Journeys are unpredictable. I imagine myself on the motorcycle, cruising along, enjoying the view passing by, feeling the wind in my face, having not a care in the world when suddenly, a car pulls out from a side road, forcing me to step on the brakes and slow down without a spill. Or maybe I am driving up a steep incline and have to change into a lower gear. To get the motorcycle to the top of the incline without straining the engine too much, I need to slow down a little and change gears.

And so it is with life at times. Most of 2019 has been a slowing down of sorts for me. When I arrived at Sylvie’s home, I had a plan. I would stay for about 10 days, and then move on towards the south of France and into Spain. But what started as 10 days, finally turned into 10 months. 10 months of gearing down and slowing down. 10 months to realise that, even though I had a plan, life was also happening right here and now. And in order to access that here and now, I had to let go of my grip on ‘the plan’. Sylvie gave me that opportunity. Sylvie was my ‘steep incline’. She was the right person and her old family farmhouse in St. Nicolas de la Grave was the right place. Maybe life is always bringing us to the people and places where we need to be. How easily I could have ‘stuck with the plan’ and never had all the opportunities for growth and change.


It is difficult to sum up 10 months of life in a few words. During this time, my WorkAway activities continued. Many hours were spent in the garden trimming trees, removing undergrowth and basically allowing more light and lightness in. I made a realisation: I become more relaxed being outside and working with plants. Next, a complete section of the attic was cleared out. What could be recycled was set aside and the rest was burned. Then the ceiling above the dance floor needed to be insulated, and probably the biggest job, planning, preparing and constructing a deck which functions as a bridge between the dance floor and the garden. In between all of that was a long list of electrical upgrades, each presenting its own unique challenge. By the end of my stay, there was not a room in the house, or a plant outside of it, which did not, in some way, reflect my attention to detail and beauty.

It does not often happen that you arrive somewhere as a stranger, and 10 months later depart as a cherished friend. The fact that Sylvie and I could witness this is a testament to our clear and spoken desire to experience a relationship built first and foremost on openness and authenticity. There was much we shared, and there were moments of struggle. But the lessons we learned during our time together were essential for each of us to continue our respective journey.

One activity we enjoyed doing regularly was taking a stroll along the riverbank of the Garonne. And this strikes me as a great analogy of our time together. While walking, you have the opportunity to slow down a bit. You leave the world of projects and responsibilities behind, and take the time to reconnect with nature, and ultimately with yourself. When you stop thinking about the ‘next thing’ on your list and start looking at what is right in front of you, there is a freshness to life. You feel the warmth of the hand you are holding. The cool shade of the trees. Every opening in the trees gives a new perspective of the river. You hear birds singing, see fish swimming. You have time to make ripples on the surface of the water and just watch as the circles spread out, until they finally reach the bank. You might see your reflection in a puddle. And in the immediacy of all these experiences, the ‘list of things’ seems much less urgent.

Slowing down is a process. It has taken us a lifetime to get up to speed. So just like the speeding motorcycle needs a certain amount of distance to slow down, It will take time to once again connect to this present moment.

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To view more galleries in this series got to the galleries page and click on ‘Changing Gears’