No Mo’ FOMO
It seems more and more typical for twenty somethings entering the workforce to experience a growing disdain for the daily grind. With Instagram and Snapchat in your face all day, every day, glamorizing world travel, the FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) is real. But if you’re an anxious girl like me, sure…backpacking Patagonia, train hopping and sleeping in a tent on the country side seems all romantic and adventurous, but practical?? I think not. Where would you work? Who would you know? How would you communicate? Most importantly, how would you EAT?!? There has to be some solid paths to new lifestyles…right? There are. We interviewed Allison Sullivan, a Floridian who used to work for a nonprofit in Orlando. She shared her journey; why she made the decision to leave her 9-5 job, and how she’s reaching her travel goals.
After working 60-hour weeks for years, Sullivan was 25 and already experiencing burnout. “I was going going going like the energizer bunny with the battery flickering off.” She needed a change of pace and wanted to see the world. “I had a few friends au pair after high school in Spain, and I was so amazed by their experiences that I thought about doing it for over four years.”
Sullivan decided it was finally time to look into it.
“I personally found my family on aupairworld.net, but there are a lot of websites.” She now lives in Divonne Les Bains, France, and works as a live-in nanny, or au pair, for a family of four.
“For me, having worked a career job for several years, it’s hard to really consider what I’m doing proper work. But it is. It’s a very interesting work dynamic, but is less about working with a diverse group of people than other jobs.”
So far, being an au pair has been a great way to see other countries, says Sullivan.
“I don’t have to work when the parents are home, and I have my weekends off. There are a lot of budget airlines and trains available to you once you’re here. I’m actually about to be on my way to Austria and Hungary for the week using a Euro-rail pass. With my French residency card I was able to buy it for around 200€, and it’s good for 5 days of travel on almost any rail line in Europe. This trip will take me to eight countries total since I moved here, 15 countries total!”
Sullivan said she lives in a renovated part of the family’s home and has a car provided for driving the children to and from school since the village doesn’t have the best public transportation.
“Mainly as an Au pair, I’m logistical support more than anything. I pick the kids up from school, I take them to their various after-school activities and make them dinner–things that the parents are unable to do because of their work schedules. I also watch them on some school holidays and we can do fun things like go bowling or little outdoor adventures.”
The reason most family’s choose to host English speaking au pairs is to help the children be comfortable speaking and understanding the language, which is part of Sullivan’s job description.
“I took two years of French in high school and a semester in college so I had a pretty good basis when I moved here. I knew a lot of vocabulary and was able to test into the second level of French courses at the school I go to, but wasn’t able to actually formulate a proper sentence. I’m pretty much able to converse with the friends I have here who do speak French, but for the most part they also speak English and will help me if I get stuck. The kids help me with my French, too.”
According to Sullivan, au pairs are paid less than a nanny since they live with the family and do not pay room or board. Nannies actually have to complete a certain set of criteria in order to qualify for work there.
As far as meeting people, Sullivan says she is in an au pair group for the region and there are almost 400 members just for the greater Geneva area.
“It was very easy to make friends here since we are all in the same situation.”
Au pairing is an amazing and economical way to travel, Sullivan says, which was her main goal after deciding to leave her full-time job last summer.
As with anything, there are downsides of course.
“Almost every single one of my friends here has expressed how bizarre it is that the parents don’t really discipline,” Sullivan said.
“I’m not their parent, so it’s difficult to find the balance between being the person responsible for them but also the person for them to have fun with. There are obviously uncomfortable situations at times when it comes to things like discipline, or the lack there of really.”
Sullivan said she really wanted to nanny in either Norway or Switzerland, mainly because they pay their au pairs the most, but had already aged out of the requirements for both countries.
Most government-regulated au pair programs do have age restrictions: The United States Au Pair Program requires au pairs to be between the ages of 18 and 26. Here is a list of au pair ages in different countries according to aupairworld.com.
Sullivan says she would recommend the work to anyone looking for a life change.
“I personally love working with kids. I get a lot of gratification from watching children grow, learn, develop and adapt, it’s a fascinating process to me.”