Friday, March 4, 2016

Hip + Urban Girl of the Month: Ashley Bartlett

By Wendy Kam Marcy

Ever dreamed of just taking a break from the everyday routine grind and hopping on a plane with the one you love? Well Ashley did just that... quit her job in PR, temporarily rented out her apartment and moved to Paris for what she calls a "6 month sabbatical"! Now she's back in Toronto and we finally got a chance to catchup and talk about her exciting adventures abroad.

1) Let's rewind to early last year when moving to Paris was just a dream and "idea"... we would love to hear how you actually made it happen!

There are two things I want from my life: great love and great stories. While I’m charmed in the relationship department (the love of my life, Andrew, asked me to marry him last year), I found myself lacking in the story department. Instead of taking the typical post-college Europe trip, I jumped right into the workforce as a fashion-slash-lifestyle PR professional. As my friends spent their early twenties collecting stamps on their passports, I worked tirelessly here in Toronto for almost a decade to build a career I am truly proud of. But although my student debt is paid off and I had an impressive résumé to my name, I’d always had this nagging feeling that something was missing. I felt as though my personal identity lacks vital experiences, and the kind of character that can only be built through the personal growth that travel allows.

As that nagging feeling intensified, it began fueling the possibility that I might be able to take some kind of break to travel for an extended period of time. Paris was always a place in which I could picture myself living, so I finally put two and two together. A sabbatical in this grand city began as an idea and soon evolved into a larger conversation with Andrew. The more we talked, the more I realized how doable it actually was. We planned and saved our money for almost a year, applied for our Visas, gave notice on our apartment, and left out jobs. The rest is history!

2) Let's talk about what you brought or forgot to bring! Knowing what you know now, how would you repack your suitcase for those 6 months?

Paris is notorious for its teenie tiny apartments, so I knew I would have to pack light. However, since we were there for three seasons I decided to pack for summer and then deal with fall and the cooler temperatures when I arrived. Since we had a year of planning to prepare and only one suitcase each to fill, I tried to be as smart as possible to ensure I had the necessary pieces. Packing for a vacation and packing for six months is a much different thing!

3) Moving itself is a big ordeal, never mind all the way to Paris! What tips can you give to those who are contemplating traveling abroad for extended time or an overseas move to ensure a smooth transition?

Planning is absolutely key. We found out about the under-30 youth Visa available through Canada’s agreement with France, so we saved up our money and applied. We were approved within a week or so because we had all the paperwork in line. But before that whole process began (you can only apply for it a month or so before your departure date), we had to take a gamble and hope for the best. That meant renting out apartments for the six months, which we did easily via Airbnb.

Because we were only there for six months, it didn’t make sense for us to open up a French bank account. Before the trip, we ordered Euros via CIBC’s foreign cash order system which was super convenient because we were able to pick it up at the airport before our flight took off. It’s never a good idea to carry around too much cash, but this was enough to get us started. For the rest of the time we used our credit card for our purchases (great for points).

We planned as much as we could, but I think it’s really important to balance this and prepare yourself for the unexpected. A new country and a new language are perfect grounds for surprises, but this is part of the excitement.

4) Tell us about your favourite thing in France and fondest memory.

We spent the summer months living in Biarritz, a small town on the west coast of France. It’s nestled right in Basque country and I absolutely fell in love with the culture. We spent our days surfing and shopping at the local market.

5) Aside from family and friends, what did you miss the most?

To be honest I didn’t miss much as our close friends and family came to visit. I’ve lived in Toronto all my life so it was incredibly energizing to experience a new culture for six months!

Connect with Ashley on Twitter and Instagram and follow her latest adventures on her blog @quaintelle.

Also let us know where you would want to take your 6 months sabbatical? (I did one in NYC, California + Hong Kong and would love to do my next one in Bali!)

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