When I first met Mackenzie and Brock Nordal I was extremely impressed. Here was a young, dynamic couple with 3 very young children who had followed their dreams to many different countries. They had very successful businesses and jobs in both Canada and the UK and they could easily have settled but no, they decided to live in the place that they had discovered years before and follow their dream. They also recognised that they needed expert help to navigate the rough waters of the French administration system and I am thrilled to have them as part of the serenity club and see them enjoying their dream life in France. Of course like any dream, it wasn’t all plain sailing but as a writer and communication consultant, I will let Mackenzie tell their story ……. she does it so very well.
They say Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, right? So showing up in Antibes – a place we had visited a handful of times – in January 2018 with our three children under 6, having sold our 4 bedroom house in the UK, and with no fixed plan except a 2 month Airbnb booking, that must really be living! Either that, or it was phenomenally gutsy but stupid.
Eighteen months on from then, we stand by (take pride in, even?) that decision. With all of us holding Canadian/British passports, we were not finding the balance we were searching for as a young family in either of our homelands. After copious research and a lot of post-bedtime chat, we sold 90% of our belongings, and left Britain in our 4×4 with a roofbox full of scooters and kids’ books (which, incidentally, entirely destroyed our suspension and led us down a very interesting experience of car maintenance in France over those first months…)
Having moved internationally before, we understood that we were in for a long haul. Moving internationally means doing all the paperwork one does in their home country over the course of their early adult-hood but all in one go. Plus the whole residency/immigration stuff, for good measure. And if French is not your native language, well, there’s the added fun. It was in the first months of asking questions that we kept hearing the phrase “C’est compliqué”. It’s become a running joke ever since in our family that while something seems really rather simple on the outside, somehow it always seems to become compliqué…
It wasn’t more than a month after arrival, the month having been filled with difficult interactions at the education office or guichet unique, car maintenance bills and the initial stages of buying an apartment, that we called Tracy. Upon asking around about who could help us with some of the next steps in our immigration journey, it was Tracy’s name that came up time and again, and for good reason! We are the kinds of people who usually take everything into our own hands, but in the midst of the bureaucracy and mayhem of an international move with kids, anything – anyone – who can even slightly alleviate the pressure is a godsend. Tracy was much more than that. She turned a mass of research and questions into a structured process we would work through together, and the Serenity Club means we always have a partner in our workload, an answer to our question, help when we get stuck. It’s been an enormous comfort and peace of mind to know that there is always someone to turn to when you get a bit lost.
In terms of work, Tracy helped each of us to set up as micro-entrepreneurs, which isn’t always a straight-forward process. For my part, I am a trained writer and Communications Consultant: I used to put together and implement Communications Strategies in London for the financial services industry. Around my kids’ busy school, social and sporting lives, I hope to do the bit of my job that I liked the most: helping great businesses thrive by ensuring their clients and target clients understand and hear about their services.
Professionally, Brock is trained to manage construction processes and is a wood specialist, but really he is a professional problem solver when it comes to property. Before coming to France we managed properties together; buying, renovating top to bottom, selling, or managing as short or long term lettings. After an arduous (rather compliqué) procedure of setting up as a micro-entrepreneur menuisier here in France (he was seduced by the idea of recovering from our noisy kids by putting headphones in and building quality handmade furniture. His idea of relaxing I suppose…), he has been inundated with work, and his key problem is now really scheduling. He has found his tribe in expats and Frenchman alike, a social group helpfully aided by the availability of an ice hockey team in Nice.
Brock and I agree often that we revel in the lack of questioning we feel here: while “Life in France” can be difficult from day-to-day in many ways (made infinitely more do-able by Tracy), we never question whether we made the right decision or not. We and the kids are healthier in body and in mind, we feel challenged and excited by life here, yet oddly calm in the knowledge that we’re in the right place for our family now. The best views, I suppose, come after the hardest climb.