Whether changing your life style, downsizing or, as in our case, following our dream of a new life in France making wine, what is the hardest step to pursuing change? I’ve ‘given it all up’ in my life, not once, but twice. By choice. The first time I gave up everything was to travel the world by bicycle. When I met people they would inevitably ask, “What’s the hardest thing you have had to do?” The answer was always ~ to go in the first place.
Giving it all up for us was about moving out of a home, going through everything we owned and selling off / giving away what really couldn’t be kept. The small amount we could keep was limited by available storage space (read relatives’ spare room). It was also about giving up the familiar, saying good bye to family and friends, not knowing when we would, or even possibly if we would, see them again. It was about giving up a steady income and relying solely on eking out what we had and doing odd work we could find to fund the dream.
Our move to France, via international hops, necessitated all of the above. We downsized our life in stages. We moved out of our favourite apartment to date, in Brighton (England) , and sold off almost everything we owned. We packed our lives into 3 very large boxes that we shipped to Spain, whilst we traveled there on a motorbike. We then sold the motorbike and more things, fitting this time into 4 simple suitcases, and headed to New Zealand. Of note, we did add a very long pillow whilst in Spain. The first new thing we owned as part of our new life. We couldn’t seem to part with it, so it came with us (which meant getting rid of more so it would fit in our luggage.) Changing your life has to have some adaptability.
A State of Mind
Next came the United States, but due to travel limitations we shrunk what we had even further. We were down to 1 piece of luggage each. The pillow, alas, was given to a woman at an Information Booth at Auckland’s Airport (amidst much laughter) as no matter what, it kept putting us over the weight limit. We truly miss that pillow.
In the States we had our moment of epiphany. Whilst making yet another bold wine for someone, we made the decision that what we really wanted to do was make our own wine. We wanted a wine that was more complex, different, and maybe it was shooting ourselves in the make ourselves rich foot, but a wine not designed for mass market consumption. It was a now or never moment. We decided to take the leap. And fate pushed us over the edge.
Following our Dream
The first question, was where? That had a fairly easy answer. Since day dot, Pumpjack has always been passionate about Burgundian wine, where wine started in France, and where the wine has amazing diversity due to the land and climate ~ the terroir. That was our ultimate goal.
Now, the how. We decided first and foremost we would get ourselves to France. Once there, we could work out the details. Also, we needed to learn French if we were going to make a go of it in France, so we needed time to be able to do this, learn the lay of the land and decide if this was the path we wanted. Timing, or fate, was on our side as almost immediately on making the decision, we were offered two long-term house sitting positions, the first in Limouge followed quickly by one near Chablis, in Burgundy. It was an easy decision.
It’s Easy from Here (…well….)
We had the where and the how under our belts, so within a month of the decision, we found ourselves in France, speaking almost no French, with almost no money, no jobs, and 2 suitcases. We’d done the hard part.
It took the first year to learn enough French to do anything, to meet people to start to understand how things were set up, especially when it came to wine. Then nearing the end of that year we were offered a vineyard to recover and make wine from. A year later and our first harvest and then first wines were made. And are the wines what we wanted, what we set out to make? Yes! … and no.
Changing Your Life
When making these life changing decisions you must also learn to be flexible, adaptable, and make the best from what you have. For us, the recovering vineyard turned out to be a big project, much bigger than we had first realised. Our dreams of making our wine, selling it and realising our fortune from it were alas a little high pitched. At least, the making our fortune bit. The yield was very small. The flip side, however, is the wine is very interesting, and we think very, very good. There’s simply not a lot of it. But hopefully each year will see improvement in the vineyard and consequently the volume of wine.
We’ve had to diversify consequently. If we can’t yet produce enough grapes, we would look to buy grapes or their juice. We’ve navigated French paperwork (oh my!) and set up as Negociants (someone who makes wine from other peoples grapes, etc.), thus broadening our horizons.
Is It Worth It?
The hardest decision still has been to make that decision and leave, to follow our dream. There were many times we have had to tighten our belts and live on almost nothing. We still live very frugally, but consequently we are so much more appreciative of what we have. It’s early days yet, but hopefully by next harvest, both our own vineyard and the additional grapes we can now buy mean our dream is finally gaining a foothold.
So, it’s hard. But is it worth changing your life?
Heck yes! Why? Because best of all, we are happy. Happier than we have ever been. We appreciate what we have so much more, as well as what we have accomplished. For us, it truly has been worth giving it all up.