If you’re moving to Italy you’d best be prepared to hit reset.

Why do I say this? Because, in my experience, many people can be so swept along by the romantic notions of living in Italy that they end up being blindsided by an avalanche of change. Other people are purposely steering into major change and are itching to hit reset. Either way, life is going to shift significantly.

I recently returned from a trip to the States. It has been almost five years since I jumped off the cliff and left my American life in the rearview mirror. I don’t know if the amount of personal transformation I’ve been through is just now hitting the tipping point. But on this particular trip, I was homesick for Italy and I didn’t have the least bit of nostalgia for my former surroundings (exempting, of course, my close friends). I felt like a tourist in my country of birth. And when I returned to Italy and stepped off the plane, I breathed a sigh of relaxation. I was home, truly home.

This is my wish for all of you who embark upon the journey of moving to Italy: to embrace Italy fully and eventually feel in your bones that she is home.

But first…

Ask yourself “Do I really want this much change?”

Conversely, “Am I really ready, mentally and emotionally, for this kind of life change?”

I’m purposefully being provocative here. I firmly believe this question must be given great attention, without a rush to a quick answer.

Many people embark upon big life changes while telling themselves that they want  to break out of their conditioning and their pasts. Then, they find themselves reading from the same script while having only changed the scenery and costumes.

Some people move to Italy and end up mostly surrounding themselves and communing with English-speaking ex-pats. It’s understandable to want to don a cloak of familiarity. But, such a scenario runs the risk of being the equivalent of hunkering down in a gated community that keeps real immersion in the culture at arm’s length. This is when people miss out, in my opinion.

Other people hit the skids and run for the exits after a year or two of trying to surmount their frustrations dealing with the often tedious Italian bureaucracy (best to make peace with this reality well ahead of time!). Add to that the challenges of getting an adult brain to learn Italian at a level that doesn’t leave you speaking at the equivalent of someone in elementary school.  The sum can be just too much.

Oh, and the dreaded Italian driver’s license process. I hear from people who spend copious amounts of energy trying to find a workaround. Believe me, when I was going through the process I experienced a lot of internal kicking and screaming at the unfairness of it all, not to mention the seeming impossibility of the task. When it became a game, a challenge to help build my Italian vocabulary, the clouds parted and I found a path through. And, the sense of accomplishment on the other side was enormous. (Be sure to read about my Italian driver’s license adventures).

Test the waters and spend more than a vacation in Italy.

While an extended stay won’t give you the full sense of what it will feel like to have uprooted your life and committed to a dramatically different one, it will give the magic fairy dust of a vacation mindset a chance to lift and the sense of daily living to emerge. If you have the luxury to commit a couple of months, that is ideal. It can help you imagine your life in Italy. And, if you can also spend a good chunk of time in the less desirous months (think hard winter), that will also be useful knowledge. You may end up deciding that a winter getaway for a month or two might be a good strategy if you reside in Italy full-time. If you’re planning on living in a tranquil, remote location, just know the potential for feeling isolated in the winter months can be high.

Be passionate when you hit reset and let the games begin!

This post is not meant to dissuade people from making the move to Italy nor is it meant to intimidate people in regards to all the hard work involved in making the change and fully immersing themselves in this wonderful culture. I think I can safely say that I’m a success story. I also can say that the experience continues to change me in ways I had never imagined.

When I was willing to drop the script of how Jed’s Italy adventure would manifest, well, that’s when things got really interesting. When I became more relaxed and playful about what showed up in my path, I was much happier. I’m learning to trust that life will take care of me and that I don’t have to depend on my over-controlling mind. In fact, the latter just keeps me on a short leash and limits the possibilities of what can be.

“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” 
—Charles Darwin

Prepare to see yourself in a whole new light.

When you invite a change of this magnitude, and when you do it without just “rearranging the furniture,” you’ll be challenging a lifetime of conditioning. You’ll more readily expose things that may have been unconscious. For example, I didn’t realize how stubbornly attached I had been to my professional identity. That didn’t fall away easily, and my struggle was wanting to immediately re-package and re-label myself. Then I realized I could be much looser and open-handed about who I am. That has been incredibly freeing.

And, prepare to discover new colors on your palette.

As an artist, I love speaking in metaphors pertaining to art. I’ve chosen this closing image to say that, when you hit reset, whether it is a move to Italy or another monumental change, new “colors” start showing up on your palette as you paint your life anew. Your life, as it transitions, will almost assuredly hit some rough patches as the old is exposed and the things that no longer serve you began falling away. But have faith, even though hitting reset starts with some uncomfortable housecleaning, it makes way for bright, new possibilities to emerge.


Jed Smith Photography

Colorful possibilities.