So I thought I had it all done.
The final piece of the puzzle was in place. I had booked the flights, the hire car was finalised and where we would live, were all sorted. Or so I thought.
I love browsing online through holiday homes. It’s a chance to imagine a different life. So finding our perfect French home had been my first priority when I took the step from dreaming to scheming. I had a few criteria ranging from the fanciful to the practical. My dreamy self longed for a countryside location, uplifting view and an open fire to gather around on cold winter nights. The practical mother side was looking for a reasonable commute to school, wi-fi to communicate with home and a garage to avoid early-morning rendezvous with ice on the windscreen.
After hours of sifting through endless options, I had been thrilled to discover a chalet that met all of the criteria. What a find! And it was available too. After email communication and a quick Skype chat, it was all sorted. We had not just a house, but our perfect home. Deposit paid, all sorted.
Secure in the knowledge of a safe home-base, I felt just confident enough to make the final commitment – buying the aeroplane tickets. I checked out the best deal and flight schedule, and resolutely punched in the credit card number.
Just days later, I received the email.
Our home, our perfect chalet, was no longer available. The owners were very apologetic and the reason was very understandable – a family crisis that had left close relatives in desperate need of a home. But I nonetheless felt like our front doormat had been pulled out from under our feet. In less than four months time, I would be boarding a plane. Just me and two small children. And I had no home to take them to.
Even though we had never really had this home – never even crossed the threshold – I felt bereft. In my mind, it had become my safe haven: a place to retreat after a big day of Alsacian adventure. So though it had only existed for us on a screen, it had been my French home. But now, we were virtually homeless.
In place of leisurely browsing through home websites, there was anxiety-fuelled searching. Every spare moment was an opportunity to whip out my phone and scour yet another house site.
My daily conversations became a monotone of “what do you think of this one?” Supportive friends and family lost track of the various options and their pluses and minuses. Conversations dragged on about the relative merits of each criterion: was a garage ultimately more important than internet, was a spectacular view too high a price to pay for a longer daily commute?
The conversations started to be imbued with a more serious tone. Underlying these seemingly straight-forward comparisons and trade-offs lay a more fundamental challenge: I was being forced to confront the purpose of the trip.
Find out how the story ends in Virtually Homeless – Part 2… coming to you in a couple of days.