“Every Day Is Like A Dream” – How a Renowned Creative Designed a Happy Life in Paris
“The key moment was deciding that I deserved to live my ‘ideal life.’ Then it was just a matter of determining what that was…and how to get there.” – Sam Henderson
From the time he took his first French class in 8th grade, designer, food and travel photographer and Savour Partnership’s Creative Director, Sam Henderson, has been an avid admirer of the French culture and lifestyle. His passion for all things French only grew stronger after he lived in Europe as a teen.
But for most of his adult life, he built a career and family as a married father of two sons in Dallas, far away from the Seine and Notre Dame.
Nearly 10 years ago, he experienced a crisis point in his life when his marriage ended. As devastating as such a setback can be, Sam determined to use the ending as a hinge point opportunity to reimagine his happiest life. “I began to re-evaluate my path,” Sam said. “I decided it was time to determine what would be my ‘ideal life’…and to go get it.”
Through relentless perseverance, painstaking preparation, determined discipline and a willingness to make sacrifices along the way, Sam is now immersed in his dream life: living and working in Paris.
Here’s a look at the steps Sam took on the journey to his best life:
- Affirming His Worthiness
Before he took any practical steps to envision a new and ideal life, the first and most important step for Sam was affirming that he was worth the immense effort it would take. “The key moment for me was deciding that I deserve to live my ‘ideal life,” Sam says. “While my marriage was ending, my career as a food photographer and content creator was just starting to blossom.”
- Defining and Sketching Out His Best Life
To help him envision his “ideal life” and to make the decision about where it would take place, Sam first sat down with pencil and paper. “At the top of the page, I wrote ‘My Ideal Life,’ and then I started listing what would make my life as perfect as possible. Nothing was off limits.
It was a time to decide what was really important to me. For me, that included things like living in a walkable city, having a regular routine to meet my fitness goals and having a work/live open-concept space. Initially, many more things were on the list, but I narrowed it down to around 10 things that I knew were essential to my overall happiness.
After evaluating my short happiness list, I realized that my choices were narrowed to New York City or Paris. Having already spent lots of time in New York, I decided it was time for a bigger adventure. If I was going to push the boundaries, I was going to really push the boundaries…whatever my ‘ideal life’ was, it had to happen in Paris.”
Once Sam decided on Paris, then he started creating notes in the Evernote app to flesh out practical ideas and the vision for his happiest life. He had several sets of notes, including one set about what was necessary to make his move from Dallas to Paris, another set for his ‘ideal life’ vision board, another about selling his home and so on. He kept the notes in a collection and looked over them every morning.
To this day, Sam still looks at his collection of “ideal life” notes every morning.
- Preparing for His Best Life
At the time of Sam’s decision to eventually move to Paris, Sam’s sons were still living with him, and, “I knew I wouldn’t make my move until they were ready to live alone,” Sam says. But during this transition period of several years, Sam intentionally prepared to realize his best life:
- He budgeted and saved money, since it is recommended to have at least $50K in savings before applying for a Visa, and proof of this level of savings must be shown. Sam saved extra money beyond that because “there are many unexpected expenses that come up.”
- He navigated the visa process, which was a challenge with the language barrier. “The visa process and documentation is very different depending on whether you are a student, self-employed or retired, so getting this right upfront will save you time, money and weeks or months of red tape.”
- He researched costs and the process for shipping his belongings overseas. “In the end, I decided it was not cost-effective to ship most of my belongings. Although that meant leaving some things behind that I love, it also meant that I could find new treasures in France and leave some of my favorite things with my sons.”
- “To prepare myself further, I took a deep dive into the French language. I studied nearly every day. I found language exchange partners on the Internet and started having 3-4 conversations per week with native French speakers…no matter how much you study language books, you will never succeed at speaking another language naturally without talking to native speakers and making lots of mistakes,” Sam says.
- Sam sold his home and moved into an AirBNB for 3 months in Dallas while he sorted out the last details of his move. “This gave me time to decide exactly what I would take with me and see as many friends as possible, and spend time with my kids.”
- Packing for the move was an “adventure,” Sam says. “I had to buy a special flight case for my computer and opted for six large canvas duffel bags in addition to my luggage. I stuffed as much as I could, including photography equipment, into each bag.”
- Assimilating to Paris
To obtain his visa, it was necessary for Sam to have a living space secured before his move. He reserved an AirBNB for 3 months, and showed the receipt as the proof.
The temporary arrangement helped Sam to know where he wanted to land more permanently. “I spent the first 3 months taking in every bit of my neighborhood and the rest of Paris.
I ran each morning along the banks of the Seine and spent many evenings close to my apartment, where there were jazz clubs. It was incredible. I was often nervous, but each new challenge helped me grow and learn more about the language and culture.”
- Living His Dream Life
“Living in Paris is magical. I’ve been here for nearly two years, and every day is still like a dream. So often, when I am walking to the market or home from a friend’s place, I look around and just start smiling. There is beauty everywhere. For a creative person like me, Paris is a never-ending source of inspiration.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with Sam. Did a difficult life event you went through push you into making a major life transition? Are you now living the happiest version of your life because of it?
If it did, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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