My name is Laura and essentially I live in France on a budget. Out of necessity as much as a lifestyle choice, I’m dedicated to living frugally while also appreciating the beautiful country in which I have made my home. I live with my husband, our spoilt cat and dog, and way too many houseplants in a small village deep in one of the forest-like national parks of Haute Vienne, central France.
Where did this all begin?
I spent my entire first career of more than a decade as an IT consultant being flung from city to city across the UK. I’ve lived in Southampton, in Portsmouth, in Plymouth, in Birmingham, frankly all over Devon and latterly in central London for seven years (zone one fatigue anyone?!) before moving “to the country”, our last UK home in Bristol in the south-west. I detonated my IT career once I realised I was no longer seen as a human being, but rather a number, and retrained as a talking therapist and counsellor.
After several more years working ourselves to near-death for a giant mortgage on a very lovely house we hardly saw, we left Bristol in December 2018 and have spent just about every day since adjusting to our new and exciting life in department 87.
We’ve given up our old hectic rat-race life in Brexit-Britain, for a new, quiet, calm and crucially frugal life in France.
What do I do with all that time now?
One of the big differences between me and many of my fellow foreigners scattered around the French countryside is that I have to work. I’m not retired, I don’t have a second house in the UK earning me an income, I don’t have a gite or an Airbnb (I did have one in the UK and that was enough to put me off…).
Instead, I have taken the (frankly ludicrous) risk of moving to a foreign country where I know no-one, to a place with little to no job industry and with only intermediate bread-and-wine-level language skills and tasked myself with earning a living as a micro-entrepreneur here in France.
Oh, and my husband too, he didn’t have much of a choice but is happy about the bread.
Interesting decision making!?
And I should know a thing or two about that – in my day job, I’m an online talking therapist and counsellor. I work from my office here in France with anglophones all over the world thanks to the wonder of online therapy. I use all of the training and experience from my previous face-to-face counselling practice in Bristol and combine that with my background in IT to pull together a business that, thankfully for me, really works. If you’re interested you can find out more about my online counselling work at www.harleycounselling.co.uk.
In addition to my counselling business, I’m a writer (I like to keep busy!) and you may have seen my columns in Living France magazine.
In Living France, I write a monthly column about my experience living in France on a shoestring. I share tips and tricks on how to save money and live for less. Also, I include lots of photos of my pets, I am shameless.
How do I make it work?
It’s a romantic notion to move to France, to buy a ruin and do-it-up learning trades as you go. Scouring brocantes for gold-things and dried flowers. It sounds nice. That’s not my life. This is France 2.0.
Anyone who has ever been self-employed knows that income from month-to-month can be very variable, and even though my business model is more personal and I don’t have a product to sell (beyond spending time with me, Hi!), I too have to weather the peaks and troughs of my clients’ willingness to invest in both themselves and me.
To guard against those more meagre months (and meet any future income requirements as a result of Brexit – thanks guys!) my husband and I decided to stop watching Escape to the Chateau (Okay that’s a lie, I LOVE IT but I don’t need to live it anymore) and not buy a castle in a forest that no-one’s been in for 200 years. Sounds tempting, but trust me, I’ve seen the toilets. You don’t want to go there.
Instead, we agreed to buy a modest home using sensible criteria (eg. “has roof”) and to live a lifestyle which means we don’t have to earn a fortune to have a full and happy life.
We wanted to work to live, not live to work.