You know I get it, when you heard that you were going to France you got so excited that you started looking through loads of travel guides and writing down all the stuff you’ll want to visit and taste while you live in France. Totally normal, we’ve all done that at some point.
The problem with that approach to making a bucket list for France is you probably won’t manage to do more than half of what you had dreamed of doing.
When I move abroad, I personally don’t like making a bucket list the way you find them online.
Here’s what I don’t like about the typical bucket list:
- It’s just a bunch of places to visit. But in my experience, what matters is the way you choose to explore your new home, not where you go and what you see. If you spend the whole time fighting or getting lost, you won’t enjoy much of your trip, right?
- It’s not realistic because it lists too many activities for the limited time you have and it doesn’t take into account the fact you’ll sometimes be busy/discouraged/shy. In the end, it’ll make you feel frustrated when you realise you won’t manage to do it all. If you’re a perfectionist, maybe you’ll even think that you didn’t get much done while living in France.
- It’s too cliché. It may not even be what you were really looking forward to do, but you followed someone else’s bucket list for Paris and ended up in a bateau-mouche on the Seine with a bunch of tourists taking selfies, an annoying voice repeating the same boring stuff in 4 different languages and a hole in your bank account.
- It’s way too expensive and there’s no way you’ll be able to do half of what you had planned. Obviously, you didn’t realize going out once a week would cost you so much because you forgot to check the price of beers in Paris.
What a bucket list should really be
Here’s what I think you should try to achieve with your bucket list for France :
- Make it fun : first and most importantly, try to focus on things you would love to do before moving out of France. Pushing yourself a little to go out and try new things will help you to take advantage of your life abroad much more.
- Keep it relaxing : if you’re stressed out, exhausted from work and then you try to put pressure on yourself to make big day trips in the weekends, you’ll only be pushing yourself to the limit of what’s human. Don’t do that, stay away from activities that seem tiring (expat life is already difficult enough).
- Keep it affordable : spending the rest of the month having to limit yourself just because you decided that “you only live once” really sucks (speaking from the heart here), so make sure your dreams are financially achievable. If not, this may be a good incentive to find extra sources of income right from the start! Big cities in France can be quite expensive, not only Paris.
- Make it challenging (in a good way) : it will help you to get out of your comfort zone and may even prevent you from catching the “homesick blues” (which you’ll still get, but at least it won’t turn into a serious depression).
- Make it comforting : seriously, sometimes all you’ll want is comfort food, a cosy sweatshirt and a marathon of feel-good movies with someone you care about, especially when you’re far from family and friends and everything else that feels familiar.
- Make it a way to record your growth : a bucket list can become a real tool if you use it the right way. Keep a record of what you’ve accomplished, those are memories you will cherish your entire life. Being able to visualize how much you’ve learned will help you realise what an amazing journey you’re going through. It’ll help you focus on the big picture instead of going insane with all the annoying details (you know what I mean : administration, being the foreigner and all the rest).
Why I recommend waiting before making your bucket list
When you arrive in France, you’ll probably be way too distracted/excited/curious about everything you discover to make a bucket list that takes into account how long it lasts to get around the city and how much you should save to be able to travel and go out.
Trust me, wait until after the first month to write down what you’d like to do, taste and visit.
That’s usually when homesickness and all kinds of frustrations start to kick in, so it’s the perfect timing to start crafting some dreams and boost your mood.
After the first month, you’ll know quite well what the cost is of a lunch in a brasserie, you’ll be able to find your way in public transports and how long it takes to visit a small museum. The language barrier will hopefully be a bit less high than at the beginning and you will feel less shy to go out on your own and speak French.
By the way, why don’t you work on your own bucket list while reading through this article?
What you could include in your bucket list for France
Making different kinds of plans in advance will help you match whatever mood you’re in whenever you have some spare time.
Here are the types of activities I would recommend adding to your bucket list for France :
- Travel (ex : see the fields of lavender in the Provence region)
- Food (ex : look for the 5 best croissants of your town and pick your favorite)
- Language (ex : go to a Franglish meetup and start a language exchange)
- Shopping (ex : visit the gourmet supermarket Le bon marché)
- Entertainment (ex : go to an open air cinema festival this summer)
- Culture (ex : visit 5 exhibitions featuring impressionist painting)
- Well-being (ex : go for a run in parc Monceau, Paris)
And because I knew you’d be looking for some inspiration for your bucket list, here are a few examples I want to share with you, some were made by people who lived in France for a while :
- A quirky list from a girl who lived for a bit in Aix-en-Provence
- Yet another lady who lived for a while in Aix-en-Provence
- A reminder that there are many places to explore in France besides Paris
- Recommended because each arrondissement in Paris has its own beauty
- Quite a lot of typical things to do in Paris but hilarious nonetheless
If you’d like even more ideas, why not download the list of 105+ bucket list ideas for France I made just for you!
How to turn your amazing bucket list into an action plan
I discovered the beauty of having an action plan beside my bucket list thanks to my boyfriend.
We both kept on complaining that we wanted to go out more often in the weekend, but we used to spend a lot of time looking for more info on places we wanted to visit and ended up staying at home by the time we were done researching as it was too late to go out…
Yeah, now I know what a vicious circle that is.
One brilliant day, my boyfriend suggested we’d do all the research in advance and keep all the maps, links and info on the costs in a folder on the computer so that when we feel like going out for a hike, it would be easy peasy to choose an excursion and jump in the car.
This really made our life easier and may have saved us from passing out of boredom.
So here’s what I propose you do once your bucket list for France is all set up : I did all the organizing for you, all you’ll need to do is make your own research for the activities that you’d like to do soon and write it all down somewhere easy to access.
I’d especially recommend looking up anything that’s seasonal, related to a holiday or a festival as these only happen once a year and you would hate missing on them.
Note : this is optional and will help you turn your bucket list into something that’s easy to accomplish, but if you feel like your dreams need spontaneity, then skip this part. If you do notice after 2 months that you haven’t done much of what’s on your list, you can always bookmark this page and come back later.
Here are some suggestions of the columns you could add to your action plan :
- How important the activity is for you
- How much it will cost
- How long it will take
- Where it will or could happen
- When it will or could happen
- With whom you could do this
- What you could learn from this
- The equipment, material or knowledge you will need
- Extra notes and links to activity
Oh, and I took the time to plug all this into a Google spreadsheet so you can start using it right away for your future plans (no email adress required). To download and edit your own version, click on “File” then “Download as” Excel sheet or “Make a copy” if you’d like to edit it in your browser.
What you can do next
We’re arriving to the end of this article and I hope you’ll be leaving with lots of inspiration and motivation to start your life in France with the right resources.
Before you go, I’d like to give you a few more tips on how you can make your bucket list more impactful:
- Write down what you want to learn during your stay in France before moving abroad
- Use the S.M.A.R.T. method to make sure your goals are concrete enough to be achieved
- Have a visual reminder so you won’t easily forget about your dreams. Print your beautiful bucket list or use it as a digital background so you will see it on a regular basis. Don’t forget to download this free bucket list so you can fill it in with your own projects!
- Share your joys with your friends and get more ideas from them or use the hashtag #frenchylist on Instagram to find more expats living their dreams in France. Share your bucket list and things you’ve managed to check off your list with this hashtag and you could get featured on my feed.