Coloma Gold’s Story

by Isabelle Loynes on December 14, 2009

movingtofranceIMAGE200Coloma Gold, is from America, he and his wife are hoping to move to France and are in the last stages of planning their move…..

Coloma and his wife are almost there. They’ve made the big decision, negotiated the plans and are well on their way to becoming American Expat’s in  France. With just a few details left to finalise the couple may be in France, living the dream, in the New Year. And that’s why, if you are planning a move too, it’s so important for you to read about them….

Sometimes, those wanting to emigrate may read other peoples success stories and find them slightly intimidating. Moving to a new country and organising everything that goes with it, is such an achievement that it can leave onlookers feeling like they just couldn’t do it themselves. However, from looking at how Coloma and his wife are getting closer to their dream, it’s clear that becoming an Expat can very easily become a reality.

Unlike a lot of people and many of those featured in other Expat interviews, it wasn’t really dissatisfaction with their own country that led Coloma and his wife to consider moving. They are a different type of traveller altogether and instead have simply fallen in love with the culture and beauty of France. The road to realising that their dream home was in Europe, started very early on. ‘We first started to take language at the local junior college,’ Coloma explains. ‘The instructor was Swiss and so spoke French, he was really energetic and wanted to teach us all about French culture’. It may be that this Swiss instructor planted the seed but ever since those original lessons an interest in Europe grew within Coloma and his wife. ‘My wife and I started watching travel shows like Rick Steves “Europe through the back door”’ he explains. Like many it was this exposure to another culture and the idea that they too could enjoy it, which really made them start to think about moving. ‘Seeing other people on the television do it we started to wonder if we could ever travel to Europe, specifically France, ourselves,’ he admits. It’s certainly not a rare situation, I bet most people reading this have watched a holiday program and thought, ‘I’d love to be on a beach right now’. However, many people dismiss these thoughts as fleeting daydreams, so what was it that made Coloma and his wife consider them as real-life goals? After spending years looking adoringly at pictures and programs about France, it was a knee-jerk decision that actually got the ball rolling. ‘We are somewhat spontaneous,’ Coloma admits, ‘and so one day, when my wife was at home looking through the internet at websites about France, I simply said, “well, you know where you want to go and you have a credit card, so stop dreaming and simply book a ticket with the airlines”’. It was just the push they needed and so Coloma’s wife booked some flights for them. However, as so often happens, things completely out of their control, got in the way of their plans. ‘We were all set, the flights were booked and we were leaving on the 12th of September 2002,’ Coloma explains. All was well, they bought guidebooks, brushed up on their French even stocked up on some new clothes but after the shocking events of 9/11 their flights were cancelled.

Understandably shaken by the experience it wasn’t actually till May 2002 that they would actually end up getting to Europe. For Coloma and his wife, it would be a life changing experience. For, the couple certainly aren’t your stereotype of well travelled, globe trotters, as Coloma himself explains: ‘My wife really love travelling but during our 34 years of marriage, we had only travelled within the USA!’ he admits. Living in a huge country that offered skiing, sunbathing and every climate under the sun, they had never before seen the need to travel outside of their own country. But when they started to grow an interest in France, they realised it was time to broaden their horizons. Coloma’s wife was so dedicated to this idea that she actually began taking French lessons. Certainly catching up for what she had missed out on in life, she embraced the culture full on and twisted Coloma’s arm, so he’d do the same. ‘After much resistance and a whole year of her asking me, I finally agreed to join her for the lessons’ he explains, showing how easy it is to pick up a new language. But even then, despite their love for the country, the idea of moving was a million miles away. Due to their lack of travel, Coloma admittedly had some quite strong views. So, it was with some trepidation that they booked their first holiday to France. ‘I had a very American, stereotypical view of ‘the French’ but none-the-less agreed to give it a go’ he explains.

Due to 9/11 the couple had to completely rearrange their stay and it wasn’t until a year later, in May 2002 that they finally got to France! ‘We went to Paris and Bavaria and just fell in love with it,’ Coloma remembers. In fact, they fell so in love with the place that at the next possible opportunity they jumped on a plane and made the trans-Atlantic flight for a second time. ‘That same year, in November 2002, we had about 10 days of vacation left to take so decided to go back to France,’ he explains. ‘But this time, rather then go to the same places we visited Southern France, going to Arles, Avignon and Aix’. Being in the fantastic position of having already learnt French, the couple were able to practice their new language on the locals, which went down fantastically with the people in the area. ‘The people were so friendly,’ Coloma recalls, ‘in a weird way the area really reminded me of the area we live in Sacramento Valley, California’. Once they realised just how much they loved France and took into account the fact they could speak the lingo, the country didn’t seem so alien to them. Especially since  the landscape wasn’t hugely different from what they were used to, emigrating suddenly started to become a realistic idea. ‘One day, on the trip, we were having such a lovely time that I turned to my wife and said, “one day, I am going to live here”’ Coloma remembers. After a few years, the idea really started to have some basis in reality.

And it certainly helped that Coloma was in the perfect stage of his life to do it. ‘Since I was approaching retirement and my son was no longer in California, there wasn’t really anything keeping us here anymore,’ Coloma says. Also, like many Expats, Coloma felt he had started to outgrow his hometown, ‘we both felt California was becoming to populated,’ he admits. ‘So we decided to seriously consider the South of France as a place to retire’. Having a few years left until he could actually call it quits Coloma and his wife used their time wisely. ‘During the years we have continued, intermittently, with our French studies. We also continued to travel to Ireland, Germany, Austria, France and Italy during the years to experience more of Europe and the areas close to France,’ says Coloma. It was a wise thing to do, giving themselves and opportunity to see if there was anywhere they liked more. However, for this couple, France had stolen their hearts and was holding on to them. ‘People often want us to explain why we want to move to France,’ Coloma explains, ‘I believe it’s because of the people. They seem to respond well to outsiders who are willing to learn about the French culture and to refrain from trying to make the French people different,’ he adds. It seems despite not having moved yet, Coloma, already has some advice for those wanting to fit into a new country. ‘I want to move to France to be with the people and understand their culture and to see the sites. I am not coming to France to transform the French into Americans,’ he says.

So, having made their decision final, they started to read up on things they would need to do to move. ‘Our move is probably simpler than most because we intend to move minimal personal items but we are taking our large dog,’ Coloma admits. ‘We looked on the Internet and have found a temporary place to rent whilst we get settled and we’ve now placed a down payment on it’ he says. ‘We obtained an international chip for our dog and we have all of his shots up to date’. The couple have really started to make progress with their plan to move. ‘We applied for our visa and it was approved in only a few days,’ Coloma explains. However, due to being in retirement the couple are in a unique position. ‘What made it easier for us is that I am retiring and therefore will not need to enter the job market, which makes my Visa simpler’.

But as those who have already become Expat’s know, the huge task of moving contains many minor details and so despite having made progress there are still plenty of things left for Coloma and his wife to do. ‘One of the issues remaining is how to insure that we will not have problems in obtaining refills on medications,’ he admits. ‘We still need to contract with the moving company, get new driver’s licenses, get new insurance, etc., but this will all come about in the next few months’ he says. The major milestone left to sort out, is a common stressful area for many prospective immigrants, their home. ‘Currently, we are waiting until our house is sold, once that’s happened I can retire and we can move’. But being such an organised couple it’s pretty clear they’ll iron out any of the smaller details. And rather than worry about the to do list, they are just looking forward to the move. ‘We are moving to the area near Uzes because the weather is nearly identical to the Sacramento Valley in California where we live, so we will be used to it,’ Coloma says. And it’s not just the climate that they’ve checked out, this couple have really done their research. ‘There’s lots of open areas to jog with my dog, which is really important,’ he adds.

Having been so meticulous and organised in their plans, their must be a secret to how Coloma and his wife have approached moving. ‘I believe things have been going along rather smoothly thus far because my wife has been keeping a folder of information regarding what is needed and what has been accomplished,’ he says, giving full credit to his wife. ‘Another important thing is to plan sufficiently ahead of time so that there is little anxiety about getting things done,’ Coloma advises. There is definitely one or two things, those looking to move, could learn from Coloma and his wife and although their journey isn’t quite finished, it’s clear they’ll be setting up home in France some time soon. Their story just goes to prove how achievable emigrating is. Coloma and his wife had no experience of travel yet learnt another language and took a chance on a dream they both had.

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