I had just earned my BA in tourism in Brazil and had begun looking for work when I had a depressing realization: my employment options were limited unless I could acquire one or more languages to complement my native Portuguese. So it was that in 2008 I packed my bags and left Brazil, en route to the United Kingdom, where I planned to improve my English.
After 10 months in London, I needed a break. Worn out by so much study and the challenges of expat life, I decided to walk the Camino Frances, one of the world's most famous spiritual pilgrimage routes: Santiago de Compostela.
Though my intent was to relieve my stress and deepen my faith, I encountered a major distraction just 10 days into my walk. I met a French man who began walking alongside me.
We haven't separated since.
Our respective journeys aborted, we changed our itineraries. He invited me to accompany him to Millau, his hometown. Located in southern France's Midi-Pyrenees region, surrounded by the Larzac Mountains and by the rivers Tarn and Dourbie, the town is famous for its huge Viaduct, an impressive architectural work, and for adventure sports like kayaking, canoeing, and paragliding.
I loved him, I loved Millau, and he loved me. Did I want to stay?
Finding a French love might have been easy, but that didn’t mean living with him in France was simple. Without the right papers and without speaking the language, it can be a challenge to get paid work legally.
Getting married would facilitate the process of establishing residency. On a sunny day at the beginning of autumn, we celebrated our wedding with his family and friends. I was meeting some of them for the first time.
But for the French government, marriage was not enough. Three days after the wedding I had to return to Brazil; from there, I would have to apply for a “conjuge” visa. The honeymoon would have to wait.