I met a new friend last week, her name is Bobbi French. We have so much in common it gives me chills–which is no easy feat on Roatan. Bobbi sold everything, quite her job, and left the familiarity of Newfoundland, Canada to follow her heart’s lead.
As she so eloquently said, “To hell with ordinary, convention, fear of disappointing others and seeking approval. I shall follow in the footsteps of the great George Costanza and live in the ‘opposite’. I will be brave, I will do things I have only dreamed of doing. I will turn my life upside down, shake well and see what comes out.”
While enjoying a coffee and croissant she graciously agreed to answer some questions I posed, and here is what she had to say. Oh, one more thing I haven’t mentioned yet–Bobbi followed her heart to France!
1. With all the places in the world to choose from, once you decided to take the plunge, why did France win your heart?
Our initial plan was actually to live in Italy. This was always a ‘someday we’ll go for a year’ idea. After vacations we would dream about living in Europe, we both loved the culture, food, wine, and the lifestyle. But France came about for more practical reasons than romantic ones.
Neil already spoke French (and Spanish) and had actually lived in France many years ago. Our most recent vacation had been in France and it was then we met a woman who presented a job opportunity for me. Add in a good health care system and this seemed like a good place to start. Instead of running away for a year to Italy, France seemed like a place where we could actually live and work for an indefinite period. For me the work piece was crucial. After 3 years of looking for a way out of medicine this was the only lead I’d ever had! This was not about retiring, I’m broke as a joke after paying for all my years in medical school. This was about creating a new life.
2. I noticed that in the comments section of your blog, quite often people refer to you as being courageous. Do you feel you are courageous for doing what you are doing?
Hmmm. Everyone always says this and I never know quite what to say back. Courageous is how I would describe kids and their families coping with and surviving mental illness. Every day I witnessed amazing acts of strength that I know I could never have achieved.
As for me, the whole thing has been quite surreal. I somehow turned off my head and turned on my heart, stopped over thinking everything for once and suddenly the plan had a life of its own. Of course it’s scary to uproot yourself and leave everything you know, the safety of secure income and all that. But I can tell you this: moving to France was a hell of lot less scary than staying in a life that seemed all wrong for me. My life was so serious and didn’t fit me anymore. I was scared of being at the end of my life full of regret.
I’m a bit scared every day here but I figure all I have to lose is money and things and some pride as I butcher the language! Not a bad deal from where I sit. If it turns out badly, I’ll just start over.
3. Before you left the Great White North, I’m sure you envisioned how it would go. Is it coming together the way you thought? Or no? And are you okay with that?
The key for me was to let go of any expectations for this journey. This was an active process because it’s soooo easy to romanticize and fantasize about a place that you’ve only visited for vacation. I did a lot of reading and connecting with others who have moved here so that I could get a sense of the good, the bad and the downright ugly bits. So far, so good.
The locals have been far more welcoming than I ever dreamed possible and the paper work, while daunting, is not so bad. Of course having a person fluent in the language really helps! It’s quite a challenge to get used to the pace of things here, everything closes from 12-2 pm and for the whole day on Mondays. Things don’t happen in an instant like they do in North America. And the language, let’s just say it’s an uphill battle. But that’s the whole point, to fully experience another culture. The food and wine make up for it. I’m taking it one day at a time, a new strategy for me a recovering compulsive planner!
4. What is a typical day now, compared to when you lived in Newfoundland, Canada?
My days couldn’t be more different!! Because I haven’t started my new work yet I’m still in la-la land. I have no set schedule and I spend a lot of my time eating, blogging and trying to find an automatic car! I try to learn a little French everyday, then eat some more. I have been riding my new bike, observing cows and chickens, quite a dramatic shift.
The biggest difference in my day is the lack of frenetic pace. I have control of what I do each day. In Canada I was a very busy doctor at a major academic hospital often working until 10 at night. I have finally come down from that stress but only just and even after 3 short months I know that I can never return to that life. Never again will I carry a pager or have to make life and death decisions every day and that brings me great peace. The other big change is having no income. It’s fine, I just don’t spend money, there’s no mall to go to. I’ve stopped shopping online although I long to have a wine budget. I’ve discovered that I don’t need very much and it’s quite a liberating experience.
Nowadays, life is slow, lots of reading and relaxing. That will change when I start work but for now I am LOVING it.
Bobbi's Blog Central'
5. You now call yourself a “Blogaholic” do you find it is the best way to stay connected with family & friends back in Canada? Does having that line of communication make it a little easier to be so far apart?
Oh my, the Blog!! What started as a convenient way to keep in touch has turned into a monster. It’s the new love of my life. I don’t know how it got to be such an obsession, I never could do anything by halves! It’s a great way to stay in touch with loved ones and friends but it’s also an amazing way to connect with people all over the world who are doing the same type of thing or dreaming of doing it. It creates a real sense of community and support. It’s also a great way to get practical advice about moving to a foreign land. I know that when times get tough, and they will, the blog will be the glue that keeps me together. It’s a great way to laugh at yourself and for others to laugh along with you.
6. Your tag-line is “A Psychiatrist’s Pilgrimage to Joy.” Is that what you are finding?
I have been blessed so many times in my life so joy is no stranger to me. But I am seeking an inner peace, a joy of spirit if you will and so far I’m right on the money. I have never been happier than I am right now. I know that, in this moment, I am where I need to be, doing what I need to do. While I am grateful for the privilege of my life as a doctor, I needed this change and I am embracing it fully. I am actually quite proud of myself. Although I am sure that yet another hilarious and humiliating scenario is right around the corner. The main thing is that my life is no longer so serious and that feels like joy to me.
7. You mention your understanding, loving, strong, and accepting husband in pretty much every post. If he announced he wanted the two of you to leave France and move to the most remote jungle, where you would have to live in a straw hut suspended on bamboo poles, and scrounge under fallen tree stumps to find grubs for your dinner—What would you say?
I LOVE this question and it’s a tough one. My first reaction is “write often my love” but because there is no true joy without Neil, because he is the real deal and because I made him a promise, I’d have to say “as long as you’re cooking the grubs, I’m in!”
Question or comment for Bobbi? Post it here…her new job hasn’t started yet…she has time to answer. Oh, and Bobbi, I grabbed some pictures and quotes from your site. Hope you don’t mind!
Through the wonders of the internet and world wide blogging, I had the good fortune to find Bobbi French when I read a guest post she did for Tiny Buddha Coulda Woulda Shoulda. You too can follow Bobbi’s ‘Pilgrimage to Joy’ at her blog Finding Me in France and on Twitter at @BobbiinFrance