toronto for 12 months starting in January 2012?
Wait a second, is this really a good idea?
We really think so. A few weeks ago, we did a short scouting trip to Lyon, and loved it. We met so many nice, friendly, helpful people, and the city itself is beautiful.
I’m sure there will be challenges, but that’s part of the point. For example, as we work through the visa application process, I’m getting a small taste of French bureaucracy’s love of paperwork. The language will be tricky, I’m sure (especially for me). Getting set up with an apartment and bank account may be tricky. But if it means we can live abroad for a year, expand our horizons, and get some perspective, it’ll be worth it.
The past few years of my life have become very comfortable. The same city. The same apartment. The same job. There’s nothing wrong with comfortable, of course, but increasingly, I feel the need to shake things up. To do something that makes me feel uncomfortable. To get outside of the ordinary.
This is an opportunity to do exactly that, and I can’t wait.