Saturday 13th November, Laudrerie, Correze region
The landscape outside looks like it’s on fire, all the yellow & orange colors of the trees lit up by the sharp November sun. The only soundtrack being a steady hum of our electric fireplace and that curious black horse called Godsend grazing grass & occasionally pissing loudly outside our mobile home here in Laudrerie, France. Horse piss can be quite impressive, I find. The sheer projectile power of it all!
We arrived only five days ago, but I already feel at home. We’re at a small family farm owned by Sophie, her partner Gerard and her daughter Lily, who - even though their names sounding super French, are all actually English expats. In Ged's case as British as they come! There are four pigs (that - and I’m sorry about this - Sophie turns into the most delicious sausages I ever tasted...and I tasted a lot of sausages! Plus I’m Czech, I’m a tough sausage audience!), four horses, three hilarious dogs, four sheep that look like goats and behave like dogs, chickens (the breed with no feathers on their neck, that have breast and leg muscles bigger than ours), cats with eyes like snakes - and now the two us, coming to help around for three weeks under an agreement that’s quite revolutionary on our nomadic journey that started in 2019...for the first time in our many many volunteering work stints, we’re now actually paid!!! (hold on with the cheers, it’s 3 euros per hour, BUT it’s a start!)
I think we did quite well so far, trying to dodge the capitalistic dependency on exchanging your time for money to be able to exist in this world, but having a car now, that requires being fed diesel on regular basis in order to keep safely transporting us through the world, plus - you know, all of my skincare products running out - some little money here and there will be required. At least we’re not answering to any corporations, bosses, playing the company games, trying to climb up some stupid hierarchy office ladders etc. We do what we love, we learn new skills every day and we get to work together, which feels SO RIGHT! Mind you, when we left London to try and do life on the road, we had no idea how working together would turn out and what would be the impact of it on our relationship. A big gamble that also paid off big time. Thanks fuck we love working together!
This place is available to rent via AirBnB, but for our working stay here, this will be our private palace. Sophie filled our fridge and regularly tops up our boxed wine supplies and prepares delicious lunches & dinners, and in exchange we’re offering our muscle strength, energy & determination to their new project - sprucing up a flat in a charming medieval looking village of Masseret (15 minutes drive from here), that will eventually also be rented as AirBnB. The previous owner committed some serious interior decoration crimes, so our first few days were filled with obliterating super ugly seventies wall paints (deep blue in the bathroom, deep purple in the living room, green in the bedroom and black in the kitchen!), furniture covered in grease with dog hair glued to it, building a scaffolding (our first! Awww!) to clean the gutters, and generally just breathing some new life into a place that others would just set on fire and walk away from.
Five days in. And we can both exhale. The plan worked! Travelling the world these last two years, we always tried to avoid any sort of planning. Our ‘plans’ were always just pencil sketches, ready to have their lines erased and re-arranged at any point due to ever changing covid restrictions. But after a nuclear explosion on our last Workaway adventure in Bulgarian Balkan Mountains, where we found ourselves being more and more exploited and unable to stand up for ourselves - sort of a ‘if you put a frog in water that’s slowly brought to a boil, it will never realise the danger and be cooked to death’ situation. Just before being boiled to death, we were pushed to make a stand and remove ourselves from the boiling pot. The following few weeks spent bouncing in between our friend’s apartments in Sofia, we worked on THE PLAN. No more unpaid work. Where there is monetary transaction of any size involved, there must also be rules. Rules represent boundaries and a clear indication of what is expected and what can be asked, where the work ends and life after work starts.
Several video interviews later, we found a seasonal job in the French Alps. The only (and understandable) condition being - we need to show up in person to officially close the deal. So, off we went. Sofia, Bulgaria to my hometown Blansko in Czech. We left six in the morning, in the complete dark, and arrived at 9.30pm, again in the dark. A mindfuck of a day spent in a car, crossing Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary & Slovakia. In Czech, we embraced our family, our friends, gathered some strength, ate & drank well and too much and not even a week later, another big journey, Czech to French Alps. 12 hours drive done once again in one day. The fact we partied too much the night before and the weather turned disgusting and the drivers on German and Swiss motorways being too fast and too furious, meant that when we arrived to Morzine in French Alps just before midnight, we literally kissed the frozen ground, genuinely confused but grateful to be still alive.
Our seasonal job interview happened the following morning and we slayed it. Our employers for the season in the mountains - Amy & Owen are super switched on, super funny & Morzine looks & feels like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls meets Winter Wonderland, and frankly I can’t imagine a better place to spend Christmas at. So that’s our December to April plan. Chalet hosts in the French Alps, cooking a lot, hopefully also practicing snowboarding in the meantime, getting back to some sort of mind/body/soul routine that’s not necessarily possible when bouncing from place to place, country to country and having to figure out the ways to survive on a weekly basis. And saving some money for our next move, whatever it will be!
So we work. And after work we spend time with our hosts, we exchange stories and jokes and little life wisdom. The other day we took a little trip to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, rainy lazy afternoon, absolutely no one around except for these little elfs and gnomes created by a local artist scattered all around this medieval beauty of a town.
During these few weeks here in Correze we got the chance to try out a wide range of professions, from totally impromptu chimney cleaning - directed by David, of course due to my fear of heights - for which we used a mobile phone camera tied to a string and lowered down through the chimney, to moving a three-ton boiler to the basement - a task that took two afternoons and three tons of nerves. I don't know if it's the exhausting nature of our daily tasks, or the intrusive autumn dampness and cold, or just the fact that Sophie immediately accepted us as part of the family and after all our crazy travels and adventures we slow down, savour and enjoy this daily rhythm, or maybe it's the steady stream of boxed red wine, but I can't remember when we've slept better than in our mobile home.
Before we start our chalet hosting job in December, we’re helping Sophie & Gerard here in Correze to manifest their vision for the new AirBnB. Once again - paid, even though even symbolically - which is going to be our way going forward. They are kind, they are funny, they are our people and it’s a super beautiful lesson for the two of us & our hope to one day turn the table and be hosts ourselves. The last year served us clear examples of people we wouldn’t want to ever become and vice versa. With our vision for our own future tiny houses AirBnB/wellness/yoga retreat, it seems super cosmically aligned to now work on Sophie’s project, learning along the way about upcycling, construction, carpentry etc.
“Imagine we do all this work on our own project. Imagine this is our own AirBnB and we’ll start renting soon!” I said to David the other day, to help motivate us going through the day. And then I realised...We ARE working on our future project. This all is the work that is bringing us closer to it. Every day we learn, every day we work, every day we talk about it and dream about the ways we would like it to be and face up to events, situations, people we’d definitely want to avoid becoming, we give our future vision more concrete shape.