Some of us spend a lifetime searching for an almost mythical home and some are at home their whole life. I knew as a very young child that I did not belong in the United States and always felt a foreigner there. When I thought about where home was, my thoughts instinctively go to Europe. Since all my roots were from there, it made sense. The maternal side was all from the United Kingdom. My father’s family all hailed from Sweden. I tended to lean toward the UK as I had a mental picture of how cold Sweden could be and at least in England, I thought I had the language covered. Of course this was from the child who spelled colour/color, cheque/check and so on. Then there were the early days of school when asked what the national anthem was, I replied without reservation, God Save the Queen! Unfortunately, the teacher happened to be a neighbor and the story got back to my mother who was anything but pleased. Always an early reader, I delighted in stories set in old England. Visits to grandma’s house, in Vancouver, did little to alter my reality. In those days, Canada still flew the Union Jack and was part of the commonwealth. I can see the twinkle in her dark eyes if she could see me here.
While I grew up in California and had my family in different states, I never felt a part of the country that claimed my allegiance. The desire or perhaps need to travel beyond these boundaries was intense. There was an insatiable hunger for foreign films, stories and I wanted it all. While I have been to a few countries and enjoyed them tremendously, nothing but Europe would ever be home.
When an automobile accident cut short my career, I had to decide what to do with the rest of my life. As I did not have the income to continue my mortgage payments, the house would have to be sold. However, I would have to find a house that I could afford without a mortgage with whatever I could obtain. Although the market was spiraling downward, I was fortunate to have bought the property when things were more affordable and made enough, that if careful, I just might survive. With what I did make, there was no way to buy another property in California and I did not want to be there anyway. Dare I hope?
The advent of the internet made many things possible or at least much easier. I quickly became addicted to looking at property in Europe. Not only property but I could investigate many of the questions that would aid me in my decision, questions about the experience and day-to-day living. As the focus become clear, there was but one thing left to do.
On May 9, 2006, I flew to France for the first time. I came armed with a rail pass and a return ticket in six weeks. During that time, I traveled around France and made some new friends that I kept in contact with by email and snail mail. The only difficulty was in leaving. It was heartbreaking to get on that plane back to California. My heart I left behind.
On October 31, 2007, I finally arrived back in Paris. The short flight to Toulouse was followed by a train ride to Carcassonne. Exhausted but supremely happy, I collapsed into the bed at the hostel in La Cite. I was finally home.