I was 44-years-old, and we were living in Paris. Our 18-year-old daughter was in college in the States, and our 8-year-old son was attending the local French primary school.
I’d worked every day of the 23 years since I’d finished school, hard.
I’d moved up the ladder from copy editor to publisher, from employee to partner. I’d done breakfast meetings, dinner meetings, board meetings, conference calls, and red-eye flights. I’d opened new offices in new countries, moved entire businesses across continents, launched new divisions, turned around failing ones, hired, fired, and managed growth.
I was ready for a break.
If you’re going to do nothing, Paris is the place to do it, I figured, and I thought I was ready to do nothing for a while.
I developed a routine. I’d rise early, with young Jackson, ready him for his day, and then walk him the 10 blocks from our apartment to his school. I’d kiss Jackson on the cheek, wave goodbye as I backed out the door of his classroom, then continue out of the building and on down the street for another two blocks to the bistro on the corner.
One of the greatest delights of Paris is sitting at a bistro table street side, sipping, reading, and watching. I’d choose a table with a view of the park across the way, and I’d order a pot of tea and a tartine with jam. I’d drink the tea, eat my breakfast, read my newspaper, and watch as this corner of Paris got about its day.
It was autumn. A walk through the heart of historic Paris is one of the best ways in the world to pass your time any time of year; however, exploring this part of this city on foot in autumn, the temperature crisp, leaves crunchy under foot, can be particularly pleasing.
Although we’d been living in Paris nearly four years and I’d been traveling to this city for more than two decades, I’d had little opportunity in all that time to be a tourist. This was my chance.
I bought a guidebook, and, each morning, after I’d finished my breakfast, I’d flip through it to find a new destination. Some days, I’d walk all morning, stop for lunch, then continue on until 4 in the afternoon when it was time to collect Jackson from school.
Other days I’d choose a park or a courtyard or a bench alongside the river and settle in to contemplate.
I’d watch the city gardeners as they trimmed the hedges and collected the crunchy leaves from the sidewalks… the restaurant staff as they dumped the previous evening’s cases of empty wine bottles into oversized garbage bins, sending out reverberating clatters… the building guardiennes as they polished giant brass door knockers and scrubbed ancient courtyard cobblestones…
Central Paris is always tidying and sprucing itself up.
One afternoon, about 3 o’clock, I was sitting in the park behind Jackson’s school, face turned up and eyes closed to enjoy the afternoon sun while I waited for the 4 o’clock bell telling me it was time to walk around the corner to meet Jackson for the walk home. Toddlers ran all around me, calling out to each other and laughing.
I was in a half-asleep state with the warm sun full on my face, so I couldn’t say how long my friend was there before I realized it, but, finally, I heard my name called out sharply and opened my eyes.
Emanuela’s face was just in front of mine, and she was looking at me as though I’d gone daft.
“Kathleen, what in the world are you doing here?” she asked.
“Waiting for Jackson to finish school,” I replied.
Emanuela’s daughter Emma was in Jackson’s class. That’s how we’d become friends.
“But it will be another hour before they’re out for the day,” Emanuela said.
“You’re just going to sit here and wait for an hour? How long have you been sitting here? Why aren’t you at work?”
In the four years since we’d met, Emanuela had never known me to while away my time. I was the full-time working mother who missed school meetings and had a full-time au pair who collected my child from school at the end of each day because I never had time to do it myself. I wasn’t a pass-the-afternoon-in-the-park mom. I hadn’t spoken with Emanuela since I’d opted out of the working-mother role and transitioned, overnight, to this hang-out-in-the-park one.
“But why?” she asked incredulously when I explained that I’d retired from my post. “Why would you quit? You loved your job. What have you been doing since you stopped working? You haven’t been sitting here in this park every day, have you?”
Sitting in a Left Bank park, just off Boulevard St. Germain, is one of the most enjoyable pastimes I can imagine. Still, Emanuela had a point. How many afternoons was I going to fill this way?
I continued doing nothing in Paris for a few more months… five in total. I remember this as one of the sweetest phases of my life—nothing to do all day and all historic Paris to do it in.
I traversed the heart of this city on foot, seeing every major and many minor monuments, indulging my interest in classic architecture by inspecting some of the best of it anywhere in the world up-close, and learning, finally, to speak French.
Then, one afternoon, I returned home with Jackson and walked straight into Lief’s home office where he was at work.
“I’d like to start a publishing group,” I informed my husband. “I think I’ve done nothing long enough.”
Five months later, Lief, Jackson, and I arrived in Panama City with six overstuffed suitcases and installed ourselves in our Avenida Balboa apartment, the one we’d been renting out but that now, until we could find a bigger place, we’d call home.
Two weeks after that, my first employee arrived on the scene. Harry took up his place alongside me at the single desk in our little loft space. I began writing daily dispatches like this one… which Harry emailed out to interested readers.
Live And Invest Overseas was born.
Founding Publisher, Overseas Opportunity Letter
Kathleen Peddicord has covered the live, retire, and do business overseas beat for more than 30 years and is considered the world's foremost authority on these subjects. She has traveled to more than 75 countries, invested in real estate in 21, established businesses in 7, renovated historic properties in 6, and educated her children in 4.
Kathleen has moved children, staff, enterprises, household goods, and pets across three continents, from the East Coast of the United States to Waterford, Ireland... then to Paris, France... next to Panama City, where she has based her Live and Invest Overseas business. Most recently, Kathleen and her husband Lief Simon are dividing their time between Panama and Paris.
Kathleen was a partner with Agora Publishing’s International Living group for 23 years. In that capacity, she opened her first office overseas, in Waterford, Ireland, where she managed a staff of up to 30 employees for more than 10 years. Kathleen also opened, staffed, and operated International Living publishing and real estate marketing offices in Panama City, Panama; Granada, Nicaragua; Roatan, Honduras; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Quito, Ecuador; and Paris, France.
Kathleen moved on from her role with Agora in 2007 and launched her Live and Invest Overseas group in 2008. In the years since, she has built Live and Invest Overseas into a successful, recognized, and respected multi-million-dollar business that employs a staff of 35 in Panama City and dozens of writers and other resources around the world.
Kathleen has been quoted by The New York Times, Money magazine, MSNBC, Yahoo Finance, the AARP, and beyond. She has appeared often on radio and television (including Bloomberg and CNBC) and speaks regularly on topics to do with living, retiring, investing, and doing business around the world.
In addition to her own daily e-letter, the Overseas Opportunity Letter, with a circulation of more than 300,000 readers, Kathleen writes regularly for U.S. News & World Report and Forbes.