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.)


I’m Hosting Virtual Workshops!

One of my goals for 2020 was to host more creative workshops. I’ve done so much teaching online in recent years, my goal was to do more in person. Well, sometimes life comes at you fast!

Before “the world changed” I’d started offering some different workshops including design thinking and creative collaboration workshops for Masters programs. The goal moving into the year was to reach companies, and also host my own. To be honest the latter felt quite distant.

One of the pieces I find myself often giving my coaching clients is to “start before you’re ready.” Funny, how sometimes it’s so much easier to tell someone else to do than do it yourself. Ha!

“Creative constraints” are another thing I live by in my work. If I was still living in the US I highly doubt I’d be doing what I’m doing today. It was the painful constraints of French bureaucracy that forced me to think outside the box and get creative. Was it always fun in the process? No. In fact, sometimes it was agonizing, but when you overcome a challenge, that’s when the rewards follow!

Anyway, that brings us back to workshops. After I took an awesome and fun self defense class through Pretty Deadly this winter (SO fun and empowering), the opportunity arose for me to host my own “Pretty Deadly presents” workshop (something they’ve been doing in Berlin for awhile, but they only just launched in Paris).

Of course my first reaction was fear, and to say no. What in the world would I teach?! There’s too much. But then I sat with it before responding immediately and thought about my goal to facilitate more workshops. Sure teaching in a dance studio would be very different from my previous experience, but once again, there’s a “creative constraint” (and a refreshing change from the size of rooms I typically have to work with when working with schools—Paris is small, y’all!).

So I said YES! Then I figured out how to do it. My Mastermind group was there to cheer me on, and encouraged me to adapt something I already had done rather than reinventing the wheel. (Great advice, by the way.) The next day I launched it! It was selling out fast. Then we all went into quarantine.

The natural response was to cancel it, but instead, I decided to reach out to attendees and get their thoughts and see if they’d be open to doing it online. After all, I figured we could all use something to look forward to these days. Much to my delight, several of them responded right away saying YES, let’s do it! And no one cancelled.

So here we are! I have not one, but TWO upcoming workshops that I’m super excited about!

The first is Write Your Own Rules where we’ll work through exercises to create your own guiding principles to help you in decision making moving forward. You’ll leave with a zine of your own, and even learn an easy self defense move from Liz, who is an instructor in Paris (trust me, this is not your typical self defense—it’s smart, clever, and integrates storytelling, keeping it fun). (My attitude these days is to be open to new experiences—so far it’s treating me well!).

Write Your Own Rules is this Friday, April 3rd from 6-8pm CET (Paris time). There are only a couple spaces let, so sign up on Eventbrite ASAP!

UPDATE! New dates have been announced!

My second upcoming event is a Creative Mornings Virtual FieldTrip. Creative Mornings is known for their free talk series that happens around the world every month (you can watch them all online after the fact). The FieldTrips were something hosted locally, but now they’ve started offering virtual ones too! The possibilities are endless…

Yours truly will be hosting Make a Map! on Thursday, April 9th from 9:30-10:30am EST (NYC time). These events tend to fill up fast too, and this is open worldwide, so don’t delay. (I know people who are brining their work teams to do it together!). It too shall be fun! And my biggest group experience to date!


P.S. If you’re catching this post after the fact or the workshops are sold out, sign up for my weekly Connect the Dots newsletter to be the first to know about the next openings + check out the workshops page of anneditmeyer.com! 💌

Putting things in perspective: STAY HOME

Here’s the message I sent family this week. I wanted to share it here if anyone else is struggling to convince friends and family to STAY HOME.

STAY HOME + let’s hop on a call soon :)

The long version:

Hello family (and practically family)!

A quick note to say hello from week 2 of lockdown in Paris. I haven’t left the house since Friday (and it was a few days before that), and I don’t expect to leave until Friday (or later) when I need new provisions. In order to leave the house I have to have an attestation (permission slip—I hand write mine, but they can be printed). The fine is up to 135€ if you’re caught without one.

I haven’t seen any friends in person since my birthday (which I decided to postpone and only saw a few that day). But that doesn’t keep us from having fun on video calls—coffees, happy hours, meals, and just to chat and keep each other sane. Overall we laugh A LOT! I’ve caught up with new friends, and old ones, and joined virtual co-working sessions with strangers around the world. The great thing about all being in the same situation is I can just say, “Are you free for coffee or lunch tomorrow?” and we know it’s online. I’m easily amused. 😂

My “new normal” social life became so busy, I even became social-ed out by Saturday! Thankfully I have a couple puzzles lying around to slow things down. I even attend gym classes on Facebook Live! Today I used milk cartons as my weights. It’s a time to get creative and be resourceful.

My favorite tradition has become 8pm when we all go to our windows for a standing ovation for hospital workers for a minute. (Perk of Paris living, you’re all very close to hear each other!) It’s quite touching and all the neighbors do it (alas, half my neighborhood seems to have escaped to the French countryside). By the end of this my goal is to be friends with my neighbor across the street.

I know this isn’t a fun time to be inside, but as a country on the front end I know it’s so important. Reports from hospital workers are terrifying, and the lack of supplies (no masks or gels) is a worldwide phenomenon. Thankfully, people/companies/industries are starting to step up (LVMH is converting perfume factories to make gel, and also will be producing masks; Evian has produced bottles for gel, etc. Tim Ferriss has other ideas of what companies can do).

I write you this as an update, but also a request to please STAY HOME (and to share with anyone who may need the reminder). I know it’s not fun. I know people with the virus (ironically the first one was in the US) and that’s even less fun.

Really this is about looking out for the health care systems that were not designed to handle a WORLDWIDE pandemic, and the medical professionals who are risking their own lives to save the lives of others. I have friends with cancer and auto-immune disorders who are at higher risk going into this situation. In Italy they’ve had to make decisions about who lives, and who does not. There aren’t enough ventilators to go around is another part of the problem.

But it’s also grocery store workers who are risking their lives for minimum wage. The moment it all hit me was my last trip to the grocery story, where the sign outside read, “A huge thank you, you are heros!” which is so true. The simple act of going to the grocery store is more anxiety inducing for me than staying inside all day.

In Paris, we’re currently on lockdown for 15 days, but if I’m honest I think it will be more like 45. I’ve started journaling to document the experience, and challenge myself to think like a traveler during this unprecedented time. I take online art classes for kids, and attend online story time where authors read books. The creativity is endless!

I do envy people with larger homes, backyards, and views that include trees or nature, but I’m making do with my wee 34m2 / 365sf apartment. (If you want to spice up your own quarantine experience, you can stay in one room of your home for the next week 😉 ).

Finally, this is all to say, I’m home ALL THE TIME NOW. While my days are surprisingly full, I’m here and it’d be fun to hop on a call and catch up in the not too distant future. (There are also platforms for games + having Netflix parties FYI too! Happy to advise on any and all).
Please remind others to STAY HOME!

Big [virtual] hugs!

P.S. If You still need convincing I have loads of resources I’m happy to send your way. This will not come to an end until we’re all in it together.
P.S.S. When you do need to go out for a grocery one, keep at least 1 meter distance from others, and ideally don’t go more than once a week. Wash your hands as soon as you get home + frequently. (I have friends who are disinfecting purchases from the outside, but I have not reached that level.)


The New Paris podcast

A week ago Thursday (March 12), I sat down with Lindsey Tramuta of Lost in Cheeseland, The New Paris, and the forthcoming The New Parisienne (out April 21) to record an episode for The New Paris podcast. We took this picture before “social distancing” was even a term in our lexicon. It was the day we woke up to the news that Tom Hanks had COVID-19 coronavirus.

That was NINE days ago. We NEVER imagined we’d be where we are today. In quarantine. Locked in our apartments. Having to have a paper attestation (permission slip) to leave the house for essential items. All for what will surely be much longer than the initial 15 days that were announced. (The world is warning us, please take it seriously and STAY HOME.)

We knew we wanted to address the virus, but I was on to talk about tourism, and specifically overtourism, which is only slightly ironic at the moment given we’re in the exact opposite situation at the moment. While I’m sure so much of the conversation sounds wildly out of date, I still stand by so much of what I had to say about the future of our cities, how we can travel in deeper and more meaningful ways, and determining our own priorities. I even got to give a shout out to my dad, his love of trains, and work on PTC (Positive Train Control).

Have a listen!

I brought my little gnome to the studio join us for the conversation as a reminder to have a fun conversation. You probably won’t even believe me, but on the way to the studio I even spotted Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet!!! I swear it’s true. It seemed like fate and a sign for good things to come! (Or perhaps like in Amélie, a reminder that gnomes can help us travel vicariously for now.)

We may be stuck inside, but that means you can catch up on The New Paris podcast, and all your favorite podcasts (here are mine) and check out some new ones.

The world has vastly chanced, but life still goes on, and Lindsey’s book, The New Parisienne, comes out April 21st (stay tuned for another post on that!). For now you can pre-order it (support all authors these days!). And yes, I definitely embarrassed Lindsey at the end of the episode, but I’m a full believer in “shine theory“. More than ever I think we need to do all we can to help others shine because when others shine, we all shine.

If you’re looking for a bit of vicarious travel to Paris you can check out my Navigate Paris online to plan your future trip (sign up for lifetime access). I have blog posts planned (quarantine days fill up surprisingly fast!), but for now Instagram (@pretavoyager) is the best place to see my latest thoughts on what’s going out and what it’s like to experience it in Paris (we all look forward to the 8pm applause for medical professionals from our windows!).

I also write a weekly newsletter called Connect the Dots where I share thoughts and inspiration—something I’m reading, watching, and listening to each week. Check the archives for loads of ideas!

Paris in Lockdown. A letter from the future.

Greetings from the future.

Well, I’m not sure if it’s the future, or the new normal, or what to call it besides weird.

Today, March 17th, St. Patrick’s day is Paris’s first full official day in FULL confinement, although lockdown started a few days ago. What does that mean? We’re required to stay indoors. The only reasons we can leave are for groceries, the pharmacy, in case of emergency, or a required job where we can’t work remotely. Still, in order to leave the house I need to download (or hand write) an “attestation” from the government website with permission to leave the house. Military forces are expected to be out to enforce it, along with a curfew.

Last night even received my first text message from the government.

In his address last night President Emmanuel Macron repeated multiple times that “We are at war.” It’s not with another country, or an enemy, but an invisible virus. He made it clear that hospitals, doctors, and pharmacists would be top priority in terms of receiving masks and the provisions we need. For the first time economic hardships were addressed as businesses of all sizes hemorrhage money. No one should worry about resources at this time. The state is putting measures into place to make sure everyone is cared for, including a fund for freelancers. Macron also reminded us not to panic, and there is no need.

(If you speak French, I highly remember watching his speech—it’s not an easy one, but he rose to the occasion; you can also watch it dubbed on France24. France24 is international news from a French perspective. I find it a refreshing change from US media. They have channels in French, English, and Arabic, and it never feels fear mongering or sensational. You can stream it live on YouTube too.)

My friend Emily (@eclairereese on IG) shared an annotated version of the attestation we have to print or hand write in order to go outside. We risk a fine—currently set to 38€, but I suspect it will rise—if we don’t… Another friend pointed out, it would not be France if there was not paperwork! 

[UPDATE: According to the attestation it does look like we can leave the house, but only alone, never in groups, and it’s meant to be short. I’ll wait for a few days before I attempt a walk or need supplies. Also concerned for my spring allergies outside right now.]

As our first lockdown attempt on Saturday evening all restaurants and bars were ordered to close, and for many that meant thousands and thousands of euros in food down the drain. Many visited their businesses on Sunday to take care of it, trying to sell off what they could, or distributing it amongst staff members. The chain of how we’re all connected started to become extremely apparent.

Saturday evening’s decree lacked clarity and sent mixed messages. Stay inside. Practice social distancing. Go out and vote in the municipal elections [on Sunday].

Sunday (aka my birthday—all plans had been previously cancelled) also happened to be beautiful outside. It turned out social distancing hadn’t been clearly defined, or perhaps not understood as people gathered in parks and along the canal. The strong recommendation hadn’t been understood, and hence we’ve arrived at the next level of confinement.

I’d never thought about the French not being rule followers until this moment (ironic, perhaps it’s why I fit into this society). Both French friends and news commentators were quick to point out that the French don’t like to follow rules. I learned about “Le Système D,” a term used by Polly Platt to describe that rules are made to be broken in France. It all makes sense now.

The wild thing is on Thursday afternoon I recorded an episode of The New Paris podcast with Lindsey Tramuta of Lost in Cheeseland (and her new book The New Parisienne). It was the day we woke up to the news that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had contracted coronavirus aka COVID19. That all feels like distant news is what has escalated since. (The episode hasn’t dropped yet, but warning it will feel wildly outdated when it does. Still as we talked about the virus and tourism, I still stand by what I said: our priority needs to be thinking about what we want for our cities and support those businesses that give them life and personality. We have a moment now to really reflect on our own priorities too.)

We saw things escalate in Italy, yet somehow we thought it couldn’t happen to us. Paris is about 10 days behind… So where does that put your country???

Rumors were circulating yesterday before the President’s speech that we should brace ourselves for 45 days of confinement. That was hard only having hearsay. It also made it a highly unproductive, anxiety ridden day (until I hopped on calls with other people and shared many laughs).

In last night’s speech the President announced 15 days of confinement, which is subject to renewal. Translation: I’m not leaving my apartment any time soon. Along with it borders are closed for 30 days. Going “home” wouldn’t even be an option if I wanted to.

If I’m honest I would not be surprised if our 15 days was extended, but mentally it’s helpful to have a smaller chunk to break down. The more people who act now, the shorter this period will be. We have a responsibility to protect those on the frontline and keep them healthy and safe.

Friends yesterday asked me if I was staying in my apartment. I didn’t really think I had another option. I suppose it crossed my mind that friends could invite me to their country home, but the idea is to have less people, not more. The idea is that every contact that is avoided can save a life.

I’ve already started regular calls and check ins with friends (thank goodness for technology). I talked to one French friend yesterday who lives in the neighborhood, so it was amusing to FaceTime. Both her sister and brother live in Paris, and her parents live in a region neighboring Ile de France. Part of me was surprised they decided not to be together, but we each have our own lives now, and like having our things, and we really don’t know how long this will go on for. She said both her parents were calling from their respective computers in the the same house. Now that’s social distancing in action! We had a good laugh (so necessary these days)!

The thing about Paris even more than other cities is it’s dense. Apartments are small. While I’ve more than tripled from my first Paris shoebox apartment that was 10m2/100sf, the reality is that my entire apartment is probably smaller than most of my friends’ living rooms in the US. There are people who will be living in those tiny “chambre de bonne” for the next 15 days. I also feel for my friends with kids in Paris. Small apartments. Parks are closed. No backyards. We’re not allowed outside.

Let me reiterate the fact that in this time we can’t even socialize with friends or family members in real life. It risks the spread putting not only people who are older at risk, but also those who are high risk (I have young friends battling cancer and auto immune disorders on a daily basis; the last thing they need is a new battle).

Please don’t move. Don’t travel. Now is not the time.

Here is some additional reading/audio/video that expresses why it’s so necessary to act smart. Now.

Yesterday I even learned of the first person I know to contract the virus, travel blogger Nomadic Matt. I was supposed to meet up with him in early March when he was in Paris for a few days, but I got stuck working on a project. He’s now in Austin and tested positive for the virus, as have some friends of his. It’s a good reminder, this virus is invisible, and you never know where it’s been, nor where it’s going… Other friends know of multiple cases now too. The world is getting smaller.

REMINDER: I am not a medical professional. All the information that I’ve shared is subject to change. There is a lot unknown about this virus still so keep yourself informed and cross check your sources. Misinformation can also be a virus. Our mental health will be more important than ever through all this. 

Let’s make the most of this.

I try to look for the silver lining in any situation. Last year in the spring I was in my own kind of self-quarantine as I developed the worst allergies of my life (the doctor attributed them to the combination of pollen and pollution), so let’s hope I’m missing the worst.

I feel like now we’ve entered a phase I like to call “Empathy Camp” where we learn to appreciate all the things we take for granted most of the time. One tweet I saw pointed out after a few days of home schooling the father was now convinced that all teachers should earn more than CEOS. Funny how society can get things backwards sometimes…

Finally, I’d like to shout out to all the doctors, health professionals, and grocery store workers working over time these days and putting their own lives at risk. More than anyone I hope that there are medals of honor will be given to those who work in grocery stores. They are the new soldiers on the front line. In France, the workers already had to brave 46-days of transit strikes, which sure was an inconvenience for many of us, but in chatting with one of the check-out women at my local store she travels from the suburbs to come to her job every day. (You know it’s not one that pays the big bucks either.)

As Mister Rogers said, “Always look for the helpers.”

I can’t help but believe Mother Earth tried to warn us, but we weren’t ready to listen. What if we slowed down? Paid more attention? Asked more questions? Rather than getting lost in the hustle…

While we must keep our distance now, I do hope we can find new connection with others through all this. No, this is not easy but there is also something about going through a shared experience, where once on the other side we can all come out stronger. For now we must do our best to support others. Realize that that work deadline may not be the priority right now. Rather, you need to take care of yourself.

For me, it’s been a balance between the two: being gentle on myself, but also creating structure in my days and having projects to focus on as a distraction.

In my own work I often talk about the importance of “creative constraints” to help us rethink how we do things. (It’s the “creative constraints” of being a foreigner in Paris which led me to this alternative career I have that brings me joy and plays to my strengths; a path I never could have imagined I didn’t have constraints beyond my control placed on me.) It’s a time we can innovate and question those processes that we’ve assumed are the best just because it’s the only way we’ve worked before.

Cartoon from The New Yorker.

Getting creative and having fun with the “New Normal”

As I settle in to this “new normal” I’m taking things in stride. The irony is that of anyone, I feel like I’ve been training for this for years as an introverted freelancer who lives alone and works from home. I know it will be more of an adjustment for others.

I’ve already accepted that my April Paris workshop isn’t going to happen in real life, so I’m planning on taking that online sooner than I expected, but I figure if there’s any time to try, it’s now. Besides, we all need things to look forward to! So far the participants who already signed up are enthusiastic to do it online.

A popular post is going around that says “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch.” Here’s my incomplete, yet growing list of things I’ve done, participated in online, or seen shared to help us get through this:

  • Just like kids do better with a schedule, adults can benefit from structure too. Yes, I could sleep in, but I’m saving that for weekends. Take a shower. Put on real clothes. (Or savor in the fact you can take business calls in your pyjama pants!)
  • Eat regular meals. (Whenever I don’t eat, I know I’m subject to be more irritable.)
  • Keep a list of things you can be working on. That doesn’t mean you actually have to do something, but I know I’m the first to forget more constructive ways I could be spending my time more than endlessly scrolling the internet. I have a few projects I’ve been dying to dive into so they can be a good distraction to focus on. (Although, I do appreciation the nature of client projects with actual deadlines to keep me accountable.)
  • Schedule calls with friends. They may be people you see on a regular basis or ones you haven’t talked to in years. I’ve done both already. It’s fun! In some ways I’m already tired from all the extra socializing I’m doing. ;)
  • Find creative ways for work outs and to get some exercise. Youtube is great. There are apps. I need to get into a yoga routine (also put it on the schedule), but last night I realized in my normal Monday night gym class I realized the room is usually so full I only stand in a little square of space anyway, so as my dinner was cooking I got my heart rate up for a few minutes. A friend even started her day with yoga with her kids. Some yoga teachers are hopping on Facebook or Youtube live 3x a day. I’m secretly very curious what gym bodies are going to look like the day that reopens…
  • Now that I’m watching more French news (I don’t have a TV so just started streaming it more) I think my French is going to get way better during this period too! In cleaning my bookshelf, I found my old French books I can review.
  • Meditate. Try the apps Calm or Headspace. Or ask a friend for their favorite meditation. Recommendations are a great conversation piece or reason to reach out to someone. You do NOT need to go this alone! We can problem solve together. It’s a good time to experiment and try new things.
  • Oliver Jeffers and other authors are hosting daily story time on Instagram Live. It started yesterday and I loved watching it. It’s simple and sweet and I love that the second time he goes through the book he talks about his process and where the inspiration came from. Join him daily at 6pm GMT on Instagram.
  • Wendy McNaughton is an illustrator who is giving daily drawing classes on Instagram Live (check out #drawtogether). I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw so now is a good time. Daily at 10am PST. Yesterday I drew a portrait and a dog! … The spirit of generosity has no bounds!
  • If you want to learn something new, Skillshare is a great place. There I teach Map MakingBasic InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé. I also have 12 UX design classes on OpenClassrooms. I also run NavigateParisOnline.com if you’re planning a future trip to Paris (the new challenge of tourism has already started: how to get people to visit once life is “normal” again?).
  • For parents the accounts @busytoddler and @thedadlab have tons of ideas for kids. Even if you don’t have kids (ahem, me) I think I may have to try some of these activities for my own entertainment. I mean what else am I going to do with those all those discarded toilet paper tubes…
  • On social media it’s been entertaining and heartwarming to see videos of people serenading from their balconiesgiving a standing ovation to medical personnel from their balconiescreating sporting videos, or leading a fitness class from a roof of an apartment complex, playing collective BINGO across a giant courtyard, and using sock puppet to eat cars (alas, not any traffic on my street—that’s my view for the next X days on the top photo). Our creativity runs far deeper than we realize, and it does not need to involve spending money. (Our challenge now is to find ways other than “retail therapy” to cope, while still considering how we can support businesses.)
  • You can watch an opera online or visit a museum virtually.
  • I have my stack of books that I’ve been meaning to read. Day one already passed getting distracted from books, but now is the time I need to refocus my priorities and escape into print. Reading was one of the activities Macron suggested in his speech—how French!… I shared a list of books by friends coming out this month in my weekly newsletter if you’re looking for something fresh to read.
  • Host a virtual happy hour! (Planning this with friends tonight.) … France is a reminder that quarantine will still have good food and drink… Maybe I should finally learn to actually cook…
  • Just like non lockdown times I go in and out of being chatty on Twitter and Instagram [Stories] as a way of connecting while keeping my space. It’s a place where I explore and ponder ideas. Like how can we innovate in these strange times? What if we looked to how the milk man used to deliver milk to people’s door steps for inspiration today? I may update this post for ideas, but sometimes I forget and will share them on social.

A couple examples of what happens when generosity meets technology.

Please share your favorite tips, resources, and ideas in the comments. We may be apart, but the only way we’re going to get through this is together. Right now is truly the time to embrace being a kid at any age. Yeah, this sucks, but let’s challenge ourselves to make it fun.

As a designer I often ask the question “What if…?” So I challenge you to ponder “What if… we made the most of this crappy situation?” What if it’s not a bad thing to learn to be bored again? What would you do? And how can you best support others in the process? (Particularly those without means, who can’t afford to get sick, or to not work.)


p.s. As a freelancer much of my work has dried up. The wonders of technology means I still can continue with my coaching calls and support others during this time. I’m still looking for other opportunities when the fit is right. If your company or organization finds themselves strangely overloaded at this time, I have an incredible network of freelance friends who have a wide range of skills. Shoot me a message and I’m happy to do my best to connect you to someone who can help.

Happy Exploring in 2020!

I love the French way of wishing people a Happy New Year all January long. It helps take the pressure off and I find it quite charming. And if you’re like me and not big on planning ahead, it gives you more time to get your holiday cards in the mail (all 100 of them!). This year became a bigger endeavor than when I first set out, but I thought it’d be fun to share a little “making of” post of how my 2020 holiday card came to be.

It’s been YEARS, and I mean years, since I put together a holiday card, let alone a physical one. I had a low key holiday this year, so I’d spend time doodling in cafés, which I loved. It was a way to look back, look forward, and disconnect. One day I decided I should make a holiday card. I didn’t know how it’d turn out when I put the pen to the page, but I just knew I wanted it to be a map and encourage exploration (my word of the year).

Before Christmas my friend Vahram and I were able to catch the map expo at the National Archives: Quand les artistes dessinaient les cartes. Seeing these maps dating back to the Middle Ages helped remind me of my love of maps (I still have my Skillshare map making class!), and sparked the rough idea for my card.

The day I decided to work on my card I went to the Café des 2 Moulins aka the “Amélie café” made famous by the movie Amélie which I’ve loved ever since I saw it when I came out when I studied abroad. (It’s also where I celebrated becoming French.) The day I went a customer when up to the piano and started playing the Waltz d’Amélie. I sat in the buzz of the café on a busy afternoon and different locations on my map emerged. I finished the map in one setting not knowing quite where it’d take me.


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The text and message was easy to overthink, but before friends came over for dinner one day, I made myself do it. I knew I wanted to say “Happy Exploring!” inspired by my 2020 word. The rest is imperfect and of course my best/original idea I’d forgotten came back to me too late. The typos aren’t a gimmick, they’re real, but I wanted to encourage people to think beyond perfectionism. It was more important for me to actually send the card and put it into the world than make it perfectly polished. It also was a bit of a test to see who looked closely.

In terms of printing, I decided to get it Riso printed. (It’s like a copy machine, but cooler, and with colored ink). I asked around and found Studio Fidèle who was able to help me out that day. I already had some green card stock lying around, so I decided to use that. It doesn’t always show up in photos, but its printed with forest green ink. And like magic I had my cards.

Originally I thought I’d get 50, but ended up with 100. Having not sent holiday cards in eons, I wanted to write a personal note to each recipient. It made me think of Adam Grant’s work and when he took the time to reach out to 100 people who had helped and supported him, and sent them notes of gratitude. I have to say, it was a pretty great exercise to start the year. Very therapeutic in its own way. I’d write 5-10 cards a day all month long.

As a bonus, I got to refine my penmanship as I addressed all the envelopes (went with simple kraft paper ones that felt very French and used a green Sharpie to write addresses). Getting enough envelopes and stamps was another challenge, but it all was worth it. I feel like I single handedly supported La Poste all month! Just a pity that there were no “pretty stamps” available. Rates just went up to 1,40€ for anywhere outside of France. Still, a worthy investment. LONG LIVE SNAIL MAIL!!! 🐌✉️

(Photo courtesy of Le Petit Guide)

One thing I didn’t see coming was how many people who would take the time to write me to thank me for the card and send pictures. Others shared it on their Instagram stories. I’ve been to friends apartments and seen it on their shelves, desks, and refrigerators, and others said they wanted to frame it. It was clear to me that people actually took time to look and study the map based on their short, but sweet notes. When was the last time you took the time to look closely at something? All in all, it all sparked joy for me in ways I didn’t see coming. ✨


P.S. One of the things I’ll be exploring this year are hosting/facilitating more workshops, both online and off, for schools, companies, and individuals/small groups. Sign up for my weekly newsletter 💌 to be the first to get those updates (and a dose of inspiration too!) and follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram and Twitter.

The strange realities of a never ending strike

Wait, the strikes are still going on in Paris? Yes, why yes they are. What started on December 5th broke a historic record last week. As I was getting my groceries a couple days ago I overheard two women at the check out counter discussing. They said it may continue until February 6th! Today there was a big manifestation.

The strikes are around pension reform and quite complicated, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the domino effect of other things that are affected, particularly in Paris.

  1. Commutes can be killer. The cashier at my local grocery store lives in a Paris suburb. Getting to work is not so fun. I asked the aesthetician how far her commute was and she luckily had a bus from her suburb on the other side of the city. A friend who works in luxury travels 1.5 hr each way by foot to her job so she can attend meetings. The lucky ones live off of lines 1 and 14, the fully automated and driverless lines, but those lines are to be avoided during rush hour.
  2. Traffic is horrendous. Despite efforts by the city to promote sustainable initiatives, there are a lot more cars on the road, and the majority of them only have one person in them. Uber and other call-your-rides have price surging. A typically 12€ ride can run you 40€+ now.
  3. Sidewalks are crowded. There are so many more people on the street right now it can be a bit of a zigzaging adventure. To shorten the longer commutes it helps to pick up the pace, but sometimes it’s hard. You also have to pay extra attention to all the electric scooters and bicycles zipping around.
  4. Opening hours are affected. Depending on where employees live, it can be quite a challenge for some of the smaller shops to open on time. La Poste has been closing two hours early—even during peak Christmas season since the strike. (These updated hours of course are not posted anywhere.) Museums for the most part manage to open, but sometimes in a limited capacity, and most often close early. Thankfully they turn to Twitter to communicate openings.
  5. Strangers are more likely to talk to each other. Paris is not a city where you tend to have a lot of random conversations with the people you encounter throughout your day. The strike has loosened people up and everyone can bond and relate. I get the sense that employees in the service industry feel a bit more appreciated when a customer cares to ask. I tend to leave by wishing them “Courage!” (good luck).
  6. You get clear on your priorities. On a typical day in Paris it’s easy for me to dart around to different corners of the city. (Most places are ~30 min on public transportation.) Distances can take much longer to get to without transportation, but I’ve been reminded just how walkable the city. It’s physically impossible to be in too many places at once, so you really get clear on what must be done, and where you need to be. Running a quick errand that’s in a different area of the city is not a close as it once was.
  7. You get to see a whole new side of the city. During the strikes I’ve walked places I never would have walked before, but have seen so much in the process. I already walked more than the average Parisian, but I’ve gotten to put together some neighborhoods in ways I didn’t fully understand how they connected before, or said to myself, “Oh, that’s where that is!” It’s been a good reminder there’s more exploring I want to do. I got to see many of the illuminated streets, and I’ve collected a lot more Invader points along the way! 👾
  8. You need to charge batteries more. The more I walk, the more podcasts I take in. It also means I find myself charging my AirPods (and phone) far more frequently than before! I also find myself carrying too much because I always like to have a spare battery pack, book, notebook and things to do as I tend to be out and about for larger chunks of time rather than circling back home between.
  9. Your step count is through the roof. Winter is definitely hibernation time where it’s easy to want to stay inside and take it easy. This winter my step count is closer to 20k steps than my usual 10k most days. My highest day was 28k (~13 miles!), and I was standing facilitating a workshop most of the day (walking there and back, and later to dinner really did add up!). The good news is walking has lots of benefits, so I can’t help but wonder if there has been some good to our mental health and moving our bodies thanks this endless strike. The entire city is moving in ways they didn’t before…
  10. It’s tough on business. Many small businesses have been forced to close (remember Christmas 2018 was plagued by gilet jaune protests the month leading up to, and many, many Saturdays afterwards). Many more fear having to close their doors. So let this list be a plea to think about the small businesses, and do what you can to support them.

What have I missed? Share other strange strike realities in the comments.

Even during the strikes I’ve had the joy of showing some wonderful clients around the city on my Navigate Paris tours. I’m grateful for clients who are game for a little adventure themselves. Just yesterday, two clients wrote saying my tour was the highlight of their trip!

Oh the Places You’ll Go 2019…

It’s funny to think back to this time last year. I think I had maybe three or four of these trips on my radar: Rome (because it was in January), DC/Charlottesville (a planned reunion + guest speaking), Latvia (for a wedding), and Florida (a last minute addition but also for a wedding). The rest? It just happened.

My 2019 trips were wide reaching, and almost random. Just the way I like them! I’ve enjoyed putting together a few end of year recaps (see here and here), so I figured I’d do the same for a travel roundup. I always tag my Instagram posts with #PAV[name of city] which becomes a microblog mini guide online (tip: I like to post slideshows on IG, so be sure to click the arrows). Still, I wanted to put this post together because over the years I haven’t been as good at blogging my travels, although some of the links below are to longer blog posts. What I have been better at is truly sharing the highlights (with the few exceptions where someone else has infiltrated my hashtag 😉).

This was my first trip of the year. If I recall I booked it in December. I got a good deal on a flight so I could visit a friend from high school who was traveling there.
Lesson learned: It’s super fun to travel with art historian teacher types who will show you around the city!
Highlights: Coffee in Rome is amazing (and cheap). I loved our local place Linari. The Villa Borghese with Bernini sculptures was also incredible (book tickets in advance).

For my February trip to Florida I flew into Sarasota and flew out of Miami. The US is huge, but when you’re in the same state you can’t not see family. (Funny, I should have put Atlanta on the list, as I had an unexpected stop over there where I got to have a reunion with my aunt and cousin at a hospital where my cousin had just had surgery!). One of my cousin’s lives in Florida with her family. It was so nice getting a peek into their world, and see a bit of Sarasota.
Lessons learned: Traveling somewhere warm and sunny in winter is amazing!
Highlights: The Ringling Brother’s Circus was born in Sarasota, and the Ringling Museum is quite nice. It’s not all circus, but also has an impressive art collection.

A friend from when I studied abroad in Paris invited me to her wedding which was the impetus for a mini reunion of study abroad pals which was such a nice treat. It turns out Miami has a great art scene, both in terms of street art and contemporary art.
Lessons learned: Even when tons of time has passed you can still pick up from anywhere with good friends.
Highlights: Traveling with a museum educator means you know which museums to prioritize! The Pérez Art Museum was a favorite.

If you ask me, Charlottesville—home to the University of Virginia—is one of the best college towns in the US. It’s even more fun when you get to go back with some of your best buds. My class from the crew team (yes, I was on the men’s team) has been saving money for awhile and bought a boat that the team really needed. So we used it as an excuse to have a mini reunion and christen the boat on a regatta day. We hung out all day with lots of laughs about absolutely nothing, just like the old days. I also got to business expense the trip because I was invited by the Career Office to speak on a panel of alumni about the “Gig workers” (although I consider myself to have a “portfolio career“). It was great to connect with other alumni who have taken less traditional careers.
Lessons learned: Go “back to school” with friends from the time.
Highlights: When you get invited to a Crew House party and are treated like gods and end up being the last group standing (even as the “old people”). I also got to reconnect with my friend Cindy from my first year hall. Sperryville is also quite charming if you ever have the chance to go! (My friends Caitlin and Craig run a delicious pizza place.)

I love any good excuse to travel to learn. Sarah Richards who wrote “Content Design” and spearheaded the GOV.UK content redesign was teaching a day long workshop in The Hague. The price was right, so I hopped on a train and went. The Netherlands has always been super inspiring to me design-wise.
Lessons learned: Follow authors online and then follow them to where they’re doing events!
Highlights: The Voorlinden Museum just outside of the city (I took a bus from the train station) is one of my all time favorite museums. I stated at The Student Hotel, which isn’t just for students, and I loved the vibe. It’s also where the workshop I attended was held.

My friend Meg and I have made it a tradition to check out “new” cities together as a weekend trip. We’re great adventure buddies and have similar interests, or at least appreciate the other’s (à la Meg’s love of beer). We get a few recommendations from friends who’ve been to the city, but otherwise we set forth and explore.
Lessons learned: Belgium is an under-appreciated country and high on style.
Highlights: Antwerp is a fashion capital of the world and rightly so. I loved the style in the city which is more playful and colorful than anything you see in Paris. The Middleheim Museum art park was also completely dreamy and we loved sitting outside Brouwerijcafé Taproom and enjoying a beer. Oh, and the main train station in Antwerp looks like it’s straight out of Hogwarts!

When my dad came to Paris this summer one of his goals was to visit the WWI battlefields. Wanting to spend time with my dad, I agreed to join. There’s so much talk of WWII history in France it feels like WWI is completely overlooked. It was a day trip for us on the train to Albert.
Lessons learned: War sucks.
Highlights: You can visit the fields with the trenches and start to see just how tough life was. There was no heat to escape to in winter. The Somme Museum in town was quite fascinating and gave you a sense of what war would have been like. We only visited a few sites (Beaumont-Hamel and  Thiepval Memorial). We were lucky there was a driver available that we had the tourism office call to take us around, but with a heavy subject like that, it was plenty.

Last minute opportunities was perhaps a theme of my year. I’d hopped on a call with Jillian Reilly, founder of Antacara, thanks to a blog reader. She and I instantly connected and were very drawn to the work of the other. She mentioned she was hosting a “retreat” in Avignon a few weeks later and I’d be welcome to join. It took me all of one day and minor schedule rearranging I was on my train a few weeks later. It was truly a transformative week for everyone there.
Lessons learned: When you walk synapses in your brain are literally firing and making new connections. There’s so much power to exploration.
Highlights: Exploring a new place with others from different corners of the world is such a joy. Even if you’re not on an Antacara trip, the Domaine de Rhodes where we were based is one of the most magical hotels and grounds ever. It’s such a special place, and the work of the creators comes through.

Having already been stateside twice in the first few months of 2019 going back wasn’t really on my radar until I got an invite to join the Apollonauts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I first declined, but then realized that I couldn’t say no to that! It was also a fun excuse to visit my aunt and uncle, and Boston always reminds me of summers of my childhood.
Lessons learned: The moon landing was a way bigger deal than I ever imagined. So was my grandfather’s role.
Highlights: My grandfather’s lab hosted a big 60s inspired party. I got to meet so many of the men and women (including Margaret Hamilton!!) who worked with my grandfather to make getting to the moon—and back—possible. I definitely didn’t totally know what I was getting into when I went, but it was such a joy to be included, and see the fabulous expo (and website) Draper Lab put together.

When I’m on the East Coast popping up to NYC is easy, but the city is so big I can only spend a few days without overloading. I think I made it twice in 2019. I got to visit Color Factory and see all the blood, sweat, tears, and passion that friends of mine put into the project. I also got to jaunt to upstate NY to see my Florida based family, and my friend Grace who lives there. In the city I got to connect with friends from different chapters of my life, which is really my favorite excuse to travel.
Lessons learned: Sometimes you can show locals a thing or two. Introduced a few friends to Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, a great place where my parents took me to once.
Highlights: Staying at the TWA Hotel. It was pure time travel. Best played as staycation.

Technically Alexandria, Virginia is home, but it’s just outside of DC. I ventured into the city a few times this year as part of my research into my grandfather’s world.
Lessons learned: Archives are awesome!
Highlights: The Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum near Dulles Airport is amazing in a big old hangar. It turns out one of my grandfather’s ballroom dancing trophies is on display near the Discovery space shuttle (some of his inertial navigation instruments are in the hall too). At the Library of Congress I uncovered an audio file of my grandfather speaking about his work.

One of my aunts lives in Vermont and going to visit her takes me back to my childhood. My time in Vermont this trip was far too short, but still worthy of a mention. Small town life is so charming, particularly the lack of traffic!
Lessoned learned: Creemees are a thing! I’ve been to Vermont many times in my life, but only this trip did I discover the magical soft serve ice cream famous in the area. Maple flavor of course.
Highlights: Dog Mountain is a special place first imagined by artist Stephen Huyneck. There’s even the Dog Chapel where you can leave notes for furry friends who have departed. His carved works and prints are for sale in the gift shop.

The real reason for heading deeper into New England was a mini family reunion with my dad, brother, aunts, and uncle to (re)visit the Cog Railway which was celebrating 100 years this summer. Anyone who follows me knows what a train nut my dad is. My dad casually mentioned they were talking about going and I instantly insisted that we make the trip happen when I’m home and can join.
Lessons learned: Good god it’s cold (and windy) at the top of the mountain, even in August. Good thing my aunt had extra gloves and gear. Also, my aunt was smart and reserved tickets to go up the mountain.
Highlights: The Mount Washington Inn will always be this magical, mythical place to me engrained from my visit as a child. We didn’t stay there, but went for a drink. I also loved the small town of Littleton nearby where we hit up a brewery for dinner. Oddly, the lunch at Fabyan’s train station after our train ride totally hit the spot as we enjoyed our time on the terrace and recounting stories.

My friend Jen and I realized we needed to put together a bachelorette party for our friend Carolyn, so we took it as an excuse to pop over to London. I was the decoy who went early to hang out with Carolyn for the weekend. I arranged a lunch with another friend when two more friends joined. Later that evening we had our hot tug (hot tub boat) arranged for the driving down a canal, sipping champagne.
Lessons learned: Driving a hot tug boat is much harder than it looks.
Highlights: You never know who you may meet, or what you might learn, on the train. . . Once in London, the Kew Gardens never fail to disappoint. There was a Chihuly glass show throughout the grounds which made for fun exploring.

My friends Carolyn and Andrejs got married in Latvia, which was exciting for me as it was a new country for me to check off my list. It turns out that weddings in Latvia have a host, and it was seriously one of my favorite weddings I’ve been to. Lots of little activities, but in a thoughtful way, and lots of laughs in the process.
Lessons learned: Sometimes when you visit castles in Latvia the guides are really actors, not real monks. (I can be quite gullible!)
Highlights: Destination weddings are fun when a group of friends can travel together and hang out. Despite having been to many a market in my day, the Centralas Market was very impressive with a great food court. The KGB museum was also fascinating. Really though, if you can get invited to a Latvian wedding, I highly recommend it! (Or my friends were just awesome wedding planners.)

I’d been talking about going to Vienna for a couple years, knowing it was a place near and dear to my mom’s heart as the city where she spent a year studying abroad and met one of her lifelong best friends. Then this fall I realized my mom’s birthday was the perfect opportunity, and fall seems like a far warmer season than winter to visit.
Lessons learned: Sometimes creative constraints are the best way to roll. I wrote “Rules of a Pilgrimage” my first night in the city and they served me well.
Highlights: Thanks to my “Rules” I did my best to see Vienna through my mom’s eyes, and that was such a treat. By chance the cheap hotel I picked was near Café Sperl, a café that makes a cameo in Before Sunrise, one of my favorite movies so I loved becoming a regular there. I kept a journal during the trip which is something I need to do more of these days. The Kunsthistorisches Museum was one of my mom’s favorites, and quiet impressive to see. It was also fun to discover that my friend Erica from high school lives there, so my reunion tour of the world lived on!

When two of your dear friends who live in NYC (and soon are moving to Australia) tell you that they’re going to be in Barcelona and see if you want to meet up you say yes!
Lessons learned: You can get super cheap flights to Barcelona (but flying out of Beauvais airport is a trip in and of itself!).
Highlights: I’d been to Barcelona before, back in 2001, but I don’t remember having stepped inside the Sagrada Familia (book tickets in advance). It was truly  breathtaking and like nowhere I’d seen before (and I’ve been in A LOT of churches). Also, Ibearian ham is SO good!

Home, but I always feel like an explorer in this city. Really this section is devoted to venturing further afield for new experiences, like to the horse races (with chariots!). I also became more French spending a few days in the countryside in Montargis.
Lessons learned: Indefinite strikes are no joke and you truly can get a lot of steps in this city!
Highlights: Discovering the gnome from Amélie is my neighbor! Also, heading to the suburbs can be great. Finally visited the “guinguette” Chez Gegène in Joinville-le-Pont and it did not disappoint!


As my motto says: Travel is not about where you go, but how you see the world. None of these trips were a race to see or do more. They were a reason to see friends, family, and learn/discover something new. It wasn’t until I took the time to put together this post that I realized just how much I experienced this year. And this doesn’t even count all the wonderful visitors and clients I explored Paris with this year!

As I head into 2020, my word of the year is EXPLORE. It’s a word that reflects something I already do, but I’m looking forward to challenging myself to see how I can push it further and discover new frontiers.

For more of what I’m exploring throughout the year, sign up for my weekly newsletter. 💌 You can discover more of my work at anneditmeyer.com and Paris offerings at navigateparis.com.

The 2019 List

According to the internet, the grid above features my top 9 moments of 2019. As I pointed out in my “Best Nine” Instagram post, Instagram’s top picks [based on likes] don’t necessarily reflect how I see my own highlights for 2019. (I shared actual highlights, reflections, and some tips for looking ahead to a new year over on my Biz Blog.) In a world that often seems consumed by social media, it’s easy to get sucked into believing it. This time of year serves as a nice reality check and time to take a moment and look back at what really mattered.

This “2019 List” post is a roundup of what inspired me, inspired by Barack Obama’s own annual lists. It’s something I started last year and I think it’s a nice tradition. I like that it’s a way to keep a record of my favorite inspiration I’ve consumed, and serves as a way to celebrate the work of others. Sending my weekly newsletter where I share inspiration made coming up with this year’s list a bit easier. (As I’m posting this before the 31st, I still give myself permission to make updates—and add links!)

Without further ado, and in no particular order…


  • A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
  • The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker
  • Hustle & Float by Rahaf Harfoush
  • Company of One by Paul Jarvis
  • To Pixar & Beyond by Lawrence Levy
  • Everything written by Brené Brown
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman? by Richard Feynman
  • The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky
  • Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath
  • One Giant Leap by Charles Fishman
  • Sunburst & Luminary: an Apollo Memoir by Don Eyles
  • Originals by Adam Grant
  • The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papsan
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Hack the Moon (a Draper Lab project)
  • Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg’s NYT column
  • Wendy McNaughton’s illustrated NYT column


  • Hors Normes
  • Apollo 11 [documentary]
  • Le Grand Bain
  • Deux Moi
  • Les Misérables
  • Mission Impossible Fallout
  • Rocketman
  • Brené Brown: A Call to Courage
  • Toy Story 4
  • Spiderman into the Spiderverse
  • Free Solo
  • The Third Man
  • Dance your PhD (TED)


  • 13 Minutes to the Moon – the 13 minutes leading up to the Apollo 11 moon landing as told by the people who made it happen + scored by Hans Zimmer
  • Finding Fred – journalist Carvell Wallace shares stories of how Mister Rogers touched so many lives
  • American Girls Pod – two histories re-read the American Girl books based on the dolls and share a side of pop-culture in a way that’s engaging and entertaining
  • Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller
  • Hello Monday by LinkedIn with host Jessi Hempel
  • Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness
  • Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel
  • Going Through It by MailChimp with Ann Friedman
  • Good Company with Grace Bonney
  • Ice podcast with Winnie Bertrand
  • Keep Calm and Cook On with Julia Turshen
  • Courage & Spice with Sas Petherick
  • Moonrise from The Washington Post
  • Marie Forleo podcast
  • Still Processing from the NYT with Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham
  • Work Life with Adam Grant
  • Wireframe from Adobe/Gimlet Creative with Khoi Vinh
  • The New Paris with Lindsey Tramuta
  • The Earful Tower with Oliver Gee
  • The Thing About France with Bénédicte de Montlaur
  • Raise Your Hand Say Yes with Tiffany Han
  • Letters from a Hopeful Creative with Jen Carrington and Sara Tasker
  • The Dropout from ABC News
  • Money Diaries from Refinery 29 with Lindsey Stanberry and Paco de Leon
  • Hurry Slowly with Jocelyn Glei


  • Mister Rogers (childhood hero)
  • Carvell Wallace (journalist/host of Finding Fred)
  • Roger Manix (teaches compassionate leadership through play)
  • Esther Perel (relationship therapist)
  • Megan Rapinoe (soccer superstar + advocate for humans)
  • Deesha Dyer (community leader + organizer)
  • Aminatou Sow (podcast host Call Your Girlfriend)
  • Lizzo (singer/musician)
  • Erika Hall (UX truthspeaker)
  • Lisa Congdon (artist and author)
  • Grace Bonney (founder of Design*Sponge)
  • Sas Petherick (self-belief coach)
  • Tiffany Han (life coach)
  • Jonathan Van Ness (curious human and star of Queer Eye)
  • Brené Brown (shame, empathy, vulnerability researcher and author)
  • Debbie Millman (designer and host of Design Matters)
  • Michael Collins (astronaut)
  • Adam Grant (organizational psychologist and author)
  • Jocelyn Glei (host of Hurry Slowly)
  • Greta Thunberg


For more ideas on alternatives to New Years resolutions, check out my Biz Blog! And sign up for my weekly Connect the Dots newsletter if you haven’t already! 💌

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