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Living on Two Continents

Jo Anne Wilson, Letters From FranceWhen you live with one foot on two separate continents, life takes on a different dimension. Regular readers of this blog will remember that I did several posts last year, with the theme of “here and there”.  

I recently visited with the English woman who is basically responsible for my being here in France. It was while working for her that I began considering Saignon and the Luberon area my second home. During our recent visit, we had a good conversation about the notion of parallel lives; lives lived with equal depth, intensity, and meaning, in two geographically distant places.

She and her (then) husband, owned rental properties just outside the village of Saignon. I stayed there during my first visit in 2003. I came essentially to check things out so that I might bring a group of artists and photographers over from the States. It was during that preliminary and investigative visit that she approached me about coming over to be the property guardian. Her family was planning to spend a year in Australia.

How all of that worked out is another day’s topic. But today’s topic is the conversation, when we reconnected for coffee a couple of weeks ago.  She continues to live and work in Australia, but maintains a home here.  The France home serves as a vacation/rental property most of the year. She comes back to stay during Australia’s winter and the Luberon summer. She has a job in Australia that allows that kind of freedom. This year, she was able to be here for the Christmas holiday. I am not here in the summer, so it had been many years since we actually saw each other.

My point in all of this background information is how we came to discuss the fact that we both have managed to establish parallel lives for ourselves: she between France and Australia, and I between Michigan and France. After a number of years, we both have discovered that it is possible to slide from one to the other without losing that feeling of connection to the people or the place.

Initially, it takes a lot of doing, planning, and arranging. However, once, you’ve done that kind of building block work, the rest of the experience seems to slide into place with less effort. When I attempt to analyze it, I wonder if it isn’t due largely to the advances of technology. With the Internet, I can check the weather today in Traverse City, just as easily as I can check the weather in the nearby towns and villages of the Luberon.  With Internet radio, I can look out at Mt. Ventoux while I listen to Interlochen Public Radio. With social networking sites such as Facebook, I manage to feel connected to friends both here and there.  I can do my online banking in Traverse City, while sitting in Saignon. I can, likewise do my online banking for my French bank account, while sitting in Traverse City.

I’m retired; so leaving Michigan for several months is not an issue. I still maintain connections with the art and writer’s communities. Occasionally I have people who seek out travel advice and arrangements via my small Meet Me In Provence concierge service.

I won’t say that it sometimes doesn’t become difficult in terms of time, energy, and cost. Yes, it does. Gratefully, I’ve found that with a few sacrifices here and there, I can find the time, dredge up the energy, and manage the cost.  Taking care of houses and pets while owners are away, gives me a bit of income while I’m here. I occasionally give watercolor and French lessons, both here and there.

I first came to Saignon in the winter of 2003-2004. I feel as much at home in this area as I do in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. In addition to technology and social networking, I have a superb support group. I have family in Michigan who stay in touch with me. I have my former house sitter and housemate in Michigan. She takes our cat to her home for the winter. I say “our” cat, because she has cared for him as much as I have for the past six or more years. She also collects my mail and helps me out when things need to be done by a person and not an online communication. I have been fortunate to find responsible house sitters to care for my Michigan condo when I’m in France.

As I sit here on an uncharacteristically snowy day in Saignon, I’m very grateful for the circumstances and the people who make this dual/parallel life possible for me. I’m pleased that the Record-Eagle has given me a venue to share my insights and experiences. Life is very good. Both there and here!

This is one of many photos taken by Meet Me In Provence client Gene Turner

  • CathyStripeLester

    I enjoy reading your accounts of living in two places. I agree, it’s rewarding to be different places and see things from different perspectives!

    • Jo Anne

      Thank you, Cathy. It can be challenging, but the joy, the experience, the people, and the culture, all make it worth the effort.

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