Enter the New Year with Intention: Mapping Your Path into 2021 (3 month workshop)

What would life look like if you started to visualize it in maps? Not as straight forward and linear as one would expect is my guess. I love maps because they give us the mindset of an explorer. We can see both where we are going, and where we have been. It’s time to zoom out and get the big picture of life, reflect and put things in perspective.

That’s also why I created Mapping Your Path into 2021, my new 3-month online workshop to help you explore intentionally while setting yourself up for success—whatever that means to you—in the New Year.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life we rarely make time for ourselves. We keep moving forward as if it’s the path we’re supposed to be on without ever questioning what where doing, why we’re doing it, or when we’re doing it. We may be exactly where we’re meant to be, but we also may need to reset our course.

This 3-month workshop is about exploration and creativity, with full permission to slow down and detour as needed. It’s about intentionally slowing down to take stock of where you’re at, and where you want to be. It’s about preparing yourself for the New Year now rather than coming up with a half-baked resolution when the clock strikes midnight and we ring in Jan 1.

During our time together you’ll be building your own tool kit to help guide you into 2021, and beyond. We’ll be doing it step by step while learning from and being inspired by each other. This workshop is not about creating more for you to do, but giving you a creative outlet to minimize overwhelm, all while being intentional. After all, change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about building muscles, and resources, over time.

This will all happen through live workshops (which will be recorded if you can’t join live, or if you want to re-watch them) and office hours/co-working calls (bring any questions or plan to come together to work on your own explorations). We’ll have mini group calls with 5 community members to chat about whatever you’re working on, and you’re welcome to share or ask for feedback and support. On top of it, we’ll have our own online community (on Slack) to connect with each other, share progress, and celebrate small wins.

We’ll meet bi-weekly until we wrap on January 14th, giving you plenty of time to digest each workshop and continue to dig deeper. We’ll also take a pause around the holidays.

For more information + sign up today visit the full offer! Doors close on October 16th when Mapping Your Path into 2021 sets sail. Come be part of the adventure!!!

 

P.S. Interested in Write Your Own Rules? Sign up for the workshop waitlist to be notified when the next date is announced.

Write Your Own Rules

I was recently talking to a friend about travel and the fact that we can say, “I love to travel” but travel can mean so many different things to different people. For some people travel may mean going for long hikes at along a new landscape, for others it’s sitting in coffee shops for hours or casually strolling local neighborhoods, for some it’s seeing every major site in a guidebook, and for others travel is about 5-stars.

There’s no one way to travel just like there’s no one way to approach life. 

Sometimes there’s a bit of trial and error, and we learn from each experience. We also don’t have to fit into a box. We have agency to pull from a variety of possibilities in order to determine our own formula for what makes a great trip.

Just as we have to determine our favorite ways to travel, we also have the power to determine how we want to move through life. It can be easy to get caught up in the rules of society. And while many rules are there for a reason, there are just as many that are there because they’ve always been there. Its these rules of the later variety that I’m encouraging us to question. We can feel out of place when we don’t fit in the guidelines of society. We can even feel like we’re doing it wrong, when in fact we’ve just never seen anyone do it any other way.

In my 2-hour Write Your Own Rules (online) Workshop I walk participants through a series of fun, quick-thinking exercises that culminate in writing your own guiding principles to carry you forward in life and in work. You’ll write your own rules that serve YOU, not what society tells us they should be. You leave at the end of the workshop with your very own rulebook [zine] that is distinctly yours and designed to be a reminder of how you want to live your life.

So who is this for? Do any of the following sound like you?

  • You’re frustrated with the status quo.
  • Are considering a life change.
  • Want to push yourself further at your current job.
  • You’re looking for a fresh perspective.
  • You want something more enriching than scrolling your phone for 2 hours.
  • You’re craving some time to focus on YOU.

Past participants have called Write Your Own Rules mindblowingly awesome, a breath of fresh air, thought provoking, a springboard, and more (testimonials here!). I promise it’s a ton of FUN!

The next Write Your Own Rules is on October 3rd from 6-8pm CET [Paris]. (That’s 12pm EST and 9am PST.) Hope to see you there! Tell a friend and SIGN UP NOW to grab your seat and get ready to show up for yourself!

THE WORKSHOP HAS PASSED. Sign up for the WYOR Waitlist to be notified when the next workshop date is announced. Future workshops will be announced on anneditmeyer.com/workshops.

What summer closures in Paris can teach us about UX design

Slightly mixed messages. Left sign: Reopening at the end of August [no date specified] Have a good summer + see you later. Right sign: Open Tuesday—Saturday 2pm-7pm. 

Come to Paris any time of year and it’s a game of opening days and opening hours. Anything but a 24/7 culture. Museums tend to be closed Mondays or Tuesdays, restaurants may be closed Mondays or Tuesdays (or in other cases weekends), and shops will play by their own set of rules. Of course holidays will affect openings as well. A month like May when there are 3-4 holidays definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. But nothing beats the month of August when Parisians are famous for skipping town and taking advantage of a large portion of their 5-9 weeks of vacation a year.

It’s one thing to be on the side where you leave town. It’s a whole other ballgame to be in Paris and trying to figure out where you can go and what you can do during this month where anything goes. My own love/hate relationship with the month awakened my inner educator, and I couldn’t help but turn this post into a lesson in UX (user experience) design and look at the experience through the lens of the customer.

UX tends to be the side of the experience that isn’t always overtly visible, so I thought I’d bring it to the forefront. There’s a huge opportunity for businesses, even if they do leave on holiday. Who knows, this whole idea of breaking down lived experiences from a design perspective may become a whole series. If it does I’m tentatively calling it #missedopportunities.

The business perspective

When a restaurant or shop in Paris closes for a few weeks for summer holidays, their mindset is something like, “I’m so ready for vacation, I can’t wait to get out of here!” They’ve had the dates on the calendar for half a year and they are beyond ready for a break. They know everything they need to take care of before they go to close everything up and be able to completely unplug and disconnect. Lowest—or at least last—on the list is the most public facing component: communicating closures to others.

The typical final step owners take is to lock up and post a sign on the door or closed grate noting when they’ll be back. It’s probably a quickly written or typed sign on A4 paper and posted with clear tape. They may or may not have had the foresight to update their social media, website, and opening hours on Google.

The mentality around communicating August closures is not so much that they don’t care about their business so much as “out of sight, out of mind.” Running a business is hard work, burnout is real, and they’re ready for a well earned break too. They won’t be around to deal with customers and the business will be closed anyway, so anything customer facing is an afterthought and a minor detail in the grand scheme of what needs to do to leave on holiday. There are a significant amount of odds and ends that need to take place in order to take a well deserved break.

Now let’s flip the script and think of this scenario from the customer perspective.

A rare sight of too much communication. All very helpful and something for everyone! Including where to find them online. Perhaps the July hours could have been erased as they’re no longer relevant.

The customer perspective.

I’m in Paris. I love when Paris is quiet. That doesn’t mean I want to stay in my apartment all day everyday. I completely understand the need to take a break and go on holiday. There’s no judgement there. I still can want to support local businesses and have interactions with other humans.

I also know in August I can’t just do/go whatever/wherever my heart desires in Paris. It takes a bit more planning, thought, and research. I’m not a big planner, but if I know you’re going to be open in August I get super excited and I’ll be there all the time. I’ll become a new regular.

If I have a visitor in town it’s extremely helpful to know what will be open, particularly when it comes to restaurants. With visitors, I usually have advanced notice of when they’ll be in town, and it’s something to look forward to. Vacations and closures actually start the last couple weeks in July, but there’s still no forethought into communicating to customers about openings or closures. I find myself figuring out where we can go as it happens.

I love being a regular, but August shakes up my routine. For some of my favorite places I frequent I’ll take to asking them about their summer plans. The reality is that it’s exhausting to ask everywhere you want to go whether and when they’ll be open, and you really need a spreadsheet to keep track of everything because every business plays by their own rules in summer. It also can change from one summer to the next. They keep you on your toes!

The thing that kills me is that signs go up at the last second. They’ve essentially closed their doors and then think to communicate it. If it were up to me, I’d have a sign up a couple weeks before I was set to close to let people know what to expect.

I was so bummed when my favorite chicken place closed extra early this summer for renovations. Had I known they were closing I would have had one last run to get my fix. Instead, this year they closed for nearly a month and a half. A similar thing happened with a favorite coffee shop. While they typically close in August, I had no reason to believe they’d close even earlier—and longer—starting in July this year. I would have gone out of my way to get that last cup of satisfaction to tide me over for the summer. As a customer I WANT to give you my money, but sometimes businesses in France make it hard.

Then there’s a whole other type of businesses who just don’t communicate ANYTHING. I love supporting small, independent, and local businesses, but sometimes they make an already frustrating time even more aggravating. Take a couple weeks ago, I was really excited to go to a restaurant in my neighborhood that works with local producers. I tended to walk by during off hours so I never saw it open. There was no sign on the door, so I had no reason to believe they were closed. I know in Paris that’s not enough to go off of, so before heading there for dinner I checked their website and social media. Still nothing. I knew their sister restaurant another neighborhood over was still open, so it didn’t make sense the one near me would be closed, but you never know. So I decided to call. It was when they should be open but the phone rang and rang and rang. Were they busy or closed? I didn’t know. It was close enough I decided it was best just to walk by and see what the scene was. Of course it was closed. What made this so frustrating was all the different points where something could have been communicated. Instead it makes me as a client feel stupid and annoyed. That’s not great for business.

Another thing that happens in summer is businesses may change their opening days, times, as well as their offers. Perhaps summer hours are different, or you’re opening your terrace in the evening. Yes, it’s great for the person strolling by who discovers it just when they needed something to eat or drink. But what about the rest of us who don’t even know that we should come back because nothing is communicated that you have this offering later in the day? #missedopportunity

I often joke that the French don’t like to volunteer information. That’s a lot of pressure on me as the customer to think to inquire, and also figure out which question(s) I should ask to uncover this gem of information I really would have liked to know. If you’re a business owner and sales are down, trust me there are some super simple tweaks you can make to get the word out and communicate your offers. Depsite what society may make us believe, social media isn’t always the answer either. Word of mouth still is the one of the best ways to get word out, but the “spreaders” need to know what’s going on in order to pass along a good word.

Lately I’ve also noticed that restaurants will have menus listed in a few different places—perhaps written on the window, posted on the wall, and there’s more still in the display case. I grew up looking at one menu, so my mental model doesn’t tell me to look in multiple places to find information. On more than one occasion I’ve placed my order only to realize there was something I wanted more, I didn’t know it existed.

Just like with the opening hours, I’m having to work way too hard as someone who is a customer who literally wants to give you my money. I’d probably spend even more money if I knew some of these other products and offers existed. (And if certain items are only offered during certain windows of time, please don’t hide that information.)

Sure, signs outside your business are great to communicate summer closures, but businesses have to remember that all of their customers don’t necessarily live in the neighborhood. It’s incredibly frustrating to travel across town to find out a place is closed. Even before social media was as big as it is today, businesses weren’t great at updating their websites with opening hours. You were more likely to find updates on Facebook pages than official websites. (The challenge of finding the simplest information like opening hours on websites in France any time of the year is a whole other challenge for another post.) My goal as the customer is to find the information at a glance. Not have to go digging for it.

Google is quite smart, but still can’t read minds when it comes to holidays. Some businesses do update their summer hours on Google (that feeds into the maps feature), but some don’t. Will you be on the lucky side or not?? One business may respond, “but we updated Google,” but the baggage of the five others who didn’t is real in the customer journey.

I try not to use social media to complain about businesses, but I sometimes do when it comes to communicating openings. They may respond, “but we did share it…on Stories!” Stories are the Instagram feature that disappear after 24 hours. Other times they may share it in an Instagram post, but I have no control over what the algorithm tells me. And it takes some time and effort to have to look for said post. Why not just share it on your profile?(It’d be great if you shared your address with Paris zipcode while I’m at it!).

The goal should be for the potential customer to find the information fast, and it should be where they expect it. People should not have to go digging or hunt for it. Remember, UX is from the USER perspective. It’s necessary to get inside the brains of users and customers. While we can’t mind read, but we can gain empathy for their perspective. (Hence, I wrote this post ;) ).

UX is often something no one thinks about because when design is done right it’s seamless and easy. We’re more likely to notice—and complain—if air conditioning isn’t working, it’s too hot, or too cold. We totally ignore how it’s working until it goes awry. It’s the when things don’t go as planned that the true opportunities too. Let’s dig into some opportunities when it comes to summer closures in Paris.

My favorite sign I’ve seen this summer which an Instagram follower shared with me. (Sorry, it didn’t save your name, I’m happy to update with credit!)

Frustrations = opportunities

When it comes to UX, designers look to frustrations and pain points to find the biggest opportunities. By empathizing with the user or customer, we can learn a lot about a context or situation. Sometimes it’s the smallest changes and shifts in mindset that can have a big impact.

Every summer I encounter the same frustrations, but these are the easy fixes I’d suggest.

Post an awesome sign. If you do I’ll probably share it. So consider that free publicity. It also may grab the attention of some locals who may never have otherwise have noticed your shop or restaurant. It’s practical for the short term, but also can build buzz for long term business. Stand out and make people look. (Several years ago I put together posts here and here with a collection of my favorite signs—here and here—they still leave a lot to be desired.)

To be clear awesome doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or be time consuming. Have a little personality. Everyone loves having a smile on their face. You can even take a photo of your awesome sign and share it on your social media. Simple and effective content.

Pay attention to where you hang the sign. When you do post the sign, make it easy to find. As a customer my habits make me want to head to the door to look for information. The tiny sign on the side window around the corner is not the obvious place where I’d think to look. (Yes, I recently encountered this. It was at least a rare fun sign.)

Communicate closures—or openings—in advance. A few weeks before holidays you can post a sign of when you will be closed (or celebrate the fact that you’ll be open, because we customers need to know that too! August 15th is a public holiday, so that day brings everything into question again). This can be a small sign near check out.

Communicating in advance is also important as often social media algorithms have a day or two delay to have information appear in the feed. Businesses can also communicate the information more than once, because customers need to hear it for it to sink in. It’s about a respect for time.

Communicate in multiple locations. Make it easy to find.
Update your website, social media profiles, and create a post. Also, be explicit (day, month, date—say it in all the ways. We’re going for clarity and clear, direct messaging here). “See you next week” in an Instagram caption isn’t very useful when the interface doesn’t clearly state the date. UX is about not making the user have to think to get what they need. Volunteer information before the customer has to ask or makes false assumptions.

Don’t make assumptions. I fear it’s assumed that locals “will know” opening hours so there’s no need to communicate. You can tell me something but that doesn’t mean it sinks in. Trust me when I say that it’s very different knowing your own travel dates than keeping track of all your friends as well as businesses. It’s a giant swirling mess. Then it’s quite a bit of effort to see if a place is open. Keep in mind that even the most regular or regulars can’t keep track of it all!

Check in regularly to make sure the hours and information on your profiles is still relevant. We all get so in the groove we forget to make sure the basic information is still correct. Schedule these regular check ins.

Of course all of this is wishful thinking. I was looking forward to supporting a local coffee joint I love on their first day back. Of course they extended their closure until September 3rd. It wouldn’t be the authentic Paris experience without these twist and turns! Ha! (And it’s not even owned by Frenchies. It’s just in the air here.)

These are my thoughts. Can you relate? I spend so much time pondering why no businesses have ever thought about this from “my” perspective. Am I crazy to see all this all as a missed opportunity?? Does it drive anyone else insane? How else would you redesign the experience of summer closures? Share in the comments.

In general I love August in Paris. You can listen to me chat about August on Earful Tower last summer. As for UX, you can learn more about the field through my OpenClassrooms courses + in this Biz Blog post with my favorite UX books and resources.

 

P.S. I’ll be announcing my next round of creative workshops soon! Sign up for my Connect the Dots newsletter + follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram for the latest.

How to Make Croissants at La Cuisine Paris

Eating a croissant will never be the same again. It only took 11 years of living in Paris for me to learn what goes into making a proper croissant: patience, time, and BUTTER (one of my favorite foods!). It’s incredible how “simple” they are to make, yet it’s a true art, and it’s all about how the dough and butter is combined into layers. Here’s a glimpse inside the super fun 3-hour Croissant and Breakfast Pastries class at La Cuisine Paris.

Croissants all start with simple ingredients—flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water, and melted butter—to make the dough, known as détrempe. The process is like making pasta in terms of how it’s combined. The process is quite quick, but the dough needs several hours of refrigeration before the next steps.

When it comes to croissants, it’s all about the butter. Roll out the butter block in parchment paper that then gets folded into the détrempe. The goal is to keep the rectangular shape of the dough to ensure even layers. (Our chef Segoline made this look SO easy! It definitely takes some practice.)

The croissant dough (pâté levée feuilletée) gets rolled thin. Croissants are cut into triangles and rolled into their very identifiable shape. Pain au chocolate are made from rectangles, with a couple variations for rolling to enrobe the bars of chocolate. The secret to croissant making is to keep all the scraps! Every bit can be used, even if they’re minis.

The same dough is used to make pain au raisin and drops. This involves a layer of crème pâtissière cream filling that adds a layer of moisture to the pastry. You can add any other flavors along the way to give it your own twist.

You can also have some fun with different shapes, forms, and filling. It’s kind of magic how it all comes together.

It’s the preparation that takes time. Before baking the pastries need time to rise. The pastries actually cook quite quickly (15-20 minutes). Some pastries got a sugar syrup glaze.

We had a blast during our 3 hour class with lots of simple “Ohhhh, that’s how it’s done!!!” mind-blowing moments! For over 10 years La Cuisine Paris has been teaching travelers and locals the art of French cooking at their cooking school in the center of Paris along the Seine.

While travel may not be in the cards right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t travel vicariously and learn a new skill, or make croissants for your loved ones or neighbors (you never make a small batch when you’re making croissants). La Cuisine Paris has launched an online version of the school where you can everything from croissants, to macaroons, choux pastry, French sauces, souflées, basic breads, and more. They’re also offering LIVE cooking classes (space is limited, which means everyone gets access to the chef).

Of course the best part of the class is when you get to taste your creations—fresh out of the oven! Thanks to croissant-lover Graham for inspiring me to learn something new. I’ll never look at croissants the same again. (After class the hunt for the best croissants in Paris continued.)

Paris croissant resources:

Mille mercis La Cuisine Paris + chef Segoline for such a fun experience!!

The New Parisienne: the women & ideas shaping Paris (Q&A with Lindsey Tramuta!)

It’s strange to have lived in a place for so long and still realize there’s so much about it you still don’t know. There are many days where I feel like I know Paris like the back of my hand. There are other days where I’m reminded that I’ve only brushed the surface. After reading The New Parisienne: the women & ideas shaping Paris by Lindsey Tramuta I fell into the category of the latter. It wasn’t that felt overwhelmed by all that I don’t know, but curious to learn more.

I’ve thought a lot about my own desires to tell “alternative narratives” or the stories that are less told. In recent years I’ve come to see how the perpetuation and celebration of certain narratives in the media, and in our own minds are stories we’ve accepted, but without question. We don’t always know there’s another way of doing things because that other way of doing things isn’t always visible or represented in front of us. These stories that seem like exceptions, may likely be more the norm than we realize.

The New Parisienne was the first book I’ve been able to get into and read cover to cover since lockdown began. My mind had been distracted, but this book gave me focus, and pulled me in. Lindsey does an incredible job of distilling her long interviews into a few cohesive pages that capture the spirit of each woman featured in the book. I was so intrigued and eager to learn more about these different approaches and ways of doing business. I could relate!

While the book is focused on women who call Paris home, the stories in this book really could be from anywhere in the world. There’s something about the release of the book now that feels more relevant than ever. It’s incredibly timely to learn about different experiences beyond what movies and media perpetuate, but at the same time these stories feel very timeless. I couldn’t help but wonder where I’d be now had I discovered many of these women earlier in life. I learned a lot about the world in the process of reading their stories and discovering their work too.

Once I finished the book, I wanted to know more about the process. Here’s a special interview with author Lindsey Tramuta (aka Lost in Cheeseland).

In addition to beautiful photography by Joann Pai, the book features illustrations by Agathe Singer.

Anne Ditmeyer: Your book was initially supposed to launch in April but was delayed until July due to Covid-19. While I’m sure that was frustrating, I can’t help but feel like the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement makes the release of this book more important and relevant than ever. As the author, do you have any thoughts on the timing of your book as it relates to this current time in history?

Lindsey Tramuta: It was all VERY unexpected but I suppose this whole year has been about unexpected events. I spent the beginning portion of confinement mourning what I had imagined the rollout of the book to be but was reassured that my publisher was willing to delay the release to summer. It was still at a time when the U.S. had yet to lock down entirely and we were entertaining some idea that this would be behind us by summer. Either way, I figured summer would be better as it would give retailers and book distributors to adjust to the COVID-related disruptions to the industry and that it would give us a chance to evaluate to what extent readers were still hungry for books. By May, I was relieved to read that after an initial drop in sales in March, book buying surged throughout the remainder of lockdown in the US and UK. I was starting to feel a bit more hopeful. This also coincided with deconfinement in France and our collective testing-the-waters in going out and piecing together a sense of normalcy.

 

Before June 2, the date of both the reopening of bars and restaurants (outdoors) and the first Black Lives Matter / Justice pour Adama demonstration in Paris, there were other pressing issues that related closely to many of the recurring themes in the book: tensions around division of labor, pay equality, precarious conditions for domestic / frontline workers, and great concern for disabled individuals. I certainly couldn’t have predicted that but it wasn’t surprising insofar as the inequalities many of the women speak about in the book are easily amplified by crisis. But with the eruption of the racial justice movement, it felt like suddenly the topics in the book around discrimination and France’s very complicated relationship to and handling of race would get a megaphone they may not have had otherwise.

 

The fact that these discussions around race and discrimination resonated far beyond U.S. borders and inspired protests and action GLOBALLY made me feel that there would be perhaps greater understanding or openness to the stories presented in my book. I felt more confident that these issues would be front of mind and the book might speak to a wider audience as a result. From a societal perspective, it finally feels like these discussions won’t be so easily swept back under the rug in France and in that sense I hope my book can be part of that awakening.
The book is broken down into activists, creators, disruptors, storytellers, “taste” makers, and visionaries.

AD: You point out “parisiennes” are often conflated with French women. One of the main goals of this book is to highlight the fact that there is a much richer view of Parisian women than the ones celebrated by the media. Why do you think people have clung to those narratives so closely?

For two reasons: one, I think it’s very uncomfortable for people to challenge what they hold to be true. In my early years in Paris, I held a rather rosy view of life and society because I was focusing on the ways in which the culture and its values were more evolved or “superior” to those in the U.S. However, I wasn’t necessarily able, at that time, to admit to the shortcomings and the cracks in the fantasy I was already starting to observe—the misogyny in politics and everyday life, the painful history of violence toward Algeria, flare-ups of antisemitism, etc. I was young but I was also still learning and hadn’t reached the maturity to feel that I could still appreciate and love this country and want to make it my home AND accept that it is imperfect and has serious improvements to make. As humans, we do this with our romantic relationships, our friendships, our careers, and our views—we create expectations based on narratives and either can’t accept when they disappoint or challenge our views or we adjust and learn and grow.

 

Then, there’s the corporate and political interests that have benefited from presenting a whitewashed image of Paris. Already we know that France has a very long history of searing debates about who is and isn’t French and the discrimination we’ve been talking about in this country is a result of that—who feels they have ownership of Frenchness and gets to decide for others what that LOOKS like.  And then you consider how a city like Paris, itself a brand, that has consistently been one of the most visited destinations in the world, has leveraged 200+ years of myth-making around its greatness and its people to promote itself and you see a formula that works. Why change what isn’t broken? That’s the sense I get: the narrow slice of Paris and its women that gets recycled and repurposed endlessly because it sells billions of dollars in products and ideas and supports the tourism economy.

 

AD: You started writing The New Parisienne back in 2018. You’re addressing anti-racism and topics of diversity and representation that feel very 2020. You mention in the intro how much of this book was inspired by conversations you had after the release of your first book The New Paris. What has your own journey into some of these subjects been like? When/how did it fully come into your awareness?

 

LT: I’d say it’s been an evolution! Some of the early conversations I had in 2017 with women whom I met for other stories I was writing or in the context of events I’ve attended were catalysts to the change I wanted to see in my own mind. I wanted to broaden the voices I was following and when you start that, you don’t stop! One person leads to another who leads to another and suddenly my worldview had far more diverse influences.

 

Since those encounters ultimately led to me pursuing this book project, it was through the research process and interviews with these women that my desire to be part of the change that is needed fully blossomed. The process led to me becoming more alert to the stories that are crucial but easily (and intentionally) dwarfed in attention by other topics, made me engaged, made me want to seek out texts and ideas and conversations on topics on which I needed to be educated.

 

AD: You have a seriously impressive collection of women in this book. How in the world did you find/discover them all? How many were new-to-you names to you that came up while working on the book? What was the curation process like?

 

LT: It was tough! I started with the women I already knew to a certain degree or knew OF and branched out from there. Many of them I had been following online for a couple of years and had a good sense of what they were about and how they were contributing to the city. I also read about some of the women, such as Sarah Sauquet and Sandra Rey, in a magazine and knew I wanted to speak with them. There was a lot of cold emailing! But the process was about highlighting a diversity of professions, backgrounds, and perspectives.

 

The book features prize wining authors, musicians, an Olympic boxer, shop owners, and more.

AD: Was it a conscious choice to make sure some women you picked weren’t born in France and may identify more as nationalities other than French? Do you think the fact that you’re an American in Paris (who now has French citizenship) played a role in those choices?

LT: Absolutely! And I do think we as foreign-born citizens of France are more sensitive to differences and the importance of representation. We also pick up on things / behaviors that natives may not.

 

AD: How do you think your role as an immigrant/expat played a role in the writing of this book? Do you think a born and bred Parisienne would be able to share the story through the same lens?

 

LT: Of course someone from Paris could do this but the question is would the French publishers WANT it? I find that the same white-dominancy in American publishing exists in France as well and that impacts what gets the green light. The enduring argument among locals that France is now importing American identity politics and it must resist this pressure to highlight “differences” goes a long way in turning editors and even writers off to the idea of tackling topics of representation.

 

AD: Is there anyone you’d add to the book—or that we should know about—that you’ve discovered since it went to print?

 

LT: Two women I would have loved to feature but whom I learned of / met after finishing the manuscript are Jacqueline Ngo Mpii of Little Africa (who is currently crowdfunding to create a cultural space in La Goutte d’Or neighborhood!) and Ruba Khoury, the chef-owner of Dirty Lemon cocktail bar who brings something really fresh and exciting to the food and beverage landscape.

 

AD: Anything else you’d like to add that readers should know about your book? 

LT: If you’re in the US, please consider ordering the book from Bookshop.org or an independent bookseller! They need our support! You can find some other options on my website: www.thenewparisienne.com.

AD: THANK YOU, LINDSEY!! MERCI BEAUCOUP for all your incredible work and telling these stories.

Portrait of the author by Joann Pai.

It’s also worth checking out Lindsey’s podcast, The New Paris where she continues to tell different stories inside Paris. Yours truly recorded an episode shortly before lockdown (episode 51 – On deeper travel experiences).

You can read more about The New Parisienne:

 

Black tourism (and beyond) in Paris

In Paris it’s easy to get lost in the picture perfect images of clichés, but there’s so much depth to this city “beyond the bubble” and images we typically are fed. In the times of Black Lives Matter, I thought it only fitting to celebrate Black tourism, history, businesses, and voices in Paris.

Even if you don’t plan to visit Paris soon, I hope this post can help inspire you to explore another layer of the city and travel vicariously. These are people, businesses, creatives, and experts whose work I’ve discovered along the way that I find inspiring from their approaches, business models, and stories they tell. In no particular order…

Kévi Donat of Le Paris Noir offers Black history walks in both French and English specializing in stories which are typically invisible. His current street tour offerings explore La Rive Gauche and the Pioneers (Pantheon to Saint Germain de Près), Pigalle and La Goutte d’Or (Pigalle to Chateau Rouge), and Le Paris Noir (Pantheon to Chateau-Rouge), and he also offers a tour looking at the Pantheon and abolition, and another explores the (de)colonized Louvre.

 

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Yaqui (short for Jacqueline) is the French author of the city guide Little Africa: Afrique à Paris (available in French and English). She also offers experiences including Made in Goutte d’Or (a neighborhood to the east of Sacre Coeur she describes as a crossroads of African fashion, design and spices), Gentlemen Fashion Tour, and a Taste of African food tour. You can listen to her talk about the future of tourism after a pandemic on The New Paris podcast.

Yannick is an American has called Paris home since 2007 and runs My Parisian Life: your guide to life in Paris. She offers custom itineraries, tours, hand delivered Paris foodie bags for picnics, monthly meet ups, and event planning and experiences. She also has her own YouTube channel capturing her adventures around Paris.

 

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Maya is a Californian turned Parisienne entrepreneur who runs La Vie Locale, her company which helps provides a range of services from event and trip planning, to administrative and mentor support, to content creation for individuals and brands to make their trips and moves to Paris more seamless. Her YouTube channel Almost Parisienne highlights adventures around Paris along with food lover and style addict friend Hanna.

 

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Jennifer Padjemi is a French independent journalist who writes everything from Paris to pop culture and lifestyle stories in both French and English. She’s a contributor to the Washington Post’s digital travel section By The Way, where she wrote A Local’s Guide to Paris.

 

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Tanisha Townsend is the wine and spirits educator behind Girl Meets Glass and  host of the podcast Wine School Dropout. Girl Meets Glass aims to empower individuals with the knowledge of wine (& spirits too) so they will feel knowledgeable about their specific tastes and confident in their purchasing choices. She also teaches wine at universities.

 

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Youssef Fontana and his brother Mamadou founded Maison Chateau Rouge, one of my favorite Parisian fashion brands a few years ago in the Chateau Rouge neighborhood of Paris. It’s founded on community values and social responsibility. The brand has gone on to have major collaborations with Monoprix (like a French version of Target) and even made a special shoe with Nike. While it’s easy to get lost in the the brand as something hip and trendy, the brand was founded with a secondary mission, Les Oiseaux Migrateurs is the non-profit wing that supports small businesses in Africa.

 

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WAX in the City is a documentary exploring fashion through African wax fabric, while taking the viewer on a trip around Europe and Africa. I caught it at the Nigerian Film Festival in Paris, and now it’s available on Vimeo On Demand. (I’m not sure if it’s still valid but there was a free code on their FB page).

(There are also countless retoucheries—tailor shops—in the Chateau Rouge neighborhood if you’re ever looking to have your own clothes made. And that’s where you find all the fabric shops full of amazing and colorful African wax fabric patterns can be found.)

Nothing But the Wax is a French media site founded by Chayet Chienin that celebrates and gives a voice to the untold stories of afrodescendent youth and Black millennials. The blog turned media site is in French and English, but not all of the same posts appear in both languages. (Chayet also offers African Fashion in the City through Airbnb Experiences.)

Jessi aka Etta Vee is an American who found her voice as an artist in Paris (and recently moved to Strasbourg) and has grown her company into an international brand. Her work is colorful, fun, and full of joy and appears on walls (as paintings and murals), products in shops, clothes, and more.

 

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Carole Fredericks was an African American singer who made it big in the French music scene and became a member of the Fredericks Goldman Jones trio (listen on Spotify) before branching out to a solo career, which ended abruptly after she died of a heart attack after a concert in Senegal. I only became aware of her work after a chance encounter with her sister and brother in law in the Paris post office. My helping them with the stamp machines became an introduction to Carole’s work, and a friendship. Carole’s sister Connie runs a foundation in her sister’s name which uses her sister’s music and story to teach French. (The foundation website is currently down for a revamp, but linking it in hopes its up again soon.)

Les Déterminés is an entrepreneurship program founded by Moussa Camara which seeks to provide opportunities for all, particularly to those in less favorable suburbs of Paris and rural areas (and now has expanded to other cities around France). I first discovered Moussa’s work on cultural analyst and marketing expert Gregory Pouy’s podcast Vlan (episode in French).

More reading:

  • Kasia put together a blog post of other Black owned businesses in Paris.
  • Messy Nessy Chic explored the “other” lost generation of Black American artists in Paris.
  • While not Paris specific, Travel Noire is a digital media company serving millennials of the African Diaspora that uses inspired content to help discerning travelers, discover, plan and experience new destinations.
  • We Are Black and Abroad is a travel and lifestyle company highlighting the Black experience drive to explore, embrace, and empower.
  • Be Girl World is a Philly-based organization that empowers teenage girls through global education and travel. bGw challenges girls to think beyond their neighborhood, dream bigger than their city limits, and create possibilities outside their country borders. Each cohort spends two years in the program, culminating in an international trip.

 

This list only brushes the surface. Please help me build it out. I invite you to share names, businesses, links, and a sentence or two about Black businesses in travel, and in Paris in the comments below.

Even if we can’t travel in traditional ways at the moment, I encourage you to do some digging and see how you can support the tourism industry, be it supporting a business through buying products, discovering online experiences, or something we haven’t considered yet. (Even if you don’t see an offer, sometimes the best ideas come from [potential] clients inquiring about a service. Who knows they may be able to create custom offers…)

Also, keep in mind we can all support our local economies and learn more about the places we live—be it Paris, or anywhere in the world. I for one have a lot I could learn about the Black experience and history in Paris.

Black Lives Matter: How to be an ally

African American poet Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

While I can’t pretend to fully understand the weight that Black people are feeling right now, if you pause to listen and read, I see that they’re hurting, they’re not OK, they’re tired, and even feel numb. What, at the surface, was sparked by the murder of George Floyd is only one blip on a larger, deeper, exhausting history. Right now they’re also aware of who is speaking up, and who is silent.

I’ve never considered myself an activist, but if it’s a matter of language, what I do see myself as is an advocate, ally, and amplifier. It’s why I felt the need—and drive—to write this post. This post is not about making me feel good—in fact, it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever written. In that respect, it was a reminder that there is no progress without effort.

This post is my attempt to explain a time in history—one that needs rewriting, from truthfully acknowledging a past and present rife with systematic oppression and bias, to how we move forward, together. I share my own journey where I know I have already had mis-steps, but I have a voice and a platform, so this is my plea for a more compassionate world. To do that we need to become allies.

Here’s my basic breakdown to becoming an ally:

  1. Acknowledge. (Privilege. The situation. That you may not understand everything.)
  2. Educate yourself. (Listen. Do the work. Learn what you can.)
  3. Advocate and amplify. (Do what you can to raise the voices of others.)

Words by Scott Woods.

ACKNOWLEDGE

Are you not following the news? Don’t feel the need to follow? Just want to “go back to normal”? Staying quiet? Flippantly don’t think it’s a big deal and want to go on with your life? Do you feel exhausted by what you’re seeing and feel the urge to stop looking at the news and take a mental health break? These are all indicators that you have privilege. Not everyone has the luxury to put on blinders or brush it aside.

What was the moment when you realized you had a certain privilege [because of your skin color]? Can you pinpoint it to a moment, or was it a gradual build? For me, it was the latter. It was Twitter and shifting conversations in the design world that started to open my eyes. I’d eavesdrop on conversations that would open my eyes to other perspectives I hadn’t considered. I expanded the comments and read the reactions. This was rarely anything I would have learned in school, but life lessons of the lived.

I started to learn that what we see represented isn’t the only story, but also what is absent and ignored. In text books. In what we’re taught. In the media.  Serious subjects are layered and nuanced, so even topics of biases were rarely touched on in my official studies.

Context is key. It may mean catching a comment you don’t understand up close, and then zooming out to understand the big picture. That’s what we’re in right now. None of this makes sense without context.

If you feel yourself being attacked recognize if you feel defensive. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel like this?” Pause. Don’t jump to conclusions. (Full disclosure, I had a moment of defensiveness when working on this post. I was stubborn and didn’t fully listen to a friend with a different perspective. It took sleeping on it to realize there was more merit to what she was saying than I gave her credit for. This process will be uncomfortable.)

Acknowledge what it feels like when you feel judged. Now flip the script and focus on where and when you may feel judgement towards others. Is it justified? Was it learned? Were you even aware you do it? Be aware that not all racism is blatant. 

Acknowledge what it feels like when someone makes an assumption about you. Now check which assumptions you’re making about others. Have you ever been followed in a store based on your skin color? Or had people move away from you on the side walk [because of the color of your skin]?  A friend of mine shared this—something I only learned about now.

Acknowledge your own hardships and what it felt like. Acknowledge that others have their own hardships that aren’t always visible. What if you had hardships at EVERY step of your career because of the color of your skin? And what if you feared for the life and safety of your father, brother, and nephew as they went through daily life? Keep your own entitlement in check. It’s not a competition of who had it harder. Even if there are factors in your life that make it hard, your skin color isn’t one of them.

Ultimately this isn’t about you, it’s about gaining empathy for others. I’d like to think in reminding ourselves that we have feelings, we can start to appreciate that others have feelings too. Through asking questions—rather focusing on answers—we can begin to see and understand the world through someone else’s lens.

In order to do this we must LISTEN. Not pretend to listen, and not nod like we’re listening while we really are planning what to say next, but REALLY LISTEN. Even if it’s uncomfortable. It may take some time to sit with ideas. Keep asking questions, and asking yourself questions.

It can be hard to discover we’re imperfect humans, but acknowledging it is a start.

1-screen from Courtney Ahn’s guide to white privilege.

 

EDUCATE YOURSELF
There’s this strange unspoken assumption that we learn everything we need to learn in school, and then we’re set. There’s nothing further from the truth. School is only the beginning of our education.

As adults it can feel embarrassing to not know something so it’s easier to cover it up than admit that we don’t know. School doesn’t teach us that it’s OK to admit when we don’t know an answer, that asking questions is a valuable step, and ultimately, that as individuals we can learn anything we don’t know.

We grow up with mental models that are informed by our environment and the context in which we are raised. I have fond memories of police officers coming to my elementary school in Kansas. They were nice and friendly, and never forceful. I have an idea of reality that is very different from the majority of disturbing coverage I see on the news. Our ideas don’t always match reality. (And yes, I believe there are lots of good officers out there too—and their stories are being shared online too; but they are not the ones getting away with murder—literally.) Pay attention to when our assumptions and expectations don’t play out in reality.

We are never done learning, and honestly it’s embarrassing that I’m only now learning some of these lessons. It’s also important to acknowledge that sometimes you may need to unlearn what you always thought was true.

It’s easy to get defensive to protect our view points. But this is not about us. The statement “I’m not racist,” becomes about you and not the other person. First, acknowledge racism happens on a spectrum and that it seeps into every aspect of our lives in various, often subtle, ways. Realize you may be offending someone unintentionally. Flip the script to ask, “How might what I say be unintentionally interpreted as racist?” And invite others to correct you if something is out of line. It’s scary being wrong, but it’s even scarier losing your life to police brutality because of the color of your skin.

Matt Crump and Jay Grady reimagined the visual of racism on a spectrum.

And yes, ALL lives do matter, but currently not ALL people are treated like they do so that’s why the conversation has to change, and focus on how Black Lives Matter. Jane Elliot asked the question, “If you, as a white person, would be happy to receive the same treatment that our Black citizens do in this society, please stand.” She asked this question as a way to point out the fact that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for yourself, yet why are you willing to accept or allow it for others?

This is not the time to put the onus on someone else—particularly a POC—to educate you about what’s going on. It’s time to do the work yourself. You can ask for help. Here are resources for you if you don’t know where to start:

How to diversify your daily life by Oh Happy Dani.

ADVOCATE AND AMPLIFY

Have you ever read a book and noticed how many “experts” are white, affluent, males? It’s a lot. When you start to pay attention it’s actually mind boggling. This doesn’t make them inherently better, yet their placement and prominence allows them to ride the wave. I invite you to start paying attention to representation and inclusion (this includes, POC [people of color], gender, age, and less abled). Who is present, but also who is absent?

Did you know the #MeToo movement was started by a Black woman long before it started to get mainstream media attention? Tarana Burke was behind it all, yet most of the media I see tends to celebrate a white female celebrity. And while her role was crucial in the spread, how often was she crediting Burke in her own rise to visibility? Now is a key moment to remember to not take the spotlight from others, but use our voices and channels to amplify other voices.

The following examples are people who exemplify being an ally long before the past week.

Mimi Moffie via People of Craft

I invite you too to think about who you surround yourself with—in real life and online? Does everyone have the same color skin as you? Do you follow different voices online? What kind of books do you read? (What gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation do the authors have? The characters have?) Now is the time to reach beyond our bubble of comfort.

It’s important to listen. To stay informed. To donate. But one of the most important roles we can play is advocating for and amplifying Black voices. This is only the beginning and we’re on a long journey. Consider the role you can play. Can you speak up to your employer? Speak up in an organization you’re part of? Suggest a book or article by a POC in your book club? Have a hard conversation?

I regularly see the statement “I have work to do” shared by white friends. It’s a reminder that this is not a flick of a switch. It will take time, and effort. And we may get things wrong along the way. But it’s not going to magically disappear. No one said work is easy, but when we do work at something, it is far more rewarding. And we have to commit to the work, not just make it an empty statement to comfort ourselves. This is not designed to make us feel good, but hopefully we can make somebody who is exhausted from a lifetime of this fight feel better in this time—like people are on their side.

In my own journey of learning, please share what resources have been most helpful for you. I’m still learning to speak on this topic, so please correct me if you find anything offensive (specifically asking POC). If you’re still struggling to understand what’s going on, ask questions, and I’ll do my best to find an answer for you.

 

It’s Bananas. A CreativeMornings journey.

I’ve been invited to read the CreativeMornings manifesto at their NYC chapter event on Friday. Things like this don’t happen everyday, so I made a banana map to commemorate the occasion, and the journey!

This graphic may just be the most extra thing I’ve ever done. (No, no one asked me to do this.) I took a cue from Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka @swissmiss, and the founder of the free, global breakfast series CreativeMornings) who keeps a drawer full of confetti for work. It was Tina who slipped into my DMs early in quarantine inquiring if I would be interested in offering a virtual version of their FieldTrips they’d been testing out. I said yes, even though I didn’t totally know what I would do. (It would go on to include mapping your Covid commute on a banana, inspired by a student in my Skillshare class 7 years ago).

Little did I know Tina and the entire CreativeMornings team would show up at my Make A Map! FieldTrip. Not only did they show up, but they had a blast. In Tina’s words, “My team LOVED your FieldTrip! LOVED! Anne is so genuine, warm, and good at this. She is all heart. Consider me impressed!”

Also surprising was that having a few hundred people draw maps on bananas (or oranges, or lemons, or sweet potatoes, or toilet paper tubes), would also in turn provide me a confidence boost in my own work. (Check out #MakeAMapFieldTrip on Twitter + Instagram to see some of the creative magic that came out of my FieldTrips).

It all became a good reminder to HAVE FUN and it’s possible to find—and bring—joy even in hard times. Without leaving my apartment, my journey connected me to so many inspiring humans around the world, and tomorrow I’ll “travel” to NYC to read the CM manifesto during their chapter event.

It’s such an honor to have been invited, and by someone who has inspired so much of how I approach work (again, make it FUN). It will only be a minute of my life, yet will be the largest stage/audience I’ll be in front of. I definitely didn’t take a traditional path to get here, so it felt like the perfect occasion to celebrate that.

Tomorrow’s headliner is Jocelyn Glei, who is one of my favorite voices on the internet, namely through her podcast “HurrySlowly” which is an ongoing reminder that it’s OK to slow down. There will also be live music, and I have no doubt the CM team has cooked up other fun surprises.

All CreativeMornings events around the world are free. You can sign up on the CreativeMornings website to join live tomorrow. The main room is long sold out, but join the waitlist to get access to the YouTube livestream. You can always catch a replay later too.

 

You can find more of my work on my Biz Blog, and weekly newsletter, Connect the Dots. You can also find me @pretavoyager on Twitter and Instagram.

Unlocking Paris: Remembering confinement

56 days in confinement and today marks the start of deconfinement (a word my computer spell check does not recognize). If I’m honest my life won’t change much except the fact that I’ll no longer need a permission slip to leave the apartment.

The virus isn’t gone. We still play a role in keeping essential workers safe. Restaurants have not reopened, with the exception of take away and delivery (note: please try to order directly through the restaurant wherever possible so they don’t lose money to the 3rd party apps). There’s no word on when cultural institutions will reopen, when I’ll next go to the cinema, or to the gym. For now I’ll keep getting my exercise in the comforts of my living room, hoping that my floorboards stay where they belong.

Logistically we need masks when we go into stores and shops. Starting this week you’ll need an attestation (permission slip) to ride the metro, proving it’s required for work. I’ve come to realize that 46-day transit strike this winter was good training for a post-confinement world. We’re not allowed more than 100km without a valid reason, majorly curbing travel. (As it stands I don’t see myself hopping on a plane for at least a year).

Schools for young kids are reopening, but classes will be split into smaller groups, who will attend twice a week. I haven’t heard about the reopening of parks, but some streets will become pedestrianized, or at least will lose some parking in favor of enlarging sidewalks. I currently love walking outside and looking at everyone and realizing, “you’re my neighbor.” I’m hoping that post-confinement allows me to continue to walk down the middle of the street, a favorite pastime I developed while in confinement, as I embraced the spirit of my city as a living movie set.  (I shared more on that sentiment in this piece HiP Paris compiled about the first thing Parisians will do after lockdown.)

While it may seem strange to get nostalgic about lockdown, a lot of really good things happened during lockdown too; growth in unexpected ways. I put together a list of 10 things I want to remember about lockdown.

  1. The creativity was insane. “Creative constraints” at their finest. I loved seeing people all around the world reinventing simple tasks, and having fun with it. My friend Emily and I pretended to be “Slackbot” for each other every day during our daily check ins over text. 🤖 Yes, we became human bots! (John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” episodes each week did such an amazing job of capturing all of this.)
  2. It’s possible to smile, laugh, and find joy even in dark/hard times. The two are not mutually exclusive. The former helps get us through the later and makes us stronger. We can help rise each other up on days one of us is down.
  3. Small things can amuse me to no end. We can easily overcomplicate things, so this was a good reminder to find pleasure in the simplest things. Allow yourself to not take everything so seriously.
  4. Showing up and starting is the biggest battle, but it helps to have a reason to. Every weekday morning I started “commuting to London” for Writer’s Hour where a bunch of strangers show up and write together. Knowing you’re not alone is so powerful and the chat box helped keep us accountable.
  5. Good habits can serve you well. I didn’t let myself snooze on week days, instead, waking up at 7:10. It was a habit I’d spent years perfecting, and I wasn’t about to let it go now. During lockdown I started doing a 1-min plank + 20 push-ups every day. It was the only thing I did every day besides brush my teeth. It made me feel stronger inside and out, and took a whopping 2-minutes out of my day. For a long time I rebelled against too much structure, but in time alone, I saw how it can serve me well.
  6. Journaling is incredibly therapeutic and a great way to start the day. Do it long hand and don’t edit yourself. I plan on keeping this. It helps process. (And was even the first version of this post where I just vomited out any and all ideas.)
  7. You can do/achieve things in crazy contexts. For years I’ve wanted to host people and have friends over more often. It makes me laugh so hard that I did this over and over while in quarantine! I even managed to launch my own series of workshops—something I’ve wanted to do for far too long—in quarantine (I ran Write Your Own Rules SEVEN times and my Make a Map! CreativeMornings virtual FieldTrip TWICE; on top of it I did a couple other new workshops for clients, and am part of the ReWilding Virtual Retreat that kicks off this week.)
  8. You can connect with strangers and meet new friends even in lockdown! I attended several parties where I only knew the host and was in awe of what a nice time I had chatting with people around the world who I didn’t know, and didn’t know me. I also hosted a virtual apéro where two friends met, and one ended up baking a birthday cake for the other the next day.
  9. Connection is key. It’s fun to connect people who don’t know each other but should. Lockdown was a good reminder we’re all looking for connection. I also managed to fit in a high school reunion with friends who haven’t all been together since college, and caught up with a cousin I hadn’t seen in over a decade. It turns out that Zoom has a lot of cool features to help facilitate connection too.
  10. Be your full self. I love how quarantine removed the shields of perfection, making us all a bit more real and vulnerable. It’s how we were able to better connect with each other. When we aren’t our full, true self, that’s when we get in trouble. It’s OK to go a bit crazy. Heck, I made a few hundred people draw maps on bananas—and they LOVED it!!

Over the weekend on Instagram I posed the question, “What would you title this chapter of your life?” as part of my “Quarantine Questions” series (in case you missed it, one of the ways I kept myself amused was painting my nails a different color ever week!). The responses were wonderful and wide reaching, providing a reminder that this experience was not the same for everyone. I shared my ideas in the post, but ultimately I ended up with the title, “Anything is possible” to embody the experience for me.

Quarantine was strangely full for me. With fewer distractions and phone scrolling (a habit I had to do a lot of work on early on), I still found it hard to get to bed before midnight despite rarely leaving the apartment. It wasn’t a race to do more or fill a weird time with something to do, but days passed strangely fast. I wanted to read more but never could find the focus (or maybe I really just wasn’t excited about the book I was reading). Quarantine was really about saying YES to opportunity, taking risks in the ways I could, and helping bring a bit of joy and positive spirit to those who were having a harder time. I was able to use my training as a self employed person who already worked from home and put it to good use.

It’s wild to think that two and a half months ago I never would have imagined I’m writing this post today. As hard as it is, I still have faith that the world will come out stronger from having lived through this shared experience together.

Even though we’re getting unlocked today, the journey is not over. Please stay safe. Respect distance. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Repeat.

The last page of my “official” quarantine journal. Perhaps I’ll keep it going. Maybe I’ll let it go. Time will tell…

To stay up to date on what’s happening in France, my favorite Twitter accounts are from reporters @john_lichfield, @kimwillsher1, and@PedderSophie if you want synthesized reporting in English. You can also stream France24 (English channel on YouTube).

When Cookies Fly. And other tales of staying entertained during quarantine.

This blog post was adapted from my weekly Connect the Dots inspiration newsletter, with some new stuff at the end. 

Every week I notice new themes emerge. This week was all about windows. And cookies. Chocolate chip to be exact. 🍪

While I’ve known all along, what lockdown has reminded me is that I have lots of dear friends with birthdays in April. While there were Zoom parties—which included a planning a surprise 40th for a friend with guests who didn’t all speak the same language—only one friend was close enough (aka within my 1km radius I’m allowed to venture into) to bake cookies for. Her sister and I hatched a plan and made a special delivery.

While I gladly would have given my friend 4 dozen cookies in normal time, that felt a bit obsessive in quarantine. Instead I decided to share and make what I dubbed “cookie bombs” which consisted of 5 cookies wrapped in foil. Besides the birthday girl and her sister, the next recipient would be my neighbor across the street.

{My no frills “cookie bomb.” I forgot to take a picture of the cookies, but I used the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. Yes, I import chocolate chips from the states when I’m home.}

I still don’t know her name, or anything about her, but she’s my age-ish (probably a little younger). We smile and clap together nightly 8pm, making her the human being I see the most these days. Yet, she’s still a stranger. On Monday night after the applause ended, I yelled across our narrow street—en français—and said, I made cookies, can I throw you some?

Now, I’ve always been one to confuse the French just by the nature I do things my own way, and this was no different. I said, I can go down to the street if they fall, and she agreed, that may be the better option. Still, I insisted, let’s just try and see what happens when I throw them. And so I did. And she caught them!!!! IT. WAS. EPIC. Mission accomplished. 🙌 [See top image.]

The next day, I still had cookies, so I ventured to my friend Zoe‘s where she would surely be hanging out by the window with her kids. When I came with my special delivery 5-year old Paul wanted to show me his basket system—which they developed for lockdown play dates. He expertly lowered it, and inside were two drawings for me. (Insert: heart melt 💗). It took two tries with the basket, but the cookies quickly made it into the mouths upstairs!

We decided it would be fun to try a different approach for the second “cookie bomb.” Still on my high from the previous evening’s toss I thought I could throw it to them in the window with ease. Alas, my aim was off and it hit the wall to the left of the window, then promptly got stuck in the gutter. Mom Zoë to the rescue grabbed a stick to dislodge it, so it landed in my hands again. Toss two was a success!

Still with 30 minutes on the clock before my permission slip ran out, I headed over to two more friends where I’m pleased to announce my aim was spot on! (Also, grateful for the fact that my friends in the ‘hood happen to live on lower floors.)

In addition to baking and throwing cookies, I wanted to share a few more “activities” that have kept me busy and given structure to my days. It’s hard to believe we’re entering week four of quarantine, but these few things have kept me company.

Starting last week I “commute” to London every morning at 9am (Paris time) for Writer’s Hour hosted by London Writer’s Salon (my friend Matt Trinetti is one of the founders). The concept is simple: Show up, set an intention for the day, they provide a prompt if you need something to work on, and write for 50 minutes with dozens of other writers who are joining on Zoom. At the end they check in on how the session went and hear from a few voices before sharing a “check out” word. If you want to hang out for a few more minutes Matt and Parul make themselves available. It gets my day of to a fantastic start and gets me in the groove (and off my phone)! They also host of a lot of great author events + masterclasses.

Monday through Friday, I’ve been following Wendy MacNaughton’s #DrawTogether daily drawing classes for kids (of all ages). She goes live on Instagram (@wendymac) every day at 10 PST, but I end up watching a replay of the video. They’re all on YouTube now, so it’s never too late to join the party. It’s ironic, but I think these classes have been so helpful in my own online workshops and facilitation. Wendy’s class is great fun!

Three days a week children’s book author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers has been reading his books during Stay at Home Story Time from his home in Belfast. In addition to reading his stories, he also gives insights into the creative process, or includes an another activity related to the book, like making paper airplanes, or how to draw a Huey (one of his characters). I’m endlessly inspired getting inside the minds of these creatives. He goes live on Instagram (@oliverjeffers) at 7pm GMT, and has posted all of the videos on his website. I very much enjoy having a bedtime story on those nights!

The other thing that I’ve continued to do from the start is spend 1 minute doing plank (strengthening those core muscles) and do 20 push ups a day. These activities add up to two minutes which make them highly manageable. I do have to make a concerted to move these days, but still loving my CMG Sports Club Facebook Live classes (Florence, Marie, and Manu are my favorite teachers!). I rewatch a lot of the videos, but I find tuning in live is how I get the best workout. Strange, but I really have to make an effort to move these days.

My latest new activity is attending CreativeMornings virtual FieldTrips! I’m learning all kinds of cool things from people all around the world. (Yep, this is where I hosted my Make A Map! FieldTrip.)

Then every evening before bed I add my doodles and notes to my quarantine journal. I treat it like a travel journal, except where I never leave the house! 😂 Every Monday I post my spread from the previous week using the hashtag #PAVquarantinejournal.

So overall, I’ve stayed pretty consistent with my week one in quarantine. If anything, I’ve tried to prune where possible. I’m curious, what activities have you made part of your quarantine routine? How do you find yourself getting creative in unexpected ways?

Oh, and by the way….

I’m hosting two more rounds of my Write Your Own Rules Workshop this week: Thursday, April 16th from 6-8pm CET (Paris) and Saturday, April 18th from 10am-noon CET (Paris). Sign up on Eventbrite to grab your spot! (This will be the last time I’m offering it at this rate.)

 

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