My Expat Story

People often ask me how and when I decided to come to France. They are surprised when I tell them I first had the idea in a hospital bed, unsure if I'd ever walk again...

Everything happens for a reason. Just don’t try to tell that to a 3-year-old screaming in the streets of NYC when she just discovered the garbage collectors took away her tricycle while she left it on the curb for 5 minutes. Wait until after her dad teaches her to ride her older brother’s bike and she becomes the youngest kid on the block to ride 2 wheels. Or wait until she joins a team and wins her first race, or maybe wait until she starts a business organizing cycling tours. Everything makes more sense when you can connect the dots.

One thing led to another after my tricycle vanished, and cycling became much more to me than just a pastime. It was a way to escape the craziness of city life, push my mental and physical limits, and explore new places. I first discovered the French Riviera on a solo trip to Europe in 2005, riding all day every day for a week, with a map folded up in my back pocket to keep me from getting lost in the mountains. I fell in love with the Côte d’Azur. That’s where and when the idea to come here was born. I dreamt of starting a business organizing cycling tours so I could share this amazing place with people from around the world. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then being here in person is worth a million. But at the time, it seemed like a far-fetched fantasy that would stay within the confines of my dreams.

Two years later on what started out as a routine training ride, everything changed in a split second. An inattentive truck driver hit me from behind, and I was transported via helicopter to the nearest level 1 trauma center. I woke up in a hospital bed with 10 fractures and a doctor telling me I might be paralyzed. For 10 long days I was unsure if I’d ever walk or ride my bike again. I had 10 long days to think about all the opportunities and possibilities we have when there’s no immediate threat to our lives. I promised myself that I would pursue my dream if I could ride again, that I would stop thinking about it as a far-fetched fantasy, and actually make it happen. 

Thankfully, a complex and risky spinal surgery on the 11th day was successful – but the year following my accident was the most challenging year of my life. I fought intense physical pain every minute of every day. To get through it, I let the constant pain become a constant reminder of the life I still had and all the possibilities ahead of me. The decisions I made from that point forward were definitely influenced by my newfound understanding of life’s fragility. I stopped putting things off until tomorrow, and I took more calculated risks than before. That’s what brought me to the French Riviera. Decisions to say “yes” to people and opportunities – rather than erring on the side of safety and staying perpetually in the same trajectory. 

So, I switched careers and countries with the plan of making my dream reality. I began working on my business once I settled in, but one of the biggest challenges I faced was finding the right information and connections. Despite speaking fluent French, I found it really difficult to interpret the laws and understand the system here. Sometimes it would take me weeks to get an answer that probably would have taken a day if I had known where to look. It was definitely a lesson in trial and error, extremely frustrating at times – but also extremely rewarding when I finally managed to get my company up and running. I love what I do and it’s hard to imagine that I once pictured this as an improbable scenario from some alternate life. 

Through the years, I learned so much and made so many valuable connections. I’ve also met other expats trying to navigate their way through life abroad, and realized that there are so many ways I can help; that all my experience could really be put to good use. That’s where the idea came for Uncommon Accents. I knew I could run both businesses, but starting a new project and getting life coaching certification demanded time I didn’t have. Then the pandemic happened. And with all the angst and upending it’s done to everyone’s lives, it also seemed a sign. I suddenly had the time to make this project happen, a silver lining to a dark cloud. So I said “yes” once again, with the hope that I can empower others to say “yes” to their dreams and opportunities, and have the best expat experience possible. Everything happens for a reason, and maybe we get to decide what that reason is…

My Professional Experience

CEO and Founder of Azur Vélo  I started from scratch 8 years ago, with no prior business experience  – just a love for this amazing region and a dream of running cycling tours here. It took an international move and lots of sweat equity, but I eventually transformed my dream into reality, running a successful business sharing the beauty of the Côte d’Azur and the sport I love with cycling enthusiasts around the world. My experience as an entrepreneur has been one of my greatest life lessons, and gave me the confidence to start this new project. 

Competitive Cyclist – Road and Mountain Bike  Cycling has enriched me in so many ways throughout my life, in the discovery phase, the competitive period, and everything after and in-between. I competed for 14 years and have been an athlete for over 25 years. I also have 8 years experience as a cycling coach and consultant for personal athletic goals and race preparation. Cycling has developed my mind-body connection and taught me the value of analysis – of looking for lessons in each race, in my preparation, and how to become a valuable asset to my teammates. All of these lessons transcend sport and have been an asset to me through my relationships and professional endeavors. 

French and English Teacher, Pre-k through Masters Levels  My very first teaching job was in NYC in a private Montessori school. I taught French to children from ages 3 to 12, loved the interaction, and knew that teaching was going to be a very fulfilling professional choice. I went on to teach French at the high school level in the USA, then English to university undergrads and masters students in France. I now have over 20 years of teaching experience as a French and English teacher of all levels, from pre-k through Masters students and adults. Being a teacher has motivated me to strive higher and be at my best, so I can help others be at their best.

Certified Life Coach  I’m certified by the Life Coach Training Institute. This process marked the start of a new venture, where I hope to help others improve their lives, make connections that truly count, and accomplish their goals abroad. Although there is no official training requirement in order to become a life coach, I felt it was important to get certified so I could be the best coach possible and reassure my clients that they’re signing up with a trained professional. 

The French Riviera

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