Funsherpa catches up with Boyd Lemon – writer, lawyer, and world traveler. In this feature, Boyd talks to us about his transition from being an attorney to spending a lot of time in Paris. We find ourselves quite fortunate to feature such an experienced traveler who has chronicled his journeys in vivid detail – check out his blog on boomers and traveling to discover great tips on senior travel destinations that don’t break the bank. So, read on and discover some great travel secrets!
Can you talk to us about your experience transitioning from being a high profile attorney to retiring in Europe?
I have always thought it would be exciting to experience a different culture by living in another country. When I decided to retire I knew that it would be a difficult adjustment to change from a life that had a lot of structure and scheduling (as an attorney) to a total absence of structure. Would I be motivated to get out of bed in the morning? I thought it would be easier if I lived in a new place. I loved Paris when I visited twice for a week each time, so I decided on Paris. How could I not want to get up in the morning if I were living in Paris? I discovered that living in another culture was not quite as easy as I thought, but Paris is a magical city. It had its frustrations dealing with the French bureaucracy and trying to learn the language, as I describe in my book, Eat, Walk, Write: An American Senior’s Year of Adventure in Paris and Tuscany. But I am very glad to have lived in Paris for a year. It was the experience of a lifetime.
What are some of the best discoveries you’ve made while traveling around Europe as a retired boomer?
- The history I learned fascinated me, although most of Europe’s history has been extremely violent and full of human suffering.
- Art of all kinds (visual, performing and written) is a bigger part of European culture than it is in America. They take it very seriously. I like that.
- I loved riding the European trains; it is a great way to see the country. It saddens me that we in America chose the automobile.
- I like it that Europeans live in less space than Americans do. The middle class in Europe does not live in 2,000 square foot houses, and it is not necessary.
- The big cities in Europe are easy to get around in because they are compact and have excellent public transportation, something we don’t have on the west coast of the United States (except for San Francisco) and most of the east and middle parts of the country (except maybe New York, Boston and Chicago).
- I loved sampling all of the different foods in the various countries of Europe. American food is boring by comparison.
You recently wrote about money saving tips on your blog, can you share some of the best ones with our readers?
- Learn how to ride the subways and buses.
- Stay in two or even one star hotels (why pay a lot to sleep), and make sure they are clean and safe by reading the reviews on websites like hotels.com.
- Ride the trains between cities.
- Tour the city on a hop on-hop off bus that for less than $20 in most cities shows you the major sights and allows you to get off when you want to spend some time at a sight and get back on and go to the next one that interests you.
- Pack light and do your laundry at your hotel.
- Don’t buy a bunch of stuff that will end up in your next garage sale.
- As much as you can, eat away from the major tourist areas.
What are some of the unique things you’ve seen in your road trip across the US and what are some of your favorite off-the-beaten path locations?
- There are so many.
- A great sushi bar and Japanese restaurant in Yucca Valley (the desert), California in a Travelodge Motel.
- The Roadkill Café in Seligman, Arizona.
- Sedona, Arizona. It is popular with tourists, but it is so beautiful!
- The Mayfield Dairy just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Think ice cream almost straight from the cow.
- Avila Café for Mexican food in El Paso, Texas.
- Austin, Texas.
- Two Sisters Kitchen in Jackson, Mississippi for authentic southern food in an authentic southern ambiance like you can’t imagine.
- My new home: St. Marys, Georgia (50 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida.
Can you tell us a bit more about the French cultural differences you’ve experienced (compared to typical American culture)? What are the real French people’s views on Americans?
There are at least two cultures in France: Paris and La Provence (which is anywhere outside of Paris). I have mentioned some observations about French culture above. Keep in mind these are cultural generalities, and so they have some of the same problems as racism. Parisians are brusque, in a hurry and often rude and will not help you with their language, but I ask, is it any difference being a foreigner visiting New York City. I don’ know. In the rest of France I found people quite friendly. As for the differences from Americans, I think the French and all Europeans don’t expect as much out of life as American do, so they are more accepting of what happens. They are also more group oriented and less individualistic. Many French people embrace socialism. As for their views on Americans, I found them very curious, envious and full of a lack of understanding of American culture and politics, for example, they could not understand why American made such a big fuss over the Monica Lewinsky affair, or why we elected George W. Bush––twice.
Given all your travel experience, if you could design a perfect city, what would it look like?
Boston with better weather and better drivers.
What’s on your bucket list? Anything you plan on crossing off soon?
As for travel, I haven’t traveled much in Asia, so: Thailand, China and India soon. I also want to go on a cruise through the Panama Canal soon.
As for writing, I am going to start on a novel when I get my next book published, Retirement: A Memoir and Guide, which I hope will be next month.