One morning in March I shocked many – including myself – when I suddenly upped and moved to a country where I don’t speak the language, with a man I’d been going out with for five months and no job except some vague ideas about freelance writing.
Ten days earlier I had been preparing to fly back to Manchester from my boyfriend’s house in rural France after eating oysters by the sea, which must have got me a bit excited because I suggested that next time I visit I might not leave. Not sure if the other was joking, both of us nonchalantly shrugged in a very Gallic fashion and said “pour qua pas?” (well, I said “why not?” as I can’t speak French). The following morning I resigned from my job as a BBC journalist before either of us could change our minds.
Previously my career had dictated my life to the extent that I’d moved to the likes of Crewe, Stoke-on-Trent, Cleckheaton and Rochdale for the sake of it. I’d left boyfriends behind for better jobs and lived out of a rucksack in lifeless shared houses in places I didn’t like because of an underpaid 3-month contract.
But now I’d achieved a lot of my aims and was finding trudging through the Salford drizzle to work in a strip-lit office wasn’t really working for me anymore. I wanted something different, I wanted to broaden my horizons, I wanted a future with this man who was making a life in France; most of all I wanted a steady supply of quality oysters, a cheese course with every meal and jugs of wine at lunchtime.
So I cast aside my usual indecisiveness and, with a spring in my step and butterflies in my stomach, hopped on a one-way flight – two suitcases in the hold containing clothes, shoes, my laptop, some decorative door hooks, a bicycle horn, a Les Mis DVD and bacon (the French stuff is really streaky). Yup, 33 years on earth and that’s what I had to show for it. So that’s how my new life in France began.
Friends and colleagues I had presumed would balk in horror at my reckless stepping off the career ladder and into the complete unknown were almost unanimously excited and inspired. Some told me sad stories of their own secret ambitions and burning desires thwarted by fear, responsibility and regret.
So I would like to share my journey in this blog to help anyone nursing the spark of a life-changing move inside them decide whether it could be right for them. And to amuse everyone else with my experiences of finding freelance work and adjusting to a new French-paced way of life. The downsides – tears on being unable to locate crackers in the Intermarche (“I knew where everything was in Tesco!”), horror on realising the bar staff don’t know what jaegerbombs are, the first time you wake up with clawhand from over-zealous gardening. The upsides – long warm BBQ evenings on the porch, raspberry jaffa cakes, the feeling of power and achievement from using a pressure hose.
This blog is for anyone sat at their desk looking out at a grey sky from a pile of paperwork and wondering:
- Could I really move to sunnier climes and find a better work-life balance?
- Could I harness the power of the internet to work online while sitting on a sunny foreign porch?
- Sounds idyllic but how would I deal with a completely different culture?
- Could jugs of wine at lunchtime actually improve my afternoon’s productivity?
7 thoughts on “Rural France vs Salford Office 1-0”
Did this 20 years ago at the age of 48. Never regretted it. You can find decent bacon if you look for it as with many other things that weren’t available 20 years ago. I’m in north Charente Maritime, just an hour from La Rochelle (sea food centre of the world). Good luck! Lindax
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This story made me laugh I also hopped on a one way flight to be with my partner also with bacon in the case 🙂
Haha it must be quite common Suzanne!
Still trying to figure out if the lunchtime wine is helping my productivity 😉 Not sure about that – but the cheese is definitely helping, and not missing the crowded city and commute. Do miss good fish and chips and dairy milk though! We gave it all up too and moved to the beautiful Limousin the end of last year. Have a great day and look forward to chatting more 🙂 http://detoutcoeurlimousin.blogspot.fr/
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Reblogged this on Katy Dartford and commented:
Here’s a lady with a very similar story to my own-minus the boyfriend. I was lined up to news read at Sky News Radio and LBC as well as freelancing at the Daily Mail online…. but swapped it all for the insecurity but amazing experience of Chamonix…and living in France generally….
Hi katy, as you know- your story is just like mine- before coming here i was having a crap time freelancing at Daily Mail online- but i’d also been given freelance contracts at LBC and Sky News Radio…. but i was 33 and i’d done all the graveyard shifts i was prepared to do- i could see that if i continued i’d be doing it again for another 4 years only to be told “sorry, we dont want to use you anymore…. we have people like xxx from sky news wanting to news read for us….” this after being a main newsreader for the particular station for 4 years- search katy dartford on wiki pedia you’ll know who! so it was basically now or never….. fortunately i’d dabbled in writing for a few years; travel and climbing/mountaineering stuff- thanks goodness as climbing has always been a lifeline for me- when work was crap and depressing – i said- well sod it its not important- im going climbing!- gives you a bigger picture of the world and whats out there and opened my eyes to chamonix. i love living here- although i miss certain cultural attractions of london – doubt i’ll find a man either haha! but chipping away at the writing- reporting for Chamonets etc and other blogs and of course the climbing mags and just trying to get involved. its hard but so so worth it! good luck!
Thanks Katy, great to hear from someone doing something similar, you’re right you have to be where you want first then sort out work around that, seems to be working and I wouldn’t go back so far! Can’t wait to meet up in the mountains 🙂