The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
― Derek Walcott, Love After Love
Since living in the rural countryside of southwest France, I have been savoring what many call “the good life”. I’ve spent years transforming a ruin surrounded by a thicket of wild flowering weeds into a sanctuary. My home captures the past and present, threading together the layers of history that have made me who I am.
Like MFK Fisher who began a love affair with France when she moved to Dijon in 1928, I’ve cultivated my inner francophile, or more aptly, gallophile, from when I was sixteen. Even before I first set foot in the French countryside, France became the repository of my dreams.
But what does living the good life really mean? I believe living the good life means living a life that satisfies and fulfills, that adds happiness, joy, adventure, and purpose. It’s about savoring the simple pleasures, slowing down, pausing, doing less and experiencing more, the raison d’être for my French Country Adventure slow travel tours. Living the good life is connected to the present moment, to mindfulness. It’s about nourishment for the mind, body and soul. It’s about discovering your true passions, your magic, feeding your hunger, following your bliss: thirsting after it, smelling it, visualizing it, hearing and touching it. Most importantly, it’s having the courage to pursue it.
I realize not everyone has a passion, a hunger, or a dream. Some people think that in order to follow their bliss they have to drop everything, leave their spouses, their jobs, join an ashram, find a guru, turn their lives upside down. But this isn’t necessarily so. For me, the first step towards living the good life is figuring out who you are, finding your authentic self, the one who doesn’t pretend. The psychotherapist and author, Brad Blanton, calls radical honesty. It’s often uncomfortable, even painful, to uncover what’s at our core, but it’s essential. I’ve learned the easiest way to figure out who we are, is to figure out who we’re not.
The French are experts at l’art de vivre, the art of living. It’s specific to the their culture. Perhaps that’s because they learned how to live the good life from Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) the philosopher whose Essais have been used as a guide to know oneself through a quest for the best way to compose one’s life. “How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer”, by Sara Bakewell (2010) is a wonderful introduction to his life and work.
After years of exploring and traveling, and living a life that brought me every emotional experience imaginable, I’ve discovered one simple lesson – there should always be harmony between what one is and what one does.