It is time! I am turning the blog, and all ten years of journally, into a book! I promise to share the good, the bad and the ugly! Even the silly and stupid things, like the time I accidentally told my friend’s husband I loved him, inplace of telling him I loved his wine. Very embarrassing! Or the time I went on about preservatives in wine for about a half an hour before my snickering French friends finally told me the word I was looking for was conservatives as preservatives were condoms.
I wrote my first book between 2011 and 2012, ‘Eating Foie Gras in my Toque’, about how our Canadian family moved from South Surrey B.C., Canada to Capestang, France. It talks about adjusting to European culture, making new friends, learning new languages, and creating new business while slowly travelling around Europe, engrossing ourselves in long standing traditions, fresh, wholesome foods and of course the fabulous wine culture! We broach the subject of time currency, breaking away from traditional status quo and the importance of assimilation. It’s like ‘A Year in Provence’, renovating a home amongst the vineyards; meeting, Eat, Pray Love and the journey of self discovery; except our story has two children in tow and spends time watching them grow in a new culture, thrown in sink or swim and absorbing it, becoming part of our family’s new culture. I really enjoyed writing it, and although it ended when we welcomed our first guests at our B&B Le Petit Platane, introduced to the world on the reality TV show House Hunters International; our story did not end there.
Now I am starting my next book, The Gap Decade, which follows our vagabond family across 2011-2021 until making our round trip home to our last destination, Nanaimo B.C., on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada. Since 2011 when we decided to sell up and leave, we have been incredibly prolific! Going back to school, pushing our limits mentally and physically, watching the kids become young adults, reinventing ourselves again and again in two countries, renovating, building and a few more times on reality TV. We moved our businesses with us and we shared all the challenges and milestone on our blog. I have no regrets and I believe we have learned some valuable, shareable lessons along the way.
The most important message in the book is the power of believing in your own abilities, changing your inner mantra to positive ones, and living the law of attraction. The story is autobiographical, however, the order of events may slightly change, as there is no way to put everything inside >300 pages and to show a chronological story worth reading. When I started writing this last week, it played out in my head like a screenplay with Julia Roberts playing me and Bradley Cooper playing Alfonz. Right? Can you see it? Her brown eyes, ok I am not that tall, but Julia can play me I am certain; she has mad skill! And no one loves their husband as much as I love mine, so why not Mr Cooper!
It starts off in an auditorium where I am speaking to a large group of people, it looks like a university campus, and I have been invited to talk about how travelling expands the mind, the value of time currency and to share snippets from the newly published book. It brings you through the start of the story, leaving South Surrey, saying goodbye to friends and the taking a giant leap of faith into the unknown. We were brave and stupid in equal measures. The story shares entries from the blog but also shares how writing helped me make sense of the entire journey, how it helped me fight demons as they came back from the past to haunt me, and how living our best life made us value the moments together as a family. What we have built is remarkable. We created a life we cannot wait to wake up to! We created the most interesting life we could image. When we left, we had a blank canvas to paint on. No family pulling us back to who we were before, no one to stop us from growing up and out of our old life. We gave ourselves permission to become whoever we wanted, and most noteworthy, we dreamed big! Southern France is not South Surrey by no stretch of the imagination. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz said, “We are not in Kansas anymore!” No, we are not in BC anymore!
It is true we stepped out of traditional ‘work to live’ values of commercial society, and we chose to live a very different lifestyle. By living on less. The value of working from home using technology but being together all the time. We created businesses that kept us close to the children each and everyday providing them with a soft place to fall, with guidance and security; something both Alfonz and I never really had growing up. And I am not saying that getting down to two suitcases each and heading for France is right for everyone, because selling everything and moving far, far away takes an extrordinary amount of faith in oneself, resources to rely on, and unwavering trust in your partner. It did put our family on the most meandering path towards happiness or at least what we think happiness might look like.
Of course the idea of pursuing happiness is a psychological conundrum; how it is not something you can actually obtain, however, by trying to improve your life step by step, creating places to learn, surrounding yourself with good people, making time for hobbies, finding spaces to enjoy life and actively trying to make life as happy as possible; that’s when the magic happens. But you have to be honest with yourself, about what it is that actually makes you happy, and to do that you must know yourself very well. To take the time to know yourself without all the background noise, without society telling you what you want, for us that meant travelling away from everything we knew. Some people can make change without the journey, but for myself, I needed the miles apart to go deep inside myself, to be honest with myself, and I went searching for a better version of who I could be. Then it was about bringing that dream to life. By focussing on the good in everything that crosses my path, being open to all the experiences; everything good comes your way; it is in the actual pursuit that you find happiness.
This week we signed the sale on the house, and one of the apartments too. It looks like everything will line-up perfectly. The quarantine will lift in the nick of time, the airplane tickets will become available, we will have the vaccination, the 6 month rental on the other end ready to go, and even the jobs we will need will miraculously appear once we land. Fate will open a direct path for us, as it always does. How do I know? Because it is already written! Daniel’s university and Angelina’s high school, all perfectly in play to start our new life. Our new expat lives next phase.
Hmmm, I was actually wondering about that. After ten years away, are we really returning or are we expats yet again? European expats? Third culture kids raising third, fourth or fifth culture kids, returning to their first culture… I guess we are simply human beings. I know personally how much I have changed and watching Alfonz grow into himself; he is a totally different person than when we left, but even more so from before we married; the changes are immense. The idea that we will not have to adjust again, find more opportunities to learn and change from once we land, would be uber naive. However, I would like to think of it as a full circle for me, being a Duncan girl and perhaps trying out this new city as our last forever home. There is something so special living next to the Ocean, the smells, the wind, the crashing of the waves. I know how much my grandparents loved living in Victoria until they couldn’t manage the stairs in their house anymore. I hope to find the same feeling of contentment in our home as they did.
Future plans? I want to continue teaching and learning; I am what they can a lifetime learner. Alfonz and I will most likely start yet another business in Nanaimo. Maybe politics again for me, rally people together and get them motivated to start saving the planet, ethical business practices, going even greener… Bliss, yet another blank canvas… writer/teacher/entrepreneur/municipal councilor/ activist? politician? … there is still time to add a few more slashes to who and what defines me. I just hope to be a well-rounded person by the end of this crazy thing called life. Here is to hoping!
What I do know is that I am not scared of change, because the world is one heck of an interesting place to live. I am very happy to be part of it all. Can’t wait until the next adventure! July 2021, here we go again!
Here is a little video for my students and friends to see, for those who have never been to Vancouver Island!