If you’re anything like us, you’ve at least entertained the fantasy of quitting your job, saying ‘buh-bye’ to the day-to-day and moving to Paris, where you’d spend your afternoons wandering cobblestone streets, baguette sticking jauntily out of bag. Mere mortal Janice MacLeod is proof that heroes live amongst us — she made the dream her reality.
Six years ago, the Canada-native decided she needed a change, so she left her copywriting job in L.A. to travel through Europe. Flash forward to 2017 and she has authored two books (her first, a New York Times bestseller), launched a successful online business and, oh yeah, found time to get married and have a baby. She and hubby Christophe — whom she met in Paris, naturally — welcomed daughter Amélie Mackenzie earlier this year. (“She’s adorable,” notes Janice. “Do all new mothers believe this about their own babies? Because I really think she’s the most beautiful baby ever created.”)
The warm and vivacious travel writer, whose second book, A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World, was released this June via St. Martin’s Griffin press, took time out of her busy schedule to share inspirational life advice, her thoughts on Parisian style and French beauty — and the secret to packing the perfect TSA-approved carry-on. (Hint: It’s all in the face sticks!)
Here’s Janice, with her whole life in one suitcase, getting ready to embark on her adventure!
Living in Paris seems so glamorous. How did you get up the courage to move there?
Easy. I hadn’t intended to move to Paris! I only planned on staying there for a month, then moving on to tour other places in Europe. But inside of that month I met the lovely Christophe. I still left to tour Europe, but he convinced me to return for another month, then another, then finally to stay and live. It was a gradual process. I only decided one month at a time, and Christophe was very convincing. I lived in Paris for four glorious years.
How hard was it to change your life around to travel?
The year before I arrived in Paris, I had slowly cleared out my apartment while I was saving up cash to leave my job. At first the idea of quitting my job was what required the most courage. I was so scared at the prospect of just flinging myself to Europe without a plan for afterward. But by the time I saved up enough and cleaned out my apartment, I felt I was careening toward the next step and the only thing standing in my way was my job. By then it was easy to quit. Well, the moment of actually walking into my supervisor’s office was difficult, but the day after was PURE BLISS.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to do the same?
Save up a bundle of cash first! And while you’re at it, start paring down your life. You don’t want to have to look after a bunch of stuff at home while you’re on the road. I also found writing down plans in my journal every day was helpful. It kept me on track, plus it was a good place to list the tasks I needed to do to pare my life down to one suitcase.
Tell us about your packing strategy, especially for carrying on cosmetics.
I don’t want to carry anything I don’t need to carry. I used to pack a tiny face cream, a tinted moisturizer and a stick for my cheeks, lips and eyelids. That was it. Now with the Essential 8, I don’t have to choose between taking one makeup over another on my travels. I just grab the carrying case full of everything. I love love love the Blush Stick. I like the coral color and the creamy texture. There’s a light, creamy feel to all the makeup so I feel moisturized without feeling greasy. I also like that I have the choice to use the tool to contour because I definitely don’t like packing an extra brush.
There was a time I used eyeliner and mascara, but when I travel I walk, walk, walk and walk more. With all the sweating and random weather, the eye makeup gets smudged and itchy, so I gave it up.
As for a carry-on bag, I use the Rick Steves’ Europe Classic Back Door Bag because it’s light and it opens all the way — flat, like opening a book — rather than just at the top. I can keep the whole situation more organized and it’s easier for me to find what I need.
Any easy makeup tricks you’ve picked up as a traveler?
I’ll often use the same makeup crayon for my cheeks and lips. Really, my lipstick and blush are probably going to be similar in shade so why not just use the one? The trèStique lip crayon has a lip balm on the other end though, which is so my thing. I find I use the lipstick first, then top up with the lip balm on the other end throughout the day. I’m a big fan of the all-in-one makeup.
I use cosmetics in stick form because they’re easy for traveling. None of it is liquid. This makes all the difference when I’m in line going through security at the airport. It’s all tucked in nicely in its carrying case, so I don’t have to put anything in a clear sealed bag.
On Janice’s latest visit to the City of Lights, for her A Paris Year book tour, she took baby Amélie along for the ride.
What’s your general beauty philosophy?
Work with what you’ve got, and keep it simple. If you were born with straight hair, don’t spend your time trying to make it curly. It’s just never going to be the way you want it to be. And too much makeup doesn’t look as good as you think! It’s not all about hiding wrinkles and looking younger. It’s about enhancing the present. What’s so wrong with wrinkles? I’ve earned every single line.
What did you learn about French beauty while you were there?
Parisian women don’t wear a lot of makeup — just enough to enhance the look. They also know that the best way to deal with hair is getting a good haircut rather than dousing their hair with products designed to wrangle it into a shape that won’t work and won’t keep.
When did you know you were an artist?
I knew I was an artist when I started my copywriting career. Writing is my first true love. My first Paris book, Paris Letters, is a really a love letter to the written word. As for the visual arts, I had always put illustration, painting, collage and photography in the ‘hobby’ category of my life. But when I was creating A Paris Year, all these arts came together with my writing as a visual love letter to Paris.
How has your life changed now that you’re working for yourself?
The days are glorious. I realize now that I was an introvert living in the extroverted world of advertising. I did it, I’m proud of it — and so very glad now to only do it from time to time from the comfort of my home computer. I remember how hard it was to get out of bed in the morning back when I worked full time in advertising. Now I bounce out of bed easily. I work on my Etsy shop where I sell my Paris Letter subscriptions (painted letters sent in the post to those who crave fun mail), and I’m always working on book writing. I’m also currently designing stationery to sell on my shop because it’s so very fun to treat oneself to a set of pretty stationery. All fun things — that’s the biggest change. I’ve allowed myself to follow my curiosities: What would my line of stationery look like? What would my next book look like? All great questions I have the freedom to ask myself now that I’m not commuting to a job and using up all my mental energy in an office.
What other memorable trips have you taken?
I didn’t travel anywhere until I was an adult. The first airplane trip I took was to see Disney on Ice in Philadelphia because a friend was skating in the show. It was thrilling to be on a plane. Since then I’ve had the travel bug. If I had to pick one trip out of all the memorable trips, I’d have to choose Rome, where I lived for two months. The glow of the orange and yellow buildings, the warm days and nights, the vibe, the food, the language… oh, how I love Rome. My skin even looks and feels better in Rome. I can’t explain why except that being extremely happy looks good on a person.
(Portraits courtesy of Janice MacLeod.)
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Blush Stick in Bora Bora Coral