Six whole months. Half a year. 183 days since I packed up my life in Melbourne to move to Europe for an undetermined period of time with my husband.
Many adventures have been had – we walked for 32 days from France across Spain to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino de Santiago. I fell in love with Portugal, celebrated the Indian festival of Holi in Madrid, visited with my husband’s relatives in London and have been living in Italy for the past three and a half months. I also had a minor detour back to Australia for visa issues which you can read about here.
I have also developed a love for walking everywhere, thanks in large part to the Camino de Santiago. I now live in Bologna which is a medium sized city, famous for its porticoes, making the city incredibly walkable. I definitely subscribe to the notion that walking improves creative thinking. With time and a beautiful Italian city in which to walk, I have done a lot of thinking.
These are my top five discoveries, untangled from the mass of grey matter in my head during my frequent walks these past six months.
1. Finding my identity from something other than my job
To go on this adventure, I left a job I loved, a field I felt constantly challenged in and people I respected. I now live in a country where I speak enough Italian to get by, but not enough to get a job even close to my one in Australia. My first job in Italy was as a nanny for a three year old. This has been a humbling experience which took some time to adjust to.
Initially when I met people, I would rattle off a condensed version of my CV before mentioning I was a nanny, because they had to know what I had achieved to know who I was, right? Now, however, simply being able to live in Italy and work with Italian people is enough for me. I have slowly been able to stop letting my work define my character.
2. Living in the present
Back home, I had a tendency to get through life by focusing on big upcoming events, such as planning a wedding, or having a holiday or moving overseas. This used to motivate me to get things done and achieve as much as possible. Finish what was at hand so I could strain toward what was coming up. This meant I always lived partially in the future, spending time to plan, envision and hope for an ideal future state where I would be able to relax and enjoy myself even more than the present.
Now I am more conscious of my tendency to do this and I work on focusing on the things I have at hand. Talking about what I love right here, right now rather than focusing on what I don’t like and how our move to the UK next year is going to be so much better. The walking and thinking helps as I spend time soaking up the atmosphere of where I am.
We are now living mostly off savings which has made me re-evaluate my mindset toward money. It used to be such a source of stress for me until I realised what I was worried about was not being able to fulfil my ideal of coming back to Australia in an even more financially secure position than when we left. That we could pick up our old lifestyle, perhaps with some improvements.
Dreams change. Ideals change. I held onto that ideal stubbornly not realising that I was holding onto something that could never exist. Travelling changes people. When we return, we won’t be the same two people who left. So I focus on what makes me happy now and see whether that can be managed sensibly within our finances, rather than focusing on the gap between what I want to have two years in the future and whether the unknown reality between now and then will enable that to happen financially.
4. Opportunities are everywhere, take a risk
Whether it is time, or simply being more relaxed about life, I am finding new opportunities, new possibilities to engage with people, to volunteer, to learn about new things. I have become interested in Bitcoin and Blockchain, a friend put me onto Devex, a platform for the international development community. I am learning about potential work for freelance writers, whether it be through Upwork or finding a list of magazines that pay for contributing writers. There are also websites that have lists of writing contests that writers can enter.
5. The importance of finding a passion
As there are so many opportunities out there, I have quickly realised how important it is to be motivated by more than money. After a month or two of looking for work to try to reverse our cashflow a bit, I finally got to a place where I could quickly fill up my days with work.
While this was great, I soon realised that taking on all this work would not allow me the time to think about and explore my passion for travel, people and writing. I have turned down some opportunities to make money to instead make time to do what I am passionate about.
It’s not every day I have this opportunity to live in Italy but I do have the next 40 or so years to work. I am lucky to have the time now to think about how I want to best spend those years.