San Francisco: Fourth Time And Still Charming

12509411_10207457053517908_6599457543259323581_n

I have been absolutely terrible about keeping up with blog posts since I’ve been traveling the past few weeks, but since writing is something that I do while I have alone time, and down time, it was harder to do while traveling with a couple of friends around the UK/Ireland.

Fast forward, though, and I’m not sitting in the cutest apartment EVER in San Francisco, CA.

I am absolutely in love with San Francisco. I love the city, I love the vibe, and I love all the crazy that makes it what it is. This is my fourth time here, and I’ve loved every time, for a lot of the reasons I love other cities around the world – each time I come here I have SUCH A GOOD TIME. And it’s always for completely different reasons.

This time I’m here for work, but since I have an extremely rewarding workplace, it doesn’t feel that way at all. Yes, we’ve been working hard, but I feel like I’m on vacation more because I’m not sitting around lazy (which is my least favorite kind of “enjoyment” ever).

I’m reading this book right now called, “Reality is broken” and it talks about how humans aren’t wired for “fun” in the way that we often think about it: ie. binge watching TV. What actually motivates us to be happy with out days/lives is “hard fun” or things we have to work at. That’s how I feel about my time in San Francisco. I love being able to work hard, love where I am and have a little apartment dedicated to my own time of reading, writing and sleeping off jet-lag (real talk).

This weekend I’ll have a little bit more free time, as well. I’m trying to come up with some great stops to visit (specifically geek oriented) but I’m really just grasping at the dark, since I have no idea. Here’s my list so far:

San Francisco Public Library: “First editions, foreign translations, criticism, periodical and biographical material relating to Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes are included among these 250 volumes.”

Artist in Residence, Rachel Dukes, hosted by the Cartoon Art Museum

Mr Holmes Bakehouse: French Bakery with an awesome name

Cable Car Museum

Lovejoy’s Tea Room: British tea done right

Haas-Lilienthal House museum tour

Borderland Books – Geek books and comics

Pacific Heights walking tour 

Great Fire/San Francisco fire tour

Big Bus Tour

Wells Fargo Museum 

What am I missing out on San Franciscans!? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Also: Here are some of my favorite pics so far:

12400727_10207457056197975_93339068278585065_n 12316166_10207457055797965_3726023424957009866_n 12508927_10207457055477957_6652445381034867762_n 10599136_10207457055117948_1981689193270034900_n 12508828_10207457054797940_2944016367331079425_n 12510393_10207457054437931_4548418509554884739_n 12540883_10207457053837916_5142268304682221275_n
10366296_10207457052877892_6979982221459084849_n

Applying For A French Au Pair Visa 101

10524739_10203720435624796_270799082396653388_n

Since applying for a French Visa (Au Pair) was one of the most stressful events of my life, I thought I would share some insight, so those of you thinking about doing the same might have an easier time. There are a lot of outdated resources out there that are way less than helpful, because they have you running around getting paperwork that you don’t even need. Here’s an updated list of paperwork you WILL NEED for the French Consulate  (in San Francisco as of August 2014)

Things you NEED to apply for an Au Pair Visa: 

1. Visa Application Form: First things first, make sure you print out and fill out the application form and attach a passport style (color) photo to the top right corner. Make a copy.

2. Your Passport: Sounds like a no brainer, but you will need to bring your passport and a copy of the identification pages when you go to apply. Make a copy.

3. Contract: Make sure you have an approved contract signed by you, the family you’ll be working with, and validated by the local DIRRECTE where you plan on moving (in France). Make a copy.

4. Flight/Travel Plans: You’ll need to have proof of plane ticket purchases, OR written plans of when you’ll be traveling with a signed statement that says you won’t leave the country before you receive your visa. Make a copy. 

5. Letter of acceptance from a French Institution: As an au pair you will be required to be enrolled in language/culture classes while you are working in France. I decided to enroll in a 1 year program at a language institute at the University near where I’m going to be living. Make a copy. 

6. OCII form: Once you actually get to France, you will need to get this form validated within 3 months of getting there. When you apply, make sure to bring it with the top part filled out.

6. Self addressed prepaid express mail envelope: You’ll need this for getting your passport and visa back (unless you decide to go back to the embassy and pick it up). Make sure this is from USPS (not FedEx or UPS) and does NOT have the mailing label stuck on it (this way they can give you your tracking number).

7. Processing Fee: The easiest way to pay this is by Visa, but they also take personal checks. For me this fee was $136.

Things you WON’T NEED: 

Certificat Médical: Some Au Pair websites told me that I would need to get a signed document of health for applying for my visa (within three months of applying) but they never even asked me for this when I was applying, so don’t worry about it (unless you really feel like going to the doctor for a physical).

Extra Passport photos: Other than the photos in the top right corner of your application, you shouldn’t need any other passport photos.

Bank Statements/Guaranteer: This was my ALL TIME stress because some websites stated that I needed to have the total amount of $820 x 12 months I’m living there in my bank account before leaving, OR someone to notarize a statement saying they would be available to provide that amount given the need. NOT NEEDED.

CampusFrance: This is NOT FOR AU PAIRS. And it is a stress and four week waiting + $100 dollar waste of your time. I cannot believe I waited so long for this paperwork, just to find out that it wasn’t needed.

Diploma: Some sites stated that I would need a printed copy of my last diploma (so, University) when applying. NOT NEEDED.

Might want to bring (BUT DON’T NEED) if you’re OCD, like me:

Receipt of Booking: You don’t really have to have this, but I brought mine just in case (for some reason) they tried to say that I hadn’t made an appointment. Proof on paper is generally a good rule of thumb.

Proof Of Residence: I didn’t need this when I was applying because my passport has my Washington State address on it, already. BUT if you’re from a different state originally, and are applying for a visa within the district of where you’re living now, you’ll need to provide proof that you live there. This can include a copy of your drivers license or state ID (refer to consulate website for more examples).

A Pen: Just in case you’re sitting in the waiting area and realize you forgot to fill something out. Which may or may not have happened to me.

For more information visit your Consulate’s webpage (or email them). Here’s the link for mine (San Francisco): CLICK HERE

REMEMBER: This is a list based off my personal experience at the San Francisco French Consulate, consult your local consulate before making an appointment to double check you have everything you need!

Apply For Visa: Done.

20140801-155715-57435980.jpg
Last night consisted of Cup Of Noodle, nervousness, triple checking that I had everything for my visa appointment,
excitement and hours of giggling, with the girls in my hostel, over how cute German guys are. Needless to say, sleep was not high on the list of priorities. Even when I did manage to fall asleep, I kept being jolted awake by the construction happening outside and the light streaming in through the curtains.

In short, I ended up sprawled out on my bed with a striped wool sock over my eyes, dreaming about not waking up in time for my appointment (I set 3 alarms). After worrying all night, I had this feeling that I should double check my 10am appointment time, so this morning I did – it wasn’t 10am, it was 9:30am.

Thankfully, I checked early enough that this wasn’t an issue, but I was reminded of how fragile this whole process is. Missing that appointment would have meant having to reschedule…in September. I would have missed my flight, school registration (September 8th) and I don’t know where I would have lived (in the US or France). Thank God I double checked – and I mean that in the absolute most literal way.

Even up until I was being checked in I was thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I half expected not to be on the check in list. But I was. And I had to mentally pinch myself as I sat in the chair. I was sitting at the French Consulate. I was applying to move to France. Was this real life? Yes. Yes, it was.

Everything went smoothly with the application process until the clerk noticed that my phone case had the French flag on it. She was so surprised, and I mentioned that my tattoo was also in French. She wanted to know why, but all I could say, as I started to cry, was, ” I’ve wanted this since I was 9 years old.”
For some perspective (for those of you who don’t know me well) I NEVER cry. Not at sad movies, not at funerals and not in front of strangers at the French consulate. But, combine lack of sleep and the realization of how close I am to making my dream a reality, and the result hit me all at once. Cue water works.

The good news was that the lady at the office told me there shouldn’t be any problem getting me my visa in time. She told me to email them in 10 days to double check with them, if I had not heard back. Apparently there’s been a running joke in the office because I’ve been emailing and talking with the San Francisco and Washington DC consulates so much. In fact, when I walked up to the window, the other clerk said, “Is that Emily Morehouse?!” I’m kinda a big deal, guys. When an embassy knows you by name, I count it as a good sign.

Now that the application has been turned in, the waiting begins… But I feel such a huge weight lifted. I applied to live in France – that’s insane.

I really hope that if any of you guys are feeling intimidated by travel you’ll be encouraged by my story, here. There’s nothing magical about me, nothing that makes this more possible for me than it would be for you. The only thing I’m equipped with is an ungodly amount of stubbornness. I’m such a strong advocate for being able go do anything you REALLY set your mind to. Because, if it’s something you really want, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

20140801-154205-56525617.jpg

20140801-154203-56523038.jpg

20140801-154205-56525115.jpg

20140801-154439-56679463.jpg

Life Is Like A Mop

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA

Hello beautiful people!

It’s been a while since I’ve written and there are a few reasons why.

1. I’ve been running around like a mad person trying to get things ready for moving (pretty unsuccessfully) and in between jumping up and down in excitement, and weeping for hours, I’ve haven’t had a lot of time to write.

2. I’ve been hosting Couchsurfers! My roommates have been gone for the last couple of weeks so I decided to take in some lovely Couchsurfers so they had a place to stay. We’ve had some pretty awesome adventures, and I’m so happy that I got to meet some other amazing people who love traveling as much as I do.

3. I’ve been arts-ing a lot. I’m trying to do this #100daysofhappy, inspired by one of my friends (it’s bumpy, but I’m determined to stick with it) and so I’ve been creating some watercolor beauties to share on my Instagram.

4. I’ve been/will be taking classes. I was taking an online “Lettering” class, which was fantastic. I use the website, Skillshare.com which has online tutorials, “classmates” and instructor videos for only $10/month (which is amazing). I loved taking the class so much and I can’t wait to practice more with all of my favorite quotes etc.

Whew! A lot has been going on. I’m still trying to get one last piece of paperwork processed before my visa application appointment on August 1st. CampusFrance is a French agency that all incoming students have to go through before getting a visa to France. I don’t really even know what they do, but I had to send in my paperwork weeks ago, and they still haven’t got back to me. I’m going to be harassing them this coming week to get my confirmation email, so I can be all set for my visa appointment.

This whole process has, honestly, been the most stressful process of my life (more than four years of college put together). I can’t even believe that I’ve made it this far, and worked this hard. But every time I hit a road block (which is happening A LOT) I just really have to view it as life asking me, “How bad do you want this?”

The resounding answer, of course, is A LOT.

Videos like this one have been keeping me on my toes:

At this point, I think it might just be my Irish stubbornness that’s keeping me going, but I feel like once I get to France I’ll be able to let out a huge sigh of relief.

Oh, and did I mention that I’ll be living in France in LESS THAN A MONTH! Let the hyperventilating commence. I can’t even believe how fast the past months have gone. I feel like every time I look at the calendar two weeks have passed and all I’ve done to “get ready” is stared at the things I probably will need to get rid of at some point, in my room.

But “c’est la vie“. I have no idea how this is all going to come together in the end, but I know that it will and that I’m getting ready to embark on a pretty amazing adventure. Updates should be coming pretty regularly now that life has slowed down a bit. The things remaining are:

1. Flying down to San Francisco AGAIN for my visa appointment (August 1st)

2. Getting approved from Campus France before being able to go to my appointment

3. Getting rid of pretty much everything I own (except my very favorites).

4. FORCING myself to keep practicing French even though I’m not “in the mood”

5. Not having a panic attack every day.

Shout out to all of my beautiful friends who have been keeping me sane over the past months, only one more to go! 

People you should be following, because they’re doing awesome things: 

Human Rights Activist: Mexico
Human Rights Activist: Mexico
Anti-Human Trafficking Activist: Texas
Anti-Human Trafficking Activist: Texas
American Au Pair: Australia
American Au Pair: Australia
10501643_313559992155165_1578426517127195225_n
Two French travelers adventuring around the US

Ciao!

San Francisco: Fin

image

Somehow, no matter when, where or how I fly, I end up sitting next to the screaming child. This time I got extra lucky, though, because I have one in front AND behind me. Glory.
Well, all trips can’t be perfect, I guess. And this one has been a pretty extraordinary one, overall.

CONFESSION: Pre this trip I think I had forgotten how to have fun.

It’s hard to admit , but I was pretty uptight coming to San Francisco. I think I was so intent on getting everything set with my move to France that I’d put blinders on to anything other than that.

I’ve talked before about the mirror test while traveling. When you take a minute to walk past a mirror and notice your face. Well, yesterday I walked past a mirror and realized something crazy – I looked rested…and happy. Sounds crazy, but it’s been a while since either of those words have applied to me.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I only really only feel truly happy when I’m traveling.

Since the first and second day were so great, it seemed like asking too much to have a third perfect day, but then yesterday happened.

NOTE: A lot of this trip’s successes is because of an extraordinary Couchsurfing host, so a huge thank you to her!

Yesterday started off with the decision not to pay for transportation. So my host and I started to look up car sharing services and signed up for a few with some free minute promotions. All in all we saw pretty much the whole city for under $10.00 ( for both of us) which you’ll know is insane if you’ve ever tried to travel, with another person, around the whole city in a day.

On Saturday I saw that there was a Walt Disney museum in San Francisco, which I had never even heard of before – a fact that shocked me, since I’m such a huge Disney nerd. So, first thing we did was head over to the museum…which is literally I’m the middle of nowhere. I would never guess the museum was there, the building looks more or less like a mess hall at Barracks..

I was most excited for a special exhibit at the museum for Mary Claire, who was an artist and illustrator for Disney movies such as Peter Pan, Three Amigos, Cinderella and my all time favorite Disney movie, Alice In Wonderland.

The exhibit was amazing! I got to see original story boards and illustrations for some of my favorite movies, while learning about an amazing woman who not only worked full time and traveled the world as an artist, but also raised kids and was married – which I can’t even imagine. My favorite part of the exhibit, though, was being able to see inside her sketchbooks – they were a mess. Its pretty rare to be able to see inside another artist’s sketchbook, especially those who are professionals. It was so great to see that messiness is normal, beautiful and productive. It was so refreshing!

20140708-162908-59348924.jpg

20140708-162913-59353393.jpg

20140708-162911-59351184.jpg

After the museum we made the long trek over to the Palace of Fine arts, which basically looks like something out of ancient Greece, but was actually built in 1915 as part of the Panama Pacific Exposition. Its so incredibly beautiful and a MUST SEE for anyone visiting San Francisco.

20140708-160442-57882276.jpg

20140708-160440-57880467.jpg

20140708-160438-57878785.jpg
After the Palace, we tried to get some shots of the Golden Gate bridge, but the weather was no cooperating so the bridge was covered 90% with heavy fog (we’re talking, cannot see ANYTHING). Still took some pictures, but it was kind of a bummer not to be an!e to see all of its glory. We walked across the bridge, whip whirling wind and mist in our faces, and then decided to walk back the way we came, before we froze to death…or our legs fell off.

20140708-161430-58470351.jpg

20140708-161430-58470705.jpg

All in all, I could not have dreamt of a better trip. Everything didn’t go as planned, and I will have to go back down to San Fran in a few weeks to still apply for my Visa, but all in all I could have asked for more. In only three days I feel revitalized, refreshed and with a renewed sense of purpose. I really needed some down time to recuperate, and the funny thing is, I didn’t even know I needed it.

After regrouping, I’m going to be going in again August 1st to apply, and then begging and praying that they process my visa before my plane ticket on August 18th! Fingers crossed! Prayers much needed and appreciated.

San Francisco: Day 2

20140707-103406-38046825.jpg
Yesterday I spent three hours drawing. I can’t even remember the last time I drew something. To be fair, I do prefer to paint as my medium, but sometimes I think I get so deep in the business side of my art that I forget to just do some just for my own enjoyment.

Yesterday I went to a park called Dolores Park, which isn’t too far from where I’m staying (The Mission District). It had a great overlook of the city and it was so pretty outside that I just sat there for a while sketching.

20140707-104009-38409305.jpg
Afterward, I got a chance to walk around the city and look at some of the beautiful houses here. I love the style of houses all smashed together. It has a hybrid style of European and beach style and I kind of want to dig up one of the houses and take it back to Seattle with me.

20140707-104535-38735333.jpg

20140707-104533-38733722.jpg
One of my favorite parts of yesterday was when I found out there was a jazz festival happening! I love me some jazz, so I headed over and had fun seeing some awesome bands…including a metallic gorilla. Afterward I met up with my host and some Thai girls, and we went and got Thai food. So good.

NOTE: Despite being in California, San Francisco is really cold when it’s windy out. I’m really glad I remembered this from last time I drove through, because last night I ended up wearing wool socks, moccasin boots and my down jacket. Happy Summer!

Last night we walked around downtown San Francisco, which was kind of neat because it was late enough that there weren’t very many people on the streets, so we got to see everything without huge crowds.

Today we’re biking to the Golden Gate Bridge and (hopefully) going to the Walt Disney museum. I’m such a huge Disney nerd that I’m way too excited for the museum.

20140707-105621-39381442.jpg

20140707-105643-39403744.jpg

20140707-105658-39418541.jpg

20140707-105701-39421289.jpg

20140707-110639-39999718.jpg

San Francisco: Day 1

20140706-114052-42052767.jpg
When something doesn’t go your way , you have two options: You can mope over your “losses” or you can search the scene for the silver linings ( spirit of Bradley Cooper, come to me!).

When I first came to San Francisco yesterday I was pretty upset about having to travel here for “no reason.” In my over analytical mind I didn’t know how I would be able to enjoy a trip that had no purpose. But then, when my plane was landing I felt that little voice say, “trust me.” And I decided to give this trip a chance.

Yesterday, was arguably, one of the best days I’ve ever had while traveling. When I showed up to my Couchsurfing host’s house I immediately felt welcome and then found out there were already FOUR other Couchsurfers there, making our host a complete all star.

The role call included: Two French guys who are hitchhiking (not to be confused with the word “highjacking”, which had been lovingly confused) and Couchsurfing from Montreal to Mexico City. Two Brazilian east coast au pairs, who had decided to travel together after both of their original companions had backed out. Our Mexican host, who is au pairing here in San Francisco while going to school. It was her au pair family’s house that we all were staying in.

When I first heard there was such a full house my first thought was, ” Where is the nearest hostel?” But I’m so glad that I stuck to my guns and came anyway.

The thing I love the most about Couchsurfing are the people who do it. The people who surf and who host are some of the most adventurous, open minded, kind, warm and exciting people I’ve ever met. Every time I surf I cannot say enough about how amazing the people I meet are.

Yesterday we started with me saying I wanted to see the famous hill of Victorian houses, which led our little clan on a metro adventure, bus routes and hiking up a giant hill to FINALLY find the houses…under construction. It really didn’t matter, though, because everyone in our group was so fun that we had a great time in the park across the street taking jumping pictures and laying in the sun.

After that it was bus and cram-and-smash trolley car over to Pier 39 to see some water front beauty. The pier was a madhouse because it was Saturday, but we managed to make if fun, and then headed back to the house, where we made some pasta for dnner and said our goodbyes to the girls and then, later, the guys.

At this point I had been awake for 36 hours (other than some dozing in the plane) straight. Remind me to smack myself next time I decide to pull an all nighter before a morning flight. But after such a fun and crazy day, I floated into bed and slept for 12 hours.

I can’t even believe how good my first day in San Francisco has been! I had kind of forgotten how to have fun, in a way, since I’ve been so zoned into all of my French visa stuff, so I think it has/will be good for me to just relax for a bit and enjoy the city.

Tomorrow I’m going to the Golden Gate bridge, and then once I get back Tuesday I’ll be posting all our awesome pictures!

20140706-114833-42513439.jpg

20140706-114833-42513095.jpg

It Will Take A Nation Of Millions To Hold Me Back

Sequim, Washington
Sequim, Washington

When I was a kid I really liked painting my nails. Or, rather, all of my friends really liked it, and I really wanted them to like me. The problem was, I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and the incomes of most of my friends’ families were well above the “midde class” line. I couldn’t afford to get a manicure done every week like them, so I taught myself. I don’t know how much nail polish and nail polish remover I must have gone through, but I sat down in my bathroom for hours and figured out how to paint flawlessly with both my right and left hand.

Today, when I was painting my nails, I kind of had to laugh when I thought about this. I was such a stubborn kid… and I can’t honestly say that I’ve grown out of it. At some point, I got so used to being told I couldn’t have/do things, that I made a game out of getting/doing them anyway. I affectionately referred to it as – “Watch me.”

Overall, I had a pretty unconventional childhood. I was homeschooled, didn’t have cable or internet in my house and owned enough pets to open a petting zoo. But I still was borderline obsessed with fitting in. I might have been spending hours in the library, devouring every part of Teen Vogue before it closed, but I was still reading Teen Vogue – every month.

Despite being an adventurer by nature, it wasn’t always fun. But looking back I’m really glad that I went through those years. The reason being, when I see something I “can’t have,” I don’t see a stop sign, I see a detour.

My mom always used to always say, “You might have to work twice as hard as other people, but you can, and will, succeed.”

There are always going to be obstacles in life that can seemingly prevent you from going down the path you dream about, but I want to encourage you to see it as a challenge, instead of a roadblock.

You are probably guessing where this is going next, but this principle applies to traveling, as well!

I was thinking this week about how essential it has been for me to find creative ways of traveling and pursuing the places I’m passionate about. There’s no way I would be able to practically do what I want with my life…so I have to find impractical ways of achieving my goals.

This weekend I’m going to San Francisco and I’m so extremely excited! I haven’t taken a vacation since last fall and it feels way overdue. Since this trip was not at all in my budgetary plans, I have a budget of nothing to spend on it. But, I’m still managing to make it happen.

How?

Well, there are a few ways.

1. Always travel at an inconvenient time: Because, let’s face it – it’s inconvenient for you, it’s inconvenient for everyone else. When I fly, I will be flying out Saturday (aka day after 4th of July) at 7:00am. Fun? No. Necessary? Yes.

2. Couchsurfing: I was going to originally stay in a hostel, because I couldn’t find anyone to host me (because of the holiday), but I opened my invite up to the world, and got a host invitation a couple days ago (cutting it a bit close, huh?). So, I get to share my trip with a lovely local, and I’ll also be only 15 minutes away from the embassy, which is perfect!

3. I’m not taking luggage: Yeah, it’s four days, so I might be justified in taking more than a carry on bag, but I’m sticking to a light packing list so I’ll just be taking my backpack. It carried me through two weeks, I feel like I can make it through 4 days 🙂

4. I’m bringing things to do: I’m viewing this trip as a retreat, more so than a vacation, really. As much as I want to run around and be a tourist, what I’d really like to do is finish a book. So, I’m bringing my tablet, so I can write, and some books so I read. I obviously will go out and do fun things, but this helps it not be essential to spend money, if it isn’t absolutely necessary.

5. Looking up free events etc: On the other side of things, I do like going out sometimes, so I’m doing my research and looking up some free concerts, events etc. that I can go to without having to spend a whole lot of money.

Like I said, I am so excited for this little journey, even though it isn’t going very far from home. It’s coming at just the right time, and I can’t wait to see what adventures are going to come out of it! I’ll be posting updates here, as well as on Instagram, so feel free to follow along!

Sequim, WA
Sequim, WA