Let’s have a look at role reversal. As some of you may know, we have made a recent move to the countryside. To be precise we have taken on the role of caretakers for an estate near the Pyrenees. It came our way and it shows how life can take an unexpected and sudden turn.
We usually do a few housesits throughout the year and 2021 was no different. In June we got a request to replace a caretaker’s couple so they could visit their family in the UK. The house was for sale and during that fortnight there was a house viewing. We helped to make it look presentable and met the couple that ended up buying the house.
To make a long story short, they asked us to become the new caretakers after they became the new owners. We accepted and hence the lifestyle changes since early December.
You can read about our recent lifestyle change here
The impact of our role reversal
The biggest change would be for my husband as he really was the one taking on the job. I have a job of over 30 hours per week and was not on the lookout for additional hours. I am aware I may have to chip in during the weekends especially when there are holiday guests. The house is already booked out during July and August. Considering it is not a cheap rental, we can expect demanding customers.
Our daily routine is as follows. We get up and I go to the ‘home office’. My husband puts on his work gear and ventures outside to tackle the property’s maintenance chores. The remarkable thing currently is the role reversal in this new life. I have not worked in an office ever in my life and all my jobs were hands on and quite physical. My husband on the other hand is an office man and never was that keen on manual labour.
The way it used to be
I was the one who took on landscaping, gardening, painting to name a few. Although I have always said NO to lawn mowing. Funnily now, we do what the other usually did and we seem to have taken to it without much effort. I must admit that although I do like my job, I find the ‘office hours’ element a bit of a struggle.
At the moment I am happy to do it, but I knew that I had to say NO to full time. In fact, I managed to negotiate a four-day gig, from Monday to Thursday. As a result I have been working like this since August 2021.
The role reversal has made me think about the things we like to do ‘innately’. I am sure that my calling was hands-on, active, outside and lots of people contact. My husband would be more of an office man happily sitting behind a computer and do his thing.
I have trying to install this sense of ‘doing what you are naturally good at and feel happy doing’ in my kids. Only time will tell if they manage to achieve this.
Writer David Chapman on how to improve your thinking:
“Learn from fields very different from your own. They each have ways of thinking that can be useful at surprising times. Just learning to think like an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a philosopher will beneficially stretch your mind.”
After our recent change from small town to country side, I am taking assessment of the different lifestyles I have been able to explore. To be honest I was not aware that I experienced such a wonderful variety. I have lived in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, surrounded by mountains and near the beach. Climates vary from subtropical to moderate and I experienced below sea level and living at a height of 1000 meters. I know about car free mountain villages and life in big cities.
By having all these experiences I have learned what I like and don’t like. I have found out what I appreciate and don’t want to do without. Some of these discoveries have surprised me.
The lead up
As a teenager I had this feeling that I did not want to stay in The Netherlands. If you would ask me ‘why’, I could not tell you. There was this longing for adventure, the unknown and the unpredictable that appealed to me. I found it hard to commit to anything in Holland whether it was a boyfriend or a job. And looking back I never did commit.
Apart from teenage jobs to earn some pocket money, my first jobs were abroad. In fact they were in Switzerland and I ended up working 6 summers in Zürich. After graduating and facing a recession in the Netherlands, I returned to Switzerland for longer term jobs. I stayed long enough to qualify for a residence permit.
In Switzerland I learned that I love mountains and you may know that Holland is flat as a pancake. I also found out that nice long summers were within reach, something that Holland does not provide in abundance either. Swiss job pay well and I splashed out on some travel to the land down under. Australia taught me that I love nature, hot weather and empty spaces.
So I ended up living Down Under for 25 years. Unfortunately due to job locations not in the surroundings that I would have preferred. My husband had a city based career and as a result we lived in Sydney and in Brisbane. Nevertheless interesting and very different cities at the time.
Time for another change
After 25 years in Oz we decided to move to a small town in France. The location of the town was a practical choice as we wanted a house that had good potential to be a medium term holiday rental. It was a good choice and we also ended up living in it for a few years. Limoux is a vibrant little town with a fabulous square and a crazy carnival lasting from from January to March. At least that is how it was before Covid happened.
Living in the centre of a small French town reminded me that I love nature, hate noise and what I saw from our windows was roof tops and the opposite house of the neighbours. Despite being a small town, it was surprising how noisy it could be. Then the next change came our way. During the summer of 2021, we did a housesit on a big estate in the Ariège and ended up returning to become its caretakers.
And now, I am surrounded by nature with lots of birds, deer hopping by and even the treat of meeting wild boars. We have no neighbours, the nearest supermarket is a drive away but it seems I have everything I want.
The funny thing is that I did not know I would like to live like this. This recent change came our way totally unexpectedly and I seem to have taken to it like a fish to the water. So never say no before you try, seems to be the lesson.
Have you ever had that feeling of doubt creeping in when you are in the middle of preparing a change? This is how I felt when my husband asked me if I realised it was just going to be the two of us for a while.
To get you up to date, we are in the process of moving to a big estate to become the new caretakers of a property. It was sold earlier this year when we were there doing a house sit. The property we will call our new home is in the Ariège with only a few small villages close by and a few bigger towns approximately 30 km away.
3-5 years of settling in
My husband’s question made me think! I have always loved starting over again, meeting new people and exploring all the new things around me. From experience and I have a fair bit, I know that it takes me 3-5 years to feel settled somewhere. It takes that long to make friends and feel comfortable. One of the things that always strikes me most is to figure out where you can find random things like a needle, pins or nails.
This new destination in Daumazin, Ariège offers nature, gardens and plenty of land but going to a café for a quick drink will be a thing of the past. To be fair, we don’t even know if the few cafes that we found in surrounding villages will be open. French villages can be fairly sleepy during the winter months.
Naturally I am a very social person. I like to be in touch with people, meet and talk to people. Social media is from that perspective a god sent. My experience is that it has helped me to connect with many likeminded people all over the world.
Social Media helped me to reconnect with old childhood friends, even a teenage boy friend and I made many new virtual friends. With some I click so well that I am sure we would be friends in person.
Moments of doubt
I suppose it is fairly normal to have these moments of doubt when change comes closer. It may help to put things in perspective. My usual approach to change is to be openminded, have no expectations and walk into it with energy and guts.
I can remember that this is how I started a new life in Sydney in 1991 and it paid off. I found a job within a week and made ‘friends’ there quite fast. Australians are in general easy going welcoming people and embrace strangers without hesitation. Many of them were once in the same situation after all – being a land of immigrants.
The biggest thrill for me will be the outdoors. Stepping outside and being surrounded by nature is like a medicine for me. To put it in perspective – where I used to live the only thing I see is the house in opposite and the street is not much more than a car width.
There will be opportunities to garden, possibly start a vegetable pad. I like to eat organic and make foods such as pestos, chutneys and jams. How wonderful would it be to go shopping in your own garden?
So, after this little ‘awareness’ moment and writing it down is as always helpful, I put on my gutsy hat and steam forward to this new life with energy and zest!
When doubt creeps in!
If you are going through a change and see these moments of doubt creeping in. If you feel you need a little retune, why not reach out, tap into my experience and let’s evaluate it together.
My interest in moving abroad may have been part of my genes. After all what other child would decide to learn German with eight years of age??
I grew up in the Netherlands with more German tv stations than Dutch. Germany synchronises all content on tv and this means that you get to see everything in German. To give you an idea, I grew up thinking John Wayne was a native German speaker as I always saw him speaking German.
In The Netherlands on the other hand, we had subtitles and everything we see on TV is in the original language. As a result many Dutch people pick up some English. Some generations learned to speak English purely because of the subtitles. Often, they have an American accent as we had more programs from the USA.
So as a result of hearing a lot of German on tv and living only 20 km from the German border I developed this interest in learning German when I was eight. On top of that my father took me on shopping trips to Germany to stock up on photography supplies. They were substantially cheaper in Germany.
My father was a keen amateur photographer and he had a dark room in our attic. He taught me to print my own black and white pictures so I could create little albums. How nice would it be to still have these albums!
An early interest in anything abroad
To sum it up, I learned to speak German as a kid and I had summer jobs in Switzerland for 5 years while I was studying. One of my best friends lived in Milan so guess where I hang out regularly? My first real job after graduation was for an American company in Switzerland.
It seems that from a young age I was standing with one foot abroad. So, it is not surprising to see that I ended up living in five different countries.
Another interesting thing is that I never showed much interest in Dutch boyfriends. I had a teenage fling for about 3 years but after that I tended to have boy friends abroad. The result was that I never really had ‘real’ relationships as I hardly ever saw these guys. But it stopped me creating any ties to the Netherlands.
My sister once said to me that I seemed only interested in finding a reason for going abroad. Looking back at my life, I realise she had a point. When I met my future husband in Australia, I certainly did not hold back then. In fact I thought he was an Australian, and secretly I hoped for an easy entry in the land down under.
Moving abroad multiple times
Since my twenties I have lived in Switzerland, UK, Australia, and France with short stints in Greece and Norway.
My first move was when I was single and the second and third while I was in a relationship. I moved with a four-year-old child, then with a seven-year-old plus a baby and in 2017 as an empty nester. I have experienced moving within the whole range of age categories and have surely accrued some wisdom over the decades
My last move abroad was after the kids left home and this move was my favourite. It was purely a lifestyle choice, and it feels like I am now perfecting the circumstances of the last chapter of my life.
Let me ask you something!
If a move abroad or relocation has been on your mind, but you think it is only a silly dream. Or if you reckon you would love to have such an adventure but you have no idea where to start…….
In that case, I like to invite you to tap in to my experience. I would love to help you unlock your dream and explore if a move abroad could be within your reach.
Thank you for reading and don’t hesitate to leave a comment! I thrive on them!
The year 2020 was for many people a disaster. People lost their income and a large part of the year restaurants and cafes could not open their doors to the public. Kids changed to home schooling and university students had no choice than to study online. You could not travel unless it was essential. Several countries closed their borders, and many citizens are on waiting lists to return.
We stopped hugging and kissing, started wearing masks and dozens of people got ill. For some getting Covid was a breeze while others are still fighting the aftereffects. The year 2020 – a year that many wish to forget and instead set our hopes for 2021.
So far the year 2021 is not proving to be any better. Where I live, we are still wearing masks and all cafes and restaurants seem eternally shut. Non-essential shops are closed, re-open and are forced to close again. Certain parts of big shops are a no-go area.
The year 2020 seems to go on
We may think the pandemic is more or less over, but the little corona critter is a champion at mutating. More contagious corona strains are looming and are waiting to spread as soon as borders loosen their restrictions. Some countries keep their borders closed but in Europe it seems that travel, albeit under certain conditions will be easier for the summer months to come.
It is understandable as for instance South European countries are close to bankrupt. They need tourist income, and the hospitality industry all over needs a huge boost. Certain age groups have been vaccinated while others are still waiting. Test labs will continue churning out the PCR test results as many countries require that as a condition of entry.
The fact that travel will be easier is an attractive thing but also very worrying. The Indian virus is only one flight away from entering Europe. In fact, supposedly it is already in a few European countries. So if travel is allowed it may reach other countries and it will start all over again.
It must be very hard to be a leader nowadays because whatever they do, it could be the wrong decision. The bottom line is that many people have had enough and are ignoring the restrictive rules more and more. Yet the danger of corona spreading further is not a thing of the past.
It is also interesting to see how Europa suddenly has become a continent with individual countries again. Every country seems to have different rules and criteria. Restaurants are open in one country while others are still in lockdown.
How to adapt your lifestyle
Despite all what happened in the year 2020 and seems to continue in 2021, we can still make the most of it. When you can’t sit on a terrace, you can have a picnic outside or with bad weather inside your own house. If there is a curfew, do things during the day. If the travel limit is 10 km, find a nice hike within that distance.
There are always options although you may have to be flexible and resourceful to see them. The issue is whether you are willing and capable of doing this. If you are struggling to find a way to adapt to the unexpected and ‘forced upon us’ circumstances, it may help to reach out and seek advice.
If you, as a result of the pandemic find yourself stuck professionally, emotionally or in any other way, get guidance and let us help you find a way out.
I would be thrilled if you take the effort to leave me a comment or even better share my article!