Saturday, October 28, 2017

Feeding my Wanderlust

A few months ago, I was faced with the decision between going to a scientific conference in Boston this Fall or one in Paris in the Spring.  I have been to Boston before, and I didn't really love it, so I was slightly underwhelmed by the thought of going back.  And then there's the fact that the US is currently being led by a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, fascist twat, which really makes me want to avoid the country altogether. 

Mais Paris?  Les boulangeries et les cafés et les beaux musées?  Bien sur!

So I booked three weeks off in the Spring, bought myself a travel guide to France, and committed myself to becoming fluent-ish in French before I go.  That's why I am here in Quebec City, speaking French poorly and savouring every last minute before le taxi whisks me away to the airport and back to my real life.

Going home feels really hard.  This morning I wandered along la rue Cartier, which is only minutes from my Airbnb, and I saw so many places I had wanted to visit but couldn't because of lack of time.  So many pain au chocolats that I didn't get to eat.  As I sat in a café drinking the best coffee I've ever had in my life, I wanted desperately to be able to stay.

As much as I love my home city and all of the people there, I am realizing that I really want to live elsewhere.  Not only for a week, but for long enough to really know a place.  To try every restaurant and wander every street and speak the language so much that I start to think in it.  I want to immerse myself in newness and difference long enough for it to become familiar.

Unfortunately, I haven't exactly chosen a career that makes this possible.  I am very subspecialized, making my job market very small.  There is no mid-sized town in France that is looking for one of me, and even Paris would be a hard place to find a job.  Not to mention the fact that communication is a rather essential part of being a physician, and I know almost no medical terms in French.  And I can't understand 90% of what people say to me in French.


More than that is the fact that I am not a brave person.  While some people have the personality that allows them to quit their job and move to a different country with only a backpack of stuff, I am not one of those people.  I crave savings and an emergency fund* and insurance of every kind**.  As much as I long for difference, I am also most comfortable with the familiar.  The reality for me is that I will likely keep working at the same job until I have enough money saved up to retire early, because I can't imagine leaving the security and the great pay any earlier.

So I guess I have to go home.  But I am going to remember this trip and how being surrounded by the sound of people speaking another language feeds some part of my soul that is hungry.  I'm going to keep taking French lessons, and I'm going to read every single page of my travel guide as I plan my next adventure.  And I'm going to dream of the day when I reach my FIRE number and can choose to never return from my vacation.

*I don't actually have an emergency fund, but I do have money set aside for a down payment on a home that I may never buy.  This could be its own post.

**Sort of.  I would never insure an electronic gadget or a trip, because I hate throwing money away.  This could also be its own post.


  1. I really love the area around Quebec, I can say from a short trip there when I was really supposed to be in Vermont. I would love to spend some extended time there, so I totally understand what you're saying. I loved trying to understand French there. Paris doesn't appeal to me as much, nor the other places in France I've been. They're fine, but I'd really rather spend more time in Montreal and Quebec.

    I do just strap on my backpack and leave everything behind - done it a number of times and will likely do it again. Rather trapped now as I got a dog who has a lot of issues, but she won't live forever and then we'll see. Probably back to Liberia, which I love as home. Or maybe Alaska, which actually is my home.

    And hey ... I can't excuse #45. I'll just say that most of us who live in this country aren't like him, but you already know that. This is a very unfortunate time in our history though we've always been flawed. I hope that what comes of this time makes us better than before.

  2. You are a braver person than I am! I have enjoyed reading about your travels over the years.

    I know that most Americans are different from your leader (thank all that is good). I think part of the reason I’m avoiding the States is that I feel powerless against what the government is doing, and not financially supporting the country feels like at least a small act of resistance. I also hope that better things will result from this dark time in US history.

  3. You could always visit the West Coast-we HOLD the West ;)

    But I hear you-I feel disgusted every time I fly back to the Red part of my home state (my parents county went bluer than ever, so there is that...)

    If the scientific environment weren't so awful right now, I'd completely consider packing up and moving to Sweden or France to do science forever. However, I am risk averse, and therefore, will go down the less risky physician in training path with research integrated. I'm still mixed about that one, but my feelings may have more to do with the fact that I just want to be doneeeee with this program.

    1. Maybe! I loved Seattle when I went there 18 years ago as a grad student (OMG I AM SO OLD), and I hear Portland has good food trucks. But the angry orange man scares me!