Moving abroad is probably the biggest financial and emotional risk you will ever take.

Get it right and your days should be filled with fine weather, good food and great company. But get it wrong and your dreams of a better life could turn into a living nightmare. You could lose everything you’ve worked so hard for, and return to your home country broke – and heartbroken.

What could possibly go wrong?

You could be mis-sold a property by an unscrupulous estate agent who’s trying to make money for a friend, and enlists the help of a complicit lawyer to seal the deal. You could be promised every help by the local mayor, who waits for you to move lock, stock and barrel before telling you: “No”. You could be ripped off by almost everyone you meet, even your fellow countrymen and women, who are only too happy to take money from a hapless new arrival.

In short, if something can go wrong, it might do just that.

How can you protect yourself?

Books, magazines and TV shows on moving to a new life in the sun can give you a false impression of the dangers that lie ahead. But there are a number of practical, low-cost precautions you can take to help save yourself from ruin.

You can explore online forums like angloinfo and talk to people who have already made the move. You can search for blogs by those who have gone ahead of you. And you can read books like “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” by Alex Crowe.

A cautionary tale of dreams and reality

This new ebook tells the real-life story of Alex, his partner Clare, and their two young children, as they said goodbye to suburban life and hello to rural France.

They left Brighton in August 2007 in search of a better, more sustainable life. Planning ahead, they took a business idea with them (for an eco-luxury yurt camp) that would provide money for themselves, plus tax revenue for the local commune – and had the full support of the local mayor. Or so they thought.

Within months, Alex recalls sitting in a meeting with that mayor:

He told me he did not support the project. He told me our land was non-constructible – always was and always would be… That nobody wants yurts or compost toilets… And that my French was terrible…

Seven minutes away by car, I pictured my partner and our two small children playing happily in the lounge of our rented house, blissfully ignorant of the fact that our Big Green Idea had just come to a shattering end. Christmas was less than a month away. How could we possibly enjoy that? The last few moments in that office remain the most desolate I have had in France.

It’s not all bad news

Despite the callous treatment by unfeeling French bureaucrats, the book also describes the many positive changes the family made. Alex and Clare’s relationship went from strength to strength, their daughter thrived in her new school, learning French in a matter of months, and they developed an impressive number of new skills as they turned a neglected field into a productive smallholding.

Priceless experience – for just €1

Although this 55-page pdf doesn’t go into detail about the exact forms you must complete and government offices you need to visit (leaving that job to Alex’s blog), it does give an overview that anyone moving to France will find invaluable. And serves as a useful guide for people moving to other countries, especially those with young children.

At €1 – less than the price of ‘un petit café’ – it’s an investment that is guaranteed to pay dividends.

The story doesn’t end here

“The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” is the first of three planned ebooks under the title: “écovallée behind the seams”. The second installment, “Descent into hell” will only be written when 1,000 copies of Part One have been sold.

It’s an experiment in crowd-sourcing finance you can become a part of in just a few clicks.

Buy your copy right now

To buy your copy of the ebook, just click on the sock monkey in the écovallée facebook shop here. Pay with paypal and your pdf will arrive within moments – despatched from a yurt in the middle of the French countryside.

If you like what you read (and Alex sincerely hopes you do), persuade your friends and family to buy the book, and you could help write a happy ending to what has been a very challenging story.

Fortune favours the brave, they say. It favours those even more who are forewarned – and forearmed – by this €1 ebook.

When you spend €1 on “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance”, you’re not saying goodbye to your hard-earned (or easily inherited, or simply found on the street) cash forever. Because you’ll get it back the moment you book a holiday at the écovallée family yurt camp.

Every cent.

You won’t even need to book a whole week – a long weekend or midweek break qualifies for this 100% refund – and that’s 100% guaranteed.

All you need to do is click on the sock monkey in the écovallée facebook shop, pay with paypal and, within moments, the book’s yours. Not such a gamble now, is it?

Terms & Conditions

There are no Terms & Conditions. I hate Terms & Conditions. The only joy I ever had with Terms & Conditions was re-writing them whenever a lawyer tried to re-write the copy on one of my ads. Tsk. Terms & Conditions.


*Turning the headline efficiency up a notch or two this week for reasons that may become clear. There’ll be a few more executions (adspeak for ads) over the next few days, then Impressive and Dramatic Conclusions.

Craig McGinty from “This French Life” emailed the other day and asked if he could interview me about the book for his site.

If I’d said no, I couldn’t have posted this link and the world would have missed an opportunity to hear me with a cold.

You may be interested to know I’m keeping track of the results of this no-budget marketing push and promise to draw Impressive and Dramatic Conclusions some time next week.

A note before I begin: The following posts will be focused on trying to sell more copies of my book.

I don’t know how I’m going to do this yet. So to help, I thought it’d write myself a “Brief” (this is a hangover from the 18 years I spent working as a copywriter). You can’t do anything without a brief. Professionally, they’re often written by fiercely intelligent people with degrees in marketing who can earn vast amounts of money and drive company sports cars. They’d be horrified to learn that, as soon as the “creative team” (typically a copywriter and an art director, although this was changing as I left the business in 2007) have read the brief, it is cast aside and sometimes never referred to again. (Except for the “Proposition”, which is explored well beyond the bounds of plausibility.)

This is probably not a very good brief, but it will suffice. If you’re going to do your own marketing, just copy the headings and spend some time writing the necessary information underneath. “Suits” (the client-facing people who write briefs in agencies) – please feel free to criticise this brief in the comments section. Or tell people what is missing.

C R E A T I V E     B R I E F


People thinking about moving to France. Adults 18-60 & young families.


écovallée behind the seams Part One: “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance”, a 50pp pdf describing one young family’s journey from suburban Brighton to rural France.


Alex, Clare & their two young children left England to live in France and create a sustainable life, with a dream of building a smallholding for food, and running an eco-luxury family yurt camp for money. Part One tells the story from before they had the Big Green Idea, through the move to France and what happened during the first year of being there. It is a cautionary tale of hopes and dreams dashed against the wall of unfeeling French bureaucracy. In short, they were lied to, ripped off & left penniless in months. The only reason they survived was thanks to the help of the English community – the people Alex came to call “mafia”.




Dreaming of a new life in France? See what a nightmare it can be.


Part One contains real experiences of buying property and trying to start a new business in France. It also covers practical aspects, like registering a non-French car and joining the social security system. But France doesn’t operate in the same way as, say, England. Assumed rules of fairness, honesty and decency do not apply. Instead, even people you’d expect to trust can end up plunging a knife in your back, with a small smile on their face. Essential reading for anyone considering making the move – to France or to the self-sufficient lifestyle. A bargain at €1.






Link to the écovallée facebook shop.


I forgot to include the section “Mandatories”. (Oh the irony.) This is where logos etc. are listed. Much of it seems like common sense, but it’s essential to have on the brief. (Hence the name.) Real life example: In 1992, when I was working in Leicester, an artworker was bollocked by a suit for not including an address on a press ad for a housebuilder client. He picked up the “copy sheet” and threw it at the suit, saying: “It’s not on the f*cking copy sheet”. Needful to say, every copy sheet for the rest of my career included every image, logo and piece of punctuation that was intended for the ad.

Then, if someone tried to give me a hard time for something that was missing on an ad, I could say: “Well, it’s on the copy sheet.”

A couple of weeks ago, I published the first part of “écovallée behind the seams” – my book about our life since having the Big Green Idea.

It’s quite a good book, even though I write so myself. Funny, interesting, surprising, educational – all the stuff you should expect from a book – and at €1 for 13,267 words, impressively cheap. I thought this was a reasonable price to ask, being somewhere between the €0 I’d already earnt from the book and the over €200,000 it cost me to write (a figure arrived at using applied Man Maths).

I launched Part One of the book, called “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” using this blog, which is linked to the écovallée facebook page and the twitter account. Then I sat back, excitedly, to watch social media work its magic.

The first sales were exciting. Selling two copies in five minutes was very exciting. But since then, I’ll admit, sales have been sluggish. And after a week without a sale, it’s clear I’m going to have to work on my marketing if I’m going to stand any chance of selling the 1,000 copies I need before I can start writing part two (ominously entitled “Descent into Hell”).

I’ll be using a variety of tried and trusted marketing techniques and giving totals of sales made as a result. I hope you find them interesting and/or amusing.

It’s a personal challenge for me – I spent 18 years as a copywriter (if you’ve seen “Mad Men” you’ll know what this is now), working in the UK and USA. I’ve written a The Afternoon Play for Radio 4 and an episode of The Tomorrow People for Big Finish Productions. I’ve also written a number of unproduced film and TV scripts, which I absolutely love doing (although if you haven’t done it, coming up with a story is astonishingly hard).

Now, I want this experiment to work. I do actually want to write Part Two – and not just for the second euro it might earn me (less fees from paypal). But there’s no sense in doing that if no one is interested. Or if no one likes what I’ve written already. Only time – and the next few posts – will tell…

UPDATE: If you want to buy a copy of “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” right now, simply click on the sock monkey in the écovallée shop.

Last Winter I wrote this:

It tells the story of écovallée from before the Big Green Idea, through where it all went horribly wrong, and up to the point where we…

No, I shouldn’t give too much away. The thing is, I could spend ages looking for an agent, then a publisher, then go through the stress of meetings, edits, proofing and the like. Or I could just publish it myself. Which is what I did a few minutes ago.

As you might expect, I’ve gone about it a bit differently. Part One, called “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” is available via paypal from the shop on the écovallée facebook page. It costs €1 and will be emailed as a pdf. Obviously, this gives you the chance to share it around for nothing – but if you did that, you’d never get to read Part Two. Because I will only start writing “Descent into Hell” when I have sold 1,000 copies of Part One.

Obviously, you could go about it a bit differently too, and share it with everyone you know for nothing. They could always come back and buy their own version at a later date.

Right. Having launched myself onto the world stage as An Author, I have to go and feed the animals.