When we set out on Our Global Adventure, it was with a plan. We would spend 6-9 months in Ireland (to take care of the requirements for a visa into the UK) and then head on to England. When Gina said to me this time last year… “Do you want to go to France”, I was quite flabbergasted that she would even suggest such a spanner in the works of our carefully planned schedule. After all, she wasn’t even looking for housesitting opportunities at that stage.
But as I read the advertisement on trusted housesitters, I must admit that I felt something special was being placed in front of us.
I’m a firm believer in fate and destiny. For a car to be sold there must be a seller and there must be a buyer. One doesn’t exist without the other. Much of what we do in life is like this – every coin has two sides.
Housesitting is like that – a transaction. I bet a quick search on google will find you a thousand articles of how to “live free for a year” or save “45k in 9 months” with housesitting, and the truth is that it is an amazing opportunity.
The advertisement that we read was looking for a Family to stay in the Farm House on the property of the Chateau. Our host family had two children of similar age to our two, and this was an important part of the exchange. The transaction was quite simple – our family would be able to stay in the Farm House at no cost, in exchange for contributing to jobs around the property. Our kids would go to the French school, and we even had access to a car. Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it?
But the amazing thing isn’t what you may think.
The amazing thing that we found housesitting in France was the exchange, contribution and connection between people.
In France, we made new friends. Great Friends.
We also “un-bottled” the wine (with the help of Great Friends).
The kids dived straight into the deep end of School in France, and with an early day or two of tears and apprehension, they pushed through and achieved much that Gina and I am very proud of. They learnt some language, and maybe some maths. They made friendships – the proper ones that part with tears & take up a little piece of you forever. They learnt how strong they really are.
We spent an evening with Mart – An Estonian guy riding his bike through France and Spain on his three month journey to Santiago de Compostela. It was one of those times where you have to pinch yourself. Mart had contacted Marie-Laure at the Chateau through a Couchsurfing website, and we were bottling wine as he rode on in. Later that evening we all shared dinner and wine at the chateau, and exchanged stories of Estonia and France and Australia. The following morning before Mart set off, we did some repair to the seat of his bike. Mart has a blog too – click here for the post he wrote.
We met Lee. Lee flew in from Alaska and spent a few weeks eating as much of the finest French cheese as he could. He showed me how to start a fire by spinning a stick with a bow, in the traditional North American fashion. He flew back to Canada with an extra bag. Of cheese.
We shared meals at the Chateau, at the Farm House and at the Gate House. We enjoyed Christmas together. Some with finest French etiquette, some less formal, and some Aussie style. All with good cheer!
And we contributed.
It’s been quite a few years since I worked as a fitter and turner, and it’s not my dream to return to that job, but using those skills at a chateau in France was more rewarding than any paid work I have ever done. I welded and fitted gates to the wells. I duplicated spikes on top of gates to the barns. I made gates from scratch and Gina and I repaired gates by the Farm House. I spent more than 60hrs driving the Kubota Excavator, and maybe even got “proficient” in that time. I helped fit a new combustion heater in the Farm House, put some skids on the slasher and loads of other bits and pieces. Gina painted, pruned, picked apples & walnuts, weeded and raked leaves.
It NEVER felt like work, and to be part of contributing to a property that dates from the 15th Century was something very, very special.
Our chapter in France has come to an end, and from it we have taken away so much. We have experienced the amazing food, culture and places of Poitou-Charentes, but most significantly we have reinforced that our happiness is found in the connection and contribution we make to each other.
That sharing what we have doubles it, and never halves it.
That giving from an open heart is the most rewarding gift we can give ourselves.
That happiness & success is not found in titles or possessions, but in richness of contribution.
Pour nos amis les plus chers en France, française et australienne, je vous remercie beaucoup pour votre générosité, la gentillesse et l’amitié. Au revoir, jusqu’à la prochaine fois!