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.)

 

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.

TL;DR
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!
Anne

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. ✨

BONNE ANNÉE! 🎉 HAPPY NEW YEAR to ALL! HAPPY EXPLORING!

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!

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