Thoughts on returning to France (for a visit)

In exactly one week we will be on our way to France for a 2 week visit. It’s the first time we’ve been back since moving in January 2016, and I have lots of thoughts that I wanted to get down before we leave.

People keep asking me if I’m excited. I guess I am, but it’s more just excitement/happiness to be on vacation! While we’re both lucky to have 3 weeks of vacation per year, my husband can’t carry any over. It’s nice to know his company encourages employees to actually use vacation time, but it means my plan of saving up vacation time and going for longer trips every few years may not really be possible. Last year we mostly took long weekends, and we both took a week when his mom and sister visited. So I’m looking forward to the first long break from work in over a year. However, I’m not excited about France, per se.

If I am honest with myself, I am not sure that I really miss France. I miss the cheap food and childcare. I miss travelling without a small child. But I don’t wish I hadn’t left, which is what “miss” really means to me.

To be fair, I don’t think that I missed the states when I was living in France. I missed familiar foods, family, and friends. But I didn’t have an adult life here to miss. If I missed anything, it was the (mostly) carefree days of college, which would have been the case no matter where I’d spent my twenties.

I reread my post talking about why I wanted to move back, and I think I’m on my way to accomplishing what I wanted from the move. Someone new started this week at work, and it took me a few days to mention my time in France. It used to be the first thing out of my mouth when talking to people. To not have “expat” be the first thing I identify with is a relief. I have said it countless times in the past year, but finding this job is what has made this move feel like one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am feeling more “myself” thanks to a job I do well and my awesome colleagues who support me and make me laugh every day.

Part of the reason to move was to “see if I could do it” on this side of the ocean. And I feel like I definitely can. Probably because of the confidence living abroad for an extended period of time gave me. I know I definitely wouldn’t be in the happy place I am today if I hadn’t lived in France, and I’m not saying I regret it in any way. But I don’t miss the life I had there, not in a regretful or painful way.

For me, it feels like the way I miss life in college. There were awesome things about it, I learned a lot, and made some great, lifelong friends. But it’s in the past, and I’ve moved on. I do feel like this is kind of harsh, like breaking up with someone after 8 years without a backward glance. To stay with the college theme, I like to think of it more like getting a PhD. Some people stay in academia, even stay at the same university. Others move into other fields and put that knowledge to other uses.

When people ask me though, I usually just answer with “yes, very excited!” since I know that’s what they are expecting. I really am excited about visiting Sweden while we’re there, where my brother-in-law is doing an internship. So perhaps my lack of excitement about France is just because it’s not something new. And when people ask if I’m excited, it’s because for them, it would be something new.

This has gone on a bit longer than I intended. The wine with dinner (French, of course!) probably has something to do with that. This seems like quite enough introspection for a Friday evening.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on returning to France (for a visit)”

  1. Hmm it does sound like some of that question might be projecting, as in France is such an exciting place if you don’t live there, you must be thrilled to go.
    That said, I am really excited about my trip to Boston this summer and I would be thrilled to go home to Texas anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I miss living there. I love eating the food and enjoying the friendly strangers, but I don’t feel any need to go back.

    1. I am excited about your trip to Boston too! :-) I feel like it could also be my anxiety of traveling with a toddler, where the line between “excited” and “terrified” is blurry…

      1. Oh lord, yes. I’m taking comfort in the fact that P will only be 9 months old and I will be accompanied by grandma and grandpa all but one leg (Newark-Munich on the way back…). What worries me most is the time difference, like it may make him stop sleeping forever.

  2. This is interesting to think about. I wonder if it’s because France won’t be anything new? I often feel that way about traveling for work – if it’s a new place, I’m excited, but if it’s some place I’ve already been, it feels a bit old hat. I don’t mind going, but I’m not like “Woohoo” either…

    1. I do think that may be a bigger part of it than I initially thought. Writing this all down seemed to have helped me work through the feelings a bit, and thinking about visiting my parents in DC elicits the same kind of emotions – yay for seeing family and friends, but otherwise, meh.

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