Category Archives for "SPY On Us"

dog poom france infographic

The Day We Found Dog Poop On Our Front Door Step! True Story Living In France

It’s a beautiful Friday morning here in the South of France. The town square comes alive with over 100 local vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade tapenade, blood sausage and the stinkiest cheeses you have ever smelled. Not to mention the various nick-knacks only found in France. It gets so animated and it gives me an excuse to peruse and socialize with the locals.

It’s on these days’ that I truly feel like we actually live in France.

Today however, I had a special reminder that we really live in France. Can you guess what it was?

True story, I found dog poop at my door step AGAIN and captured the moment in photos. Yes, I am this demented but i wanted to show you how normal it is here;

true story; The day we found Dog Poop on our front doorstep in France AGAIN!

You might think I’m obsessed with dog poop since i also wrote about dog poop and culture shock here. 

Well I’m not obsessed with dog poop. it’s just that you can’t avoid the merde because it’s everywhere.

But I’m ok with that because life’s too short to worry about a little CRAP here and there!!

I’m off to the market now

I'm off to the market to buy some juicy tomatoes and stinky bleu cheese

This post was in good fun. There are so many GOOD things to talk about when you LIVE IN FRANCE. I just thought it would be fun to poke a little fun at this ehem (shitty problem). 

ultimate-packing-travel checklist

Free Packing Checklist For Travel + Life In Our New French Town (Progress Report#4)

A day of shopping at the open market in Marseille

I have a free packing checklist template for all my email subscribers. Details are at the end of this post.

A QUICK RECAP: For new readers.

In 2010 my family and I set out on an adventure to travel long term with the kids while also working on personal and family goals.

But… travelling long term costs money, so one of my many goals I wanted to accomplish was to create a portable income that I could do from anywhere in the world.

Every few months, I share my entrepreneurial  journey and personal update in a progress report.

Today’s post is one of those reports. If you’re interested in doing what we’re doing you should follow along .

This is my fourth report in the series. Here are my other reports | #1 April 2012| #2 May 2012 | #3 July 2012 

First An Update: What we’ve been up to.

It’s been almost a year since my family and I moved to France for our family sabbatical. (we arrived the 5th of October 2011).

La Garde France

City Life Isn’t What We Expected

We spent 10 months in Marseille France but quickly realized that although having the amenities of the city was good, it wasn’t the life we thought we were going to have.

We realized we would rather give up some of the big city amenities to live in a smaller, quainter town and more typical French Town.

You know….the kind of city you imagine or see in the movies.

Where little old ladies carry wicker baskets around full of baguettes while walking their miniature dogs and men wear French Berets.

IN SEARCH OF A TYPICAL FRENCH TOWN

We searched for our new dream city in the south of France and found lot’s of nice places but we had some restrictions which limited our choices.

  1. It was important for us to stay near the water and where it is warm. Hence the South which is bordered by the Mediterranean sea.
  2. We needed a place that was fully furnished and within our budget. (i.e. less than 1,200 Euros per month).
  3. It could be a small town but it had to at least have a train station that could access the rest of Europe and have a bus system we could use to get around in the town.
  4. Lastly, it had to be a good place to raise children. Marseille was fun for a while but I would not want to raise my kids there. Now we can say we lived there but it was time to move on.

We found a small town that surpassed our expectations.

The city is called “La Garde”.

We moved to La Garde on September 1st 2012 and plan on staying another year. Here’s a video about La Garde.  Check out the Arial views.

WHAT DO THE KIDS THINK?

The kids all love it here and so do Blake and I.

In less than a month, the kids are already fully integrated in public school. (It was really hard getting all that arranged).

  • Our 16 year old joined a soccer team which is called “LE Foot”.
  • Our 14 year old is doing judo 3 times a week.
  • And our youngest who is five is taking dance and ballet one a week.

INEXPENSIVE COST OF LIVING: AFTER SCHOOL SPORTS + SCHOOL

Get this. It only costs 150 euros for each of my children’s sports for the ENTIRE YEAR.  That’s a steal compared to what we’re used to paying.

Back in California, it would have cost a hundred bucks a month for each of the kids activities at minimum.

Did I mention that  preschool is completely free . Again, back in California it costs over 1,200 dollars PER MONTH to put a child in preschool.

The cost saving in preschool and yearly sports alone is over 15,000 US dollars which means we don’t’ need to make as much money.

The quality of life here is just amazing.

Medieval Living

la garde france Le rocher

We live in the center of town in what is best described as the medieval part of the city. Our flat was built in the 1500’s and walking down our street you really feel like your in a renaissance fair. Cobblestone road, tiny road with lavender hanging from peoples windows. Directly above our flat is what looks like an old castle but is really an old church. You can see it in the photo above.

la garde shield logo

I even love the official crest or logo of the town. How cool is that? The town we live in has an official crest. So cute.

What can I say? It’s everything we wanted and expected in a small French town.  I will fill you in at a later date with the details, photos and video.

WHERE IS LA GARDE?

La Garde isn’t that far from Marseille. It’s only 73 KM or 43 Miles east of Marseille and just 100 miles west of the Italian Border. Bonus, we’re just 10 minutes to the beach.

marseille-la-garde-nice-map

On To Business

Enough about the city for the moment. Let’s talk about business. I’m excited to announce that I have a FREE GIFT for all my email subscribers.

It’s a downloadable Gift and it’s super useful.

I noticed that a lot of solo-preneurs that have a web presence, (like me) give away something to their readers if they sign up to their newsletter.

Up until recently, I have offered nothing to people who sign up to my newsletter. Not because I didn’t want to give them something. I just had no idea what to give away. I didn’t just want to give away some fluffy piece that you could download and never read or look at.

I wanted to give my readers something really useful and practical. 

Then one day it hit me. What’s the one thing that people have in common when it comes to travelling.

“Most people love traveling but HATE PACKING”

I have tons of packing experience, so naturally, I finally connected the dots and thought I’ll create a free packing checklist template that people can print at home and use as a guide to help them end their hatred of packing.

Introducing my gift to you, a free packing checklist template. I like to call it “The Ultimate Packing checklist template” because it has almost everything you would ever need to consider to take on a trip. 


I know, I know. It seems really simple and there are tons of packing checklist templates out there but mine is a little different.

  1. It’s Comprehensive:  It has everything the average person would need to bring on most trips from underwear and shirts to safety pins and contraception. 🙂
  2. Use It As Your Guide: You check the items you want to bring in the “BRING COLUMN”
  3. Quantity Column: Mark the quantity you want to bring if needed.
  4. Completed Column: Then just start packing all the items on the list and check it off as you pack them.
  5. Carry On Luggage Column: The best part about the list is I have a column for carry on items. If an item needs to go in your carry on bag, you put a check mark in the Carry-on column. I can’t tell you how useful that one piece is.

Here’s a closeup screenshot of the packing checklist template.

For the moment, it’s a PDF doc and not editable but I may change that.

ultimate-packing-checklist close up

Now when someone comes to my site they will see the sign up form on the right hand side along with the video below explaining the benefits of using a Travel and packing checklist.

Please take a moment to watch the video and tell me what you think in the comments below.

If you feel like signing up for my “Adventurous Newsletter, you’ll get instant access to it.

That’s all folks.  Happy packing.

Getting permission from your ex to travel and live abroad

How To Travel or Live Abroad With Kids When Your Ex Says NO!

Getting Permission to travel or live abroad long term with kids: Me with my three kids at some random airport waiting for our next flight (2012).

So you want to travel or live abroad with your kids and expose them to other cultures but your ex is saying “NO WAY”.  What do you do? Here is my personal story of how I was able to get permission to travel and then to live abroad with my kids despite my ex-husband (the father of my 2 sons) FIGHTING ME TOOTH AND NAIL. It wasn’t easy but it can be done.

“Yes Officer, I DO have permission to travel with my children”.

Travelling When One Parent Is Not Present

If you have kids and want to travel internationally without the other parent, you are supposed to have written permission from the other parent.  Without written permission, you run the risk of getting denied entry into that other country.

But what happens when the other parent refuses to write you a letter giving you permission? Even between the US and Canada.

Our Routine Flight To Montreal

In 2010, I flew into Montreal like I’ve done so many times before with two minor differences.

I only had 2 of my 3 children with me and my husband Blake was not with me. Blake and my eldest son were driving a moving truck across the country towards some tiny storage unit in Massachusetts.

I exited the plane with my son and daughter and promptly walked to the immigration and customs area to wait in line to get our passports stamped.  When it was our turn, I handed the customs agent our passports.

He immediately took them and furrowed his eyebrows as if he were straining to read our names.

He looked up at us, then back at our passports and back at us and did this a few more times

No Big deal, I expected this scrutiny since I was ONE ADULT flying with kids and no father in sight.

Travelling is more complicated for us

To make matters worse, in addition to me flying alone with my children, it’s not immediately apparent that I am the children’s mother because we have three different last names.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I have a blended family and we have 3 different last names.

FIRST NAME: My name is Annie Andre. Andre is my maiden name that I’ve kept on all my documents.

SECOND NAME: I’ve remarried and my daughter and my husband have the same last name.

THIRD NAME: My two sons are from a previous marriage over a decade ago and they have my ex-husbands last name. It doesn’t help that one of my son’s first name is my last name or that my other son has my last name as his middle name. ( “ANDRE”). I digress!

 Papers Please!

I’m used to carrying documents showing that I have permission to travel with my sons.

95% of the time, I am never asked for proof that I have permission to take my boys out of the country but today was one of those rare occasions. However the passport agent only asked  me to show my “permission slip” to travel with my daughter and NOT my son.  Okaaaaay?

I smiled and pulled out my proof:

  1. Handwritten note from my husband Blake which gave me permission to travel with Catherine. (It’s recommended you get this notarized but mine is not)
  2. My daughters birth certificate which showed Blake and I were her parents.
  3. A photocopy of Blake’s Passport for good measure. 

Hypothetically speaking, had the passport agent asked me for proof that I had permission to travel with my son,  I would have handed him a COURT ORDER  which allows me to travel freely with my two boys.

You’ll notice, I did not have a written letter of consent from my ex husband.  I had a court order. I’ll explain why and how I got this court order in a moment.

“Welcome Back to Canada” said the smiling customs agent.

Then the border police stamped our passport and off we went to my family’s house in Montreal.

How I Got Permission To Travel Abroad: Travel NOT LIVE

A few years ago, Blake and I decided to elope to Europe and take our daughter and my two sons with. It was just a month-long trip.

I really thought my EX would agree to let me to take the boys with us to Europe. After all, it was only a month and it was for my wedding.  I really wanted it to be a family thing with us and the kids.

No amount of pleading, begging or bribing could persuade my ex into writing a letter to give me permission to travel with the boys.

I really wanted the boys to be part of the ceremony, so rather than just rolling over and leaving the boys behind, I took my ex to court and big surprise “I won”.

It was rather silly.I suppose the judge could see that my ex was trying to be difficult because he ordered him to sign all the documents so that I could apply for passports to travel abroad with the kids until the boys turned 18.

The judge also gave me permission to travel anywhere in the US and Canada and internationally without written permission from my ex  as long as I tell him our itinerary.

It was this COURT ORDER I used on the day I went to Montreal with my kids and it’s what I carry with me when I travel anywhere for short visits like vacations.

But what if I want to spend more time abroad? What if I want to live abroad or spend up to a year abroad travelling with my kids? 

Eloped: Intermission

In case you were wondering, we spent 3 1/2 weeks in Paris and then flew to Edinburgh Scotland to have a small civil ceremony on July 14th which happens to be Bastille day (French independence day).

You can read about why we decided to elope to to Scotland as a family rather than get married locally.

You can also get the inside scoop on we to  we eloped to Scotland too. 

CHEEEEEEEEEEEZE. I’m so glad we took the boys with us. It just would not have been the same without them.

2008_07_15-190

This is us moments before the deed is done

Blake and I minutes after we were married in Scotland
Blake and I after the civil ceremony in Edinburgh. One of my sons is the photographer.

The kids hanging out at the Edinburgh castle after Blake and I got married

The kids hanging out at Edinburgh Castle.

The boys horsing around in Scotland
The boys re-enacting the battle of Langside where Mary Queen of Scotts was defeated.

Permission to TRAVEL LONG TERM and LIVE ABROAD

I had permission to travel and visit other countries with the boys but not permission to LIVE abroad.  

Right now, as I write these words, I am living in France with my husband Blake and 3 children.

The COURT ORDER that I obtained for travelling with my boys ( which I mentioned above) was not valid for “LIVING” in another country.  I could stay in Europe as a tourist with my family for 90 days but I wanted to live there for a year legally and immerse the kids in French culture which meant sending them to School.

For that I needed a special visa called the “LONG STAY VISA” which gave us the right to send our kids to school and stay legally in the country for one year not 90 days. 

Travel and Live are two different concepts and the French Embassy required that I either get written permission from my ex that clearly stated I could “LIVE” in France with my two sons or a court order showing that I can “LIVE” in France.

I called up my ex and explained to him what I wanted to do.

Parents send their kids abroad for a year of study all the time. I wanted my children to experience a year abroad but I wanted to be there with them. I hoped that my ex would be okay with the kids spending a year abroad. He was but not with the idea of me being there with them.

Okaaaay!

Again, no amount of pleading, begging, no agreement I came up with was good enough for him and he would not write me a letter giving me and the boys permission to live abroad.

So again I petitioned the court to intervene and decide.

SIDEBARNow before you jump on my back about taking the boys away from their birth father let me first say that  my situation may be very different from yours.

Obviously since I am writing this while living in France, the judge granted me permission to LIVE in France with my boys.

You Are Not Guaranteed Court Approval

Just because you take your ex to court does not guarantee you will win. In my case my ex did not have a very good track record as a parent.

There were a lot of variables that worked in our favour. The bad economy and the fact that my husband and I could not find jobs in our field. The educational opportunity for the boys and the fact that we would and could be home for the kids after school.

But there was one big variable which may shock many of my friends who knew me and my ex because I have not told anyone but family and close friends about because of fear of retaliation from my EX.

In my opinion, my ex’s LACK of involvement and lack of assistance weighed heavily on the judge’s ruling to allow us to travel.

  • Rarely Saw the boys: My ex rarely saw the boys. On two separate occasions I had to pay him and his sister to baby-sit for me. ( I finally found a sitter so I could have a break once a month).
  • Endangerment: On one occasion my ex was supposed to take one of my sons for 30 days in the summer but I was called by his then girlfriend  after 15 days to come and pick my son up because my ex was too drunk to take care of him.
  • Lack of Support:My ex went 8 years without paying me a dime of child support while receiving wages from working under the table before the courts finally took action and required proof that he was looking for a job. A real job. Now his pay-checks are automatically deducted and I get child support but he will be in his sixties before he ever catches up on all of his back child support that is owed to me and the boys. The boys will be close to 30 at that time.

I could go on, but you get the picture right? 

I am sharing all of this with you because I actually don’t think it is always a good idea to move out of the country with your children if the other parent does not want them to. For instance, had my ex been involved in my boys lives then I would not have attempted to take them out of the country. But since he was barely there for them there was really no loss in my eyes. And the judge thought so too.

The Court Process:

I’ll briefly explain the court process that I went through.

At the time, I was living in Montreal and my ex was in California. I called up the lawyer I used before and asked her to file a new petition to allow me to take the kids abroad.

I did not even have to fly to California. I was on the phone for the entire court proceeding. I could hear my ex presenting his case. My lawyer was present in California on my behalf. It lasted 20 minutes at most and then the judge made his ruling and I was allowed to LIVE in France for not one but TWO years with the boys.

So How Do You Get YOUR Court Order?

Before you go and try to get a court order to travel with your kids, I strongly advise you to speak with your ex first and try to draw up an agreement. It’s not only the best way to do it, it will also cost you less money leaving you with more money for your family.

But if your ex does not want to give you permission and you have your heart set on travelling or spending a year abroad like us then you’ll have to go to court.

DO IT YOURSELF OR HIRE A LAWYER?

I hired a family law lawyer. Each time I used my lawyer it cost between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars.

The lawyer I used was in the Santa Clara County of California since that is where I lived with my kids and that is where our custody agreement is. I did nothing else but search on the Internet for a family law lawyer who handled child custody and modification agreements. Then i just called them and found the one I liked. ( I called 3).

You don’t need to hire a lawyer. You could file your own documents:

I talked with several parents who did NOT hire a lawyer. They filled out and filed their own documents and you can do this too.

Go to your local family court-house and ask if they have free legal advice service or people on hand who can help you choose the correct documents and help you fill out the paperwork.

Once your documents are filled out, you file them and wait for your court date. In addition to filing my court docs,  I wrote a very wordy document about why I wanted to take the boys and why it benefited them. I wrote a bit about how much or little my ex was involved in my boy’s life. There is no format for this.  I just winged it and wrote from the heart.

That’s It. 

WHAT DOCUMENTS DO YOU NEED TO TRAVEL OR LIVE ABROAD WITH KIDS?

Just to summarize here are the documents you should travel with.

I spoke with several parents who travel internationally or live abroad with kids (alone). Some people I spoke with don’t even get permission from their ex. They just chance it. Others didn’t even know that they were supposed to have written permission.  So technically you could always chance it and go without written permission.

Personally, I wouldn’t chance it..

You never know when you will be asked to produce documentation. So here is what I recommend you travel with..

  • Always travel with a letter from the other parent. It should give you permission to travel with the kids and it should be dated and signed. Many government sites say that the letter should be notarized but so far I have only used NON notarized documents.
  • I  Also bring a copy of my child’s birth certificate which shows who the parents are. I have a friend (Talon, a single dad )who adopted his son and on the birth certificate it only shows him as the father the mother area is left blank so he doesn’t need to show any other documentation. Although he did say that he travels with the adoption papers just in case but that no one has even asked him to show any proof of the mothers permission.
  • A copy of your spouse or the other parents ID. Preferably a passport if you can manage. I have a copy of my husbands but not my ex.

Here is a link to the Canadian site with a link to a blank letter for you to fill out. Here is the link to the U.S. site stating the requirements.

If you can’t get a letter of approval than you will have to get a court order like i did. Be very careful of the wording you use in the court order.

Will you travel with the kids on vacations? Will you live abroad for a year? What countries? Will you travel nomadically during a period of time? For how long? What about the kids education? Health Insurance? How will they communicate with the other parent while abroad?

These are all things I had to consider and answer and you may need to do the same for your court order.

Reading Books In Berlin: Prenzlauer_Berg

The Kids Do A Lot Of Reading and Learning On The Road

ps: I wanted to add one thing. 

Not many people know this story including my friends. I think a lot of them will be very shocked to find out about this private matter.

I was going to keep it private but I think and I hope in the least that my transparency and my struggles will inspire and empower other single parents and blended families not to fear un-cooperative ex spouses.  I always advocate amicable relationships with ex’s but that’s just not always possible is it? You have to do what is best for the kids and that is what I did.

FINAL THOUGHTS: You Don’t Have To Agree With Me

I realize there may be some of you who disagree with the idea of travelling and living abroad with kids. You are entitled to that opinion.

I lived abroad and travelled a lot as a child and I am so grateful my parents gave me that opportunity. So much so that I want to give my kids the same gift that I received.

My kids are experiencing other cultures and seeing the way other people live first hand not to mention the fact that they are fluent in French now.

These are all things they would normally do and see in a classroom or some textbook but are getting to experience first hand. Plus they are learning to be more  creative which makes for better problem solvers who can adapt better to change in this world.

It took a lot of sacrifice on my part and my husband’s part to take the kids abroad but it’s totally worth it.

I would love to know your thoughts? Leave your comments below.

Annie_Berlin_ManyFaces_7 Things You didnn't know about me

Video: 7 Things You Did Not Know About Me!

Annie_Berlin_ManyFaces_at Nivea Store: 7 things you did not know about me

I am as giddy as a teenage girl nominated for prom queen today because…….. I was recently nominated for an award called the “Sisterhood of the world bloggers award”

sisterhood-blogger-awardSisterhood of the World Blogger Award.

I get to share 7 things about myself that you probably don’t know. Rather than just spout these things off, I thought I would make a fun video for you to watch.

Let me introduce myself first

If you don’t know who I am or what I do or why you are seeing this video, let me explain. My full name is Annie Andre. My mission is to empower, inspire and teach you how to take a break from the rat race to live your adventure and do what you love from anywhere in the world like I’m doing in the south of France with my husband and three kids.

Now Watch The Video and then check out my 7 nominations at the bottom of this page afterwards.

RULES: For The Sisterhood Of The World Bloggers Award:

  1. Recipients need to thank the giver
  2. Post 7 things about yourself
  3. Pass the award on to 7 other bloggers and let them know they’ve been nominated
  4. Include the logo of the award in a post or on your blog

Thank you so much:

Sylviane Nuccio, from SylvianeNuccio.com and Allie from ramblingsofawahm.com  for awarding me with the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.  They could have nominated anyone and thought of me. (blush, blush, turning red)

My Nominations For The Sisterhood Of The World Bloggers Award:

Here are my 7 fresh nominations.

I recommend you check out these women. You’re sure to find someone new whom you can learn a thing or two from.

1- SuitcaseEntrepreneur.com– Natalie Suisson: She teaches you to make money doing what you love from anywhere in the world.

2- LisaStoops.com – Lisa Stoops: The Queen of PLR Private Label Rights Material.

3- WickedAwesomeLife.com- Cigdem Kobu: Conversations with gutsy women on live and sustainable living

4- SarahOleary.net- aka Holistic Hot Sauce: Sarah O’Leary: Look radiant, feel vibrant & live your dreams ~ at midlife and beyond

5- AmeenaFalchetto.com– Ameena Falchetto: Creative Marketing solutions for creative people

6- Tinkerhobby.com– Natalia Fargasch Norman: Fun Hobby Electronics For Novice Makers

7- BillDorman.me – Bill Dorman: Technically not a woman but…. He likes to complain like one. Just kidding.

Dreaming of Marseille: How We Got On House Hunters International 500th episode

Our family was featured in Reality T.V. Show House Hunters International. I was really surprised to hear that the show we were on was a milestone episode. The 500th one to be exact. It ran between the 19th and 21st. of June 2012 and it was called “Dreaming of Marseille”

This is a video update and response to readers questions

I received a lot of email from people who ask me how we got on House Hunters International. Many readers also wanted to know why France? I decided to make this video as a response and summary.


In case you missed it, the official episode description follows

After losing their high paying tech-jobs, Annie and Blake spent a year with family in Montreal and Maryland before deciding to take a chance on a better life in the south of France.

She wants to start a home business teaching people how to take a career break to travel or live abroad for up to a year, he wants to write a book, they both want more time together with their three kids. They decided that the answer to all of their dreams can be found in Marseille. They just need to keep to firm budget as they’ll be living on savings until Annie can get her home business up and running. Watch as House Hunters international moves the family to Marseille, France.”

{{UPDATE: Here is the actual episode we were on. Thanks Katherine and Scott for getting this to me. }}

Thanks for watching. Please leave your comments below and don’t forget to sign up for email updates. Feel free to contact me or ask me questions or tell me what kind of content you are interested in reading about.

Watch Us On The TV Show “House Hunters International” June (Progress Report #2 May 2012)

Househunters International

Recap: This is my second progress report where I share with you how I’m making progress on my goal of creating a location independent business from scratch.  Remember, we’re putting it all on the line and living on our savings and some passive income while we invest in ourselves, our kids, our family and try to create a business that will support our lifestyle while also spending a year in the south of France. Plus my husband is writing his first novel. You can read about it and watch the video I made on the subject by clicking here.

I hope that by sharing with you my progress you will not only learn from my successes and failures but also get motivated to pursue your own dreams no matter how big or small.


Read More!

Dance Like No One Is Watching Birthday Video

Live A Life With Less Regrets & Why You Should Dance Like No One Is Watching!

Do You Worry Too Much About What Others Will Think?  Mark Twain once said, “Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth.”

dance like no one is watching

For as long as I can remember, I have NEEDLESSLY worried, fretted and agonized over many decisions in my life; all because of one simple thing.

I was afraid of what other people might think, say or how others might perceive me.

All that silly worrying robbed me of many experiences that could have and should have been great but most of all,……..

I FEEL REGRET.

Let me take you back in time to my adolescence.

My First Dance

Imagine, poofy hair, neon polo shirts, collars turned up and loud 80’s music playing.

I’m a shy teenager, not yet 15, standing alone in the school auditorium. It is my third or fourth school dance in my entire life.  Everyone is dancing like there is no tomorrow, smiling and laughing and having a great time. I feel envious.

I should be dancing too…… but i’m not.

It’s not that I don’t want to dance because i do.  I want to so badly. I think I even feel my chest tighten up and my heart skip a beat.

  • Despite my desire to dance,
  • Despite the fact that I promised myself I would dance, 
  • Despite hours of practice in front of the mirror in my room,

I stand there motionless, glued to the wall deathly AFRAID and…….. I DON’T DANCE.

The best i can do is imagine dancing but then, my imagination gets the best of me and I begin to imagine what everyone will say and do if I do dance.

“Everyone will laugh at me. Everyone will think I dance stupid. Everyone will stare” Song after song, there I stand like a statue paralyzed by fear.  I don’t even tap my toes to the rhythm of the music. I was a nerd and a loner in school.

Big In Japan

Fast forward a few years. I’m 18, I’m on a gap year living and working in Japan and travelling around the world as much as possible. I had 4 roommates in Japan and we liked to hang out and do things together. One evening, we were out at a night club in a part of Tokyo called Roppongi, famous for it’s night life.  I think the name of the club was “Java Jive” I can’t remember for sure anymore.

It must have been my fifth or sixth time out with the my then roommates.  I was content just hanging out and sitting in our seats at the club. It was actually lot’s of fun sitting around and hanging out.  I had friends now and no one new about my former nerdy ugly years.

Then something happened, I felt possessed. The DJ played a song which was everyone’s favorite at the time. Maybe you know it? It’s  called “Big in Japan” by Alphaville?  Anyways, i really loved that song and I found myself drifting towards the dance floor. It felt like an outer body experience, like i had no control over my body.

As I floated through the crowd, surrounded by other people dancing, I started dancing too. I didn’t even care that i was dancing alone. I was just dancing, feeling the words and loving the feeling.

This feeling of just doing and not caring was completely new to me.

There I was 18, dancing like crazy for the first time in my life not caring who the hell saw me. It was FAN Freaking-Tastic.  

To be honest, the combination of the alcohol (A Singapore sling) in my system and the fact that I came to Japan with less than 1,000 dollars in my pocket seemed to dwarf my fear of dancing in public.

I was dancing and it felt like a huge break through for me.

I went home that night over the moon  thinking ” I need to do that more often”. Then I felt a rush of regret and wondered

  • Why was i so scared of dancing all these years?
  • Why did i let fear of what others thought stop me from dancing?
  • What else have i missed out on because i was too scared?

On Becoming Less Fearful and More Adventurous

A lot has happened since my first fearless public dance. I still have that fear of dancing in public, old habits die hard I guess. I still care what other people think but I don’t let fear stop me anymore.

In many ways, I owe my new found confidence to that one dance. You could say that that one single moment gave me the strength to go on to do other things that have scared me.

How To Care Less About What Other People Think

If you were ever that wallflower at your dance or ever wished you had done or tried something but didn’t than you know what I’m talking about don’t you? If you’ve overcome a lot of your fears than you also know that it is somewhat of a learned art to tackle your fears. If you were to ask me how you could overcome your fears and obsessive worrying about what others think of you, I would tell you to start small and take it from there.

Start a list of 5 things you want to do and start doing them.

The List: Where do you start?

A while ago, I wrote an article titled  101 Simple Adventures You Can Do Today.  The list was meant to give you some ideas and hopefully inspire you to be more adventurous in your everyday life and give you the confidence to work your way up to bigger adventures.

But the list can do double duty as a list of things you have always wanted to do but didn’t because you were scared or embarrassed or worried what other people might think.

You don’t have to use my list, you can make up your own list. Go ahead and try it. You could start by your regrets. I suggest starting small. You could start your list of five things by saying

“I wish i………………( fill in something you want to do, try, learn, see etc).

Still Not Sure Where To Start? Why Not Try Dancing?

If you still don’t know where to start, just start by dancing.

Dancing is a primal thing that we all can do and it’s easy. Even babies have the urge to dance. If you don’t believe me, just go to Youtube and type “Dancing Babies” and you will see thousands and thousands of dancing baby videos.

Well, that urge to dance doesn’t go away. It’s in you right now even if you think it’s not.

But dancing like no one is watching is also metaphoric.

  • I’ve discovered that life is a whole lot more fun if you just let loose every once in a while.
  • Life is way more fun if you just stop worrying about what other people think. I’m not talking about running naked in public but doing the things that mean the most to you that your heart wants to do.
  • Life will start to look a whole lot better and be more gratifying when you start doing more of the things you love without fear of what others think.

I Sacrifice Myself and Embarrass Myself For You

In keeping with the spirit of this idea, I humbly offer  myself and my children as a sacrifice. Watch as we embarrass ourselves and show you fear is often imagined and we don’t let it stop us from having fun.  You might think this is not a big deal but you try doing it or try something else that scares you and put it up for the world to see.

It’s not easy. It just takes practice and a little courage.

And That Is  Why You Should Dance Like No One Is Watching!!

Watch me dance and sing like a dying bird

Enjoy watching the video. I hope you have a good laugh and I hope it inspires you to live your life the way you want to live it and not the way you think you are supposed to live it.

Originally I made a video of us dancing for my brother who just turned 35 but I thought I would share it with the world.

p.s.

If you are my brother Louis,  Happy 35th brother Louis, we love you and had a blast dancing like buffoons for you.

one of two penske trucks we used to move to the east coast

Adventures In Moving: How To Decide Where To Relocate Your Family

Before we decided to take a family sabbatical to live in France, we thought we would settle somewhere on the east coast. We went through the whole moving process from start to finish from west coast to east coast. This is a very high level look of how to decide Where To Relocate Your Family. Things you should consider whether  you are relocating your family across the country or to the other side of the world.

First some background:

We rented 2 huge Penske trucks, left our home in the the San Francisco Bay area and planned on settling clear across the U.S. in the Boston area.

We never ended up settling in Boston. Instead, we left our stuff in storage, and lived semi- nomadically with friends and family up and down the east coast while we home-schooled the kids and waited for the French Embassy to approve our visas.

It worked out great because when the embassy finally approved our visas in September of 2011, we packed what few clothes we had and left in less than 2 weeks.

Want to move some place different? It’s easy! Just do this…..

  1. Figure out where you want to move to
  2. Pack up all your stuff
  3. Transport all your stuff
  4. Unpack all your stuff

Easy, yes? No, not at all. Annie already covered some related move topic in her recent post about downsizing your book collection, but I’ll be coming at it from a slightly different point of view. In this post I will address how we decided to move to the Boston area.

Where To Relocate Your FamilyDeciding where to live

Ask twenty people the best place to live and you’ll get forty different answers. There are any number of factors that go in to deciding where your next home could be.

Do you want to be near family? Are there jobs that align with your current or future career? What is the cost of living? Are you looking for something urban, suburban, or rural?

Coastal or inland (sometimes described as saltwater or freshwater)? Love the cold? Hate humidity? If you have kids and aren’t rich, how are the public schools? What about the junior colleges and state universities? Our research, thinking, analysis, and tea leaf reading lead us to the Boston area.

Family

Annie has close relatives in Montreal, western Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and went to the University of Vermont.

My siblings live with their families in Maryland and Virginia, and I have good friends up and down the East coast. Boston was not super close to any one of these, but it was a lot easier getting to see everyone. And at least we’d all been in the same time zone (except for those outliers in New Brunswick!).

Jobs

Jobs are another big factor in determining where to relocate your family.

Although Annie and I wanted to strike out on our own, we thought it prudent to be near a source of jobs in case things didn’t work out. We both worked in high tech. Outside Silicon Valley the main tech hubs in the United States are Seattle, Austin, North Carolina, and Boston.

These are all fine places to live, but after you’ve lived in the Bay Area for a while, you might be more inclined to Seattle or Boston rather than Austin or North Carolina. Boston was the home of early microcomputer software hits such as VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3, and although not the powerhouse that Silicon Valley had become, clearly still had much to offer.

Cost of living, housing, and schools

A key metric on how to decide where to relocate y our family is figuring out the cost of living.

There are several cost of living calculators and comparison tools out there. We used this cost one at Sperling’s web site, and found it generally useful.

An important cost difference between San Francisco and Boston was the cost of home ownership. As a percentage of one’s salary, home ownership was significantly less in Boston (significant means 30-50% less). Of course, you must also figure in what your new salary might be (about 15% less in Boston over San Francisco for my field), and what additional expenses your new home might require (Sorel snow boots, snow blower, snow tires, snow shovels, a lot of Advil, followed by contracting with a snow removal service). Depending on the city you decide to live in you may be prone to more home improvements from Summit Point Roofing and that is something to take into consideration as well.

While the advent of the internet has not yet meant the complete demise of real estate agents, there are some great sites you can you use to help better understand homes costs. Trulia, Zillow, Movoto, and Redfin are all useful real estate web site; you can spend hours surfing the web for homes to buy.

The rental market was a little harder to get a feel for (at least remotely), but you can start with everybody’s favorite, Craigslist. For schooling, most states would be an improvement over California. If you want to start with the big kahuna of school testing score, start with the NAEP . Since we already knew we were interested in Boston, I used a few commercial sources to help narrow down the neighborhoods.

In our case I started with an article from Boston magazine which no longer exists but it listed out schools by best and worst, then used Great Schools to winnow out more information. Most big cities have some sort of lifestyle magazine, and these will have annual school rankings, which can help you with your search.

Sports, public transportation, city life, etc.

Family, jobs, and cost of living were the main drivers in making Boston our choice, but there were a number of secondary criteria that were also important.

  • Our oldest son Kieran is an accomplished dinghy sailor (Optis, moving up to FJs and 420s), and we wanted to be in an area that fostered sailing. It would be hard to do much better than the Boston area. More broadly, we enjoy water sports and being near the ocean, so again, the Boston area was a logical choice. Skiing, although not as good as Lake Tahoe, was a few hours away.
  • Between the commuter rail and the T, Boston’s public transportation is excellent compared to that of San Francisco. No, it’s not perfect, but coming from the Bay Area it feel like we’re in a European city.
  • Museums, restaurants, bars, all that history, the French Cultural Center, were other draws. We like to enjoy ourselves and try new things, and Boston offered no shortage of these.

How To Decide Where To Relocate Your Family

Yes you can

Moving is hard, just ask any survivor.

I grew up in an Army family, and we moved a lot. It was worse for my older sister, who tells about moving fourteen times in her first fourteen years.

Fortunately, our father’s moved frequency dropped as his career advanced, and all of us kids were able to attend the same high school.

But the point here is you must also weigh the disruption to your children against the future benefit of your new home.

I have no calculator to offer you for that one, but if you find one, let me know and I will post it here. Still, under the right circumstances a move can be a great thing. Good luck! I hope you enjoyed this article.

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