Have you ever dreamed about pressing pause on your life as it is and go live away in a far away place, not just for days or weeks, but for months or a year? The ultimate time-off. A chance to reflect and get insight while enjoying life to the fullest. No pressure of job or work, to get up in the morning and be somewhere, to meat deadlines and to do the expected. None of that. Just a small rental cottage in the land of your dreams, a comfy bed to sleep in as much as you want, a small kitchen to make simple meals, surrounded by nature to take leisurely walks in. The company of none or maybe just your favorite person in the world.
I am sure you have, and this is the stuff my dreams are made of too.
While we were exploring the Australian countryside, I incidentally came across this book that spoke to me so much just in its title and the few words i read, that i got immediately engrossed in it and savored its each word with deep longing. Long after I finished reading it, I still go back to my favorite parts cause it soothes me and keeps my fantasies alive. So today, I am going to share some paras from this simple and inconsequential book, for those of you of who are travelers and dreamers by nature.
Its a true life story of Mary Moody, who lives in New South Wales, Australia; who has a successful career as a writer, a big busy family, a thriving and practical garden. The only thing missing was time for herself. So at fifty, she decided to say Au Revoir, and ran away from all of it to live on her own for six glorious months in the rural parts of Southwest France.
In her words now:
“I am a classic baby boomer. I was born into relative affluence and, like so many women of my generation, I’ve had it all. I have maintained a busy life and have worked professionally with virtually no time off for thirty years, while simultaneously rearing a larger than average family, balancing a relationship with my partner, managing a house, establishing a garden and generally being all things to all people. The expectations placed on us fifties girls have been enormous, and many have crumbled under the strain, admitting that being superwoman just isn’t worth it. I somehow managed to survive, but —oddly enough— only with considerable help from my mother.
Suddenly, with my fiftieth year looming I decide to take some affirmative action on my own behalf. I will take six months and spend it alone. I decide to goto France. It seems the most comfortable and the most affordable option. And David and I have always loved being there, whether it is Paris, or the Loire Valley, Normandy or Provence.
While I am not feeling unduly stressed or dissatisfied with my life, I am beginning to ponder a few simple truths. I realize I have never lived alone and that for most of my life I have lived under the same roof as my mother. I have needed to work from the day I left school —through pregnancies and babies and child rearing— and my working life has escalated into a series of hectic deadlines and pressures and high expectations. I have been, for almost twenty years, the primary carer for our children, with David away so much of the time. I am a grandmother and a mother simultaneously, the two stages of my life having merged into one. More importantly, I realize that I have never had time in my life to stop and think. To be reckless or irresponsible or just plain lazy. Perhaps to sleep in or to spend the whole day in bed without actually being sick. To wake up in the morning and wonder, What will I do today? , then to roll over and go back to sleep.
For many years David and I had contemplated the idea of taking a year off work and spending it living somewhere overseas. It’s the usual sort of dream for people who have travelled, especially if they fall in love with a particular country or region and yearn for a more leisurely stay.
I haven’t really allocated a financial budget for this trip, but I will have to do it as cheaply as possible. Living overseas, its easy to spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a week on rent, and hundreds more to hire a car, not to mention living expenses. As I am without an income for six months I can’t justify spending up big time. This isn’t a junket and isn’t going to be rich woman’s retreat. I don’t want to do it as rough and ready as young backpacker, but neither do I want to drain the family coffers in the process. My needs are fairly simple and surely part of the enjoyment will come from living without all the clutter of modern life. I can cheerfully live without satellite TV as long as I have a radio and can find a local channel that plays good music. I don’t need a swimming pool or a sun deck as long as there are rivers to walk beside and sunny places to curl up with a book.
People sensible enough to lead simple lives can pack their bags two days before they leave on holidays, turn off the electricity and lock the front door. My life has been so complex that escaping for three weeks entail at least a month of frantic preparations and it follows that escaping for six months will bring on a mind boggling list of tasks to be accomplished.
France is a feast for the eyes after the bleak and burdened human landscape of India. In India, except when we travel high in the mountains, it is almost impossible to find a view that is totally appealing — there is always a corner of ugliness or sadness or destruction to spoil the frame. In France it’s hard to focus on anything that isn’t an absolute delight for the eye to behold: neatly bordered pastures of brilliant green, fat and healthy livestock, stone villages that are charming in every possible way.
Lot is one of the oldest parts of France, rich in history and steeped in a cultural and agricultural tradition that is still very much in evidence to this day. It’s a hidden treasure, although now that the Dordogne has become very over-popular with tourists, and with foreigners buying second homes, eyes are turning to this tranquil place. The department takes its name from the free-flowing Lot River, which winds through vineyards and townships and is crossed at various points by wonderfully romantic ancient stone bridges.
Our lunch at the local ferme auberge is an eye-opener. All eight of us are invited into the family dining room after being given a brief tour of the farm and its buildings. I am totally besotted with the old but reliable bread oven in the barn, built of stone with a rounded back and chimney; it once baked crusty loaves for the entire hamlet, and now bakes fresh bread for the restaurant at least three times a week. Just about everything that passes our lips has been made on the farm. There’s a strongly alcoholic aperitif made from plums, chicken soup with noodles, and of course, great chunks of fresh cooked bread. There are crudités from the garden and large portions of roasted duck — from the same family we have just seen shuffling around the poultry pen. The red wine is also made on the spot, and is quite light and aromatic compared with some of the heavier Cahors-style wines. After the required five courses we are back on track to visit a goose and duck farm where the most famous delicacy is produced: foie gras.
I am constantly impressed by how uncomplicated the lives of the rural people seem to be. In many ways, they are without the unnecessary trappings that we regard as essential. Their lives follow the seasons and the harvests and as a result their needs are very straightforward compared to those of people who live in the city. Even though they now have all the modern conveniences of electricity, phones, computers and email, a modern pace does not seem to impinge too much on the ritual of their daily lives. Lunch is probably the most important thing in their daily agenda. I can’t help but admire this attitude.”
These were some excerpts from the first few chapters, the rest of the book follows the same course where she indulgently describes the many-coursed meals she enjoyed daily, the people she met and made friends with, her struggles with the French language, her rental homes, farmer markets she visited, the drives along the country that she took, and finally ended up buying a holiday house right there in rural France for herself and her family to visit in years to come.
The most charming thing about her writing is how she carefully describes the practical aspect at each step of this holiday arrangement she made. How she stays in touch with her family but doesn’t let the thought of them make her sad. How she is always content and also looking forward to going back to her home after all these months. She didn’t do this to mend something broken in her, she did this to live some more! which she did! How amazing and totally inspiring!
What are you guys reading these days? I just borrowed this one from a friend and finding it a comforting read.