La Vie En Papier
There are three women I found major inspiration from in the past couple of years, and, funnily enough, I was not particularly close with any of them when I started feeling their influence. The three are all completely different from each other and have goals and perspectives entirely unique from mine. However, their common quality is that they took major risks and gave up their security in order to be who they are. And who they are is what they do every day. I have reached out to each of them to tell them that they were a part of why I ultimately decided to quit my job, give up all my material comforts, and spend the foreseeable future living out of a suitcase and traveling the world alone.
One of these people is Katie Rodgers, an artist and dreamer whose work is published under the name Paper Fashion. I’ve always thought of Katie as a modern day Degas – she sees beauty in everything and is able to translate it into her very own microcosm full of old-world charm. It’s no surprise that she has become so famous – Katie has created a fantastic escape for people to enter into on a daily (or even hourly) basis thanks to social media. When she reached out to say that she’d like to meet up in Paris, I thought there is probably no one better to visit such a beautiful city with. I have been to Paris a couple of times as a teenager, but had been curious to visit again as an adult and remind myself what all the fuss is about.
We gave in to Paris wholly and felt all the magic the city had to offer. It did not disappoint. We had a similar relaxed mindset about the way we like to visit a city – we didn’t plan, we didn’t stress, we didn’t rush. We wandered, ate, and photographed our way around Paris. We were able to squash the stereotype that all French people are stuck up and pretentious – the two of us were received with kindness and warmth wherever we went. I was able to get my high school French back up and running, allowing me to participate in the magic of Paris just a little bit extra. I finally understood the meaning of the famous Edith Pilaf song, “La Vie En Rose” (which loosely translates to “life through rose-colored glasses”) as we wandered the streets and stumbled upon amazing shops and cafés.
I don’t want to pretend this week was anything like the previous parts of my trip. It wasn’t. I splurged, stayed in a loft with my own bedroom, and had spectacular decadent meals. It became a vacation from the pace and normal day-to-day of my bigger trip, which was really fantastic. I had asked Katie to bring me a few items of clothing, as my wardrobe wasn’t particularly Paris-ready. I bought a pair of simple black boots to wear for my last month in Europe (I refuse to wear hiking boots around chic cities). I wore makeup for the first time in… well, a long, long time. I got to use a hairdryer, which might be the thing I miss most about my previous life (sad as that may be). This, among other events, took me out of my pseudo-backpacker mindset of the previous two months.
One extravagant example of this was our day trip with Cartier. Katie worked with the brand previously this year and had asked them for recommendations about what to do on her upcoming Paris trip, which is where their headquarters are located. They not only provided a great list of places, but also invited Katie (and her freeloading friend, me) on a day trip out to the former home, and now museum, of the artist Jean Cocteau. A car came to pick us up on our first full day in Paris and we had an interpreter taking us through the house along with the museum’s director, who spoke only French. Cocteau was a writer, director, and painter and had famous friendships with the likes of Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso. The house was full of stories and incredible pieces.
We spent hours working on a cheese plate and bottle of rosé at La Palette, a former Hemingway hangout with artist palettes strewn all over the walls. Katie was able to make one of her famous “shadow dancers” out of the meltiest, most delicious cheese on the board. It had mixed reviews from her fans, but I thought it was pretty impressive to watch her fashion something so beautiful out of something so divine. You can’t limit art, people!
We went to the top of Montmartre at dusk and overlooked the city. Then found a little table at a cafe and got steak frites while listening to a guitarist play classic American songs. Katie got a portrait drawn by man named Luigi and we watched the hustle and bustle on the street right in front of us.
Throughout this week, Katie and I discussed our lives constantly. Her work is incredibly busy and in-demand but she is able to do it pretty much anywhere. I am, obviously, not working and dreaming up ways to be able to travel and work at the same time. Despite our separate circumstances, we have a similar attitude about the importance of travel in keeping us both inspired and our imaginations going. Katie called this moment the “New Renaissance.” Being entrepreneurial is accepted and encouraged, especially in cities like New York and San Francisco. Finding your niche isn’t self-involved – it’s brave and it’s sustainable for your longterm fulfillment. People want to do something meaningful and inspiring. They want to blaze trails. It is a pretty amazing moment to get to witness and, in Katie’s case, actively participate in.
My week in Paris felt like things coming full-circle. I remembered back to a business trip in Chicago last spring, when I was emailing with Katie about finding a calling and how her life had been since moving to New York. I almost always traveled alone and was used to these lonely moments when I would start thinking “what the heck am I doing?” I was sitting in Millennium Park and had just given two big presentations that had gone swimmingly; but I felt no joy, no zest for life at all, and I was only 28. Katie had sent me an article about why people should consider quitting their jobs and I sat there reading it in my business suit and it all kind of clicked.
The universe has sent me so many wonderful signs, telling me this was the right choice for right now. Having one of the people who inspired me to do this come and become a part of my travel story was more than I ever expected. Getting to witness Katie’s creative process and how it enters into her every decision was motivating and reminded me why I’m searching for my version of Paper Fashion. I just hope it leads me back to Paris…