How do you take an eleven year old blog, equalling 1000 posts, around 1,400,000 words and turn it into a 150 page book someone would like to read? Well that is the question I have been contemplating since coming home to Canada
Getting my head wrapped around which stories to tell has been challenging. To decide which piece of narrative seems the most pertinent in the development of one’s self; led us to finding the happiness we have been pursuing; changed our children’s perspectives from ordinary to extrordinary and; seems crucial to helping others find what they are looking for too? It is nothing short of a giant task. Writing the blog each week now seems like the easy part. I mean after all a blog is really a dairy, a place to document what has happened and now I am left with the task of making it mean something so I can pass along.
I wonder how many people start the process of writing a book and simply give up? I could see how lack of self-motivation would be a strong factor for most to finish a book. For me personally, writing has never been the issue. It comes in a fast pour, and drains to a trickle when tired. For me it is carving out the time at the beginning of each day when I am the most prolific, time before starting my real job, or finding the energy after work to create. Actually create is not the right word, it is a feeling of being empty after downloading my thoughts that keeps me writing. A ‘making a sense of it all’ that sorts my impressions, ideas and notions so I can continue a normal life, and not trip up on all that I absorb along the way. Putting it on the list of things to do each day, and making it part of my routine is the most important part. It is as important to me to write as my morning cup of coffee, which I happen to be drinking at the moment in my very Canadian mug with the legendary overused work in this country. SORRY. And the process overall, well it really is for myself. If others enjoy it at times, great. But even if people think it is the ramblings and perspectives of some pointless human being, I would do it anyway. My motivation is not selling the book or becoming famous, it has always been to write down the stories of our family before I forget them. To share our experiences letting others witness in real time as they happened, and to bring others along for the ride, those that couldn’t come along for the journey. It was a way to stay connected.
I still feel that we conjured ourselves up an extraordinary life. We bravely went out into the world, into the unknown, and built a life around ourselves over and again. We did it on our own terms. True, we were charged by the adventure of it all, but we were also searching for a balance in life, that sweet spot of working to live that so many people have forgotten. Being present and aware of the little gifts life offers at each turn, we ended up learning from all the lessons that popped up. We expose ourselves, turning ourselves inside out, and letting life happen to us. The universe led us to where we needed to go, the opportunities presented themselves at the exact right moment, and we courageously grasped them and chased our dreams with elated enthusiasm. We never doubted our abilities. We always believed that anything and everything were possible. Whatever decision we made, we stuck to them and never looked back. We worked very hard, we played even harder and we constructed a life so beautiful, that every day I could not wait to wake-up and get to it. And, I feel it is this story that we need to share, not the end results because that’s just the stuff of hard work and determination, but the equation of how we got there.
Like most of us, our life tapestry is full of history, culture, language, family, food, sadness, some great joy, some equally deep fears and hopefully vast amounts of love. If you are lucky, life is diverse, and vividly colourful. Life is not supposed to be lived on the sidelines, running home to cocoon in front of NetFlix living vicariously through others’ stories. I believe that our existence should be as though you are the star of your own show, going out to experience and live life to the fullest. Make your own cup overflow. This journey is supposed to be as unique as you are, as interesting as you can imagine it to be; exposing yourself to all the things that make you happy, whatever that might mean to you.
Back to the book.
I started with a book outline. I decided to use the traditional Three Act Structure. Each Act is then broken down into three chapters which gives a total of twenty-seven chapters in total- well at least in theory. Each chapter is about 3000 words long, therefore the book will be about 81,000 words at completion. Each Block will be about 30-40 pages, therefore the book should end up between 126 & 162 pages long. I am on page 42 as of today, and hovering at 15,668 words. In the story, we have almost reached France. I am on target.
Before I even started writing, I spent a large amount of time going through each and every post I had ever written. All the articles for magazines, other blogs I wrote for too and my first book ‘Eating Foie Gras in my Toque’ from beginning to end, searching for the right storyline; the main events that shaped our quest. It was like reliving every step of the journey from Vancouver to Budapest, to all over Europe, eventually landing in southern France for five years, then Budapest again for 5 years and the full circle home to Vancouver Island. There are a lot of posts written for inspiration, recipes I have recreated for my Facebook page Travel, Eat, Repeat, however, this book will not share those ‘aha’ moments, or self growth posts on recurring nemesis throughout my life, political views on migration in France or the bad hospitals in Hungary and all the stuff I have dealt with along the way from ancient history or the endless amounts of lists I made along the way. The book would be far too long. I plan to share the bones of the adventure, how we made it happen; the work, the sweat, and the tears, but more so the growth as a family; sharing the kids experiences from 5 and 7-years-old until 16 and 18-years-old. Further, how languages play such a vital role in their futures, and how immersing oneself in other cultures was the best way to understand them. How travel made us and them grow into more well-rounded adults. How hosting students showed us how people from all over the world are far more the same than different, and exploring the world opened our minds to possibilities. Life before seemed narrow, routine, and confining. Of course living life before, we had no idea what we were missing until we stepped out. Becoming expats was like putting eye glasses on for the first time and actually seeing what the big picture was right down to the miniscule details. We gave ourselves time to process, understand and contemplate. It was a luxury.
The first book Synopsis – Eating Foie Gras In My Toque
If you had only one-year left to live, what would you do? We asked ourselves that very question and made a plan our whole family could get excited about and went after that dream. Shouldn’t we all live like it was our last day on Earth?
Our story began in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in the middle of the usual three week January downpour. We were renovating our home to sell and upgrade to a home we found near the beach that equated to another giant mortgage, when we realized that we were not going after what we truly wanted but what people expected. So we changed our life by changing our path.
There is room for everyone’s dream in our adventure. For our children, Daniel 7 and Angelina 5, we wished to share our passion for travel and show them what long-term travel looks like. By road schooling them they can learn first hand about the world.
Alfonz, my lovely husband, was nearing 40 and wanted better weather to ride his motorbike year round, a reasonable request after 25 years of fulltime work. I’m just two years behind in age and my dream was to write and find a venue to share my experiences.
Our collective dream was to open a Bed and Breakfast in southern France and meet fellow travelers, combining a dream and a possible income. To execute this plan we had to weigh our options, stretch our budget and carefully prepare.
We sold our entire life: house, the cars and the business. Our friends thought we were foolish, from their perspective we had the perfect life. We had two kids, I was an at-home-mom who worked part-time and volunteered while the kids were in school and Alfonz owned a successful business. Socially we had a great circle of friends and had a supportive family that helped out regularly. Nevertheless, we are both wanderlusts who sought to shake things up and preferred a life that reflects our love of the outdoors.
We hit the road in search of a fresh life with two kids in tow. Our theory was based on “Time Currency” a philosophy where time has a monetary value. We researched viable home-based business options and planned a start up once settled in France. It needed to keep us close to home and the children during their malleable years. It was a tall order to fill, but we were up for the challenge. With these thoughts in mind, we left everything we knew behind and travelled Europe.
Alfonz and I are average people with average incomes and an average education, though we had an extraordinary attitude on what we believed we could accomplish. With our brawny determination and courage to spare, we felt together we could accomplish anything. If we could simply line up our interests with our everyday life, everything would fall into place. It was this belief that somehow the money would come, that people would take notice if we were genuine, not only to others but also ourselves; being honest about what makes us truly happy. It was a huge leap of faith, trusting in our own abilities with no safety net. Nonetheless we went for it.
Our European leg of the journey started with our Hungarian roots in our second home in Budapest purchased years before as an investment. Budapest turned out to be a good central location to scout out different areas in Europe. From here we explored Hungary, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and lastly France.
Along the way we experienced some set backs and had to rewrite our plan. Bidding on our dream home in France we were denied by the banks and started again at square one with a much smaller budget. Alfonz’s beloved Grandma in Hungary died and we turned around ½ way to France for the funeral. Not planning our camping trip accurately, I had a complete melt down in Austria and scraped the bottom looking for the strength to pull myself back together. Keeping our eye on the prize, these low moments did not sway our family, unwavered we continuing trucking on towards our dreams.
This book is compiled of journal entries from our popular blog, giving detailed accounts of our adventures and our relocation process. During the journey we showed people how to start a blog, shared recipes and tourist information. “My Expat Life – That’s Hamori”, our website, connected us with other expats and long-term travelers. It also held us accountable to our goal list, giving us an added reason to succeed. Failure was never an option.
House & Garden TV contacted us to be on their popular series House Hunters International, which we did appear in the episode called ‘Lucky in the Languedoc’ for our fifteen minutes of international fame. They showed us searching for the ideal home, eventually putting in an offer and moving in. The children enjoyed the process of telling our story on camera, where I enjoyed being contacted by numerous people on similar adventures of their own after we aired. Even Alfonz had a blast filming reality television.
Once moved into our French home, we rooted into our community and started to learn the language. There, I joined the choir, made friends and started to assimilate. The kids started school and Alfonz started to turn the outdoor kitchen into a rental apartment.
Trials came our way. There were struggles through endless amounts of red tape, language barriers and paper work that the French bureaucratic system is famous for. We tried to get a business start-up plan together and the waiting was inexhaustible. Miraculously we did figure out the different products and building supplies at the local Brico-Marche, France’s version of Home-Depot, to renovate our home and finished in less than six months. Eventually the business was underway and more items, like driver’s license exchange and EU health care cards were ticked off our list.
The children adjusted and we helped them through their first difficult year of French school. Along the way we discovered many character flaws in ourselves as we learnt to deal with our own limitations. Frustrated, we worked through our most difficult times, pushed our boundaries and moved way outside our comfort zone. Learning as we went, we rolled with the punches and single-mindedly we finished our goal list.
The journey is as deep as it is long, and the one-year sabbatical proved to be a healing process back to the core values of our traditional family. We found our way back to the basics and discovered more happiness than we set out to discover. We grew as people, pushed what we thought was possible and carved out our new life in France.
This first book is about our first year, from departure to our first rental. Or course since then we spent five years in France, both establishing two home based businesses, the children became fluent in French, (and German, Hungarian and Spanish) and we had many opportunities to travel all over Europe with the children.
After five years we decided to move to Budapest Hungary to bring our English homestay program back to our roots, and there we ran a successful company and reached capacity teaching students in our home during vacation breaks. I went back to university to get my BA in Education, and taught at the French school while Alfonz started a development company building homes and renovating apartments. We were five full years in Budapest when COVID hit and we decided it was time to move home.
My advice to others is to simply keep your eye on the prize, know what you want and don’t waver. Know what you are capable of doing and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Because of course you can. You can do anything you set your mind to, and once you decide, the law of attraction will make it happen.
Go live your best life!
Self discovery, travelling with little kids, taking time to explore the planet and immerse oneself in new cultures and traditions. Pushing limits to see what we are capable of doing, and learning to rely on our family unit. Breaking away from things that don’t work and courageously seeking answers towards your goals. Purpose of the second book is to share our experiences over the course of a decade as expats with others; and clarify the lessons we learned. We were in search of happiness, both internally and externally. I am still pursuing…
ACT I South Surrey to Southern France
block 1 – introductions / inciting incident
block 2 – reaction / action / consequence
block 3 – plot twist / break into second act
ACT II Southern France to Budapest Hungary
block 4 – fun & games / old vs new
block 5 – midpoint / reversal
block 6 – trials / dedication
ACT III Budapest to Vancouver Island; Full Circle home
block 7 – plot twist / darkest moment
block 8 – power within / converge
block 9 – battle / climax / resolution
I am very happy we checked out of the everyday, left the 9:00-5:00 and took a gap year that turned into ten, because the things we learned had to be experienced. It was in the act of change that brought a deeper understanding. The message of this book is super simple. Shouldn’t we all live our life as if this year was our last?
Go, get up out of that chair and go experience life first hand. Make it amazing. Dream up the most extrordinary life you can imagine and go after it. Seize the day! Get out of your comfort zone and do something new, expose yourself to interesting things different than what you expect for yourself and grow and develop as a human spirit living on this rock blasting through the universe. Try to make it mean something in the end. At the end of the day reaching level 100 on your video game or finishing whatever series would look pretty lame written on a tombstone. I want to die kicking and screaming, clawing my way to stay here in the extrordinary life I created. I want to believe life is that amazing, meant to be lived wholeheartedly, enjoyed, experienced, but above all, appreciated.
Go live your best life.