Since our return from France, I’ve been pondering the question of whether it’s possible to ever be completely happy again, once you’ve caught the travel bug. The danger, I think, is that you are never entirely satisfied with your lot. Somehow we need to find a happy medium – or at least some way of avoiding full on depression.
I am reminded of this every time I see someone for the first time. The inevitable opening question: Glad to be back? (usually spoken in ironic tones) is so easily replied to with some kind of negative response – maybe related to the comparative weather, the lack of favourite foods or the desire to still be pottering round the D roads at leisure. It would be very easy to become bitter and twisted.
We found, on arrival in France, that we were quick to observe the differences with our normal life: opening hours, supermarket shopping bags (or lack of them), different layers of bureaucracy, customs, lack of certain foods, like weetbix, the difficulty of finding equivalent baby milk formula.
Just as quickly, on arrival in New Zealand, we find ourselves bemoaning the lack of affordable cheese, wine, bread, pastries; the faster pace of life here, the comparative cost of almost everything.
I keep up with events and activities in Quillan. The downside of having lived on the main square is that our apartment features in every second photos. The other day I was looking at pictures from a recent event in the square. In the background was the Fleuve, above it our apartment with the windows open. Wait a minute – open windows! I peered to see if there were people hanging out the windows. Who are these impostors, living in ‘our’ apartment…! I feel weirdly homesick, despite feeling at home.
There has to be a solution to this, or we will drive ourselves crazy.
The very nature of these differences is why we love spending time away. So we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s also not realistic to expect to be able to buy French cheeses at French prices given the distance they have to travel, and the boutique production of the best New Zealand made equivalents.
I suspect the answer lies in making the best of both worlds. When in New Zealand, celebrate all the good things about life here – but maybe treat yourself to the occasional French breakfast, or a regular aperitif. When in France, make the most of the opportunity to enjoy a different way of life (and eat weetbix from time to time.)
Now I just have to figure out how I can spend half the year here, and half the year there, and I will always be happy. 😉