During my teenage years, growing up Melbourne, Australia during the 1970s, travel was never far from my mind.
With a father who had experienced the romance of ship travel in the Orient and my mother who was immigrant from a Second World War London, wanderlust was in my heart just waiting to blossom.
It was to come many years later – following a fulfilling motherhood to two beautiful daughters and working out of necessity.
With my passion for tarot having its roots in medieval Europe, I had always thought that would draw me first. But strangely enough, it was Asia, short holidays in Vietnam and India that ignited my yearning for more adventure. To do things differently in the footsteps of many of the ancient wise ones.
A chance meeting with a young Scottish couple travelling in Vietnam planted the seed of change in my heart. They were travelling for a year! So many questions flooded my mind on meeting them. How can you afford that? Where did you start? What a great idea! Imagine that, stepping onto a plane or ship or train and knowing you are not coming back for a whole year! A vision of Paddington Bear with only a tiny suitcase sprang to mind and I knew their dream had to be mine.
So at age 52, after much shedding – cars, furniture, full-time jobs; my partner and I handed the keys of our tiny apartment to his son. We decided it was cheaper to travel for a year staying in hostels and homestays than to live in Melbourne.
Following the sun was the trick to only needing carry-on luggage. Starting in a Melbourne autumn, we set off for spring in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We were also determined to live like locals.
We adhered to only three rules; number one was to stay at least a month in each country to allow the culture to truly seep in. Rule number two was no purchasing of clothes unless one garment was given away to a recipient who needed it. If we bought a coat, we would then leave it for somebody who could use it. Number three was we would only travel with what we could carry. In 2011, it was just 7kg of luggage.
That year saw us tango dancing in Argentina, climbing the Andes in Peru, discovering caves in Turkey and sailing the waters of Ulysiss. After a month overlooking the fiords of the tiny village Perast in Montenegro, we set off for our final six months. We travelled to the village of Rajbag in Southern India, where I studied reiki and reflexology.
Then, the universe brought us an amazing opportunity and without much hesitation, we accepted an offer to set up and run a small guest house in Vietnam. The connection from years earlier came via email. Were we still interested in managing a guest house? Yes yes yes! Was the resounding reply.
Southern India turned into our planning time for our new venture. Each day as the sun rose, we walked the two kilometres to the beach, past bird wetlands and sari-clad beautiful women on their way to work. With our toes planted in the sand, our days were spent putting our dream onto paper. Drawing plans, writing menus, our vision included becoming a part of a fishing village where we could give back to their community. Offering homely comfy accommodation with the opportunity for guests to be a part of a real village. Our Vietnamese vision sprang to life as we filled our tummies with curry and mango from the local Rajbag beach vendors.
We had never seen Bai Xep, Quy Nhon, the location for our new home. That first day, we wandered through the tiny village, little smiling faces peeped out around doorways, dogs barking, women mending fishing nets looked up at us shyly. My heart skipped beats and I knew this was going to be an amazing place to be! For the next three years, our new home became the home-away-from-home for many weary travellers.
Tears, laughter, frustration, lack of language, determination, and much love came together to realise our guesthouse Haven. From our initial kernel, came the passions of many others who made us their family for a short time. Some of them have in turn gone on to run their own guest houses which employ local people and give back to their communities.
Our life in Bai Xep was not without its hardships. Most days presented unforeseen problems. The electricity was constantly being cut. We would wake to no power, which would sometimes take days to return. We cooked with gas or on small charcoal BBQs, but as the sun rises early and sets at 6pm we were often without lighting to cook by! We managed this by wearing miners’ torches strapped to our foreheads and having candlelit dinners. With twelve hungry guests, every night – not cooking was not an option!
Language was our biggest hurdle. Not only was there no English spoken in the village but many people could not read or write. Education that we take for granted is precious to these small villages.We had two large tanks for the water, which was piped from the mountain. The tanks regularly ran dry so we would take bike trips up to the water source. Usually to find our supply had been cut and taken to another business! We put the pipe in – which brought running water to our village; before that, they only had the well. Water was pumped and carried to their humble houses.
I had thought I would get around my lack of Vietnamese by writing in Vietnamese from translator apps. To get around this problem, we bought fruit and vegetable posters and had them up on our kitchen walls. Our kitchen looked like a kindergarten, but we got the job done. I could point at what we needed and slowly my Vietnamese vocabulary increased.
As the universe does, it brought us an unexpected twist. We learned sadly that the land we leased was to be sold. We could take the risk that the new owners would lease to us, or try to sell our business. We chose to put the business up for sale. Feeling strongly that if it was meant to be – another opportunity would arise.
Chance played her part again. An English guest told us the story of her parents who lived in rural France. Something just clicked for us and we started to think about the possibility of a different life in a rural Europe.
Just two months later – after a flying visit to family in the UK, we were sitting sipping wine in Montmorillon France. We had been brought here for lunch having never heard of it. Dining on delicious crepes beside the river, we both felt the magic and knew this would be our next home.
So the wheel turned again, finally, in medieval Europe my passion for the tarot and history could bloom again.
Montmorillon, Cite De L’Ecrit, a town of books is our home now. Our rambling old 17th-century house on the river Gartempe will never be perfect. Its joy comes from living at one with the birds and the river. Our gites providing a comfy immersion in rural France, the world now comes to us!
Moving to France has created another first for me. The publishing of my first novel, Bonne Chance and Butterflies. A novel – it tells the story of woman’s courage as she makes a profound change in her life. Her incredible journey of self-discovery emerges in my magical town Montmorillon.
So, take a chance, move into the unknown, experience other cultures, listen to your heart.
When you open your heart to chance and change – the universe answers.
Rosie’s accommodation in Montmorillon can be accessed here – Riverside Studio and Charming Montmorillon Maison, both are self-catering accommodation.
And to her book Bonne Chance and Butterflies on Amazon.