Tag Archives: goals

2018 Highlights, 2019 Plans

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver (The Summer Day)

2018; another year of memories gathered, activities enjoyed and goals achieved. In some ways it was more of a transitional year, a soft landing leading from constant travel in Benny to a return to a more rooted existence. House-sits and WorkAways helped reconnect us to the idea of motionless living. We regained the love of sitting still, of being a part of a small community. Of creating use from objects, of honest labour, productive acts, holding local knowledge. The coming year has much to live up to.

TMB Day 8 (Enjoying the downhill)

Annecy - (first view of lake)

Everything in our recent travels had been generalisation. We had spent little time anywhere, passing through and glimpsing only a sliver of the life of each place. One blurred facet of one afternoon, one small portion of a village or town, and yet we reacted and drew conclusions from the visit. We judged, we opined, we decided our mood and experience based on the scantest of evidence, the whims of the weather. Destinations were deemed perfect, poor, terrible or terrific on the strength of that short, solitary instant. We jumped to thin, creative judgements of boastful self-indulgence. Our experiences were unique to us, to that time, and, in all honesty, tell others nothing of true value of the place or the people we encountered. These travel-through screenshots represent a momentary mirage, an insubstantial connection as we rudely, uninvited, threaded our lives into those of locals. Nothing is complete, nothing lasts, no description by any tourist day-tripper can capture a place with dependable emotion and clarity.

Our House - (from the pool)

Now, we were settled. We have a base, a home. We are able to make longer judgement on an area, our area, no longer reliant on tentative and superficial first impressions. We no longer need to be presumptuous. We can creep below the surface and uncover a new layer of reality, a deeper understanding beyond the trivial veneer we normally witness. We are no longer only travellers, but residents, and have the right to both observe and absorb at leisure.

Our days are filled with a different type of experience. Different dreams.

Lake Vassiviere (swim exit)

Key highlights of 2018

Completed several house-sits and WorkAway projects, befriending great new people and learning new skills
Attended and completed our first SwimRun event at Lake Vassivière, France
Hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 180km multi-day trek through three countries (France, Switzerland and Italy)
Crossed the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world near Zermatt, Switzerland
Bought a home in south-west France, to be our new regular base for future travels.
Participated in three 10km races in the wine regions of northern Spain and two more locally in southern France
Spent the days before Christmas soaking up the festive atmosphere in Paris

Paris (eiffel tower lit at night)

Key goals for 2019

To run my first marathon, with a finishing time starting with a 3. A 16-week training schedule is underway and going well so far. The distance and the time are both feeling achievable, barring injury or other catastrophe. We will see.

To write better, focused pieces, deeper dives into the meaning of travel, beginning with a new Medium account. The focus will be on improving the storytelling rather than simple diary posts following our daily travel exploits. I’m also writing a draft of my first novel, to see where the process takes me, even if the final product is unusable and flawed.

Additional time is to be given over to painting, specifically line & wash watercolours. I’m tentatively considering that the novel above could evolve into an illustrated graphic novel, but time, technique and talent may have a say on that outcome. My aim is to produce paintings I would be contented to see hanging on our new French walls.

To complete all the on-going projects around our new French home. Alongside the typical DIY works, I hope to build a few detailed furniture pieces, design and construct several stained glass windows, and plant a fruit tree orchard. All new skills to learn.

To continue to travel around Europe, with shorter trips to north eastern Spain, Cote d’Azur and the Italian Dolomites already planned, and others under consideration. We are also looking at trips further afield, a few flights of fancy to faraway lands.

DAY 11 - Brevents panorama

Brantome - (panorama)

Randa (Bridge Panorama)

Haro - (panorama)

We have nothing but time, yet we never seem to have enough. To paraphrase The Great Gatsby, life may well be much more successful when looked at through a single window, but we don’t want to sign up to the limitations that implies. We don’t want to expend all our energy on the pursuit of only one goal. We want to dabble in everything that interests us, and that includes many subjects. We may not be capable of achieving brilliance at any one activity without focused dedication, but that’s okay. Enjoying a taste of many things won’t bring excellence, but it will bring interest, satisfaction and stave off boredom. We dabble at kayaking, cycling, running, skiing, open water swimming, chess, free-diving, painting, furniture-making, woodworking, quizzing, gardening, cooking, writing, mountain climbing, guitar playing, piano, beer brewing, sketching, poetry, photography, mathematics, astronomy, theatre, scuba-diving, movies, learning languages, and blogging. We read biographies, science journals, logic manuals, graphic novels, contemporary fiction, Arctic exploration histories, travel monologues, legal opinions, and everything in between. And long may our thirst for the new continue.

We want to be generalists, not specialists. And we want to continue to explore every avenue we can.

A&N x


Arrival at our house-sitting commitments – willing staff to two adorable cats

Leaving Monpazier we made our way south and west, skirting around the main town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot to reach the municipal area of Allez-et-Cazeneuve, where we would soon be living in a comfortable renovated former boulangerie for a few months, early next year.  This was the location of our second upcoming house-sit, and we’d arrived to both familiarise ourselves with the property and to spend time with British owners Monica and Ken.

Allez-et-Cazeneuve (boulangearie)

Allez-et-Cazeneuve (view from gardens)

They are both keen open water swimmers and occasional triathletes, like us, although their challenging, long-distance swimming exploits put us to shame.  We had long chats about travels and possible future adventures as we toured their property and ate wonderful home-cooked food, fresh from the garden, washed down with very tasty home-brewed beers.  We were greatly impressed by Ken’s artistic skills, expressed through his classical guitar playing and photography.  We had a local guided walk around the nearby leafy countryside, before checking out their sizable vegetable patch and lands.  After a slow breakfast and more animated chat, we said our goodbyes until our return in the New Year, after which Monica and Ken will be sunning themselves on the opposite side of the world.

La Reole (river view from house)

La Reole (canal walk)

We drove a further hour west to the outskirts of La Reole, into the small hamlet of Barie to meet up with Jane and Roger, with cats Tilly & Ozzie, the hosts for our first winter house-sit.  Another British couple living in France, they own a large stone farmhouse backing on to a kiwi orchard, with the river Garonne running fast by the front – such an idyllic, rural setting.  We got our bearings of the property, learning of its idiosyncrasies, with a constantly-refilling glass in hand.  We had a wonderful dinner and chat, then relaxed into what will be our room for the duration.  Later we had a local riverside walk with Jane to help gain our bearings as Roger dealt with a last-minute plumbing issue.  With us settled in, they left early to drive back to the UK to meet up with family and together fly to Australia for Christmas.  We awoke the first day under glorious blue skies in South-west France, our home for six weeks, as the willing staff of two adorable cats.

La Reole (kiwi orchard from bedroom)

La Reole (patio with Ozzie)

There will likely be fewer posts from us over the next few months, as we’ll not be passing through interesting, beautiful places that cry out to be described or recorded, but instead living a more insular, quiet existence.  It will be more a journey of self-discovery, a personal tourism, as we adjust back to staying still and having a consistent, daily schedule as we look after pets, a home, a garden, again.  Staying in one place for a few months will also free up even more time for us to utilise, play, learn, engage with or sleep through, depending on our mood and energy levels.  We are starting our house-sits with grand plans to occupy our time; along with catching up with the many things we miss from our previous lives like gardening and cooking, we have set ourselves specific goals to fill our hours:

Physical:  Set up a daily exercise task of stretches, weights and core work, to get stronger and more flexible.  We’ll run more, longer and faster to an organised schedule, getting fitter with an eye on completing a marathon in 2018.

Mental:  Learn / improve our spoken French, spending at least a half hour (or more) talking, listening and playing app-based games, alongside listening to podcasts during exercise or walks.  And watch a few French movies too.

Musical:  Learn to play the piano.  This will be totally from scratch (for me, not Nicky), but there’s one in our second house-sit, so we have the means and opportunity – all we need is the will and dedication.  Learning to read music is also a part of this.

Culinary: Bake many various breads (and cakes), testing and learning different styles and recipes and seeing which ones are the most successful.  Tweaking and finding the best options for simple bakes in Benny when we’re back on the road.

Literary: Read lots of books not yet read, and aim to produce and develop more interesting and challenging writing pieces, rather than simple, descriptive diary-entry blog posts.  We have plenty of ideas, but no execution as yet.

Writing out these five goals, each set in a different field of study, is one small step towards making them happen.  Creating the time to undertake them, by organising two restful, relatively long-term house-sits, is the second small step on that long path.  All remaining steps will be subject to us garnering the requisite determination and resolve to use our free time productively.  Whether we manage to complete all of these self-enforced tasks, no matter how much we wish to do so, remains to be seen.

We’ll post occasional updates of our progress to help keep us honest.

A&N x