A Series of Unfortunate Events
“Life turns on a dime.”
— Jake Epping, 11/22/63 by Stephen King
I guess nothing really ever goes “as planned” does it? As the character in Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63 is apt to say, life turns on a dime. I’ll start with the good news first. It’s 6am on a crisp Christmas morning and I’m writing this from our new apartment in Aix—so that’s pretty amazing.
But let’s back up to just a few weeks ago, when writing that first paragraph didn't seem like it was in the cards.
After stepping out of a meeting that included my HR manager, I found out that I actually wouldn't be able to work in France. The nuances of international tax law probably warrants its own post—but suffice it to say that due to “tax mumbo-jumbo”, my employer couldn’t make it work.
If you’ve read this blog chronologically and paid attention, the last few posts really made it seem like I was approved, didn’t it? That’s because when we decided to open the doors on Aix Squared it was after our visa approval when at the time I was approved to work remotely. We didn’t want to make a blog and then not end up going to France!
So on a timeline, we were approved for our visas in October and were under the impression that everything was in order from my employer’s perspective. Both my manager and my director were under the same impression. Then, two weeks before we left for our 11 month stay in France, I find out I can’t actually work while we live in France. Great.
At this point, you can forgive us for feeling a bit helpless—especially after my Nokia died, it felt like everything was falling apart just as we were about to leave. How could we live in France without me working? Well, as I had been telling Céleste this whole time, “We’re going no matter what.”
In those two weeks before our plane was scheduled to depart, I did a bunch of things. I drew up a spreadsheet in Excel with projections for monthly expenses and bank balances and put in every expense we can reasonably expect each month (loans, insurance, utilities, rent, etc.). The numbers didn’t tell a promising story—with our current projection, we would only be able to stay for 3 months. Was there anything we could do to make it better? Yes, there was but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off before we left.
In order to make the projections work out in our favor, we had to reduce the monthly payments on whatever we could. The bulk of our expenses are loans (student or otherwise). We’re not alone—probably every student that’s graduated feels the pain of debt. So what I was able to do was put our loans on forbearance. I didn’t like it but there was no other way to reduce those payments. I also reduced the payment on my car since I had paid ahead. With those payments eliminated or reduced, things looked brigther. Since we wanted to stay more than 3 months and it would be unreasonable to sustain ourselves for a full 11 months without pay (and forego an entire year’s salary) we aimed for 6 months. I told my employer I was willing to do an unpaid leave of absence—we had discussed this previously when it was hinted that things wouldn’t work out.
By putting our loans on forbearance and performing some other financial feats of strength, the numbers told a different story. Without loan payments, we could sustain ourselves for up to 6 months and still have some money leftover for emergencies and for when we get back. I understand putting loans on forbearance is just delaying the inevitable, so we will have to pay off the loans as much as we can the following year when we come back to offset the accumulated interest. That, however, is a task for the future—for now, it’s good enough to be able to live in France for some duration.
So that’s where we’re at friends—a six month extended vacation in France. As I write this I’m sipping on some fennel seed tea (it’s surprisingly good) in our beautiful apartment in Aix, on Christmas day, and ending this post on a positive note. We couldn’t stay for the full eleven months but now we’ll literally be able to do whatever we want for the next six instead. It’ll certainly mean more blog posts since we’ll be doing a lot more than we had initially planned. We hope you’ll stay with us as we truly embark on an adventure of a lifetime.