Why am I here?
Leaving family, friends, uprooting our lives; kids school, work, patients, a nice house, comfortable life. Why on earth would you do that?
That was the most common question I got when telling people that we were moving to France. When I explained I was taking a sabbatical, there was generally a quizzical look, a few jovial comments about cheese and wine and an polite comment proffered along the lines of “well, I hope you come back!”
I asked myself the same question many times, and I can’t pretend that nervousness wasn’t my main emotion for the preceding months of planning. My fantastic wife Alison was the instigator and chief planner, her logistical skills coming into their own when we decided to not only move overseas, but also to move houses in Australia prior to leaving. Ironically, this complexity was driven by an underlying single goal: to make life simpler.
To us, this drive to live a simpler life means many things: living in the country, more slow-cooking, being there for the children at school drop off and pickup, helping and knowing our neighbours more, taking time to visit the fresh food market, tending a garden, having a less glamorous, more kid-friendly house & car, time to cycle together, time to read and study, being away from the hustle and bustle of the city, being distant from that small but uniquely urban threat of terrorism, the freedom for the children to roam.
Why France? Why Not? We fell in love with the Côte-d’Azur before settling down with marriage and children – intoxicated by the rhythm of life, the scenery, the food and the wine. In Cassis, the air was thick with the cliches of French men playing pétanque with a glass of wine in hand, women with small dogs sitting and drinking coffee and the aroma of Provençal food wafting from every home. Contrast this with the whizzing of cars, fast food lifestyle and close isolation of city life and you can imagine the cognitive dissonance.
Could this rhythm of life be why the French have historically enjoyed a long life, despite plenty of cheese, wine and rich food? With the small nations of Monaco, San Marino and Andorra all sharing a similar lifestyle to that which we yearned, and all ranking above Australia in life expectancy, living here would seem the best way to find out. I look forward to reporting on “France our Way” in search of the antidote to our declining social and cultural health.