It doesn’t count until you write it down
I rarely leave home without a yellow tablet of paper that contains my life’s to-do’s separated into quadrants. My hyper-organization is a result of my awful memory; if I don’t write it down, I absolutely wouldn’t remember anything. It’s also the product of giving me something to do when I need to pass the time, whether in a boring college class, riding on public transportation or waiting for a friend.
While my to-do’s are generally immediate, I’ve also been thinking about what I want to accomplish while I’m in France. As I said, if it’s not on paper, I will either forget all about it or remember but not hold myself to it. To prove that I was listening in some of my classes (OK, maybe just the PR ones), I’m also trying to set SMART goals–specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. And now you all can hold me to them, too.
- Stay in shape This is the vaguest of my goals because I have yet to figure out HOW exactly I’m going to stay in shape, other than taking the stairs every day. Gyms here tend to be expensive and inconvenient: what a combination! And that’s only because I have no other option. However, now that bread and cheese is its own individual food group, I’m going to have to find a way…even if that means rollerblades.
- Try one new restaurant a week
- Try one new recipe a week
- See two French movies a month
- Read one French novel a month
As a frugal traveler with a kitchen, it’s easy to get sucked into wanting to eat at home all the time. However, even with the right ingredients, you can’t learn local cuisine by osmosis! Eating out is also a great way to practice my French and possibly meet people, so I’m going have to pry myself off my computer and into a new restaurant once a week.
I still want to be the next Julia Child. Or maybe just the Julia Child wannabe, like in “Julie and Julia.” Either way, I want to broaden my cooking horizons and try to make use out of all the fabulous ingredients I find at market. My attempts have been half successes, half learning experiences so far, so I’m inspired to keep going.
While my reading comprehension isn’t bad, I get caught up on dialogue. Especially dialogue that’s going at real-life speed, not the pronounced even keel of my professor. Movies are also a great way to pick up on slang and culture–and French cinemas still give a student discount!
Une Française à New-York has been collecting dust on my bookshelf for the past few years. I dug it out for the trip over here, and I’ve been laughing at the complete shift in perspective ever since. It’s crazy to read an actual French person’s perspective on America–including her complete disbelief at the fact that we pick up after our dogs and eat lunch in front of our computer! Even though I have to read with a dictionary by my side and can’t get through more than a few pages at a time, I’m really enjoying it and it’s great for my French. Win-win.
My goals are officially written down and hanging up next to my desk. No more slacking off on Facebook for me–the next few months are all about French language, culture and nightlife, of course!
How do you keep yourself on track when you’re traveling or living abroad? What are your goals for a trip? How do you measure the success of a “living abroad” experience?