Book Review: Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

I have never been so inspired to quit my 9-5 Monday through Friday job as I do after reading this book. Janice takes you through her journey of living the 9-5 life as an advertising agency copywriter and associate creative director, and hating every second of it. She spent her days dreaming about her next vacation and about what she could do to never step foot in another advertising agency again. She made decent money but always felt like there was so much more to life than what she was getting.

Paris Letters is a memoir all about a young woman trying to find her way through life by spending a year writing in a journal and saving money to travel around Europe for a year. After hard work and determination, Janice found that if she stopped spending money, found ways to earn a little extra cash, and sold what she currently owned, she could afford her lengthy adventure abroad. She thought it was impossible, but she decided to go for it anyway; she stopped buying new clothes and items for her home, she stopped going out to dinner every time she was invited because the cost added up so quickly, she painted new paintings to sell, give as gifts, or give to charity to auction off instead of just selling her art supplies, and instead of going to salad bars she cut up her own vegetables and made her own. After doing all of this, she ended up being able to fit most of her belongings in one suitcase before taking off on her trip of a lifetime.

Janice’s first stop on her venture was Paris, where she ends up falling in love with Christophe, the local butcher (you will find this funny once you read a bit more into who Janice becomes before her travels). She spends her days in Paris falling more and more in love through Franglish and charades trying to communicate with one another. Nonetheless, they enjoyed each other without saying much of anything; they formed a relationship based on simple conversation and a lot of love.

Janice found that her funds she worked so hard to save up were almost gone, so she went into a panic because she had no idea what she was going to do. She knew she that going back to Los Angeles or Canada and slipping back into the 9 to 5 life was simply not an option. With a little inspiration and a lot of creativity, Janice fulfilled her dream of becoming an artist in Paris through a painted letter series that turns into a subscription service. Each month, Janice paints and writes a letter and sends a customized (just by name) copy to each subscriber. By continuing to explore Paris, she  was able to find the best scenes to use for her next letter. Janice found that she was not only falling further in love with Christophe, but she was also falling more in love with art and the City of Love.

Janice made her dreams a reality with dedication, and she made it look so easy! I found myself dreaming about my own escape to achieve my life goals. I could not put this book down as it was the perfect combination of everything that I enjoy in a book; humor, adventure, love, and dreaming. She made what feels like the impossible seem more than possible all while falling in love, traveling around Europe, and achieving a goal that made her truly happy. She found her Mona Lisa smile.

Never Stop Traveling…Ever

I woke up Tuesday morning to a text from a co-worker telling me about the attacks on Brussels. At that point in time it was still unraveling and the death and injury count was continuing to climb. I first felt saddened and then I felt angry.

It’s not just Belgium that is being threatened and attacked, it’s all over the globe. You have Paris, the Ivory Coast, Turkey, Beirut, Baghdad, California…the list could go on forever. The entire world is living in a constant state of fear thinking, “Who is next? Will I be a victim of one of these attacks?”

With these questions comes the question that I want to touch on: “Should I be traveling with everything that is going on?” 

Let me answer that question for you…YES!

These attacks can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. Every time they occur, we feel a sense of concern and sadness for the victims of these events. We question how do the families deal with this type of situation? What did these people do to deserve this? How could people be so cruel in a world that is naturally beautiful and so full of hope and wonder? When all of that concern goes away, another feeling or two kicks in; fear and anger.

We fear that we may potentially be in harm’s way due to recent events and have an instinct to just stay in our house. We fear that if we do anything out of the ordinary, we can be killed because we just happened to be enjoying the one life we have to live. We worry about our safety to the point where stepping out of the house is a risk.

For people like myself, I feel the fear but I also feel the anger. What motivates people to think its okay to take the lives of innocent and vulnerable people? What makes your life so awful that you attack cities for attention?

Traveling is one of the brightest lights in my life. It exposes me to everything new. I feel if people traveled more, there would not be so much hate. Each culture and country has their differences but we are all human. If we took a moment to really experience and absorb the differences in the world, there would be a bigger sense of understanding and equality.

Being so involved in the travel industry (I work for a tour operator based in Boston), I see the thought processes of all types of travelers. The adventurous ones, the scared ones, the cranky ones, the thankful ones. You name it, I have talked to them. What surprises me most is when people cancel the trip of a lifetime due to terrorism. By not traveling, you are letting the terrorists win. They want you to be afraid. They want you to stay home. They are looking for the power that you give them. I am not saying you are wrong for being fearful but do not let that stop you from living the life that you dream of. Keep your head up and your eyes open. The media will do everything in their power to make a bad story even worse. You need to follow your instincts. Do not ignore travel warning, we aware of them. Most importantly, do not just hop on a plane because you feel like it. Do your research. Read the news but take it lightly. Use locals as a resource and talk to them!

While there is so much hate and violence in this world, just think of all the greatness and love that is also present. Think of feelings you get when you step off the plane in a city you have never been or a place you love. It is one of the greatest feelings of all time. A feeling of wanderlust. There are people in every inch of this world who want to do, be, and see great things. Just think about the people who have helped you through your journeys whether it’s giving you a place to stay or directions to a great cafe. Think about the friends you have made in the places you have visited. At the local pubs, on the streets, even on the subway. These people allow us to really experience what it is we live for.

Those people and those experiences is why we cannot stop traveling. Do not let them win. Live out your dreams as we are only given one life. You do not know what tomorrow will bring so live your life the way you WANT to, not the way you are expected to. We need to continue to meet new people and experience their cultures and lifestyles.

My goal is to continue to understand other cultures as much as possible. In a way, it is kind of like a responsibility more than a hobby to know the world we are apart of. It is evident in everyday life there are so many different cultures throughout the world and the only way to understand them is to be curious and adventurous. To get on that plane and just go. To have the patience to interact with the locals, to be open-minded, and to be there for those that are there for us.

Traveling is the only way for us to really understand the world we live in. We cannot live in fear or the world will never change. Be cautious but if you have a dream, just live it. Do not cancel your flights, your train, your rental car. You would rather live a life full of excitement, fear, and learning experiences than not live at all. In a world full of hatred, find love, compassion, and kindness. Those things go a long way when reflecting on your travels. They are the things you remember most. Traveling right now, in this moment in time, may be one of the most important life decisions you will ever make.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” -Anonymous

xoxo,

Amy