At first I was numb. Then struck with disbelief. We made it. Holy shit, we're in France.
It seems like a wonderful problem to have, arriving at the home of a lovely English couple who have asked us to come help them out for a couple weeks. They have a small bed and breakfast they run from their 18th century manor house just south of Normandy on a couple hectacres of land and are building another home to rent as a gite. There's a lot to be done before season picks up, and they can use another couple hands.
We've met Garry and Nicola, and a small collection of other families that will host us over the next few months, through a program called Workaway. Through this central organization, people around the world can sign up to become hosts and helpers, and contribute to the growth of the sharing economy. A host creates a listing detailing work they need help with - anything ranging from farming to building to childcare to language practice - and what accommodations they have to offer in exchange. Workaways browse this listings based on type of work, timeline and location, and apply to volunteer with the host in exchange for room and, most of the time, board.
It's truly an incredible system, and will give us the opportunity to extend our travels far beyond our capacity to buy. More importantly, it opens doors that may otherwise not be open to us, providing a chance for us to travel slowly, get to know a locale more intimately, live a local lifestyle and try our hands at a world of jobs that surely weren't sliding across the desks of a corporate marketer or a fast-running restaurant manager.
I woke up Wednesday morning with a stomach full of knots to face just one of those opportunities - I was going to milk a goat. It was a challenge I wanted for so long - my first attempt at a life that might be on our horizon, and a way of living that I'd hyper-romanticized. I'd been overblowing this day for a month, anxious that I would - or wouldn't - find myself somehow in this self-inflicted experiment.
Those who know me know I am very hard on myself. I despise being told I can't do something. I can't stand the word no. I completely embrace that I can do anything I put my mind, and heart and soul to, but for the life of me, I could not get that damn goat to give me milk.
In those moments after my first attempt, this thing I'd been joking about for over a year - this thing I'd built into some glorified dream - this thing that had become a real live adventure - seemed to quickly and quietly evaporate into the fog hanging over their fields. I was crushed. I wanted to head to the airport as quickly as possible and get on the next flight as far away from this part of the world as I could. I felt like we should give up and go home, that all we would ever hope to be was exactly what we were before we left, and that this journey I had begged Billy to embark on with me were just some childish escape from reality. I felt like a failure.
Today is Tuesday, and I have successfully milked Dottie four times on one side and once on both. The stream gets stronger every day, and she pulls away far less. I am still anxious every time, and am still frustrated that I don't have the full swing of it yet. Nicola promises that if I can milk Dottie, I will be able to milk just about anything. I don't entirely believe her, but I also don't entirely not.