Bridging the Gap

UPDATED ON JULY 13TH 2020

My name is Anneke. Together with my husband Peter, I live in the foothills of the Pyrenean mountain range in France, in a region called Occitania. We are working in tourism, helping to promote the Occitan culture and building up the local infrastructure, both for tourists as well as the people who live here.

As a tour guide, I am sharing as much as possible a history that must never be forgotten. However, tourism is not an easy job. It is hard work in the season and there is no work in the winter time. It is not easy for a small company to remain upright. Especially when there are additional difficulties. In 2020, Corona took away 90% of our normal annual income, and we will not make it through this year without a little help from our friends.

Here’s our story in a nutshell

In 2005 Peter and I still had a job in Holland that paid well; writing and publishing travel booklets for a big Dutch tour operator. Our company was celebrating its 10th business anniversary (1995-2005). We were able to work from home anywhere in the world; all we needed was 2 computers and the internet.

As we had already fallen in love with Occitania, its culture, nature, fresh air and wonderful health food back in 1998, we had decided to buy a bungalow in the Montagne Noire north of Carcassonne in the year 2000, with the plan to finally settle down in France when Peter would get his Dutch state pension in 2018.

However, while being there in the winters, we discovered that this house was situated a bit too high in the mountains for comfort, so we sold it, and in 2005 we bought our current house in Belvianes, in a warmer part of the Aude district. It was at the top of our budget and our mortgage loan was high, but we could afford it with the income we had at the time. In Holland we were only renting a house; we had no property there. So for a few brief months, all was well and we were happy.

However, this happiness didn’t last long.

In 2006 we received a letter from the tour operator that they no longer wanted the travel booklets, and we knew that this was disastrous news.  Of course we were in no position to sell the house in Occitania so soon again, within a year after it’s purchase (French law), so we were forced to choose the scariest option: emigrating to France and starting a new business there. So we did. However, this step would seriously reduce Peter's state pension, so we hoped to build up a French state pension to supplement the other, not knowing how ridiculously low it would be in the end.

In June 2007, Peter and I got married, and two weeks later we emigrated to France. Within 6 months we had not only moved to another country, but we also renovated the double garage into a holiday cottage, so we could generate some income. This renovation, however, took up all our savings, and in January 2008, we started the new year with absolutely no money in the bank, so we sold our car.

While building up a new life in France, we taught ourselves to create websites, so we could generate some income while helping others in this region build up their business marketing. I became the marketing manager and created our own websites. We even looked after dogs, whose owners were on holiday, just to be able to pay for the firewood for the Winter. I created a holiday website that actually generated some money in the first few years, and following the advice of a friend, I started doing guided tours for a fee, rather than for free.

In 2010 we had our very first group tour here in France, and finally we could do what we are good at, where I have a certificate for, and where Peter had 20 years of experience in: tour managing and tour guiding!

I also started writing my first novel, hoping it would be picked up and generate some income as well. Sadly I found out the hard way that competition can be inhumanly ruthless and the project became an indie project under attack.  

But I never gave up. 

From 2010 onward, we started building up Barinca Travel & Tourism year by year, promoting the Occitan culture worldwide, and finally, after 6 years of hard work and scary financial situations since 2006, we were financially stable in 2012.

Of course, that happy moment didn’t last long either. In 2013 we entered a horrible battle with an ex-client, and although we won the Court Case in Carcassonne in December 2015, we never got any money back. For a small company, the loss of a large sum of money is a financial disaster, one that eventually led to the company's (SARL's) bankruptcy in 2018. We immediately started a mini-enterprise under the same name, so we could continue our work in 2019.

Everyone knows that stress is a killer, and me being a sensitive person, it got to me especially. In 2014, I was diagnosed with chronic Pancreatitis. This time-out allowed me to write my second novel. Also, my cruel diet that was necessary to save my Pancreas brought me to my ideal weight, so this wasn't all bad. But the stress, physical weakness and lack of money had made me miss my father's 90th Birthday in May 2015, which was his last, and I will never get over this for as long as I live. On top of this, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in March 2016...

Obviously, all of this sucked the joy out of our lives. So, when my dear parents died (November 2015 and January 2016) and I had to have surgery, I completely fell apart. However, this didn't stop me from continuing my tours, and 2016 would become one of the best years, meeting wonderful people. All I had to do is keep up a brave face. Then, my beloved cat Babar got killed on the road in August 2016.

And just when you think you've got enough on your plate...

In December, 2019, I received the news that the cancer had returned - fortunately, this time it was non-aggressive, which puzzles the oncologists - but it did attack my lower back (metastasis). Unbeknown to me, I had been walking around with a broken back for a year. In February 2020, I had back surgery, so I am now slowly recovering from it all, and able to do one-mile strolls every morning. Boswellia carterii Frankincense raisin oil (powerful cancer virus killer) and many more expensive supplements keep me strong, but obviously, homeopathy is not covered by our medical insurance...

Unfortunately, now with the Corona crisis on top of everything, not even Peter gets enough work to help us through this year, let alone into the next. All the planned group tours have been cancelled, incl. all day excursions, all the booked transports, and our holiday cottage stays empty. As we don't have employees,  we do not get any state support. Also, my family has already supported us to their max.

By late September, we will run out of grocery money, and we can only hope to be able to cover our bills till Christmas. 

This is a plead to help us get through this Winter - every little bit helps - and/or promote our work through your social media as much as you can/wish to. We have a holiday cottage for two people, and we are free in September and October to do guided tours on demand, or shuttle service (mini bus) from airports and accommodations in Occitania, France. And then, there are of course my books, a trilogy, which I finished this Spring, in spite of everything...

Any help is so much appreciated! Thank you so very much in advance! ♥

Peter & Anneke***

Donations

  • Margaret McArthur 
    • €45 
    • 1 mo
  • Anonymous 
    • €50 
    • 1 mo
  • Anonymous 
    • €125 
    • 1 mo
  • Anonymous 
    • €100 
    • 1 mo
  • Judy Merritt 
    • €100 
    • 1 mo
See all

Organizer

Anneke Koremans 
Organizer
Quillan (Brenac), France
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