La Gap Year – A New Adventure in France for British Couple in their 70s

February 1, 2024 | Blog, Home & Relocation, My Story
In the summer of 2023, as the world was still shaking off the after effects of Covid, British couple Bridget and Richard Maidment decided to change their lives –  at least temporarily. COVID had meant we all stagnated to a certain extent, but the majority of us bounced back fairly quickly once the world was up and running again. 
For many of the older generation, however, it hasn’t always been so straightforward. Covid took away daily routines and familiarity, and as a consequence, some struggled with their confidence and a return to reality.  Others saw it as an opportunity to find purpose once again.  Richard and Bridget are two such people.
Both in their 70s, instead of ‘languishing’  (see Adam Grant’s TEDx Talk on the subject), they decided to grab life by the horns and made the decision to embark on an adventure in rural France. Their place of residence is MumAbroad founder Carrie Frais’s townhouse in Caunes Minervois, a small, picturesque village close to Carcassonne. 
Here’s the start of their story as told by Bridget….

 


Let’s Start at the Very Beginning (a very good place to start!)

Ageing is a strange process and is inclined to catch one unawares.  What woman hasn’t caught a glimpse of her mother in a shop window, only to realise that she’s looking at herself?  Or sat in front of a brightly lit mirror at the hairdresser/barber staring at a much older face than the one you are sitting behind?  Each new decade is a time of reflection on the passing years and some affect us more than others.  I personally hated turning thirty (thirty! I ask you!) and mourned the loss of my twenties and my girlhood. Turning forty didn’t hurt at all.  Richard had a real problem at fifty and started dressing like an old man.  I even caught him eyeing shoes with velcro fastenings! Once into the new decade it soon becomes clear that there is nothing to fear, you feel the same and, if in good health, it’s easy to ignore the imperceptible signs of ageing.

However, your seventies seem to be a turning point decade.  Your doctor may suggest a general health checkup.  This catapults you into the ‘at your age’ bracket and you are suddenly taking a couple of pills a day because “at your age ……….!”  Health problems may not be affecting you much but sadly some friends and relations of a similar age are being affected.  And sadly too, some die and are gone.  Wonderful friends in their eighties and nineties, living life with enthusiasm, humour and fortitude, despite any physical restrictions, are the role models to follow. But am I now actually sitting in God’s waiting room, with no adventures and challenges left to embrace, waiting for the call?

I fear this may have been the tenor of a conversation with son Tom and his wife Carrie, over a glass or two in a local pub., when they were over from Spain in the Summer.  Added to the above was the sense that, although my life was full and rewarding, it was leaving me with little space to empty my head and see what might emerge, to be creative, to just ‘be’. It was the COVID pandemic and lockdown that reminded me of that ‘beginning of the summer holidays’ feeling.  All that empty time to be filled with anything I wanted to do!

 

 

It seems that Tom and Carrie picked up on all this and at breakfast the next morning LaGapYear was born!  The initial offer was for Richard and me to live in their house in France for a year; to be creative, to write, to paint, to draw, all with no restrictions of time.  I immediately felt a spark ignite within and, once they had convinced us that the offer was genuine and that they were serious, the conversation began.  One year in France is, of course, out of the question these days as visitors are limited to 90 days per year.  If we were going to treat this venture as a challenge and an adventure, our first challenge would be to apply for and get a Visa to extend our stay to at least 4 months.  And so it all began!

 

Richard and I are going to write this Blog with honesty, warts and all, both to encourage likeminded septuagenarians to consider doing their own adventure, and to highlight the ups and the downs, the ‘are we mad?’moments and the joyous moments of realising that life can go on and on being exciting and wonderful!  We cannot thank Tom and Carrie enough for their amazing generosity and making all this possible.

 


 

Read more about Bridget and Richard’s experiences of the French visa application process and their subsequent adventures on their blog.

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