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?