Discover Yourself Interviews & Guest Posts Over 50s Lifestyle

Time to Follow Your Dream – Retiring to Another Country Pt 1

March 2, 2016
Retiring to another country part 1

Retiring to another country part 1We all have dreams but unfortunately, most of us don’t follow our dreams and make them a reality.  I’ve met some wonderful people since I started my blog and over the next month I will be bringing you their stories and how they achieved their dreams.

I’m excited to introduce the first contributor in our ‘Time to Follow your Dream’ Series, a gorgeous lady – Gigi Whitford.  I met Gigi through blogging and she lives in France.  When our friendship grew I just knew I wanted her to share her story to show others that we can Follow our Dreams.

Gigi and her husband, have retired to France which was a long held dream.  Her story is fascinating and because I didn’t want to cut any of her answers, I have divided her interview into two posts.  During our interview, Gigi transported me from my home in Australia to the beautiful area in the Rhone-Alps of France, about a 5 hour drive south-east of Paris.

I hope you enjoy meeting Gigi and reading about her life in France.

Why did you make the decision to leave your home and move to another country? Why did you select France?

Moving to France has always been my husband’s dream. He has been a life-long Francophile. When we first met, over 25 years ago, he told me about his dream of retiring in France. I thought, “how cute”, but honestly, I never took him seriously!.

It didn’t seem like something that could really happen! But as the years went by and as we took more trips to France, about 5 years ago, it started to look like something that might actually happen and I started to think more seriously about the prospect.

As my husband began preparing to retire, we started making more concrete plans to making the dream happen. We had stumbled upon a region that we both agreed would be perfect for us.

Tell us about where you live and where you live in France.

We live in a small, 5 year old house in a tiny village near the Swiss / Italian borders.

lake by our house

What is the best part of living in a different country?

For me, I just love the type of life we have here, not because it is a different country,…just because it is so lovely. I could have loved it if it were in the US. We live in a very small village in the country and I love the pace of the life.

I love the quietness of the village. I love hearing roosters crow when I have the windows open. I love the beautiful scenery, the green, green countryside, the sparkling clean, warm lake a 10-minute bike ride away, the view of the mountains out our back door.

nearby village

I love the friendliness of my neighbors and the welcoming attitude of the people of our region. I love that you can eat and drink incredibly well without straining your pocketbook. I love the emphasis on local products. We love the local wines and visiting the local wineries.

grapes on the vine sheep on hillside

What was the most difficult part of making the move?

The most difficult part of the move was moving away from my friends and family in the US. It was also difficult to make sure that I had taken care of everything I needed to in terms of leaving my job (e.g, things were ready for the next person, all my retirement documents were in order, etc.).

The actual physical move was also incredibly difficult. We had to sell our house in the US, and get rid of almost everything we owned because we could only afford to ship several boxes of belongings overseas. Making sure we had all our paperwork ready for immigration was nerve-wracking too!

kitties by consulate

How did you feel when you first made the move? It was kind of like being in love!

I was so happy when we first got here! A new house in a beautiful region! Lovely, welcoming neighbors! It honestly seemed too good to be true!  Overall, it was a feeling of euphoria.

But, when we first moved, I barely spoke any French. I was afraid to do things on my own because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to communicate. I had to have my husband come with me to buy postage stamps because I didn’t know how to ask for them. I had a hard time remembering a simple sentence to repeat. I’d get nervous and get stuck.

I also felt uncomfortable in my “American-ness”. I felt big and awkward. I didn’t have the same body language as the French and that felt funny. (I still have my American body language but I fully accept it now). I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make friends because of my lack of French. But I did!

Tell us about a normal day in your life in France?

A typical day for me would be to get up and surf the web, work on my photos, catch up on social media, and blog while drinking lots of coffee until almost noon. After lunch, I might go to the gym, take a walk with a friend, do some shopping or baking. We still maintain our normal

American dinner hour– we have dinner around 6:15 / 6:30, where the French typically eat at least an hour or two later. After dinner, I’ll work on the computer some more and then settle in and watch some Netflix, read a bit and go to bed. In the Spring and Summer, I’d work a bit in the garden, or maybe go to the lake near our house. My husband and I love going to local festivals to try local food and wine.

local fruits and veggies olive tree on a trip near Provence

Next week read how Gigi coped with a new language plus tips for those who would like to follow the same dream.

About Gigi

Gigi WhitfordI’m an American expat living in a tiny village in rural France. My husband and I have been here for about 1 1/2 years and we absolutely love it. We have two cats, one American cat (Oreo) and one French cat (Rosie), both who are very spoiled.

I love a beautifully-set table with lots of colorful dishes, napkins and flowers, a glass of wine every night, baking and eating raw cookie dough, and binge-watching Netflix.

I blog at www.awarmhello.com and write about ways to add warmth to your own little corner of the world. On my blog you can find ways to add warmth to your home, your table, and across the internet.

You can follow Gigi at

Website: www.awarmhello.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/awarmhello

Twitter: www.twitter.com/awarmhello

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/awarmhello

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17 Comments

  • Reply Regina L. L. Wells March 2, 2016 at 09:36

    I love Gigi and A Warm Hello and love her story! I cannot wait to read the second part. I am so inspired. I’ve been bugging my husband to emigrate to Europe for a few years now (and I think he’ll agree in retirement). Thank you for sharing, Sue!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 2, 2016 at 11:57

      Hi Regina it is a great story isn’t it! I just couldn’t reduce the size so thought Part 1 & 2 made sense. My husband was born in Italy and I would love to retire there but it is so far from Australia our family would miss us I’m sure. So pleased you enjoyed the post.

  • Reply Monica Bruno March 3, 2016 at 23:48

    I love reading about how Gigi ended up in France. Everyone says they want to move to a small village in France, it’s so inspiring to see someone who actually did it! I want to visit her!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 4, 2016 at 08:13

      Hi Monica! I loved reading Gigi’s article as well and I can’t wait to share Part 2. It is wonderful to read about people who actually achieve their dream by making it a reality.

  • Reply Mary-the boondocks blog March 4, 2016 at 07:19

    A big warm welcome to Gigi from me in Greece. I also felt very unsure of myself when I first moved here but you get used to it after a while. There is nothing that can substitute the peace and quiet of a small village. Thank you Sue for sharing Gigi’s interview with us and I’m looking forward to part 2.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 4, 2016 at 08:14

      Hello Mary and thank you for stopping by. I’m looking forward to Part 2 also. I love reading about people achieving their dreams and it looks like you have too moving to Greece!

  • Reply Gigi March 4, 2016 at 15:20

    Thank you so much Sue for featuring my story! And thank you to everyone for their warm comments! 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 5, 2016 at 07:33

      Oh my pleasure Gigi – I love it and I can’t wait for Part 2 next week. Thank you again my friend. 🙂

  • Reply Leanne@crestingthehill March 5, 2016 at 18:09

    what an interesting person – I can certainly see why you’ve become friends and wanted to share her story. I can’t imagine what it would be like to move somewhere where I didn’t speak the language! I’m looking forward to Part 2 and I’m popping over to have a look at Gigi’s blog 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 6, 2016 at 10:54

      Oh Gigi is lovely Leanne! I’ve met some beautiful people (including you) through blogging so although I don’t have ‘fame’ I have formed beautiful friendships. I’m looking forward to Part 2 as well.

  • Reply Patrick Weseman March 10, 2016 at 13:01

    Very interesting. Something I am looking at doing in about 8 years.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 12, 2016 at 07:34

      Oh that sounds exciting Patrick! I’m sure there is a blog post in that. Thanks for stopping by to comment and have a great day!

  • Reply Life Loving March 14, 2016 at 01:16

    I adore France. It sounds like Gigi and her husband have a very lovely life. Myself and a friend went backpacking around France a few years back and stayed in some of the more rural towns. It was so beautiful and the food was amazing. The French cook amazing food. I can’t wait to read more.

    Sally @ Life Loving
    #LifeLovingLinkie

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 14, 2016 at 08:41

      I have visited France many years ago and living ‘Down Under’ it isn’t just a quick weekend trip! Gigi made me want to pack my bags after reading her story. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it.

  • Reply EXTRA EXTRA! Read All About It! - A Warm HelloA Warm Hello March 23, 2016 at 20:47

    […] has started a new series called “Time to Follow Your Dream“ and I was lucky enough to be the first person interviewed for the new […]

  • Reply Lee Gaitan October 14, 2016 at 09:46

    I just loved this! I dream about retiring and living at least part-time in Italy. My family is from the same general region as Gigi, most on the Italian side of the border and some on the French side!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 14:31

      I know wouldn’t it be fabulous Lee! My husband’s family come from Southern Italy and Italy is just one of my favourite places in the world. Keep working towards your dream. xx

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