A Pair of Old Beach Hippies!

Us on beachAs I write this, I am sitting in Mirabelle (our motor-home) in a beautiful campsite and I can hear the roar of the wild Atlantic which is less than 5 minutes’ stroll from our ‘front door’.  We arrived here almost a week ago after an overcast and quite damp 10 days house-sitting in the Gironde.  When we left there last Monday we decided that we wanted to chase the sun and, thanks to Eoin’s brilliant weather app, we found it.  We have had a blissful week here with lots of sunshine, swimming in the waves, cycling, yoga and general outdoors living in temperatures in the mid to high 20s.  My skin is feeling sun-kissed and my body is feeling very healthy (if a little tired after a long time in the ocean yesterday).

Our two dogs are still staying with friends in the Dordogne and we decided to make the most of these two weeks of total freedom with no commitments to anyone apart from ourselves.  When we arrived here on Monday we told the receptionist that we would be staying a couple of nights but after two nights we realised that we were both really happy, relaxed and loving the place.  It was only our minds that were telling us that we “should” explore more of the coastline and see or do more.  We both dropped the word “should” from our vocabulary a few years ago so we decided to stay put until we both feel the urge for a change of scene.

Beach feet

We are really loving this level of freedom and ease and we are starting to realise that, if we decided to, we could just live like this for the winter.  We could leave France and keep heading south to warmer climes in Greece or southern Italy if we fancied it (and if it wasn’t for the dogs).  We have met people who have been living in their motorhomes and travelling around Europe for 4 years now.  It is such an interesting life choice and one which is open to us now that we have no home and we are on mainland Europe.

However, it probably won’t happen this winter because travelling with the 2 large dogs in the motor-home is just not fun at all.  So we have a house-sitting commitment for the whole of October in a beautiful house in the Dordogne which we are able to bring Samson and Delilah to.  After that we will probably rent somewhere in the Dordogne for the winter while we do some serious property hunting if we are still 100% sure that that is where we want to put down roots.

Part of the dilemma at the moment is that we love so many of the parts of France which we have explored so far (and that is not many).  It is such a vast country with so much variety.  We had a couple of days in a beautiful town called Loches in the Loire and adored the romantic beauty and history there and now we have fallen in love with the healthy, outdoor lifestyle which the Landes region, where we currently are, has to offer.  I love the ocean and the ability to swim without the bone freezing temperatures of the Irish sea is very appealing to me.  I also know from previous experience that I adore Provence and could live very happily there (if I could afford to!).

So much choice can bring its own challenges.  Where do we even start?

Well, we are VERY clear on several points and have used what we know we DON’T want to create that clarity.  We want a much drier climate than we had in Co Down so that we can spend a lot of time outdoors keeping physically active and being in nature.  We want to find a community of like-minded, free-spirited, colourful, creative, passionate people.  We want to be able to walk/cycle into a reasonably vibrant small town with a market and interesting social activities.  We want relatively easy access to an airport which allows us to fly to Ireland for work.  We want to be no more than 2 hours from the sea (much closer if possible).  We want to be amongst beautiful forests and with great walking and cycle paths right beside us.  And that is just what we want in terms of the location of our home.  The spec for the house is just as detailed!  At times my mind thinks that we will never find something that ticks all those boxes but then I remember how clever the Universe is and how my job is to stay focused on the ‘what’ and ‘why and let the Universe figure out the ‘how’.

eckhartThe good news is that we have already ruled out a few areas which don’t tick all the boxes for us and also that we are under no time pressure.  We have a roof over our heads in the form of Mirabelle and our businesses back in Ireland are ticking over very nicely as we work on them remotely.  We feel very blessed and we are enjoying every second of this delicious freedom which we have created at a time in our lives when many of our peers are locked into careers, mortgages and pensions.  Some of the choices which we have made to allow all this have not been easy and our income levels are always a matter of uncertainty because we are both self-employed and have been for many years.   But, I wouldn’t change all the financial security in the world for the freedom and ease which I am experiencing right now.

The sun is fully up in the sky now and it is time for a gentle stroll through the pine trees, a visit to the boulangerie and some lunch in the sun.  La vie est belle!

A bientôt

Jx

sunset

New life, same old me!

It is now two weeks since we drove away from our old home in Nothern Ireland and about 10 days since we arrived in France.  My life has been turned on its head as I left behind so much which is familiar.  My physical environment is currently changing every few days as we explore this beautiful country. And yet I am fascinated by the fact that many aspects of my day-to-day life are very similar to how they were before.  I have the same morning routine and the same bedtime routine.  I have the same little habits that I have had for many years and my perimenopausal hormones are still as crazy in France as they were in Northern Ireland!

It is so easy to think that you will be fundamentally changed as a human being just because you make a big life change like moving to another country, ending a relationship or changing a job.  However, of course, just because the external circumstances of your life are different does not mean that you are different.

Yesterday I found myself waking early, going straight onto my laptop to check emails and then rushing to get to the morning market at a decent time.  I then observed myself wandering through that lovely French market and experiencing some more stress all of which was created by my thought patterns about what to buy and cook for dinner!  Rather than being fully present and enjoying the sights and sounds of the market and marvelling at the fact that this is now my new ‘normal’ way of buying food, my mind was caught up in old, outdated programming.

21534373_10155585388422593_468782885_oLuckily I have been meditating and practicing mindfulness for so many years now that I was able to observe the antics of my mind, catch them and bring myself fully back into the here and now.   I could then really experience the beauty of my surroundings and the pleasure of chatting in French with the fish-stall holder while I selected some monkfish for dinner.  I was able to appreciate the intricate wonders of the window display in the chocolaterie.  I could savour the smell the basil that I bought from the man who grew it.

So many people chase the dream and think that their lives will be totally different when they move to France (or any other country) but the reality is often that their lives are not really that different.  The common denominator of any stress and anxiety that we experience in our lives is not really the circumstances of our life.  It is YOU!  We all know that there are people living in what we perceive as horrifically deprived situations in countries like India who are filled with an inner joy and deep appreciation for their lives.  We also know people who ‘have it all’ and who are horribly unhappy.

I am very grateful that I learnt many years ago that happiness really is an inside job and that I have the power to change my own emotional state by learning to control the crazy antics of my mind.  I do that through meditation, the practice of gratitude and many other tools which I have learnt over the years.  After much practice, these are now some of my more positive habits and really enhance my life.

Will my peri-menopausal hormones still run wild here in my new life in France?  Of course they will.

Will my crazy ego-mind still want to drag me into stress?  Of course it will.

Will my old addictions to sugar and alcohol still be part of my life?  Oh yes….how could they not when I am sitting in the middle of the vineyards and surrounded by patisseries?

Do I have the ability to catch myself before I get hooked in old patterns?  Yes.

Do I have the choice as to what I put into my body and how to look after it?  Yes.

Do I get to decide how I spend my precious time in this beautiful country?  Absolutely.

And that is why, on the whole, I feel so free at this point in my life.  Because, in my mind, I have total freedom and that is not dependent on where or how I live.  It is dependent on me and the minute to minute choices that I make as to how I want to experience my life.

So, right here, right now, I choose to be at peace, to sit in awe of it all and to milk every second of this amazing adventure.

A bientôt

Jenny x

The Freedom of Simplicity

21125387_10155556176792593_5186998666097518413_oWe have now been on the road for one week and are gradually settling into our temporarily nomadic lifestyle.  So far we have spent nights in Northern Ireland, Dublin, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Portsmouth and a few nights in two different towns in the Loire region of France.  Our original plan had been to stay in a different place each night as we travelled down through France from Normandy to the Dordogne so that we could just do a couple of hours’ driving each day and explore the country we were passing through.  However, Tuesday saw a change of plan……

We spent Monday night in the car park of Portsmouth ferry terminal so we could get the early crossing and we had a restless night and an early start.  When we arrived in France on Tuesday at lunchtime it was hot and as we drove South the temperature and humidity kept rising.  By the time we arrived at our campsite after nearly 4 hours’ drive, we were all a little frazzled.  It was one of those days when I was sweating as I sat still never mind putting up the awning and getting ourselves unpacked.  The dogs were hot and stressed too.  By the time we got set up for the evening, Eoin and I were, quite frankly, f**ked!  All the busy-ness of the last few weeks, getting used to motor-home living, travelling with the dogs and finding our way around new terrain had finally taken its toll.  We sat down under the stars for dinner that night and decided that we all needed to take the next day off and just ‘land’ in France.  So we stayed for two nights and moved on yesterday but again, this morning, we both really felt the need for stillness so we are staying another night in the lovely campsite where we are right now.  It has been a great decision just to take things a little easier on ourselves and to have a couple of lazy days in one place without having to pack up and move on.  This afternoon it is raining heavily so we are putting our feet up and making the most of the enforced rest.

 

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Tomorrow we have a reasonably long drive but the reward at the end of it is that we are dropping Samson and Delilah off with our friends in the Dordogne who are dog-sitting for them for the rest of September.  We love the fur babies but they are just too big to travel around with in Mirabelle and it is also very unsettling for them. So this will be best for all of us.

 

I guess that we are still in the process of unwinding from the sale of our home, possessions and car and all the work that we had been doing in the background to simplify our lives before we left Northern Ireland.  Even at a combined age of 109 years old, we both have great energy levels which are helped by our healthy lifestyle and excellent nutrition but we definitely had underestimated how tired we actually were.

‘Simplify’ has been a buzz word for us for the last few months since we made the decision to relocate to France.  The impending move was an impetus for us to simplify our lives both personally and professionally.  We have streamlined our financial situation so that our new tax residency in France is as simple as possible because, let’s face it, the French do love bureaucracy and there will be a lot of it over the next few months for us.  We wanted to make sure that we kept our side of things as easy as we could.  We have simplified how we are running our three businesses in Ireland so that they are easily managed from France.  Then we both went through every piece of paper that we had in our files and destroyed anything which was not absolutely essential which was most of it because nearly everything is available online these days.  I managed to get all 3 of the businesses plus my own personal paperwork into one small box!  Business-in-a-box sounds great to me!!

Next for me was my wardrobe.  I love clothes and I had 2 double wardrobes plus about 5 large drawers full of them.  I was quite anxious about how I could possible simplify all this plus other hobbies down into the half a small wardrobe and 3 small cupboards which are mine in Mirabelle.  But I did it and, so far, I haven’t missed anything or felt the lack of it.

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The last thing for me to tackle was the kitchen.  In our home at Eden we had a very big kitchen with about 24 cupboards/drawers plus a pantry and pretty much all of them were in use.  I love food, I love cooking and I love my kitchen so how could I possible manage with 3 ½ small cupboards in Mirabelle.  It ended up being a challenge which I really enjoyed. So far our meals have been as yummy and healthy as at home.

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Eoin was amazed last night when, on my birthday, I brought out the champagne glasses, some delicious olives in a beautiful olive bowl which he bought me for Christmas and my mum’s special olive fork (every girl must have one!).  We sat and toasted my 49th birthday under our awning with my solar-powered fairy lights twinkling away and I was a very, very happy girl!  We may be on the road and camping but I still believe in having a few little luxuries around us.

All this simplification took a lot of time, thought and planning over recent months but, as we settle into our second week on the road and are starting to wind down, there is an enormous sense of freedom and peace in my mind.  I love knowing exactly what I have and where it is. I am thriving on the challenge of being creative with the limited amount of stuff that I have to work with in the kitchen and the tiny fridge which means we can only buy a couple of days’ fresh produce at one time.  No more ‘big Tesco’s shops’ for me…hurray!

I have a strong sense that this whole process is going to have a huge impact on how we live long-term when we find our new home and really settle into life in France.  The lessons we have learnt from this simple life on the road will stay with us and we are already both determined to only acquire what we absolutely need and completely love in the future.

Simplicity and quality are the focus from here on in with my life.  Less is definitely more and travelling light through life is a wonderful feeling.

Don’t forget to check out our regular videos from the road by subscribing here.

A bientôt

Jenny x

Chaos and Reorganisation

on the roadWe left all that is familiar to us 48 hours ago and drove out of our home in Northern Ireland for the last time in Mirabelle, our new motor-home.  I am writing this on the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead having spent our first couple of nights in Mirabelle – one in a layby near our friend’s house in Newry and the second in a campsite on the beach just outside Dublin.

We are slowly getting used to life in Mirabelle and our new living space which is smaller than any of the bedrooms in the house which Eoin, me and our 2 dogs, Samson and Delilah, have shared for the last 4 ½ years.  It is compact and pretty cosy when shared with 2 large dogs and I am glad that they are only travelling with us in it for a week before they go to stay with friends in the Dordogne for the rest of September.

The dogs seem to be feeling a little like we are……discombobulated is the best word for it!  Everything is new, everything is unfamiliar and every time we stop and open the door of Mirabelle the dogs step out into a new world.  They have led very sheltered lives since we rescued them both.    They have lived in the same home, with the same garden, the same walks and the same smells for the last 4+ years. They haven’t travelled, they haven’t visited other peoples’ houses, they haven’t been in a motor-home, they haven’t stayed in a campsite and they certainly haven’t been on a ferry.  They are off their food and Delilah is seeking constant reassurance.

I am feeling much the same as I ‘unplug’ from the life which we have just left.  All our normal daily routines have disappeared and I still haven’t adjusted to the daily move from one place to another.  I am still getting used to our compact living space and trying to find ways to make it easier to live comfortably in it.  My body is getting used to our new bed.  I am a light sleeper so I am easily woken by Samson’s vocal doggy dreams, car doors banging outside, people chatting around us and Delilah barking every time she hears a noise outside.  At this moment in time I feel hung-over even though no alcohol was consumed last night.  Sleep deprivation has that effect on me. I am jealous of Eoin who has just sat down beside me on the ferry and gone straight back to sleep.  He has the gift of being able to sleep anywhere regardless of what is going on around him.

I wonder how long the discombobulation will last for and how soon life on the road will be become the new normal for us?  Eoin and I are both incredibly adaptable people which is part of the reason that we knew that we could embark on this adventure.  Much and all as we like our routines and our creature comforts, we have both moved house many times before and, more recently, we have spent a lot of time house-sitting for others so we have had to get used to new spaces quickly.  My guess is that within 3 more days we will be fully settled into Mirabelle and our new way of being.

loading upThe present discombobulation has been building up over the last few weeks as we reduced our possessions by about 2/3rds.  Since the start of the month we have sold 3 cars, 4 sofas, 3 beds, 3 wardrobes, dining tables, chairs etc and we have sold or given away an enormous amount of other furniture and belongings.  We all felt the impact of the chaos that comes before any major change as we walked into rooms to find them emptier than they were the day before or walked into the driveway to find a car gone!

I have had to keep reminding myself that chaos always precedes reorganisation.  Everything has to go to a point of chaos before it can reorganise at a new, higher level and that is exactly what is happening in my life right now.  But chaos is not comfortable and I am not so good with it.  I like order.  I like to know where everything is.  I like the familiar.  I think most middle-aged people slip into this way of being too.  That is why it is so easy to get set in our ways and to stagnate a little (or a lot).  But I also know that I thrive on change and moving out of my comfort zones and I know that I have to accept the chaos for the reorganisation of my life to take place.

So, a little like we are doing with the dogs, I am constantly reassuring myself that all is well and being as gentle and compassionate with myself as possible throughout this transition.  I am actively choosing to focus on the excitement of being on the road with my best pal/lover, having the proceeds of the sale of our home in the bank, a fantastic motor-home to live in, heading to my beloved France and all the adventures which we have ahead of us.

As a young woman of 17 years old I left Belfast to start a new life in London where I only knew 1 person.  At the age of 19 I headed off to Australia for 6 weeks on my own.  When I was 23 I left for Geneva with a one-way ticket, about £250 in the bank and the dream of doing a ski season (but no job).  I returned nearly 2 years later having been round the world and had amazing adventures.  When I remind myself of that I know that I have got this covered!

Middle-aged Jenny may be tired and discombobulated right now but Jenny the young traveller and adventurer is super-excited about it all so I am actively choosing to focus on that part of my personality as I relax into all the change and uncertainty.

A bientôt!

Jenny x

What this blog is all about…..

On 25 August 2017 my partner Eoin and I leave our home in Northern Ireland for a new life in France.  We have sold our home, sold one of our businesses, are selling or giving away most of our furniture and buying a motor-home to live in until we find our new home.  We think this will be somewhere in the Dordogne but we aren’t 100% sure yet!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

This blog is dedicated to the start of a whole new life for me at the age of 49 and will be inspired by our adventures, my passion for food, nature, France and all things beautiful.

I hope it inspires you to follow your dreams and step out of your own comfort zones to create a life you love.

If you enjoy it, please share and I would love to hear from you so please feel free to leave comments and tell me what you are liking (or not!).

You can also follow our adventures on our YouTube Channel by clicking here.

Jenny Gx

My love affair with France

It started when I was 5 years old…….

Jenny working remotely in French cafeAs I write this I am travelling down the south-west of France from Bordeaux to Bayonne on a train with my beloved, Eoin.  We left the Dordogne this morning where we were house-sitting in a beautiful restored 18th century farmhouse surrounded by sunflower fields and vineyards.  We are now off to visit my sister who live in the foothills of the Pyrenees and we will be staying there for a few days before flying back to Northern Ireland.  Once home we have 4 weeks to pack up our lives, say our goodbyes and leave in our new motor-home in search of our new life in the Dordogne.  As I type those words I am filled with a mixture of huge excitement and a tinge of overwhelm because there is a LOT to do in the next few weeks.

However, we have spent much of the last fortnight house-hunting, getting to know the Dordogne better and making some lovely new friends so any doubt or fear which I had about making this massive move has disappeared altogether.  What I am left with now is a deep certainty in my soul that the next phase of my life is to be spent in France.  I feel so at home here.  Continue reading “My love affair with France”