The girl who ran away from the office
(and Moved to the South of France)
Find your own destiny, don’t live someone else’s - anon
It is a grey Thursday in London in October 2014 and I am smiling at my computer screen. My clients are tricky, I am working my way through a lengthy to-do list as the hours crawl by, but I know that in a few months I’m going to be living a very different life, where I can get to the beach quicker than you can get to Balham from Victoria.
My colleagues don’t know that I’m counting down my last commutes. They still think of me as living the typical London lifestyle of someone in their late twenties; renting a slightly damp flat with her boyfriend in Islington. They don’t yet know that I’m The Girl Who Ran Away from the Office and Moved to the South of France.
How did this happen? Well, three years ago my partner Jim and I went on holiday to the Riviera, staying at my Grandma’s house in Plan de la Tour. A few days into the trip, the sunshine and rosé had gone to our heads. The next thing we knew we were hovering around the windows of estate agents. And then a clever French estate agent showed us our dream village house; nothing too grand but a beautiful terrace and airy mezzanine, all for less than the cost of a one-bed in Walthamstow.
I’ve been living out here for two and half years now and it still feels like a dream. I indulge in all the little pleasures that you might expect of life in Provence; regular trips to the boulangerie, cycling through vineyards, sipping on rosé with the neighbours at sundown.
But the truth is it took months to adjust to my new life. For starters, I had gone freelance and not working regular hours felt very strange. I had this guilty feeling like I should be doing the same as everyone else in London. When really I needed to recognise that my life was so drastically different out here that there was no point making comparisons or expecting to stick to the same working pattern. A demanding office-based job was one of the main things I had wanted to escape in the first place!
Nearly three years in and I think I have found a good balance; I still work remotely for London companies in communications but I also teach yoga out here (in French and in English) and I’m training to become a career and life coach. These choices allow me to focus on what I’m really good at and I feel more confident and less anxious than I did when I was trying to scramble up the career ladder.
A word of caution for those who feel like provincial life might be for them: when you are removed from London’s buzz, you can’t escape what’s going on in your head. My feelings about myself, my abilities to cope or not cope in many situations, my seesaw moods, my lack of confidence, my lack of career direction, my insecurities all came under the spotlight.
The lowest point was the first winter when none of our friends or family wanted to take a trip to the Riviera so we were left to our own devices and watched back-to-back Twin Peaks. Not the most cheery of viewing when you’ve got the winter blues.
I’ve dealt with my bluer moments through journalling. I write things down to fully explore how I feel about situations and find new possibilities and ideas. Every time I do this I feel better, lighter and usually more inspired. Looking back over my journals from the past two years, I see how much I’ve changed. What previously felt impossible or like a big stretch (teaching yoga in French or driving on French roads, for instance) is now a part of my daily existence.
I’m a believer in leaving your comfort zone to get the most from life. That might mean running away from the office or it might mean stepping up for a big promotion or having a family. Or something completely different like llama farming! The important thing is that you do it because it is right for you, not because you think you should or because it is what everyone else is doing.
You can find out more about life out here on my personal blog: https://amyinprovence.com/