Unfortunately, in my impatience to get started, I then decided the best thing to do was hop on the motorway and plough down to the Pyrenees in one big drive – 8 hours in one day in fact. 7 ½ hours of driving and traffic jams later and Esther was being travel sick in a layby, three of the dogs had a bad tummy and we were still several hours short of the mountains. So far so good.
But then, this October, we started to get caught up in the mania. I joined various Brexit-related expat groups where thousands of members are scrambling to get residency permits in France, Spain or wherever they have made their lives, and I began reading the legislation. ‘Waiting to see’, our previous plan, all of a sudden, seemed naïve. If we really wanted to retain our freedom to move, shouldn’t we be settling in France, getting a residence permit and moving our administrative affairs outside of the UK for good before Brexit?
If there’s one thing that’s undeniable, we have met some fantastic and wonderfully kind and generous people on our travels. In this case, Kathy and Graham’s attitude that the place would only be sat empty over winter and so it only made sense we live there, if we wanted to, was very open-hearted. We ended up spending three more weeks there, in a converted barn with a mezzonine floor and an enclosed garden surrounded only by open fields and forest tracks, with the nearest house several hundred metres away and the next-nearest a couple of kilometres. The dogs, needless to say, loved it and so did we.
Writing this now we are very slowly moving east across France. In the past we’ve always picked a place and gone there quickly, making several days of long driving. This time, in contrast, we are determined to move slowly for as long as the weather permits and focus instead on our routine within each day: sleeping well, eating well and retaining our self-care routines. It’s a lesson we’ve been reminded of time and again, but after three weeks in the gite to recuperate, we’re feeling very committed to looking after ourselves day to day rather than focusing and wasting energy on changing our external surroundings in the search for happiness.