“Take the Sourest Lemon that Life has to offer, and Turn it into Something Resembling Lemonade.”

When I started blogging consistently four years ago, I promised myself that I would not become one of those (well-intended) TAPIF blogs that starts off really strong, and then tapers off somewhere after Christmas. I wanted to create the blog that hadn’t yet existed- an ordinary TAPIFer who gave valuable information about bureaucracy, teaching, traveling, everyday insight into life in France, and was there until the end. I wanted to inspire people to live out their dreams, to think outside the box, and to not be afraid to try new things. I also wanted to get people coming back.

And I feel as though, for the most part, I have done a pretty decent job at doing that. I try to keep it as real as I can on AsToldByDana. Over the years, I’ve blogged about street harassment and sexual assault. I’ve blogged about my frustrations with TAPIF and France and the struggles I’ve had when figuring out my career and future in this country. I’ve blogged about love and heartbreak and I’ve blogged about travel and I’ve blogged about everything in between.

And as the years have gone by, I have started blogging less and less, even though I  still try to maintain the “Quality Over Quantity” rule. That is to say, I feel as though I’ve still managed to publish a fairly decent amount of good posts over the past year. However, as of lately, I’ve started to dwindle, and to be honest, I’m not really sure why.


For starters, I’m not longer a TAPIFer— and a huge chunk of my audience are past, present, or future TAPIF participants. I partook in the program four years ago, when it was not possible to neither renew nor extend your contract, and the cut off age was 30 years old. Although many aspects of the TAPIF program have remained consistent, the program is constantly changing and developing, with new rules and regulations and participants. In other words– I’m old and outdated, as is perhaps some of the information and experiences of this blog. There are new TAPIF blogs which pop up left and right every year; inactive TAPIF blogs are scoured by eager participants for information but are then forgotten and replaced by younger, newer, and more eager TAPIFers. Older dogs like me try to keep up, but as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder.

Furthermore, Im beginning to discover that as my personal life and my professional career in France continues to change, so do my priorities. My first three years of living in France (ages 23-26) were filled with travels and experiences; with carpe diems and alcohol and all-day picnics. And it was wonderful. But, I turned 27 last week; and I’ve begun to realize that my priorities are changing. My priorities now include making sure that my Terminale students pass their Baccalauréat exams (with honors, of course). My priorities now include using my extra monthly income to build savings,  and make additional student loan payments and retirement contributions, instead of always using it for travel. My priorities now include more frequent visits home, instead of always visiting new destinations; crazily enough, my priorities now include investing in things— in clothes and furniture and artwork and yes, therapy.


At 27, I’m realizing that I am beginning to become that person I was trying to avoid and run away from when I left the United States four years ago. 

And that’s okay. 

When I left the United States at 23, I didn’t really understand the desire to want any of the things I currently desire: stability, savings, an apartment to call my own, filled with things that are mine. I was afraid of commercial items and any sort of investment that could or would “tie me down”– a car, a steady teaching job, expensive furniture, a relationship. I wanted to travel, see the world, and live abroad so badly— at any cost. And because I had never known anyone personally who had traveled extensively at my age, I was so, so afraid I wouldn’t, or couldn’t get there if I had any of those things. I became completely obsessed at making sure it would happen, that I would become easily angered, agitated, or dismissive when anyone suggested anything but the path I wanted. (Although I cannot help but wonder, would I be where I am now if I hadn’t have been that way?)

My parents tried to convince me to leave France after after year 1– it was enough, and it was time, they said, to start living in reality and joining the real world. I could come back to France later– try again later, they said. My relationship with my parents has always been a bit complicated, but like many, has improved with age. I know they meant well in their advice, but the truth is, their advice was not what I needed or wanted to hear at the time– I wasn’t ready and needed to get there in my own (and even now, my situation still doesn’t look 100% like what they probably had had in mind, but this is my life, after all.)

At 27, I’m still so, so young, and I have so much left to learn, and so much experience left to embrace. But I am equally happy that I arrived here, to this stage, on my own terms, and on my own time. (My only regret: Ever feeling guilty about wanting what I wanted, and living my own life, in the first place. Plus, I reserve the right to change or forge paths at any time I see fit.

After four years in France, I can’t help but wonder if I need to start searching for a new niche in regards to this blog. It’s beginning to become not Dana’s fun and exciting nomadic life abroad, but Dana’s semi-ordinary life on the other side of the world. In a nutshell, I work, I sleep, I exercise, I eat, and I pursue my interests and passions. I’ve also found that I’m not fighting the same battles as I was when I first arrived– I know and am familiar with the French language and culture;  I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin; I’ve embraced my American-ness; and after three years of non-stop traveling, I have begun to figure out how to balance– and more importantly, to accept– all aspects of these intricate parts of my identity.

I’m not really sure where to go from here. I want to keep writing. As long as there are people who want to read, I will want to write. It’s just that lately, I’m not always sure what to write about anymore.

So, is this what it feels like to be just three years shy of 30? Am I having a quarter-life crisis? Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing what unfolds.




31 thoughts on ““Take the Sourest Lemon that Life has to offer, and Turn it into Something Resembling Lemonade.”

  1. I am totally on the same page as you! I loved this post and I also have no idea what to do with my TAPIF blog now that I’m married with a full-time teaching job and spending weekends quilting and hanging out with my husband rather than traveling every second. Totally different lifestyle but still so great!

    1. Agreed! They are so different but they are great. I used to flee from my current lifestyle but I find it’s what I’ve been craving… good to hear from you Hannah! I’d still read if ever you’d decide to write again– maybe a teacher-type blog? X

  2. I came to your blog after your TAPIF year, so I was always most interested in your thoughts and conflicted feelings as an expat. Having lived in France a few years and now having expat and immigrant friends in the U.S., I’m interested in hearing about your “regular” life and little side trips.

  3. All we ever expected and wanted for our children was to be independent adults that contribute to society. We believe you accomplished this and then some … the rest of your life (as it has been for the past few years) is on you. We are proud of you and love you soooo much.
    xoxo mom

  4. There’s nothing wrong with running an expat lifestyle blog. Do you read Rhyme and Ribbons? She’s an American expat in England. Her posts include fashion, travel, and cooking.

    People evolve. So blogs written by people evolve too. 🙂

    1. yes, I LOVE her! and of course, I love yours! You are so right– blogs do evolve as the people who write them change. I see this a lot with travel bloggers and I’ve found I’ve enjoyed their posts more that they’re settled down (C’est Christine, Adventurous Kate…) xo

  5. It’s a consensus — you are an awesome blogger and we’ll read whatever you write 🙂 You’ve created so many awesome relevant resources that help tons of people but what I like best is just following your stories. Please keep telling them!

    Also, glad I’m not the only one having a blog identity crisis! (Well, you actually sound very thoughtful and rational so I’m not sure “crisis” is the right word. Identity shift, maybe?)

  6. Ditto what everyone else has been saying. Keep blogging Dana, we are all fans of yours and are just as interested in where life takes you now as we were a few years ago!

    You have a lot of interesting things to say and you are quite inspiring. I love how honest you are and it inspires me to be more honest with myself and on my blog as well 🙂

  7. I’m more than up for reading about “Dana’s semi-ordinary life on the other side of the world”, as you termed it. There’s something refreshing about reading about others’ experiences of the everyday, as so many blogs gloss over that side of life. I’ve found that whereas last time I lived in France I travelled most weekends – either locally or a little further afield – this time round I’ve been making a conscious effort to save money and have therefore been travelling less. Priorities change over time, as do blogs! Look forward to seeing what the future brings for your blog, Dana 🙂

    1. Thanks Rosie! You’re totally right about lifestyles and blogs changing! Some of my life-long favorite blogs are ones that I’ve seen go from full-time travelers to complete city-nesters. 🙂

      I agree that my first few years in France I moved a lot. Now I’m more interested in investing my the Lille community and getting more involved… we’ll see how long it lasts.

  8. I think many bloggers go through times when they don’t have the activation to blog often I know I did a few years back and over time my blog has changed from just dribble about my life to many other things

  9. Hi Dana, I was one of those TAPIFers who quit writing consistently after the first few months, but your posts were so helpful to me during my TAPIF year and I still love reading your blog.

    On an unrelated note, I freaked out a little bit when I saw the second photo in this post because I know two of the people in it – Thomas and Thierry! My mom taught English in Lille for a year in the 80s and Thomas was one of her students. Thomas and Thierry have visited our home in the US and we’ve met with them in France. I’ve actually told my mom about your blog but I didn’t imagine you two would know some of the same people! It’s such a small world! 🙂

    1. Such a small world that you know Thomas! His partner is American and works at my new school, that’s how we met.. (just this year).. how funny is that!? Thanks for your kind words about my blog- I’ll continue to read if ever you start writing again 🙂 bisous !

      1. Oops, just realized that Thierry is not in the photo – my bad! But yes, very cool. 🙂 I have been wanting to switch my blog up and write about my experiences teaching French here in the US, so you never know, maybe my blog will be back one day. x

  10. I would honestly love to read about the normal, every day life of Dana. You have so many stories to share, I am certain! Something I’ve learned through participating in monthly writing challenges is that every moment is a story that only you can tell. If you have a desire to share those slices of your semi-ordinary life, then you should, full stop. I thought my blog would also dwindle away when I was back living at home, but even in my every day life of subbing and living with my parents back in my hometown, I loved using my blog to share, connect and express myself!

    I don’t think I’m quite where you are yet in terms of seeking stability and the feeling of being settled, but I can definitely feel myself getting there… But as your title suggest, all we can do is take the opportunities life gives us and make the most of them! Gros Bisous xxx

    1. I loved reading your blog when you were at home — and heck, I love reading it now that you’re back in France, too! I read a few travel bloggers who’ve transitioned to more “lifestyle” blogs… I’ll have to find my own way of doing that. 🙂 Thanks Always for reading Anne xo

  11. As a TAPIFer and fan of your blog in general, readers would definitely love to continue to hear more about developing your life abroad! Thank you so much for your helpful posts, and I hope to continue to be inspired by your writing! ❤

  12. Totally understand, and very timely post. I have a big reflections on 5 years in France post coming soon. Topped out at over 3,500 words. I think the part about “Dana’s semi-ordinary life on the other side of the world” is something we all go through as the newness of a place wears off and real life settles in. It looks different for all of us, but really, we’re all just living life and life is worth writing about. Whatever direction you go in (as long as you don’t turn into a Trump supporter), I’ll be here to read 😉

    1. Thanks Diane 🙂 I can’t wait to read your post; I’m sure it’s excellent. And don’t worry, no plans anytime soon to become a Trump supporter. Bisous!

  13. As a blogger who has, like you, been consistently blogging for several years now, I can understand that “blogging rut” which many end up getting into. To combat that, I try to find inspiration in reading other blogs, getting ideas from online articles which catch my interest, and so forth.

    Also like you, I find it a shame that many TAPIFers’ blogs (or English-teaching overseas ones, in general) end up by the waste-side after a few months, or are abandoned once the program is over. True, the adventure’s over, but what happens afterwards can be just as interesting, if not more so- to each their own, though!

    I guess I’m still young (about to be 24) and my second year in France has me still wanting to travel, because I’ll “miss it” if I’m older. Interesting to wonder if my priorities will change in the next few years, should I choose to stay in France a bit longer- your thoughts really gave me some ideas to ponder on, and I wish you the best in blogging; whatever you write, I’ll read it!

    1. I agree that other blogs help inspire me to write certain posts! It’s sometimes a bit frustrating when you realize someone has gotten there before you, lol! I agree, there are a lot of blogs that I would have liked to have seen grow, but alas. Ha, everyone is on their own timeline in regards to “settling”. There isn’t really any one that is right or wrong. You do you. Thanks for your loyal readership, Rebecca!

  14. Hey, I think a blog about Dana’s semi-ordinary life on the other side of the world sounds awesome. There is way less of that out there than the more adventure type blogs.

    But I know what you mean about suddenly (more or less) wanting to feel settled. To live in an apartment that’s not falling apart. To have enough savings to get through the next month and to not use it immediately on a trip. It’s a good place to be, especially if you’ve already had some adventures.

    1. I think it sounds like a great idea, too 🙂 I’m embracing my desire to “Nest” or “settle”. To be frank, it’s been a nice and welcomed change of pace, and suits my job much better. bisou Eileen and thanks (as always) for reading 🙂

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