December 14th is my 40th birthday, and I dedicated the last year of my thirties to complete a wishlist of things I want to do before turning the big four-oh!
My list changed, evolved, and grew as I went through the process of completing 40 activities. I wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone to try different things, see different places and to develop myself.
In 2011 when we started our adventure in Europe, Kelley Scarsbrook launched her 40 before 40 blog on the ambitious things she wanted to do before turning forty. Our family followed her adventures over the course of the year and watched her tick√ the items off her list. And I followed suit on my 39th birthday giving myself a year dedicated to my personal goal list.
What does forty mean to you? Is it the end of your youth, the beginning of the middle point of life, a time to become accountable for your actions or an overall understanding of the value of doing things well?
By now we must be able to do a few things well. For example; my fried chicken is to die for after years perfecting the spices and I make a mean cabbage roll, I can sing a high A on occasion, have a gift for reading people and situations like a sixth sense and in crazy stressful situation have cat like reflexes and a spooky calm. (I would have been burned at the stake for being a witch back in the day)
I have to improve on many fronts, like my lack of putting together a stylish outfit and the sad truth, I still have not mastered my own hair.
And then there are the bigger issues; the things I regret, need to learn and improve on.
Letting go of anger and resentment have been a lifelong goal and struggle of mine. I am emotionally driven and feel my way through issues but more often than not it is a hindrance tripping me up as I go through life’s trials and tribulations.
I still find it shocking that people are cruel yet always manage to find myself in situations to get hurt. Sometimes being happy and open are viewed as weak and people take that as their opportunity to lash out. I have to remember that it is on them and their own issues that drive the curmudgeons among us and has nothing to do with me. I know my heart and I believe people try to be good. I don’t want to build resentments going into the second half of my life, and hope to keep this optimist inner child in me alive.
Lastly I want to go back to University and get a degree. At this rate my children and I should be off to Uni at the same time… a funny thought… Do senior students get a discount?
Since leaving Canada, I have been actively accountable for improving my life through goal lists. Through my blog I have disclosed the good, the bad and the downright ugly of moving to and living the French dream. The blog was started as a place to log my journals to remember all the places we visited and things we learned along the way. Having a place to share our stories is one of the most rewarding things of my life. Countless times I refer to my own blog for recipes or to recall a little town in a country we traveled through. I don’t regret being open online either, although Alfonz has uncomfortable moments.
My blog has brought countless people to our door; I have built good relationships with fellow wanderlusts, and people on similar journeys of self-discovery. I learn from writing online, from bloggers and also travelers. Life is interesting and I couldn’t ask for more.
I added Living the French Dream to my list simply because our first year in France we were on unsure ground with one leg in France and the other between Canada and Hungary. There’s a visual, a giant version of myself playing twister on a word map- pretty accurate actually.
Until I formally quit my job I didn’t have my head in the game. After that, I settled comfortably in on the thought of making life work in France and part of that assimilation was to become part of the French medical system. I was determined to find a legitimate job with a proper contract. Once I obtained my vital card in May, I took care of a long time health problem. After loads of tests, I finally found a gynecologist, which is as hard to obtain as a snow cone in the Sahara. Once I had my results it was clear that a hysterectomy was inevitable. Although I wasn’t expecting to have the operation this year, my gynecologist discovered two larger tumours, which needed immediate intervention. The operation changed my plans substantially for my 40 before 40 list and I went into surgery November 19th 2013. Our family did not make it back to Paris or Italy to complete my list.
40 Before 40
First, mom and I went to Italy last winter and explored Milan. It was a great experience, even though deathly sick with flu; mom and I had met up with her high-school friend reconnected through Facebook.
I have always wanted to cycle along the Canal du Midi, and many people that live here forget about their own backyard and all the activities offered.
We also took the children; on a chartered canal boat ride, wine tours, olive tours, skiing, river rafting, spelunking, grape harvest, Go Carting and a handful of local places that didn’t make my forty before forty list.
Trying to fit it all in was a task in itself as our summer was super busy with dozens of guests staying in our B&B. We managed to meet all our financial goals this year.
On a business front we made good connections, marketed our new businesses well and even set up work for next year without the necessity to continue at France Fluviale. Even though they were fabulous to work for, and I loved working with my Hungarian friends, I prefer to work in my field of interest and pursue property management.
Next up was our Barcelona trip. Each time we go I love it more. This time we showed mom the popular Spanish destination and hit all the famous tourist spots; the Picasso Museum, Guell Park (Gaudi), Sagrada Cathedral, and lastly on the way home we detoured North to Montserrat and the Black Madonna.
It was amazing.
Learning for me is a constant. There is something fulfilling in learning for the sake of an interest as opposed to a job promotion or the prospect of a better job. Over the last decade I have dedicated my time to things that I am truly passionate about, how to: play the piano, speak French, sing a solo, how to grow a vegetable garden in southern France, lose 5 kilos on a bread, cheese and wine diet, write in a magazine format, cook French cuisine, help in a political election campaign, and promote a blog. All of these things have kept this year super fun and fed my need for new information. When I look back each year at the things accomplished, it amazes me. And it is the things that are most unexpected and difficult that end up giving me the most satisfaction.
There is a need in all of us to improve and strive that is the heart of human existence. People are not the happiest when things come easy. Nothing easy is ever worth doing.
Going to Scotland was not just a trip to tick off a list, it was reconnecting with a family member I had not seen in years. Family can be complicated. Throw in a few steps, halves and multiple divorce and you have my family. Functioning dysfunctionals. No matter what, I never miss an opportunity to reconnect with the people I grew up with. I feel proud that my family is growing, changing and improving themselves and want to share in their experiences. Although we are a good cross section of different, finding common ground with my stepsister was the highlight of my year and possibly the most important detour from my original list. Scotland was never on my list before my sister moved there, and the warm, fun people that live there happily surprised me. The country has huge, green, bold beauty. I look forward to a long worn relationship with Scotland, Nicole and her new family.
Our family had the awesome experience sharing our move to France with millions of people on international TV, on a program called House Hunters International. When they asked to return to visit our family for an offshoot program called House Hunters, ‘Where Are They Now?‘ we jumped at the chance to show off our new village of Capestang once again eighteen months later. We have big love for our village, and letting people know how special this region is helps the people who live here. Carving out a life for us in the travel and tourist industry makes sense. Promoting ourselves using media and marketing only helps our businesses.
It is a rare thing what we found in France. A warm and loving community but more importantly we embrace it. The people root deep into their southern villages, they make lifetime connections and the people I share my life with have become my family. I can count on my friends, and hope they feel they can count on me. Alfonz helps someone move, I take soup over to a sick friend and in return they help us out immensely with the language, paperwork, and learning to navigate a very different system to back in Canada. Here we get back to the basics of community. My circle of friends is a lovely bonus, accomplished from a mixture of hope, connections through the children and pure luck. I feel blessed.
We have one more trip planned for this year, slightly after my birthday; nonetheless I am counting it in my ‘forty before forty’ list. Our friends who live in Capestang, Beatrice and Christophe, the husband is originally from a village near the Swiss border close to the Alps called Morteau.
This area is famous for the delicious Morteau sausage and a wealthy community who travel across the border for better wages in Switzerland. While my family goes skiing, I will stay close to home and help with the food preparations. I am not allowed to over exert myself until well into the New Year. I cannot imagine any place I’d rather be for a calm recovery than with our good friends. I hope to rest, take walks, and enjoy a change of scenery, the type of recuperation, which only a trip can do. Spending time with my family and our friends for a few days over New Years is exactly what the doctor ordered. And yes I asked him…
Click on the links below for the full post on each topic. I hope you enjoy my 40 before 40!
40 Before 40 LIST
Living the French Dream Getting my Carte Vitale Milan – da Vinci’s Last Supper Milan – Duomo Roof View Milan – Spin on the Bull’s Balls Milan – Leonardo da Vinci Canal Cycling tour down the Canal Du Midi Canal Boats with the kids Languedoc Winery Tour Pyrenees – Ski with the kids Barcelona – Sagrada Familia Church Barcelona – Montserrat Sanctuary & The Black Madonna Barcelona – Picasso Museum Barcelona – Güell Park (Gaudi) River Rafting Roquebrun Learn Left Hand on the Piano
Learn French Put Together CookBook (Grandma’s recipes)Travel Eat Repeat Solo in the choir I have a small solo part in Bohemian Rhapsody for the end of year concerts: dates pictures and photos to follow. Visit an Olive Garden and see how they make olive oil Port Aventura Theme Park with kids SPAIN Tarragona Spain Pescatarian in France Scotland Visit Step-Sister & New Baby Plant Vegetable Garden Lose 5 kilos Write for a magazine Write for a magazine and get paid House Hunter’s Returns Run in an election campaign Go Karting spelunking Saint Andrews Falkland Palace Glasgow Scotland Partake in a grape harvest Hysterectomy- taking care of myself Circle Of Friends TESOL training Website
I had an unexpected hysterectomy operation on Nov 19 and had to cancel my fortieth birthday in Paris which is four items on my list. Our scheduled Christmas vacation through Italy to Hungary was also cancelled.
I am placing those item on my accumulating Bucket List.
Paris – Eiffel Tower Lookout Paris – Tour Boat on the Seine River Paris – Arc de Triomphe Paris – Champs Elysées Venice Italy – Gondola Venice Italy – Basilica di San Marco
- Rome Italy – Vatican City
- Rome Italy – Colosseum
- Rome Italy – Pantheon
- Florence Italy – Piazza della Signoria
- Florence Italy – The Campanile bell tower in Piazza del Duomo
- Florence Italy – The Baptistery of John the Baptist
The Hamori family will continue the expat adventure!