WHEN A PLAN B BECOMES A BLESSED PLAN A
My life was good... and then fate turned it upside down - and I'm happy with the result.
I want to share this story because it may bring a cheer to your heart, and inspire your courage.
In my fifties, I had the life I wanted: I earned a living in my dream career as a writerI was living in Britain near the sea, renting a pleasant ground-floor flat (American English: 'apartment') with a garden ('yard'), had a sweet cat companion and a circle of like-minded creative friends. I planned to live there for the rest of my life.
Then politics happened. Britain decided to leave the European Union. Without going into the pros and cons of the so-called 'Brexit' (I don't want this post to lead to political discussions!), for me as a German, it was a potential disaster.
As a European Union national, I have the right of residence with full legal rights in any country of the European Union. I had chosen Britain, and lived there for almost three decades. But suddenly, everything I'd built up threatened to tumble down. Government officials contradicted themselves about if and on what terms European Union nationals would be allowed to remain. I really don't want to go into details.... let's just say it was a period of terrible uncertainty.
I thought, "I don't want to lose my home and everything I've built up! I want to stay here. But what if I have to leave? What if the worst comes to the worst, and the government decides to expel people like me. What if I have to leave at short notice, with nowhere to go?"
I wanted to have a Plan B, just in case. So I researched my options. I discovered that Bulgaria - a European Union country about which I knew almost nothing - could be exactly right for me. I travelled there for a holiday ('vacation') to see what it was like. At this stage, I still thought of it as merely a Plan B that I hoped not to need.
From the first day of my visit, I realised that Bulgaria was perfect for me. The country offered me all I needed, and more. Since Bulgaria has excellent Internet, I could continue my life as a freelance writer - and since the cost of living is much lower, the international income (modest by British or German standards, but high compared with Bulgarian wages) would stretch much further. Gorgeous landscapes with mountains, pine covered slopes, plains, fields of cheerful yellow sunflowers, apple orchards, archaeological treasures from the ancient Thracian and Roman periods, picturesque townshouses with brightly painted facades in the National Revival style, a cornflower-blue sky with bright sun... I loved it
Within a few days, my Plan B had become my Plan A.
Back in wet grey Britain, I didn't even await the outcome of latest political Brexit-squabbles. I learnt Bulgarian and started packing.
I've lived in Bulgaria for two years now, and I feel - in my head as well as in my heart - that this was the right decision.
After the dismal damp weather of Britain, the Bulgarian sunshine and bright blue skies boost my health and brighten my mood.
I used to dream of owning my own property: a single-story village house with a garden where I could practice permaculture, create a flower paradise, be self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables, and pick fresh fruit directly from the trees of my own orchard.
In Britain, this dream was unrealistic. With my relatively low income as a writer, property ownership iwas out of the question, let alone a nice house with an orchard. I labelled that dream 'unrealistic fantasy' and shelved it.
To my delight, I discovered houses in Bulgaria - especially in villages - are inexpensive. Now I'm the happy owner of a single-storey house, complete with 2000 square meters (circa 2400 square yards) of fertile land. Plum, quince and fig trees offer their succulent bounty, and I'm creating the permaculture orchard of my dreams. I'm planting apples, pears, cherries, sour cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, passionfruit, pomegranates, walnuts, almonds, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries and other fruit that grow here in abundance, and shaping a paradise of fragrant flowers around my new home.
Under Britain's perpetual grey drizzling skies, I used to crave sunshine. Here in Bulgaria, I have enough sun as I like, with cornflower-blue skies all year round. Even in winter, when the temperatures drop to below freezing, the dry air, picture-postcard snow and cheery sun are a joy.
My cat Sulu - proud holder of a European pet passport - loves the vast spaces where he can roam in safety, climb up walnut trees and nap in the shade of juniper bushes. Here in Bulgaria, it's safe for cats to be outdoors, and Sulu often comes for walks with me. When I write, he lies on the table and watches me work.
He has been joined by two feline companions - stray cats who followed me home and simply took up residence. When I moved into my new home, a friendly stray dog stood at the front door to welcome me. He, too, has become part of the family.
I feel blessed.
Although this opportunity had existed for me for almost thirty years (basically from the day Bulgaria joined the European Union), I had not been aware of it. I vaguely knew that Bulgaria was one of the former Eastern Block countries in Eastern Europe, but it had never occurred to me to look in that direction, let alone to emigrate there.
I didn't leave Britain because I had to. I could have stayed, at least until the politicians had resolved their squabbles. I moved to Bulgaria because I chose to.
The dreadful uncertainty about Brexit did me a favour: it opened my eyes to options I had not previously considered.
The threat of loss (of my home in Britain) gave me the freedom to explore new possibilities.
One door closed, and another opened to something better. Or, more specifically: One door threatened to close, and I opened my eyes and saw for the first time that there was an open door leading to what I'd dreamed about all my life.
I hope that if you find a door closing on something you don't want to give up, you'll remember my experience, and look around to find the open door leading you to where you're meant to be.
Here are three lessons in a nutshell:
1. If something important is at risk because of circumstances outside your control, prepare a Plan B. You may never need it, but it's good to have it, just in case. Do this sooner rather than later, so you have time to research and choose what's best for you.
2. If one door closes, another will open. Often, doors close because a higher power (God, Goddess, the Creative Force of the Universe, Fate, whatever you call it) is about to open (or has already opened!) a door to something better. View the closing door as a signal that a new period of your life i starting, and as a sign that you're meant to look in a new direction.
3. We can't choose what life is doing to us. But we can choose how and when you respond to it.
Have you had a similar experience? If yes, post a comment to share it with us.