Why Italy?

DisclaimerI’m always hesitant to post about plans before they happen since you can never plan for something 100%. But since my plans are about as solid as they can be, here goes.

Seven years ago I stood on a dock overlooking the Adriatic Sea and announced to a friend standing nearby that I wanted to live here. By here, I didn’t mean Trieste specifically, but Italy in general. Having been in the country for a few weeks by that time, it had already captured my heart.

She laughed. “Oh, you don’t really mean that.”

Those words always stuck with me. I knew exactly what I wanted, and yet the years kept passing. I still kept delaying. I got a dog, got a job, moved to other cities, apartments, but never Italy.

Two years ago, I took a vacation to Rome and was filled with that familiar pain and longing when it was time to leave. Armed with the fortune of having a very amazing, flexible job, I decided it was time to take steps to make the big move. I started the process to become a dual Italian-American citizen.

I chose to do this first because I knew I’d be moving with my dog. As safe as air travel is these days, I never wanted to put him on a plane unnecessarily. If I could guarantee that I only needed one plane ride for him, then I knew I’d feel more confident about bringing him on this adventure with me.

A few months ago, my mother and I found out that all of our paperwork was accepted and, just last week, we applied for our little red passports. Beyond logistics, the process of applying for citizenship was an emotional one. I’ve always very much looked to the past and sharing this citizenship very much felt like a connection to family members who came before me.

All along in this whole journey, I have friends and family who remain skeptical. With good intentions, they keep asking, “But are you sure? Why Italy?”

Here’s the funny thing. I wouldn’t be moving to Italy this year if I hadn’t gone to Brazil over the summer.

I fell in love with Brazil while sitting on the beach with my coworker in Ipanema, looking at the ridiculously gorgeous coastline, thinking, “My life needs to be an adventure.”

In my mind, I threw my plans of moving to Italy out the window, started looking at visa options, and reminded myself that any plan, no matter how long you’ve had it, can still be a safety net — even when it sounds like a scary one, like moving overseas. I don’t, and never did, want to be safe.

Visas and customs and borders are hard. The logistics of me moving to another country for a year, especially with my dog, started to become obviously Not An Option. I sat with my thoughts, trying to figure out what it was exactly I wanted to do. I’d already gotten the ball rolling on moving, figuring out what it would mean to uproot my life, and a single thought occurred to me.

“You’ve been waiting 10 years to move to Italy, why would you make yourself wait one more now that it’s feasible for you?”

Oh, right. Deep-down, part of me was scared. Doing this meant admitting that, after the move, I might not be happy. I might have made the wrong decision. My friend might have been right. In fact, I’d done this once before when I moved to France 10 years ago, and DC five years ago, and, boy, were those the wrong decisions.

But, more importantly, those bad decisions shaped me more than anything else in my life.

Explaining why you want to do something big like moving to Italy, or starting a business, or switching careers, comes with a thousand little reasons — like being able to go back to school without spending a second lifetime in student loan debt or being truly overwhelmed by the prospect of mozzarella di buffala at any given time.

In reality, it’s just like being in love. Yes, I could “count the ways,” but at the end of the day, deep-down, it’s something I feel in my bones. There’s certainly room for doubt and fear in those bones, but there’s also an electricity, an excitement, a knowing I need to do this. That if I don’t, I’d spend the rest of my life wondering.

And like I told myself in Rio de Janeiro, life is an adventure. Adventures can’t be lived from the sidelines. They involve risk. And, of course, without risk, there’s absolutely no reward.

So on March 1st, I have my first one-way flight ever booked. Then Francis, my dog, will follow. And then, we’ll see what happens next.


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