One year ago, my boyfriend and I made quite a big life decision. We said farewell to our beloved – albeit sometimes tiring – Brussels, packed all our belongings into a truck and moved to the French Alps. It’s something we had been thinking about for a while and even though initially no one thought we were actually going to take the leap, we really did. Of course, such a decision shouldn’t be taken lightly and even though we haven’t regretted our decision for a moment, there are some things I wish I had known before moving to the mountains. And before you ask: of course we did our research, yet it turns out not everything can be found on the internet. Until now (joking, of course). If, somehow, you’re thinking of doing the same as us, these are 5 tips which might come in handy.
1. Diesel can freeze
Let me paint you a little picture first. In Brussels, we lived close to the South station and basically had no use for a car. The train, metro, tram, bike and car sharing were more than sufficient to fulfill our daily transportation needs. Once we decided to move to the Alps, however, we were also faced with another issue. Public transportation in the mountains is quite tricky or even simply inexistent, so we would need a car. I looked online for cues on what to buy and what not, yet there’s one thing I never realized: diesel freezes. A lesson we learned the hard way, being stuck in the snow, waiting for the roadside assistance to show up. So, if in doubt, don’t go for a diesel vehicle or – if you have no other choice – make sure the fuel has been treated against the cold.
2. Everything is more expensive
When you’re living in a city, life can be quite cheap. Of course, your rent will be on the more expensive side of things compared to when you live in the countryside but when it comes to groceries, eating out or buying new gear, there are a lot of good deals out there. In the mountains, however, things are different. Firstly, finding what you need can be tricky in itself and often you’ll have to order it online if you’re looking for something in particular. Secondly, everyday things such as groceries tend to cost more as the transportation of those goods to a more ‘remote’ area comes at a price. Thirdly, with less competition nearby, shops are less reluctant to ask a lot of money for what they’re selling.
3. Your car wears quickly
Yes, another car related subject yet again, something to keep in mind. As you’re driving on sinuous roads which aren’t exactly flat, all your car parts are likely to wear out faster than let’s say in the city. You do use your brakes a lot and your tires aren’t spared either, with all those bends in poorly-kept roads. A tip: don’t go for an automatic car: it means you can’t use your engine break, meaning your actual breaks get used even more.
4. The air is dry – very dry
This is definitely something most of us won’t consider beforehand yet it’s good to be prepared. Where, when living in Belgium, chances are you’re faced with an overly damp room or something like that at least once in your life, the air in the mountains gets very dry. With all the wind and rather cold temperatures, it’s easy to dry out during the day and to get stuck with a very annoying headache later on. Your lips start to crackle as well as your hands, your plants are having a hard time and the atmosphere just doesn’t feel right. An air moisturizer is therefore something you’ll definitely want to take with you and don’t be afraid to step up your water intake. It takes a bit of time to get used to these different circumstances, yet now, at least, you’ve been warned.
5. The view is worth a lot
Of course, all this negativity should be balanced out with something positive and believe me, those positives definitely weigh out the negatives. Waking up with a view worthy of a painting is something you can’t minimize and it instantly gives your day a boost. The fact that once you set foot outside, you’re really outside, surrounded by nature, does wonders to your mental health. And let’s not forget you’re living in a place most people only get to see while on vacation – by the way, there’s nothing like going skiing when no one else has time off work and you’re more or less alone with the mountains.
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