I wanted to live in Europe. I researched the best way to make this happen and at 24 years old I decided to become an au pair. After visiting Paris the year prior I knew I wanted to go back. At the time living abroad up to the age of 25 a person could receive youth benefits so the summer before I turned 25 years old I was off. I packed up my life in Los Angeles, quit my job, said goodbye to my friends, and went back to Indianapolis to see my parents. I met up with a friend in the airport in Philadelphia and before I knew it we had arrived to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
At the time I did not have my job assignment, but I had filled out an online application for the “Au Pair Box” a few months prior. After hitting “submit” I received numerous offers from around Europe and started the wait for the right job in the right location. For those of you who do not know an au pair is a mother’s helper who looks after young children and does some light housekeeping. You apply for a special visa with the help of an agency once you are settled.
I spent one month travelling with Lisa around Europe. Our itinerary had us starting and ending in Paris. It was a great spot to start since I knew my way around. After a few days there we continued on to Holland, Italy, Southern France and Spain. By the time we arrived to Spain I had decided to take a job in St. Maurice, which is located in the French part of Switzerland, in the region of Valais. You may know the town of Montreux on Lake Geneva; St. Maurice is a 25 minute train ride from there. My assignment would have me working for a single mom and her 4 year old son.
After my friend returned to the states I spent a few more days in Paris before taking the TGV high speed train to Lausanne, Switzerland. My new boss, Marie Chantal, picked me up from the train station with her mother and we continued by car another hour to the small town of St. Maurice.
Life in St. Maurice was simple. It was great for my French though because no one spoke English. Marie Chantal’s sister had studied English in England though so I did have one person to help if needed, but she lived 45 minutes away. It was a big adjustment to live in such a small town. We had no excitement. We had a beautiful countryside for daily hikes, a little stream with a playground, cows everywhere, and one street light in town. My favorite thing was the spectacular view of the snowy Alps from the kitchen window, and you could also see the famous Matterhorn peak on a good day. Downtown consisted of a few shops, a hotel, and a train station. Our town was known for the caves with the fairies’ grotto and waterfall so tourists would often stop for a day to check it out.
I did love to hike daily around the local mountains looking at the grapes on the vine about to be made into wine. I also enjoyed looking at the farm animals on our walks. The little boy that I looked after was a sweetheart and I really enjoyed taking care of him. I learned how to clean a house, use a foreign washer/dryer, and enjoy the simple life. Every other weekend when I was not working I would venture to nearby cities, and to Italy and France since both were so close. I never completed a year living there because the town was too quiet. I did have an excellent experience there nonetheless and spoke pretty good French when leaving.
I still keep in touch with Marie Chantal and her family. I visited them once in Switzerland, one town over where they later relocated. They also visited Max and I once here in Los Angeles when we were dating. It’s been many years since I’ve returned, but we exchange Christmas cards and I know one day we will make it back to the beautiful country of Switzerland.