When I moved to Paris spontaneously in the summer of 2013, it was out of a need for adventure, for profound change and a desire for a life a little less ordinary. I was ready for the change of scenery, but I was in no way prepared for how much I would learn, grow and transform after a year in the bewildering intensity of the city. If you have ever undergone a life-altering experience, you know that it is not particularly about what happens; but how you deal with and learn from the change.

I spent a year wondering through the streets of Paris, hungrily breathing in its palpable cadence which flows in harmony with the river Seine. I carefully observed the city dwellers, especially the Parisiennes who seemed to saunter down boulevards with such purpose and passion, asserting a way of living that was so different to how I grew up on the opposite side of the world, in a small corner of Australia. Unsurprisingly, I struggled to fit into the flow of the city and it is in this struggle that I learnt some valuable life lessons.

1.Enjoy the simple things

I noticed early on that although Paris is a big city centre, things tend to move slowly here. To really enjoy all the magic the city has to offer, go slow and appreciate the little things like enjoying a really crisp glass of rose as you sit on the terrace of a quaint café and watch the world go by; or perched on a bench in one of the beautifully manicured gardens, submerged in sunshine and listening to birds chirp merrily. (The Luxembourg Gardens was one my favorite places to laze in.)

One of the simple things that I found great pleasure from was walking across the bridges that connect the left and right banks of Paris. Depending on the time of day (and I recommend crossing the bridges at sunrise or sunset), you could see for miles down the river Seine, which is often called the vein that pumps life into the city. Watching the current and flow of the river reminded me about how fast time goes and how it is so easy to get caught up in all the things that we have to do, that we sometimes forget to appreciate the finer details.

I learnt quickly that food is a very important part of life in Paris. And though I thought myself a foodie before moving to the city, the French are on a whole different level. Paris is home to some of the best restaurants and dishes in the world, it would be a waste not to try some of the local cuisines. But the French don’t simply just eat, and they very rarely eat on the run, instead food is celebrated and meals are eaten slowly in Paris. I learnt to savor dishes fully and really enjoy food more mindfully.

2. Slow down and stop to smell the roses

Thomas Jefferson once said that a walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty and in the point of life. And it is in the simple act of leisurely strolling around Paris that one really appreciates its beauty. Paris taught me the art of slowing down, it taught me to not get caught up in the hustle and it taught me to appreciate the little things.

Walking around Paris is absolutely the best way to see the sights of the city. Paris is made up of 20 arrondissments (districts) and each of them are filled with interesting sites, beautiful architecture and landmarks. As you wonder around, don’t forget to slow down, look up and take in the complex details which make up the city.

Sometimes when travelling, we often move from one tourist attraction to another, ticking them off our “to do” lists; but in doing so we quite often forget to appreciate the craftsmanship of a cathedral or the intricate brushstrokes of a painting.

3. Find your passions and live them fearlessly

The French, I found, are passionate people and one of the things I noticed about my time in Paris is that people seek out experiences which make them happy and actively spend time pursuing their goals. This however, is not always about careers or jobs in fact, I learnt that finding your passion usually isn’t about what you do professionally but rather the little things that make your heart feel full.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of being brave enough to try new things – learn a new language, try a new hobby or master a new recipe. In Paris, I felt confident to try new experiences and I thought more about what I enjoy doing outside of my career. Sometimes, living passionately meant that I simply stopped planning and started living more in the moment. And sometimes, living passionately meant that I passionately engaged in a conversation about where to find the best baguette in Paris. Being brave enough to pursue your passions, regardless of how big or small they are, is an enormous feat; but there is plenty of beauty in Paris to ignite inspiration.

4. Confidence is key

The French poet Jean Cocteau once said that “in Paris, everybody wants to be an actor; nobody is content to be a spectator.” I learnt quickly that the perceived aura of arrogance that is often associated with the French, is in fact just confidence. Often, I would sit in cafes and watch as French women sauntered past with an air of certainty and poise that I came to envy. I wondered how they cultivated such fearlessness and self-esteem. In time, I realised that the French don’t care too much about being accepted, and seldom compare themselves to others. Their self-assurance, I gathered, stems from many factors but I learnt that much of it was linked to the point above.

When you are brave enough to pursue your passions, you inadvertently become confident in the choices you are making, you feel like you are living with purpose and stop seeking affirmation from others. And as confidence builds, you also learn to live more in the present, put yourself out there more and stop second-guessing your decisions.

5. Paris has so much to offer

Like many destinations, your experience really depends on what you do with your time. Paris is no different. I’ve been back to Paris 6 times since living there and each time is different as there is so much to see and do. The city is multifaceted, molded from the influence and change in eras, the byzantine architecture, innovation and its prominent historical figures.

I’ve often been asked for advice about what to see and do when visiting the city, and I tend to give the same advice to everyone. Firstly, split the city by its two sides – the left and right bank of the river. By doing so, it becomes a little easier to manage your time and plan your trip without bouncing around too much. Try to walk as much as possible and head away from the tourist areas from time to time – especially to find authentic restaurants and less-crowded bars. Try to learn a few words in French before your arrival. I found that the French really do appreciate you making an effort to speak the native tongue, even if it is just the basic “hello” and “thank you”. And, never skip dessert!

Lastly, I highly recommend staying somewhere central. The Hotel Square Louvois, situated a stone’s throw away from the Louvre, is a great base to explore the city on foot. With a focus on modern decor, the rooms are incredibly chic, decorated in deep inky blues, hints of copper and elegant creamy furnishings. The small details go a long way, such as the unbelievably comfortable bed, plush bathrobes, espresso coffee machine and L’Occitane beauty products.

The staff are friendly and helpful, happily answering questions about where they recommend dining out in the area. The breakfast is phenomenal with a wide variety of hot and cold options (the scrambled eggs were particularly delicious!), and in the afternoons they serve free tea, coffee and freshly baked pasties for all guests. If you are in need of a little rest and relaxation, the hotel also has a charming swimming pool and relaxation room in the natural stone vaults.

Disclaimer: Hotel Square Louvois kindly hosted me during my recent stay in Paris.