How We Ended Up Living In France with Our 3 Children

101 Cute & romantic French terms of endearment and nicknames

If you decide to move to France, the path you take will be unique to you and your circumstances. Our decision to move was set in motion by the great recession and unemployment, followed by a series of circumstances. Here is a brief look at the events leading to the final decision that made our move to France possible.

Move to France? We never thought we could until…

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Although living in France has always been a dream of ours, we never actually believed it was something we could achieve any time soon.

Our lives, mindset, and the golden handcuffs of our jobs kept us chained to our lives that were good by most people’s standards, maybe even great.

But life seemed a little mundane for two people like Blake and me, who had itchy travel feet. Each day melted into the next, and each day looked like the previous day.

We worked, played, ate, slept and took the kids to school. Rinse and repeat with the yearly 2 to 4 weeks paid vacations.

We lost our jobs: The Catalyst!

laid_off gave us the balls and courage to take the next stepIn 2007 my husband and I lost our jobs during the Great Recession. It was supposedly the worst to hit since the great depression of 1929.

We didn’t know it at the time, but everything changed that day and getting laid off would be the catalyst that set us in motion towards eventually moving to France. We just didn’t know it yet, and It would take us a while to get there.

Between 2008 and 2010, we found work several times, but then the company would experience another round of layoffs- something that was not all that uncommon in Silicon Valley. The big difference was it was harder to find a new job. Some of our friends, ex-coworkers and neighbours couldn’t find work in their field and took on whatever job they could find, which could be anything from Costco, UPS or coffee shops. 

Being unemployed does something to you.

Yes, it scares you financially, but sometimes it forces you into a situation where you do things you would never have done if you had a full-time job or do things you never knew you were capable of doing. At least, that’s how it was for us.

You might be interested in reading: How to survive long-term unemployment.

Unemployed 

“We started to worry.”

It’s not cheap living in the San Francisco bay area, and the life we created required 2 high-paying jobs to maintain that lifestyle. We knew we had to do something.

Rather than stick around and deplete our savings, we decided this was our chance to make our exit, cut our losses and get a fresh start on the east coast—something we always wanted to do to be closer to our families.

The east coast was also appealing because the cost of living was much lower than the San Francisco Bay area. We thought in the least; our money would last longer in a less expensive area. 

We left our home and our friends behind in California

In 2010, we had had enough and left California for good, but moving to France wasn’t even an idea in our minds yet. 

The plan was to move to Montreal to live with my family and to stay with Blake’s sister from time to time in Maryland while we looked for work around the Boston area. Once we found work, we would rent a house and settle down.

Why Boston? Strategically speaking, Boston was in the perfect location. Not only was it in New England near the water, but it was also directly located between my family in Montreal and Blake’s family in the states. It seemed like the perfect place for two ex silicon valley workers like us to look for jobs, settle down and start new lives.

Or so we thought!

We changed our mindset: lived like vagabonds outside of social norms, and it changed us.

We decluttered and reduced our belongings and put everything in storage where it would stay until we found a job and a permanent new home. 

Meanwhile, we shuttled between our two-family homes in Montreal and Maryland in a big green Toyota Tundra Pickup truck every few months.  We carried only what we needed with a few extra things for each of our three kids: small toys for Catherine, a skateboard, guitar, etc.

 Even though we were doing what we thought was right, living like a semi-nomadic family felt strange, and I sometimes felt a little guilty. 

To make matters worse, we were spinning our wheels looking for jobs that didn’t pan out, didn’t exist or didn’t pay enough.  Both Blake and I became disheartened, stressed out and in some ways a little desperate.

Something strange or interesting happens when you are backed into a corner, hit rock bottom, or run out of choices. 

We decided to move to France or at least try.

Being backed into a corner with few options forced us to get even more creative. We started coming up with ideas that were outside our comfort zone.

That’s when we entertained the idea of moving to France for a year. Both Blake and I had lived abroad before meeting one another. However, neither of us had any experience living abroad as a married couple, let alone with three children in tow.

We had discussed moving to Europe in passing once or twice; however, there were always roadblocks. We had jobs, a house, lives and friends. But now, all those barriers were gone.

Our stuff was conveniently in storage, so we could go anytime, so why not?

Money! was our biggest concern. 

We worried about money and how we could afford it.

We had already overcome the idea of living unconventionally, but like any normal family, we had concerns about money and how to pay for our trip.  After brainstorming, we came up with some possible scenarios.   We knew that if we could somehow manage the money, we would be one step closer to making our move to France a reality.

  1. Use what we have: Make our current rental income and savings go as far as possible.
  2. Freelance: Earn money by leveraging our skills and strengths by freelancing or consulting. This would give us the ability to earn money anywhere we land. 
  3. Find jobs in France. (almost impossible, we tried this, and it never panned out because we are not EU citizens).
  4. Upgrade our skills: Use our time as a sort of sabbatical or career break to better ourselves. This blog is a direct result of my efforts to keep my skills updated should I ever decide to return to the workforce. I write I promote; I troubleshoot; I create all my own graphics. I do it all, and now the ad revenue from this site helps support our family.

Obviously, we overcame all our obstacles because, as I write this, we are living in France.

What’s my point in sharing this with you?

We all have our own set of circumstances, roadblocks and limiting beliefs that stop us from making our dreams come true.  Sometimes it takes an unfortunate event or loss to force you into taking chances you would never have made before. 

Why wait? 

If you really want to do something, don’t let your fears stop you.

Don’t let other people tell you how you are supposed to live. If you think it is a good idea or the right thing to do, then do it. It may take you a while, but eventually, you will get there, and you won’t regret it because anything worth doing takes work which makes the victories of your success so much sweeter.

If you’re interested in reading more about how we ended up living in France, here are a few more articles. 

Doubts About Moving Abroad? How We Overcame Our Fears And Moved To France

Debunking 10 Fears About Moving Internationally To Another Country

25 Unexpected Benefits And Advantages Of Living Abroad:

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  1. Hello Annie, Thanks for sharing out your story. This happened to us as well, we now enjoy travelling the world. How did your kids adjust to the way of life in France?

    1. Hi Jen,

      Each of the kids handled it differently. Our youngest didnt mind at all. she was 3 when we left California. Our two boys had mixed experiences. our middle child was just 13 while our eldest was 15. It was easier for our 13 year old to adjust over our 15 year old. I think it had to do with those horrible hormones, leaving his high school friends. He actually went so far as to say he did not like living in France until recently. Now he wants to attend Montpellier university in France, and plans on staying on even after we leave. Although I doubt permanently, only until he gets his degree.

  2. Annie, you and your husband remind me so much of me and my husband. We are currently self employed working with web design and development and we want to move to Aix Provence for one year. We are having fears about financial stability. As you may know, being self employed is an adventure. We have good months and scary months. What do you recommend we do? Stop and save for one year? Or jump for it?

  3. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m in a similar situation, I love to travel and my husband and I have dreamed of a more nomadic lifestyle. Having grown up and spent a most of our life in the Boston area, we’re finally taking the plunge and getting out of here in a few months. It’s very exciting

  4. Hi Annie, I hope you succeed in your quest, I am not unemployed but striving to make a better life for my son and your words are inspirational. I strive to start a business to be financially independant, hard work,but hopefully will pay off.

    Shirl

  5. Thanks for sharing the whole thought process. You have so many great talents! I know that what ever you choose will be a success as long as you believe it will be. (hope that makes sense) I wish you the best of luck.

    We went through this when my husband lost his job last year. We picked his strongest talent, marketing, and built a buisness around it. It’s still in the begining but it’s enough to fund our small adventures and I have faith that soon it will fund our BIG adventures.

    Anyway your blog is awesome and it looks like people are attracted to you and your story so I know you’ll do awesome.

    1. Heidi,
      Thanks for the encouraging words. It’s been almost three years now since we’ve been unemployed. I wish we hadn’t waited so long to hit the road and rebuild our lives.

      I’ve been following your story from a far too. I would love to chat over skype sometime.

  6. Hi Annie, I found you and your website through a post of yours on Elizabeth PW’s site. I am an international entrepreneur. I am in Mexico City right now writing from a lovely Boutique Hotel. Which made me think that facy boutique hotels in mexico city might like to have sassy eye masks for their clients. Yes they can be used for sleeping, but I can think of *other* unmentionable sassy activities that guests might use them for. Just saying. (I shall be going to a confessional right away!)

    If you manufacture your masks in Canada or USA then you’d avoid import duties. Or if you wanted to get ambitious, establish a manufacturing shop in Mexico where you could produce at lower cost AND be helping out some cool local entrepreneur.

    Just an idea. Mexico is awesome (despite what you hear on the news). Mexico city is especially special. You and your family would love it. Heck, you’ve probably been here and already know.

    Anyway, good luck with the vida loca and thanks for a great blog!

    1. Hello Brendon,
      i’ve been struggling with the whole outsourcing manufacturing thing. I found loads of companies in CHINA. I’m opposed to this. I tried to find companies in the U.S. I found a few but the cost would eat into my profits quite a bit.

      I actually had not considered Mexico. Silly me.
      I love your idea of approaching boutique hotels. I’m going to look into that tonight. I had the same thought with beauty spas.

      So many ideas, so little time.
      come back anytime and inspire me some more please.. :)

  7. its a great post and I agree about what you see . I will back again. thanks

  8. Thanks for an idea, you sparked at thought from a angle I hadn’t given thoguht to yet. Now lets see if I can do something with it.

  9. I’m on board with you! I am trying to think about what it is that I want to do… exactly…

    My current set up is good enough for now, but I certainly want more. I appreciate your openness about your business ideas. Perhaps I need to start a list of my own…

    1. It’s definitely been a challenge. I have lot’s of things i’m good at but i’m not passionate about all those things.
      Finding that intersection between what you are good at and something that you can make money from and staying true to your values is really hard but the journey has and is very fulfilling. I’m sure you will find the answer if you keep looking.

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