Ever thought about what would be your perfect lifestyle? I certainly have. In fact it started in my late teens when I wanted a summer job abroad. One of my high school friend’s worked a summer season in Switzerland and that seemed the ultimate dream to me. So I found a summer job in Zurich and returned for five summers while I studied in The Netherlands.
Working in Zurich created a hunger in me for exotic and foreign. Switzerland seemed to have better summer weather, the scenery was more appealing and it was foreign. A long story short, I had planted the seeds that caused me to change my lifestyle several times.
What is my perfect lifestyle
Without realising it before, I discovered that nature was important to me and so were sunny days. Growing up in The Netherlands, grey skies, drizzle and wind is part of life. I was no fan.
Jumping ahead several decades, I have moved abroad a handful of times. I have lived in Switzerland, UK, Australia and had some shorter stints in Greece and Norway. Nowadays I live in southwest France. The reasons for moving vary but work, opportunity, relationship and lifestyle choice have been some of them.
I grew up in the Netherlands and went for summer jobs to Switzerland. I joined a man in London and with him I created a new life in Australia. 25 years later we moved to France for lifestyle purposes. And believe me, I don’t think we are not done yet!
I feel we are still on the search for the perfect lifestyle – one that would suit us. I say ‘us’ as not everyone will have the same idea about ‘perfect’. Admittedly we are still searching but are finding more answers with every adventure we have.
Some of our recent adventures have been housesits in different countries. We have added working online, managing a holiday rental and a guardian role for a large French property . While doing such things we discovered what we like and don’t like. Above all we learned new things about ourselves.
We love France and have been here since 2017. Being Dutch, I can live in France while my British husband qualifies for residency because of being married to me. Understandably Brexit caused a little stir for the Brits that live abroad in Europe.
Although we love France we are still looking at other options. Unfortunately, if we stay in France we cannot receive a retirement pension from Australia. Yet, we can if we move to Spain or Portugal. For some reason France and Australia have decided to cut strings when it comes to pensions.
There are a few disgruntled Aussies in France who may not have been aware of that. We knew but as it was so many years ahead we still bought a house in France and settled there. After living here for 5 years we realised that the sun is not always shining in this part of France. The winters can be quite nasty and do really not differ that much from those in Northern Europe.
Climate change seems to be for real. Many places in the South of Spain have become unbearable during the summer months. Even in France where we are, the temperatures rise to high thirties for days on end.
What we have discovered….
While doing housesits and jobs in different locations we slowly find what our perfect lifestyle should and should not have. We have discovered the aspects that are important to us. Consequently we are now researching locations in Spain and Portugal on increasingly more factors. Examples are weather, unpleasant winds, sun aspects, proximity to medical services, public transport, work and costs.
There is obviously no perfect fit for everyone and people differ in needs, likes and dislikes. However after seeing ourselves and others make mistakes, we learned a few lessons. So start with considering the following.
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.
Are you dreaming of moving to a different country? Chances are you are perfectly happy where you are, but sometimes you can’t help craving the idea of a life abroad.
Longing for a different and better life for yourself and your family is often the initial inspiration for a move abroad. Maybe you like a cultural or climate change, want to immerse yourself in another language or just crave an adventure.
Reasons for moving to a different country
Many people from the ‘New World’ countries have a romantic presupposition about moving to older cultures. For instance Australians tend to see spending a period in France or Italy as the ultimate dream come true. While many retired Americans move to France for a longer period to find out whether such a move could be off permanent nature. British people have a reputation of seeking out a new beginning in many South European countries.
Such moves are all driven by positive motives. However nowadays more critical reasons come into play on a regular base. War, recession and wanting to escape a political regime are amongst those reasons why people consider moving abroad.
The hidden dangers of moving abroad
Aside from the romantic notion, the practical consequences of ‘moving abroad‘ can be daunting. Settling in another country could strip you from all your professional credibility and your qualifications may not have the same status as they have at home.
If your new country has a different language, it is likely to cause you severe stress. It will frustrate you that you don’t know how to do things. Your new local community might not immediately accept you or with great hesitation. These are just some of the ‘issues’ that may arise after settling elsewhere.
Whatever your motives are for moving abroad it is wise to spend time reflecting on a few essential things. Firstly moving to a different country requires a lot of preparation, organisation and the willingness to start from scratch. Secondly take your time to prepare yourself mentally and physically. Above all be willing and prepared to adapt to habits and customs in your new country.
Consider this before moving to a different country
Take time to assess your big ‘WHY. Brainstorm your motives, emotionally and rationally. Assess the things you will lose or gain and how you and your family will handle that.
Plan a temporary move. Rent a house in the country of your choice and live the local life for 6 months and see how you fit in.
Consider the practical and emotional consequences for you, your partner, your kids, your jobs and other essential things in life.
If the idea of a lifestyle change appeals to you, but you are unsure how to start, reach out and chat with me.
Change is a fascinating topic and the prospect of change may not be appealing to everybody. It may excite some while it terrifies others. I personally thrive on change: it motivates me and causes me take initiatives.
Since 2017 my life has been full of change and I mean rather big lifestyle changes. I used to live in Brisbane, had a house full of teenagers and ran a garden business. I exchanged it for an indoor career, being an empty nester and moved from a big city in Australia to a small town in France.
Our lifestyle changes in a nutshell
This all happened within a few years. We made the decision, sold our house and rented instead, bought a house in France and turned it into a holiday rental.
When we set the date to leave, we sold most of our belongings as shipping them to France would be expensive. Also, we weren’t sure whether the furniture we had in Australia would be attractive in an historical French house. It was a curious process to sell things we had for years. Some were easy to leave behind while memories of others still give me a stab of nostalgia.
Some of the changes we made
I gave up a thriving garden business that I can’t replicate in France because of the differences in climate. Also, I feel that gardening professionally may not be a long-term solution for someone in their sixties.
We sold our car and made do without one for a year but realised that the limited local public transport was restricting us to make the most of the beautiful area we now live in.
In Australia we used suntan every day of the year and avoided the sun while in France we seek out the sun to soak up enough Vitamin D.
Brisbane gave us killer mosquitoes, sticky flies, plenty of spiders and huge cockroaches while in France we hardly ever see an insect. A huge difference is the birdlife – the sound of a flog of cockatoos waking you up is rather different than the soft tweak of the local French birds. I definitely miss the unique call of the Kookaburra.
In Brisbane we had two daughters and usually a home stay student or two living with us. A full dinner table every night with great meals and chatty cultural exchanges. Now we are empty nesters and have ‘Diner à Deux’ unless we socialise.
The prospect of change in retrospective
Lots of changes and a totally different life as a result. I am not saying it is better, but it is certainly not worse. It is different, exciting and on many occasions incredibly challenging because of the language.
Would I turn back the time or wish I had never made these changes? Only on occasions when French bureaucracy is playing games with us, but mostly not. Life has become simpler, cheaper and in many aspects much more pleasant.
So, if you feel the thrill of change knocking on your door, don’t ignore it but explore it!
I would be thrilled if you take the effort to leave me a comment or even better share my article!