Penniless in Paris

Hey my name’s Celina and I can’t afford tissues or body wash. That’s right, I use toilet paper and shampoo instead. My social media doesn’t show pictures of me eating the same exact pasta for dinner every night, nor does it show my boots that are falling apart. On my Instagram you’ll only see me drinking overpriced coffee in a cafe or eating a meal with a friend that I can’t afford.

Last week I had 7 euros to my name (not because I’m reckless with my money, but because of unexpected circumstances). I was determined not to ask my host family for an advance, so I swallowed my pride and spent 3 euros on food I hoped would last quite a few days. I ate as much fruits and veggies as I could at my host family’s when I was working. And I went home and ate gross pasta.

And I’m sick of it. I don’t make a living wage. Of course, I make enough to survive. But I do not make enough to go out with my friends. I spend a lot of time alone, not because I want to, but because I don’t have money to go get coffee, or drinks, or, God forbid, a whole meal. I work a job without a salary; I receive a monthly “stipend.” And no, my host family isn’t stingy. They pay me the average wage for an au pair in Paris, and have already given me my Christmas bonus (That’s how I had the privilege of spending 7 euro on a Greek salad and fries today).

I’m sick of getting paid the same as 18 year olds who don’t hold degrees (and whose parents’ support them). I’m sick of getting peed on and going home to eat dinner alone. I’m sick of being too poor to buy milk for my coffee, or shoes that don’t have holes in them. I’m sick of living in a city I can’t afford in a career (if you could call it that) that I don’t enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong y’all, Paris is amazing! But for me, it’s not a city that I can afford right now. So what am I going to do? Well, I’m currently working my butt off to find freelance writing gigs, as well as training to get my TEFL. Sure I would love to live in Paris for another 6 months or a year, but I refuse to continue doing a job I don’t enjoy for an unlivable “stipend.”

However, I am not quitting my job. I signed a contract, and I will be staying here until late May, 2017, after which I will visit home to see my little sister graduate. As of now, I plan to use my degree and TEFL somewhere else in the world where I can live comfortably and – gasp! – actually save money every month. Right now, that place for me is Seoul, South Korea, but in a few months, who knows, I may have another destination in mind.

So thanks for reading a real, not so pretty account of an au pair. If you’re looking for a budget way to move abroad, au pairing is a great start – but it’s just that, a start. Au pairing is not a way to save money, or really live comfortably without savings, support from home, or other work.

So now I’m off to work. After, I walk home in the 6 degrees celsius weather and make my famous 1 euro pasta meal. I’ll do some freelance work and probably watch some Netflix. Later I’ll write down what I’m grateful for, and hopefully go to sleep with a thankful heart.

How Not To Go From Paris To Prague: Prague (Kind of Solo) Part 1!

A couple of months ago (I know, I’m way late posting this) I got falafel with a friend, took out my recycling, and left my flat in Paris for my first European trip – 3 days in Prague! I decided to be very budget friendly and booked a night bus to and from Paris and Prague. 14 hours on a bus? No big deal! I am super great at making good decisions. So I took my polka dot backpack and made the 50 minute metro trip from my side of Paris to the other.

After getting to the bus station and wandering around, I realized they wanted me to pay to use their toilet, so I went with the budget mentality and held it. I finally found my bus and, after squishing with the crowd, claimed my window seat. A French girl sat next to me and after I tried to say hey I realized she did not, in fact, want to be my friend. I began to realize that the journey was so long because of the numerous stops that were relatively out of the way. Along the way I napped a bit, read, listened to music, and took in the scenery of France, Germany, and finally, the Czech Republic!

After the God-knows-how-long bus ride I hopped off and followed some people (and google maps) to the closer than I thought Florenc metro station. I descended the stairs and found a hoard of foreigners trying to buy metro tickets from old ticket machines that had an “English” button, but never actually changed to English. Through trying to buy these tickets and staring at the machine for 10 minutes, I found 2 fellow travelers struggling to buy tickets. At first we considered just getting on the metro without a ticket, but a local (possibly homeless) man warned us of the hefty fee if we were caught.

We gave up on the metro and decided to walk. They needed to get to the main train station, just one stop away, and I was also headed in that direction, so we used our offline google maps and turned around a few times in pursuit of the train station. We ended up following some savvy backpacker boys into a park where the station sat. I finally found a metro ticket machine that would take my card, and lost Sada (?) and Mikal (?) (my metro finding buddies) in the process. I took my ticket down the stairs, took the metro one stop, and found my home right outside the metro exit – Starbucks.

As I got in line I realized the wifi wasn’t working and I’d have to use all of my collective life knowledge to get to my hostel. So I took my very berry hibiscus iced tea and prepared to brave the streets of Prague.


Part 2 of my Prague series coming soon!