You lived in Italy! Oh my god! I’ve always wanted to move there since I saw Eat, Pray, Love! Is it just like the movie?… I want to move there and open a B&B!
-The response of a girl I know when I told her I had lived in Italy.
It’s a common reaction by people when I tell them I spent some time in Italy, always assuming everything is like Eat, Pray Love and Under the Tuscan Sun. They then proceed to ask me why I left and if I’m going back.
I love Italy and I loved living there. You are surrounded by beauty everywhere- landscape, architecture, art, fashion, men. Every single corner boasts splendor, these people have made an ordinary street look like a piece of art and everyone puts effort into their looks. This wandering around in your Lululemon yoga pants that we Vancouverites have adopted as our uniform would not cut it there.
But while you’re surrounded by beauty and culture you have to remember that moving there is much different than visiting for a couple weeks or months. It’s certainly much more different than being sent there by a publishing company to research your upcoming book that will become a bible for all middle-aged women who are/were stuck in a mundane life.
I haven’t seen the movie, but I read the book Eat, Pray, Love (side note: every time I type that title I first write prey and have to go back and fix it, my subconscious is trying to tell me something) and while it all sounds lovely it’s not reality. Leaving your home to travel is one thing, you save up your money and plan to be gone for an allotted time and you’ve made sure you have enough money to do the things you’ve carefully researched online or saw in your earmarked Lonely Planet travel guide. Spending your days in cute little piazzas and taking lunch in front of amazing fountains would be a perfect life for anyone, but people who live in Italy aren’t doing that. And most of us don’t have the money to just drop everything and buy a villa that you can hire cute immigrants to remodel, a la Under the Tuscan Sun.
Daily life in Italy is pretty similar to any other western nation. They do the same things we do, wake up and go to work or school then come home and make their dinners, which is eaten in their homes with their families. After dinner they’ll probably turn on the news to see what kind of trouble their (awesome) Prime Minister has gotten up to that day.
Moving to another country is hard. Not only are you dealing with a different country’s bureaucracy and the accompanying culture shock you’re also doing a lot of this on your own. Homesickness is real, whether it’s for your friends and family or the familiarity of your own country’s laws, transit and way of life.
I understand that moving to Italy sounds dreamy and romantic… and it is, I know it firsthand. But it’s really annoying to have to explain to people why you’ve moved back home when they look at you with judgement for leaving the land that Julia Roberts and Diane Lane made look so fabulous especially after explaining that your timing- the middle of a recession- was not in your favor either. It’s a common misperception though, because no matter where you’re moving to you always plan with rose-coloured glasses on, thinking that life will be so different and fabulous. We just forget that we have to make the same living and are followed by the same problems and debt wherever we may go.
Maybe it’s that I dislike being compared to characters who moved to Italy as a result of their midlife crises with the bank accounts they’ve carefully planned and saved for with their fabulous careers… or the paycheck from their divorces and/or book deal.
That gives me an idea, if some publishing company wants to pay me to do travel around and write the experience for twenty and thirty year olds I will gladly take that job. It’s about time we get role model for young women instead having our only reference point being a woman in her 40’s or 50’s looking for spiritual enlightenment from food, yoga and Brazilian men.
Though I’d be willing to give those paths to enlightenment a try if given the chance.