At some point or another, many of us have imagined a life lived in two places; six months in a metropolitan city, plugged into a smart device and cramming onto a train platform, followed by six months of refuge in the country, welding with nature and the simple things. For most of us, it remains just that – a dream – but for Vicki Archer, she’s made it a reality. Vicki is an Australian-born author and blogger who lives between Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in southern France and London. When holidaying in France over 15 years ago, Vicki and her husband bought an old fruit farm on a whim. They moved their family to Europe, started a gorgeous restoration of the property and the rest is history. Her two books, My French Life and French Essence, celebrate her life, her style and her love for France. Her popular blog, Vickiarcher.com, is a collection of all things French, fashion, interiors and beauty. Vicki’s stories, the chances and the risks she has embraced, are particularly apt to the thinking behind “adrift” – I hope you find the interview as inspiring as I did.
How did you first come to live in France?
We had travelled over several years to France, fallen in love with the country and decided when the time was right we would look for a home to use during the holidays. There was never a plan to leave Australia and move our family to the other side of the world.
We found an abandoned fruit farm outside of the small town of Saint Rémy de Provence in 1999 and within the space of a week had bought it, engaged an architect to renovate the farmhouse and made the decision to plant olive groves. Within months after our return to Sydney we had decided to move to Europe and live between London and St Rémy de Provence.
We fell in love with the property at first sight and somehow all the practical considerations disappeared in our exuberance for the project. I reflect now and can see that not only was it ambitious but also completely out of character.
I don’t regret the decision for one moment.
You live a split life between where you grew up, where is feasible for your family and where your heart is – how do you manage having your heart in three places?
Living a split life is very difficult at times but also very exciting. I am comfortable in Sydney, London and Saint Rémy de Provence and consider them all home in different ways. After living away for so many years I would probably say Europe is home.
The wonderful part of a split life is that the experiences and the friendships grow; it does not mean giving up one to have another. Each “life” can compliment the other and as Australians are great travellers I don’t feel I miss out. I am fortunate to return to Sydney frequently to visit friends and family and our friends are often in London and southern France.
Home really is where the heart is and more importantly where the family is.
Moving to a new country opens up a surplus of opportunity, but with this also comes certain risks. Did fate come into play for you when approaching this decision to move overseas?
I do believe in the power of timing and fate and I also feel that taking risks and facing challenges is very therapeutic. Fate, chance, serendipity or whatever you wish to call it was how we found our home and consequently that lead to a new life in France.
Your blog covers fashion, beauty, architecture and interiors – how do you stay constantly inspired?
Inspiration is a concept that is interlocked with “engagement”. If you are engaged with life it is impossible not to be inspired.
Travelling is one of the best ways to be engaged, to learn and to be inspired. A new destination is an infusion of life and excitement that cannot help but permeate our thoughts.
Fashion was my first true love and the subject I enjoy writing about the most. I find the shows and the designers are an excellent way to keep up but I also love to observe and study people.
Women are my inspiration for vickiarcher.com. My aim is to create an environment for women to chat about lifestyle subjects that interest them, to learn about fashion and how to interpret it as we navigate our middle years and to provide a focus on beauty in a practical and achievable way.
Inspiration is around us every day in big and small ways; the trick is to be open and receptive to influences and to our surroundings.
Was blogging a natural transition from book writing? Or did it take some convincing that this was a step in the right direction?
I am not a great planner, I tend to let life take its own course because I believe ultimately it will steer me on the right path.
My publishers suggested I start a blog to promote the books and I thought, why not? It was early days in the self-publishing world and I didn’t know much about it. I started my blog and the rest is history. The blog has morphed and changed over the years and the site is very different to the original launched 7 years ago but the philosophy behind it is much the same.
Whether my readers are interested in fashion, in beauty, in travel or share a love of France my aim every day is to connect with them. It may be a “cyber space” friendship in the most part but for me the readers are great friends and I consider them family. I am so fortunate to have some of the loveliest and most loyal readers.
Throughout your time as a successful blogger, what are some of the challenges you have faced?
The greatest challenge is staying on top of the content. Finding ways to keep an audience interested is tough at times. I really enjoy the process of writing and am rarely at a loss for words but there are days when the ideas come slowly. Conversely there are those days when I could chat forever.
Our interests morph and change over time and a website is no different. I don’t want to talk about the same things I did last year or the year before so one very big challenge is keeping everybody happy all the time. The answer is I try my best, I write from the heart and about what I truthfully believe in, whether it is fashion, beauty or lifestyle subjects.
What’s next for vickiarcher.com? Any plans for another book on the horizon?
Yes, I do have a small seed of an idea I would like to explore. I am ready now to start tapping away on some thoughts but finding the time for the blog and a book will require some precision planning.
The blog is so much a part of life now I couldn’t imagine a day without it. The key to being able to do both is to expand the content on vickiarcher.com with new contributors without losing the personal nature.
I am still figuring it all out…
In your book you spoke about raw instinct and unusual circumstances taking the place of the well-thought-out and the certain, and a new existence forming as a result – this idea of living a life not necessarily planned is something our adrift ladies have in common. Can you speak to how your chance encounter with St Remy changed you, having never imagined before that you would lead a French life, become an olive farmer, a writer and a blogger?
I could never have predicted my life’s path and would not have believed anyone if they had told me I would live in Europe, call France home for part of the year and re-invent myself as an author/writer. I would have laughed and said, ‘not possible’. Yet, one decision to buy an abandoned farmhouse set in play a chain of decisions and events that have lead me to where I am today.
I have no idea where my next decade will take me but I do believe in saying “yes” to adventure.