In 2001 I studied abroad in Paris. One of my favorite teachers—whose classes would go on to shape so much of the work I do today—took us to see the Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie Amélie that came out that fall. I’d seen many French movies at the time (it was a way I could get extra credit in my high school French class), but this was the first movie that saw the world more how I did (it was also one of the first French movies I’d seen that felt like had an actual plot line).
The movie has inspired me over the years. In grad school I explored the use of color in the film for a class project (and gave Amélie tours for a time), when I became French it was only fitting that I celebrated at Aux Deux Moulins (the café where Amélie works), and for my 40th birthday my friend Jenni surprised me with the most epic gnome cake EVER! I loved that it was full of quirky characters, where oddities were embraced rather than masked.
About 5 years ago I moved to Montmartre, Amélie’s neigbhorhood. This wasn’t so much a conscious decision—more one of convenience as a friend had an apartment I could rent—but perhaps the universe was at work. Three years into living in my apartment it was a sunny end of day. I walked outside and saw something caught my eye in the back of a room across the street. The front door was open too giving me a direct look. It was a gnome! I did a double take. It wasn’t just any gnome. I quickly realized that THE gnome from Amélie was my neighbor.
I wondered how I had never noticed this before, but then I realized the window wasn’t always open, and when it was the blinds were hung in a way that it wasn’t obvious, and most of the time the lighting was a way that you would never know, unless you KNOW.
So for 3 years I went through life with the dream of being able to MEET the gnome one day. I’d do my best to spot him through the window when I could, as a way of saying, “I see you and respect you, Mr. Gnome.”
The idea of meeting the gnome was a daunting task given that I didn’t want to be disappointed or rejected. Years prior I had met the director of Amélie. I told him how much I loved his movie and hoped one day he’d direct my movie about Paris swimming pools. Let’s just say the reaction didn’t inspire me, so I had this underlying fear I would leave disappointed again.
The other challenge was there were limited opportunities—and a year+ in lockdown—for this encounter to actually take place. The gnomes keepers weren’t always in. I knew it was something I didn’t want to force, so knocking on the door didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to interrupt the woman working at the desk. She had better things to do than answer to my fandom.
Then, two weeks ago when I saw her smoking a cigarette outside while wearing a hot pink jumper I knew this was my chance even though I knew I had somewhere to be. I didn’t have a chance to talk myself out of it, and instead with utter confidence I was my full self and in French told her I was a neighbor, three years ago I’d spotted the gnome inside, that I was not only a fan of gnomes (I showed her mine on my screen saver of my phone) but also of the movie. I said I was wondering it would be possible to take a picture with the gnome.
While I feared having to convince her, she took no convincing. She said, yes, whenever you would like. I did my best to play it cool, holding back my excitement and knowing deep down that if it didn’t happen today there would be more excuses for it not to happen. I played flexible, and then she said, “you can come take a picture now if you’d like.” “Mais oui, pourquoi pas I responded.” She said, one second, realized her cigarette was already finished, threw it into the street, and invited me in. For once in my life I was grateful French people still smoke.
I wanted to look at everything inside this magical space (like being inside the mind of the movie maker), but I took a b-line for the gnome. I wanted to respect her time and the space, and the gnome. It wasn’t particularly ceremonial—I was supposed to be meeting a friend—but thankfully I’ve been practicing selfies over the years. I knew I needed to take as many as possible to try to get decent shot. In the about ten I took, there were three good ones, but that’s all I needed. I could sense she was smiling and getting a kick out of my joy in this encounter. I wanted to photograph the entire space, but felt I needed to restrain myself to the mission at hand.
I thanked her, and told her about my love of movie props and how I’d taken an Annie Atkins workshop in Dublin (she worked on Grand Budapest Hotel). I told the woman that it must be so cool to work where she does. I properly introduced myself and told her my name was Anne (I never got hers), and thanked her for her time. Just like that I had accomplished my goal of meeting THE gnome.
I felt like Amélie as I left the space bounding to the next stop (cue Yann Tiersen soundtrack). I wanted to tell everyone I had met the gnome from Amélie, but I also knew not everyone would appreciate the excitement as much as I did. And that was OK.
We never know what it’s going to be like when we meet our heroes in real life. Sometimes it can be disappointing, but other times it is joyous and better than you could imagine. We even can surprise ourselves in the process. I couldn’t help but think back to my sea swim and how doing something that scared me helped prepare me for this encounter. Asking for things we want/need/desire is hard, but we can be brave and good things will happen.
I wish I could have given the gnome a hug and held him in my arms, but hopefully this was only our first encounter, with more to come…
For now I am grateful for this day. And then something else awesome happened a few hours later… But that’s another post.
I’ve known there is a reason I always travel with a swimsuit. Sure, there are plenty of times it’s gone unused, but anytime I’ve forgotten one, I’ve regretted it.
When I packed my swimsuit on my recent trip to England it was because I thought I may swim in the Olympic pool (as I’ve been known to do in the past) in London. Little did I know that I’d end up swimming in the sea.
The whole idea of swimming in the sea, let alone in cold water has never been something on my bucket list of life. But then again, sometimes you are just going through life and an opportunity presents itself and you tell yourself, “When in England…”
I hardly even knew I was going to England until a few days beforehand. I booked my ticket on Monday evening and took the first train out on Saturday morning. I guess one could say that last minute decisions aren’t completely foreign to me.
From London I headed to Ramsgate, a costal town in the south east of England, an hour fifteen by train. The town was once a thriving destination for travelers until air travel made it all too easy to jet off to further destinations. All the shops are local (with the exception of Waitrose and KFC), and I’ve never seen such an eclectic display of barber shops. Ironically, the pandemic was good for costal living as people were eager to leave the constraints of big city living.
I was there for my friend Kristina’s celebration of her wedding. I didn’t know quite what I was getting myself into (and honestly was worried my pandemic anxiety wouldn’t permit me to be there). But sometimes that’s what makes life fun.
Swimming in the sea wasn’t an official wedding activity, but throughout the evening the seeds were planted. I kept meeting the groom’s relatives and family friends who have made it their practice of swimming in the sea.
“You’re welcome to join us tomorrow. We’re going at 2pm.” Which I promptly ignored.
The next morning after the wedding festivities, there was a walk on the beach. Little by little people dropped off to go catch flights. As we were walking we ran into one of the couples I had chatted with at the bar about sea swimming the night before. They were out walking their dog, and I was most surprised to see them. It was another strange moment of, “I’m seeing you, I feel like I’m supposed to go for this swim.”
(Morning low tide beach walk while the sun was still out.)
Of course the catch was that while I never travel without my swimsuit, it was back at my hotel. (I had prioritized my umbrella that day.) Then by a little bit of magic, a friend of the bride—who also happened to be her former swim coach—said he could give me a ride. So he dropped me at my hotel, I power walked 45 minutes back to the swimming area: Dumpton Gap. Of course by the time I got there the sun had fully disappeared, the beach we had walked on that morning during low tide had nearly vanished, and the sun had gone with it. There even was a fine rain as well.
(Dumpton Gap where we had walked on the beach at low tide that morning, now under water.)
When I arrived the groom’s mother, sister, mother’s best friend, and another friend of theirs were setting up their folding chairs. I had no idea a swim would be such a production. I soon learned that’s what makes it utterly fabulous.
I later learned that the temperature of the water was ~13*C/55*F. As a general rule of thumb you stay in the water a minute per degree. Too long can be dangerous.
(That’s my head closest to shore on the right!)
The whole experience was terrifying and freezing and I made my friend (the bride and swimming/adventure buddy) hold my hand at one point. It was actually hilarious. (This was captured on video—ha! It’s like you could watch my brain trying to talk me out of ever step.) It took a lot of gentle nudges from Kristina, “It gets better once you’re fully in, trust me.” There’s a lot to say about trust in life.
And then I made it, and it was magical! I didn’t want to get out. But they assured me I had to as it was quite cold.
There was hot tea and dry towels waiting on the other side. We changed out of our suits. They all had the perfect oversized hooded towels that were like having your own private personal dressing area (they typically have a beachside cabin, but those closed up a couple weeks prior). I was grateful for the extra massively oversized jacket I got to borrow (they’ve learned to invest in all the right accoutrements for sea swimming), as despite wearing my heat tech, bulky sweater, and puffer vest, my body wasn’t quite used to this. Wow, was it invigorating though.
I also learned that baby powder is a great way to get the sand off your feet. They knew all the tricks! It became this wonderful cultural exchange, but it wasn’t just British vs. American, but sea swimmers vs. pool swimmer. There was a lot we could learn from each other. It was such a special experience. If I lived there I’d definitely be a regular! I love that they’ve made it a social circle too, and make sure to go at least once a week.
(After our swim we even spotted a seal!)
I never imagined sea swimming would be such an exercise in facing your fears, being brave, and trusting the world around you. I never thought I’d do this, and I’m forever grateful for this opportunity. Less than one week later, and I’ve already seen it pay off in facing other fears. But you’ll have to wait for the next post to see how…. ;)
Thank you to Kristina’s dad for capturing us in the water!
P.S. This free documentary My Big White Thighs & Me: a story of womanhood & swimming (25 min) was another seed planted in me a year ago that made me realize swimming in the cold was something people really do.
P.S.S. You may recognize Kristina from when we went time traveling at the TWA Hotel! We do know how to have a grand adventure! There is usually an awesome swimming experience involved too.
As I stood at the roundabout at Étoile I watched the light change against the Arc de Triomphe. I couldn’t help ponder how in the world does someone come up with an idea like this. Sure, we all can have ideas, but then do actually go through with it—that’s a whole other level! The best answer I could come up with is you follow your intuition, as crazy as it may seem at times. And you go for it despite what everyone else says is possible. And you have lots of patience.
View this post on Instagram
Back in 1962 artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude had an idea to wrap the Arc de Triomphe in fabric. It sounds like a crazy idea, but wrapping things—from paintings to shopping carts to buildings—was something the artists were already exploring. (Here are a few shots from their retrospective at the Pompidou two summers ago.) It’s now 2021. That was a 60 year wait!! Patience is golden!
In a world of instant gratification sometimes we forget that the best things in life don’t happen overnight, but can be a gradual slow build. And when it comes to wrapping a historic monument in fabric, it’s not just the idea that needs to come to fruition, but also the permits. (When the artists wrapped Pont Neuf—the oldest bridge in Paris—in 1985 it took 10 years to acquire the permits.)
I also learned that this work is considered “process art” where the installation and de-installation are all part of the work. (The NYT shared a lot of install images—there were mountain climbers from Chamonix who repelled off of the Arc.) Above you can see the metal casing that protects the monument and sculptures.
The wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe, the monument that sits atop the famous Avenue Champs Elysées, was set to happen in 2020 and was delayed for obvious reasons. Shortly thereafter Christo passed away, never to witness his final project with his own eyes (his wife and creative partner Jeanne-Claude passed away several years ago). I can only assume this will be the last of its kind.
You are able to go up and touch the work (after getting your Pass Sanitaire checked to enter the underground walkway to the Arc.) It’s a thick material. Blue on one side, silver on the other—an homage to France’s bleu, blanc, et rouge along with the red ropes. The people with the blue vests will give you a free square of it if you ask them. They also are full of facts. Apparently, the fabric weighs the same as 18 elephants! It is heavy! Also, the plan is to recycle it as building insulation at the end of the project.
Someone was clever and wrapped a street sign in honor of the occasion.
The two-week installation which cost $14 million (entirely self-financed by the artist), is on now and is quite the sight to behold. The best way I can describe it is that the classic monument is engulfed like a cocoon ready for transformation, and resembles a gem that is uniquely beautiful. There’s a total wow factor. At the time of this post I’ve now been four times: up the Arc (less exciting as the action is on the ground), on the weekend when the traffic circle was closed to traffic and we could walk across, at night (the “evening wear edition”–wow does she shine; see the Instagram reel below!), and then for sunset where I stood in one spot and watched the light change (top image). I keep getting pulled back. It’s a fascinating sight.
One of the reasons I love Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work is that you know that so many people told them no and it wasn’t possible along the way, but they kept doing it anyway, and they kept pushing the boundary of how out there they could go. It took 60 years, but it’s quite a sight now that it’s come to life. The sixteen-day installation ends October 3rd.
View this post on Instagram
There’s so much digging you can do into Christo and Jean-Claude’s works from their official website, The NYTimes (cool installation shots), Dezeen, The Washington Post (potential pay wall). It’s a fascinating rabbit hole to fall down. If you ever have the chance to see a retrospective, I highly recommend it. I’ve now seen them in Miami and Paris, each show is an incredible look at the making of process of how it comes together, which include everything from sketches, to permits, and models, along as process photos of the installations.
UPDATE: On a whim I decided to visit the Arc the day after the “event” ended. Much to my delight, I got to watch it get unwrapped and to watch the mountain climbers work together to undo everything. It was methodical and involved splitting the fabric into sections that were then wrapped like curtains. I didn’t see it until the very end, but it was enough to truly experience this “process art” in action.
P.S. Friendly reminder that Mapping Your Path into 2021 is now open for enrollment and starts off THIS WEEK (enrollment closes Friday, Oct 8th). Mapping Your Path into 2022 is the place where you can connect with yourself and with others as you navigate your path into the new year—and beyond. The experience is semi-structured, where workshops are recorded if you can’t join live, and the community is a place you can turn with questions, share inspiration, or learn something new from someone else. It’s a magical place with compassion and support at its core! Perfect too if you love maps! UPDATE: Enrollment is now closed. Sign up to be notified of the next session.
You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You don’t even have to know where you’re going. (I suspect you know where you don’t want to be though.). What if you gave yourself permission to explore, reflect, and be intentional about what’s next? You don’t have to do it alone, you’ll be guided every step of the way. Click here to learn more.
3-month online workshop + guided community
Oct 2021–Jan 2022
WHAT IF the New Year was not about resolutions, but an opportunity to catch your breath and get grounded? Together we’ll work on mapping our own paths forward into the New Year—and beyond! All while having some fun along the way, and in the company of others.
YOU ARE HERE.
Where do you want to be?
How do you want to feel?
The last 18 months have been A LOT. It’s almost as if the universe wanted us to hit a collective reset and ask:
- What are our priorities?
- How do we want to be spending our time?
- Who do we want to be spending our time with?
- Where do we want to be?
What if you didn’t need one more thing to do/learn/master to get closer to where you want to be? What if you just needed the company of others—the right people—and support along the way? Perhaps permission to get lost and explore would be good too.
This is not another thing to add to an already busy calendar or about learning another thing. It’s about trusting yourself and that you know what you want (or perhaps just need permission to experiment), and showing up in the best way you can right now. You never know what you may unlock in the process…
Mapping Your Path is permission to:
Are you ready to TAKE ACTION and (finally) MAKE TIME for yourself?
Mapping Your Path is not like other workshops or experiences. It’s designed with flexibility and different learning styles in mind. It’s also designed in a way that recognizes that people have busy lives and other things to do. You can show up however you can and still get a ton out of the experience.
Whether you join workshops live, or watch the replays on your own time there’s no one way to experience MYP. You can connect with the community on your own time (and NO, you do not have to keep up with everything, read every message and respond—but you can always ask questions, ponder, share, …).
When you open yourself up to the experience you’ll leave energized, inspired, and ready to handle whatever life throws your way. You never know what you may learn in the process.
WHO IS THIS FOR?
Participants in all sorts of fields and industries, both full-time and self-employed have joined MYP. There’s no one size fits all, but some of these may resonate:
- You’re globally minded with a vision for a better world with social justice, representation, and more compassion.
- You know too deeply what overwhelm and burnout feels like from giving everything to work and/or family and know in order for anything to change you need to be intentional about making time for yourself.
- You’re in a transition phase of life (between jobs, career change, nearing empty nester, or retirement) and you want to have support and guidance as you navigate your path.
- You’re in need of permission—and support—to try something new or different, to “follow the itch” of what is calling you but seems scary.
- You’re looking for inspiration without a huge commitment. (Big things are possible out of Mapping Your Path even if you show up imperfectly. Every little bit counts, and there’s no need to put extra pressure on yourself.)
- What you’re currently doing isn’t working and you need a different way to show up for yourself.
- You’ve had a creative project or business idea you’ve been thinking about forever but you haven’t gotten around to.
- You’re in a good place, and you want to keep the momentum going, but also know that outside support from others who “get it” is what you need right now.
- You’re ready for a reset and a jumpstart into the New Year. You’re ready for action!
SO WHAT DOES THIS EXPERIENCE LOOK LIKE?
Month 1: CELEBRATING HOW FAR WE’VE COME
Month 2: GUIDEBOOK FOR LIFE
Month 3: GUIDING FORCES + FORWARD MOMENTUM
- Monthly workshops with creative exercises
Workshops are presented live on Zoom, and the recording will be shared if you can’t join live or wish to rewatch it at a later date. Each month we’ll explore mapping-inspired exercises as well as journal prompts. You’ll be given time during the workshops to work on the exercises to help ease your workload of adding one more thing to your plate. Workshops will bring the creative juices out in anyone, and most importantly are FUN!
- Monthly reflection sessions
Two weeks after the live workshop we’ll have a reflection session that builds on the exercises explored during that month’s workshop, along with one new exercise. This is an intentional time to reflect on the work we’re doing and the paths we’re on.
- Monthly connection calls
Once a month there will also be an opportunity to hop on “connection calls” which are typically the 3rd week of the month. These mini-group calls of 5 to 6 community members + Anne are informal conversations where everyone is invited to talk through any exercises, ask for feedback, or look for support on anything they’re working on. Sign up for one that fits your schedule.
For connection between sessions, we’ll also have a private Slack community for weekly check-ins, resource sharing, working through exercises, and providing support for anything you’re thinking about. There is no pressure to be connected all the time, but for many people, their biggest growth happens here with the support of the INCREDIBLE community of humans that MYP attracts.
- Direct support and feedback from Anne in the Slack community hub. (This is super rare in most programs).
You’ll walk away from the three months with your own toolkit of resources to refer back to any time you’re feeling lost. You never know what amazing-ness you may discover in the process too! Magic has been known to happen… You’ll also leave feeling empowered and with a mindset where you can handle anything that comes your way.
MEET YOUR GUIDE
Hi! I’m Anne.
You may also know me as Prêt à Voyager (translation: ready to travel), my blog—and social media handle—where I explore the intersection of travel and design. I use my background in design in my work as a creative coach and workshop facilitator to help people explore the world in creative ways.
Mapping Your Path into 2022 was inspired by so many experiences in my own life, but also what I wish there was more of in the world. It truly is a special place to not only connect with yourself, but with others as well. It’s time to get out of our heads, and out of our own ways—to get on the path we truly want to be on.
I’d LOVE and be honored if you joined me on this journey. Act fast, before it’s gone! There’s no more time to put things off or tell yourself “next time.” Maybe NOW really is the time. And this is just what you’ve been waiting for.
Enough of the over-thinking. More of taking action! This is your future. You’re in the driver’s seat!
Questions? Email me at hello[at]anneditmeyer.com or send me a DM on Instagram! I promise I won’t bite. (I like to think I’m quite nice). You can also trust I’ll give you an honest response if you’re trying to decide if this is the right fit for you. I also recommend you check out the testimonials on the full offer page.
After a summer break it feels good to be back in a rhythm and cooking up the next round of workshops. Facilitating workshops has brought me so much joy over the past year and a half, I’m ready for the next round. I have three different experiences you can look forward to. I hope you’ll consider joining me for any—or all—of them!
MAKE A MAP! FieldTrip
1-hour online workshop on Zoom
Wednesday, September 15th at 3pm CET/Paris (9am EST/NYC) I’ll be hosting my Make A Map! FieldTrip through CreativeMornings (it’s FREE to join!!). Bring paper, pen, markers, a paper napkin, and a BANANA! Yes, this is where banana maps came to be! And if you don’t have a banana (or like them), please bring something untraditional to map on. This could be a lemon, orange, toilet paper roll; get creative, I’ve seen it all and love being surprised!! It’s always such a treat having participants join all around the world. Check out #MakeAMapFieldTrip on social media to see some of the fun maps people have created during this hour long workshop. Sign up here!
WRITE YOUR OWN RULES WORKSHOP
2-hour online workshop on Zoom
Saturday, September 18 at 6-8pm CET/Paris (9am PST, noon EST) or Thursday, September 23 at 3-5pm CET/Paris (6am PST, 9am EST) join me for my signature Write Your Own Rules Workshop. During the 2-hour workshop I’ll walk you through a series of fun, engaging exercises to help you write your very own “rulebook” of guiding principles that will serve you in life and work. Click the Eventbrite links above to find out when the workshop will be offered at your local time. Sign up here!
MAPPING YOUR PATH INTO 2022
3-month workshop + guided community
Mapping Your Path into 2022 is a 3-month workshop and guided community with live workshops with creative exercises, reflection sessions, and connection through mini group calls and an online Slack community designed to help you feel grounded and intentional going into the New Year—and beyond. The past year and a half has made us all think critically about where we are in life, what we’re doing, and where we want to go. This experience invites you to catch your breath as you find clarity and support on your path forward. Mapping Your Path attracts a globally-minded group of incredible, warm-hearted humans around the world, making it a unique experience for all. Doors open mid-September for enrollment. Community opens Oct 1. First live workshop Oct 8. Sign up today!
On Monday night French president Emmanuel Macron announced the latest mandates for France around the the pandemic. It’s taken a few days to process, but for the first time in a long time I’m wildly impressed with France’s handling of Covid-19.
France has been on a rollercoaster since the pandemic first broke out in France March 2020. We were one of the earlier countries to adopt a strict lockdown, which involved permission slips, 1 hour and 1 km limits that got our numbers under control. When restrictions started to loosen up, there was a lack of clarity in messaging. The situation has been a rollercoaster of numbers ever since (ironically always the opposite of our neighbors in the UK; we have yet to both have low [case] numbers at the same time). There were moments that I felt like I even time travel back in time a year—not in a good way.
In the grand scheme of things France’s situation is relatively under control in terms of our freedoms. It helps that restaurant life has moved to terraces that have moved onto the streets of Paris. France was hovering around 2,000 cases a day for awhile, but the Delta+ variant jumped up to 4,000+ cases a day. (Check Santé Publique for daily numbers or search “Google Covid France” to see the graph.)
Knowing we had a big spike last year after summer holidays, France knew they needed to take action. This time things were different. Now the current plan and language is clear, direct, and actionable.
The designer in me had a warm heart realizing that this time around the government/leadership is finally taking into consideration actual human (FRENCH!) behavior, and not just intended behavior. The brilliance of the current decisions is France is using their reputation of being bureaucratic to their advantage. Nothing is dictated, but everything is implied. If you don’t get vaccinated, your life is a giant pain in the ass.
For a long time France had been treating the population like kids. “I told you to do this so you will listen and follow.” We all know that’s not how all children will respond/react when you ask them to do something, and adults are even more likely to rebel. You can say don’t gather in groups, but based on the parties that would keep me up on weekend night’s in my apartment building, the individual exceptionalism people took on was anxiety inducing.
Behavior change is hard, and there were no guardrails to enforce the requests of the government and little enforcement of the rules government had communicated. In being afraid to set a hard line, all the messaging was soft and messy. Numerous situations weren’t taken into consideration. It felt like leadership forgot not everyone lives like they do and has the same access to privilege. A lot became a matter of interpretation.
For nearly a year, language in top level communication was philosophical and often elitist, with nuance hidden between the lines, very open to interpretation and bending of rules. As a citizen it felt like wishful thinking, without a lot of hope. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. Every time we back pedalled and numbers spiked, it was never a surprise (and quite frankly highly predictable).
There were very few things we were working towards. Last December when we missed target goals, museums didn’t reopen, but nothing else happened. The was no incentive or hope to motivate the masses.
Even as we entered third lockdown, the population as a whole believed that stricter measures were necessary; the majority of people also admitted that they’d be breaking the rules. It wasn’t an either/or situation. The pandemic provided an interesting case study into the multiplicity of truths and the challenges in navigating a way forward. As a designer, I see this all as a design problem with the need for creative problem solving.
Monday’s announcement was a visible shift which felt like we had actual leadership to be proud of again. France got back in the game and learned how to play in a way only the French could do. The land of bureaucracy learned to use their bureaucracy to their advantage. The plan is wicked smart and tight. Here’s the breakdown:
- Nothing is dictated. You are not required to be vaccinated (note: France is one of, if not the highest, anti-vax countries in Europe). However, if you are not vaccinated that’s when life gets complicated. Only health workers and those working in retirement homes are required to get the shot.
- Every individual is given a QR code as part of their “pass sanitaire” (health pass) upon getting vaccinated. The pass can be used to access stadiums and events. The new measures starting soon will involve needing to show your pass to eat inside restaurants, go to the cinema, hospitals, riding [distant] trains, etc. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show your PCR negative results, which are also QR codes sent to your pass.
- PCR tests have been free up until this point. (I believe they recently started charging tourists, however it’s much more affordable than the hundreds of Pounds in the UK). Starting this fall everyone will have to pay for PCR tests.
The result? The evening of the announcement there were one million people who booked appointments for vaccines (Doctolib and Vite Ma Dose are the go to places), and 1,7 million within 24 hours. That’s A LOT of people who had been hesitating about getting vaccinated. France found a culturally specific way to respond to the design challenge: bureaucracy.
These choices show France’s understanding of French behavior, and existing structures that created new urgency and relevance for the vaccine. This is not only about the vaccine, but about protecting the hospital systems, essential workers, and supporting the economy long term. Change is possible. France is showing how to play the game.
Good design is never mastered the first time we set out to dream up a solution. Design is an iterative process, with a learning cycle. While very frustrating at times, I’m incredibly relieved that France has learned from previous iterations, to develop an ecosystem that addresses the problem head on, while not adding massive work to other industries to respond and adapt to.
The plan is still not flawless, but it’s a start. As a dual citizen who lives in France but got vaccinated in the US, I’m currently not eligible for a French QR pass. I’m an “edge case” which is a rare case that wasn’t automatically considered. (Readers pointed out people who don’t have smart phones/access to technology, are illiterate, can’t get the vaccine due to health reasons, or afraid of the vaccine due to outing themselves as trans also could fit as other edge cases.)
The computer system was designed in a way that can’t be over-written—a good thing, but also a challenge. Ironically I’d be able to get the pass sanitaire if I had one shot in the US, and one in France, but because I got both shots in another country therein lies the problem. While expat Facebook groups show other Americans have succeeded in getting QR passes, my theory is the majority of those cases were people who got the J&J vaccine (only one shot, hence it works within the system, which allows one shot to be marked as foreign). Lot numbers are input too, so the vaccine center (or doctor) could get in trouble when the system realizes that lot was never administered there. The goal in getting my QR pass is also not to cause problems down the line.
One of the most shocking things to the head of the vaccine center at my local Mairie (mayor’s office) was that I did not receive a QR code (every state in the US is different; Virginia did not have one), nor a unique number on my CDC card. For me both of these comments show just how robust the French system is, despite the initial slow vaccine rollout.
It goes to show this whole plan doesn’t completely consider how it will work with tourists, and unique situations in each country. I’m fortunate that my CDC card will be accepted, but I am concerned about going to a “big” event and getting pulled to the side and not being able to pass through as a unique case where the worker doesn’t know what to do with me. I had one Canadian follower tell me they only receive emails after their shots, but no actual documentation. There are still many situations that have yet to be considered, from all countries.
Even in the past 24 hours there have been more updates in France that suggest that cases like mine are being considered in terms of creating vaccine equivalencies (note: I am a French citizen and not an expat/immigrant). I wouldn’t be surprised if there are systems for tourists to register down the line too.
If anything, the pandemic has taught us, the game is not over until it’s over. France was able to get numbers under control after the first lockdown, but spiralled back in time. The latest small steps feel like a big leap, and hopefully a lesson in what other countries can adapt.
The current system in France is direct, simple, and straight forward. The rules leave for less loose interpretation. (Oh, the number of people and industries who considered themselves “essential workers” during lockdowns was astounding—and laughable). Furthermore, communication is no longer based on assumptive behaviors. There are clear, actionable steps citizens can take, whichever path they take. Individuals still have their own agency, however, the government has a vision, and one that’s for the greater good.
The past year has had me exploring all sorts of places I never thought I’d get to go. Thanks to the internet I’ve been able to create something special through my Mapping Your Path communities which attract wonderful, kind-hearted humans around the world. For the spring/summer edition I’ll be running it as a 3-month Accountability Booster Group.
Rather than distracting people with more workshops and another thing to learn, it’s a safe space to FINALLY make progress on that thing you’ve been wanting to do, whether it’s launching a new website, writing a book, working on a new practice and habits, or anything in between. We’re really good at making excuses and prioritizing the wrong things, so this is a sacred space, time and commitment to do the thing(s) that you really want to be doing towards deep down.
I’ll be your guide throughout the journey, from the workshop-style Kick-Off call (which will be recorded for anyone who can’t join live), to facilitating the Slack community (it’s so supportive and we get to celebrate our wins, you can also promote anything you’re working on, or get direct feedback from me—I’m an active participant too; I’m happy to provide prompts and exercises as needed), running bi-weekly co-working calls (where you carve out the time to work on what you really want to be doing), and hosting mini group calls (magical encounters with me+ ~5 other community members—these may sound intimidating, but they’re a highlight for so many past MYP participants).
It all starts May 3rd! The live Kick-Off call is Thursday, May 6th (which will be recorded for anyone who can’t join live).
I’m excited to announce that my CreativeMornings Make a Map! FieldTrip is BACK! This time with a new twist. In the “re-entry edition” our maps will be an opportunity for reflect on our personal journeys through pandemic times using creative maps. It will still prioritize fun, and give us a chance to remind ourselves what we want to carry forward.
My FieldTrips are where I first got people all over the world MAPPING ON BANANAS! (It’s seriously the best!) Don’t worry, there will be more of that. So please bring a banana (or anything untraditional to map on—I’ve now seen clementine maps, lemon maps, leek maps, onion maps, sweet potato maps, papaya maps, toilet paper roll maps, and more!).
The FieldTrip will take place on Wednesday, April 21st at 9am EST (NYC) / 3pm CET (Paris). It’ll be one hour of mapping fun!
Sign up here and don’t forget your BANANAS!!!! (It’s totally FREEEEEEE!)
Check out the hashtag #MakeAMapFieldTrip on social media to see some of the fun we’ve cooked up in past workshops :)
To find out more about my workshops click here (heads up, I’ll be announcing a new accountability group very soon as part of my 3-month Mapping Your Path series!). I’m also available to bring workshops to your teams.
Dear French Government,
How is it that we are still here? My birthday was a year ago, so I know all too well when this all started. I’ve seen amazing progress and hope. That’s why it’s so disappointing to be where we are now. How did we go so far backwards after so much progress? I may be jumping to conclusions, but I can’t help but feel like ego overrode common sense, or common good. Please stick with me.
The thing that is most disappointing is that you’re not saying anything, and when you do say something it says nothing. (See this clip.) What is holding you back from speaking honestly? For saying something? Anything for god’s sake.
I fear there are many assumptions being made. I’d much prefer you stated the obvious, because whatever you’re thinking is not obvious to me. In fact, I’m completely clueless to what you’re thinking. (My best guess is that your strategy is “wait and see.”) I also have no idea how the virus is spreading. I have hunches. You may not know, but is there seriously nothing from all the contact tracing that you could relay to us?
I also wish you would remind people of the steps they should be taking. Heck, you could even SHOW people how to wash their hands. Remind them why to use gel. Everything that has already been said can and should be reinforced.
The other thing that has been missing is what the guidelines are around seeing other people, particularly when it comes to gathering. Over the weekend a friend told me she heard a friend of hers was going to host her lunch despite the new restrictions. Seriously, WTF. The lack of clarity at the moment means that people are writing their own rules (which I’m ALL for, in every context EXCEPT THIS!).
It’s not just about guidelines but could you please communicate THE WHY behind these measures. And I’m talking in a plain English (or however you say “plain French”) kind of way. This is NOT “dumbing things down.” This is making language accessible so people understand feel like they have a stake in what’s going on. (I have a whole lesson on it in my OpenClassrooms course on content strategy, which is all about putting the user first. You have to find a way to talk to them in a way that resonates.)
We’re not only missing clarity, we’re missing motivation. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. What is the GOAL? REMIND US. Yes, to get rid of Covid, but how are we going to do that? Realistically? Please tell us the steps. Get straight to the point. Tell it to us like we’re 5 year olds. Not only is it more likely to stick that way, but we can help transmit the information forward. It’ll likely be more memorable too.
The fact of the matter is that just because you say something doesn’t mean in will stick with us, so make it “sticky” so we can care about it. Storytelling sounds cliché but hearing stories about real people can help make this abstract virus anchored in some reality. Hearing about that dinner party that turned into a super spreader event, may make a few people wake up.
Perhaps it’d be a good time to remind us about what the “variant” actually means beyond some abstract scientific term. I know I’m terrified of the “long haul” symptoms of Covid, but none of that I have heard about from you, but from my own reading. It may be beneficial to give people a loving reality check that it’s not just some virus. This goes back to not assuming we heard you when you first told us what the virus was. We need reinforcement to make it sink in and keep us abreast of any changes or updates.
When it comes to lockdown something I’m confused about is if there are rules, are they actually enforced? I’m not so sure based on the house parties I hear in my neigborhood most nights. You addressed this during first lockdown, but after that, it feels like you’ve taken an ignorance is bliss approach. I fear the wrong people are getting punished if it is enforced. I wonder how much privilege comes into play in the directions that are ignored, or enforced.
You may know how high our numbers are. I sure do. I check them at 8pm nightly desperately waiting for the day when this is not part of my daily routine. For THREE MONTHS I watched us plateau at ~20k cases a day. That is until it climbed to ~39k cases in a day. Mon dieu! That’s a far cry from the 4k cases a day I was proud of back in December before the trifecta of Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany that sent France into a spiral.
Did you not see this coming, because I sure did! (Also, ask the average person and I suspect they wouldn’t even know where to go to find them. And please don’t go making the assumption that everyone downloaded the anti-Covid app just because you built it).
I also think it’s important to share more than just numbers, but crunch them and give them context. (Thank you, John Lichfield for helping with that.) Just because they make sense to you and seem obvious, doesn’t mean that the rest of us see them with the same clarity. Data tells a story, and help us understand that story. Please. Make it resonate.
Also keep in mind, just because you post the numbers doesn’t mean that people look at them, or know where we stand. More often than not I’d bring up our numbers in conversation here and people—yes, even well educated people—had no idea our numbers were that high. Maybe it’s just all my single friends, who like I, live alone and so we are incredibly conscious of where things stand, and how we are one of the ignored and neglected populations during pandemic times who follow the numbers closely.
I’m not going to lie, up until this point, I not only survived lockdown, but I thrived in lockdown. As a freelancer who has lived alone for a decade, and worked from home for nearly as long, I did have a leg up on many people. I had inadvertently trained for this lifestyle. Still, I don’t know if you can consider that an advantage—for me it was just learning to make the most of the situation.
I can’t even imagine how working parents with stressful jobs and kids are managing at all. Oh, and that 6pm curfew did not make getting anything done any easier, nor did it acknowledge that people had other responsibilities other than being inside at that time. In lockdown 3.0 I feel how they must have been feeling all along: exhausted and drained.
I don’t need you to cover up anything that has already been done. I just ask—I mean BEG—of you to take a look in the mirror and PLEASE change things moving forward. I’m not sure who is on your communication team, but maybe it’d be a good time for some fresh blood (and some diversity of experience that they can bring to the table). For every sentence that is communicated, pause and question, “what is this really saying? How could it be interpreted?”.
Please just tell it to us like it is. Make us believe. Make us want to work for the common good. (Think like a sports coach and this could be our winning game!). Motivate us because we are done motivating ourself. Give us hope. About getting through this. About the vaccines. It’s getting increasingly hard for me to see any light at the end of the tunnel, nor when I’ll next see my family.
Whatever you do, don’t tell us a date, and push it back further. Take a cue from Joe Biden who had a date several months out, but was able to push it forward AND give Americans the hope of being able to spend time in small groups by the 4th of July. You can also check in with us more than every couple months. You’re in charge. You can change the formalities. Keep us in the loop. We can’t help but feel neglected.
By the way, want to know one way you can stand out from other countries—in a good way? Talk about mental health. Address it. Now. Make this pandemic more human. Don’t pretend we’re just going to be able to brush this aside. Three months of 6pm curfew was not good for mental health when I know that going for walks is what keeps me sane. I guess I kind of understood why you did it, but you never actually told me so it became a frustration rather than a force for good.
I know there’s a whole wrapped up in how politics is, but we’ve got to break this cycle of thinking that “C’est comme ça!” because how it is is NOT how it has to be. We all need a wake up call if anything is going to change. Perhaps now would be a good time to change stuffy press conferences highlighting your authority and dominance, and try to be more accessible. There are some risks that do pay off.
Leaders were elected to represent the people, so please take a look beyond yourself and the lifestyle you live. There’s a whole wild world out there. We can help you too, but you’ve got to stop doing things they way they’ve been done before. This is your time to shine, so damn, please do something! ANYTHING. You still have time to turn this thing around, but you can’t do it by thinking with your old fixed mindset.
Yes, I’m disappointed and frustrated because all my friends in the US are getting their vaccines already. I’m also disappointed because no one is going to be able to come visit me for a long time (ironically they haven’t gotten the memo that they’re not going to be welcome in France any time soon).
I assure you, I’m not writing this letter out of my own self pity. I’m writing this for the greater good. I want—and need—the reassurance that others will be OK at the end of this too, not just me. I’m writing this because I care, and I hope you will wake up and take action. A good place to start is with communication.
It’s never too late. As we’ve learned the hard way for the past year, it’s not over until it’s over. It’s game time now. We’re the underdogs. Let’s go get this done!
Avec mes salutations distinguées,
Anne S. Ditmeyer
Anne Ditmeyer is an American by birth, French by hard work who pulls from her design background in her work as a creative coach and workshop facilitator. Join her for her next Write Your Own Rules Workshop on March 26 or March 28th.
Celebrating your birthday for the 2nd year in a row during a pandemic is not how anyone wants to celebrate their birthday, especially when you’re celebrating a milestone. I decided to flip the script and make the most of it anyway. I’m grateful for incredible friends who helped ensure that I had a great one despite not being able to celebrate in person.
I’ve come to learn that life is more about the little moments, and moments of surprise, delight, and joy. My friend Jenni—a professional pastry chef and cake maker—may have won the grand prize for years to come. If you couldn’t gather from the top photo, that’s the cake on the left, and that’s my favorite gnome who served as the inspiration on the right. OMMMMGGGGGG!
Of course we were all masked when the exchange happened, so you couldn’t see my jaw drop when I saw the cake, but you probably could see my eyes bulge out of my head. SUCH JOY! (And I hadn’t thought about it, but now I was able to have a cake reveal on one of my bday Zooms!).
Not only did the gnome cake match his ceramic brother, but Jenni added a banana to his artist palette. For those of you who don’t follow me on social media (@pretavoyager on Twitter + Instagram), you may have missed that I’ve been known to run creative workshops where I have hundreds of people around the world draw maps on bananas (shout out to Swissmiss + CreativeMornings for the permission to do things differently!). So it’s not uncommon to hear the “bring a banana” prompt from me before a Zoom call with me. Only for me could the addition of a banana be such a perfect touch.
Jenni pointed out the risk of a sculptural cake is that no one wants to cut into them. She instructed me how I could cut his backside. It was much less scary that way.
The cake was DELICIOUS and stayed moist until he was gone. She went with a vanilla cake, rhubarb compote and salted caramel buttercream and his hat was chocolate cake with whipped chocolate ganache.
The cake was definitely a new adventure and was big enough that Jenni even had to create a custom box for it he was so tall. (Here’s Jenni with the finished cake!). He was really the perfect size. I was able to share a few slices (which I loved that I could cut them super thin. But I probably ate half of him! By the end he got tired and decided to lay down. HAHA!
So where did the inspiration gnome came from? I bought him at a shop in the Marais c. 2003/4. It was when my aunt and cousin came to visit. They had this special radar when it came to gnome spotting (and they loved spotting Westies too). I’d never much cared nor thought about gnomes until that point, nor had I ever spotted any in Paris, but they changed how I saw the world. They helped make it fun.
I noticed this particular gnome one night while walking home in a shop window on my own while my aunt and cousin were still in town. I knew I had to go back and get them—one for me, and one for them (I think I gave them one with the guitar). He’s traveled with me to Baltimore and Virginia, and then back to Paris in 2011 (yes, he made the cut for important things to put in my suitcase when coming to grad school).
In the spirit of Amélie—one of my all-time favorite movies that came out when I studied abroad in Paris where there is a storyline with a gnome that travels the world to encourage her father to travel—I liked that my gnome could be a reminder to travel, have fun, and embrace my quirky side.
I have to say there’s nothing better than having a gnome smile back at you when you open your fridge!
THANK YOU JENNI for this incredible surprise that more than made my [birth]day, week, month, and year! He’s THE BEST EVER!!!
A few other things that made this birthday the best:
- Two friends coordinated an effort to have friends send me birthday cards with personal notes. SO MUCH SNAIL MAIL JOY!!! I was incredibly touched, and more cards keep trickling in.
- I had special deliveries including balloons, and dinner sent to me.
- I set up a Zoom “flashback virtual tea” with some dear childhood friends I hadn’t seen in 25+ years and invited their moms too. There were also “birthday banana wishes” shared on another virtual celebration.
- I asked for friends to share favorite Stories on Facebook rather than generic HBD messages. (SO many great old adventures came up.)
It was sad to see my new best friend / roommate go, but this is proof he was good til the last bite!
P.S. If you’re in Paris, I HIGHLY recommend ordering a cake from Jenni for your special occasion. If she can make a gnome cake, she can make anything! Trust me, it’s the little things in life that really can spark joy. You can also follow her as @j_lepoutre and @atelier_l_paris on Instagram.
P.S.S. I’m running my Write Your Own Rules workshop on March 26 & March 28th. It’s a TON OF FUN! In the 2-hour workshop you’ll create your own guiding principles and walk away with your very on rulebook zine.