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travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams

View from the grounds of the Chateau d'If
View from the grounds of the Chateau d’If


While waiting for a boat to take us from the Chateau d’If to the rest of the Frioul islands, my sister and I fell into conversation with a Taiwanese lady named Sophie, who was in the south of France to select wines for her F&B company. When she learned we were from the Philippines, she proudly told us she had two Filipina friends who were working as domestic helpers back in Taipei.

Sophie expressed a deep respect for her friends: whereas most people would whine about how tired they were from work, her friends slaved without complaint and even prayed for side jobs so that they could send more money back home. From their example, Sophie said, she learned to appreciate what she had. Her job might sound heavenly, but in exchange for getting to visit chateaus and vineyards, taste delicious food and sip the world’s best wines, she has to live out of a suitcase and never stay in one place for long. Because of her Filipina friends, though, Sophie has learned not to complain; as it is, there were so many people in the world who did not have enough to eat. And my sister and I were very lucky, she pointed out: her two Filipina friends had to work hard to support their families, while there we were in the south of France, basking in the Mediterranean sun.

Sophie and Lei, waiting for the ferry
Sophie and Lei, waiting for the ferry


To a great extent, we really are very lucky. I won’t apologize for it: our parents came from poor families, but they have worked very hard to give us a good start, and we ourselves have studied hard and worked hard to get to where we are now. At the same time, no matter how hard we work, we will never be on the same level of comfort as the Zobels or the Henry Sys of this world, not even if we win the lottery ten times. And there are people who work harder than we do and still will only have enough to get by, one day at a time. So to a certain extent, there is indeed some luck involved. In the great lottery of life, we relatively lucked out; we worked with what we had, and life took us somehow, through twisted paths, to Chateau d’If on a warm October afternoon.

Entering one of the cells in Chateau d'If

Flowers in memory of Edmond


Funny to be contemplating about life and fortune in this rocky island off Marseille, where the fictional Edmond Dantes had his life and fortune unjustly taken away from him for countless years. The world isn’t fair, we know that now. Many of us have troubles of our own: challenges, hurts, many of them richly undeserved. But if The Count of Monte Cristo tells us anything, it’s that we won’t always be down and out; the wheel of life will turn. Maybe all we need to do is hang in there for a bit; count our blessings. (Also, it probably won’t hurt to start chipping away at the rocks.)

The Road to Chateau d’If” was created by LSS for travel site Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. Parts of this post were previously published in the post “The Lottery of Life.”

7 Responses

  1. I think of life a one big lottery. Comparatively speaking I won. It makes me very grateful. Why me? I’m no better than the next person. We think we have control and choice but I don’t think so. You can take any two people from similar circumstances and one will have the thoughts arising in consciousness to make both inner and outer changes to “better” their life. The other will not have such thoughts, will maybe even have opposite thoughts arise all to do with self pity and complaint. Where do these thoughts come from. Why does one person get one set of thoughts arising, and another the opposite. Our thoughts create our reality and IMO it’s all one huge mystery.
    Much love

    1. Very true. Our thoughts…well, the way we think has much to do with our genes and our environment, but that too is mostly a lottery. I love what you said about being no better than the next person. Sometimes we think “why me?” when we face challenges in life, when we have setbacks that we think we don’t deserve, but a lot of the things that we’ve got going for us aren’t truly deserved either, we just lucked out.

  2. The photos you selected to accompany this are beautiful first of all and the story is….dare I say…a bit touching & inspirational. All sorts of eye-watering thoughts were stinging into my mind while I read about my own upbringing, my parents, their parents, people I know, stories I’ve heard. Well done. Really beautiful.

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