November 26th 2022. My Italian Odyssey was over. I booked my flight from Venice to London. I sold my furniture, handed in my notice in my apartment. I'm going back to the UK, mid-recession. My business would have to be put on the side as I would need to find a job. When you face finality of everything, it's always best to reflect on what you've learned along the way…… ________________________ I arrived in Italy on September 28th 2020. I was exhausted, broken-hearted and horribly underweight. Having accepted a job in Veneto, never seeing the factory or the surrounding area, I was nervous. I'd been a city girl for 10 years, loving life in the fast lane in London and Shenzhen. I'd loved the hustle and energy from cities. To see whatever you wanted and eat whatever you wanted, I loved the freedom of it all. Now… I found myself in a place where places closed for 3 hours at lunchtime and normally all day on a Monday. I'd learned Italian when I was at high school but had forgotten everything apart from how to count to 20, how to say my name is Tracy and where is the bathroom please?
There was zero hustle. Niente bustle.
On arriving at my new role, I realised within the first day that the job was not for me AT ALL. It was not my place. I would not grow here. What had I done?! I would walk the town of Treviso in the evenings for exercise. I loved the tiny winding backstreets, beautiful architecture and autumnal colour palette. At Christmas the decorations made the small city adorably charming. I found my favourite spots along the river with murals created by local artists. In my first ever daytrip to Venice, I fell utterly in love with the place. I've travelled a lot in the past 10 years but it was like nowhere else I had ever seen. I got completely lost, almost walking into the canal but felt my eyes wide with wonder. (Tourist trap stores aside) It is a very special place. The HR team at my company helped me find an apartment In the historical centre. A beautiful 3 storey townhouse at the end of a small street. The mechanics in bicycle store at my backdoor would wave and smile hello to me every day. On the roof there was a terrace. Unused and filthy, I saw potential and over the coming months, would powerwash it and create a space which I would call 'Tracy's bar'. It was huge but I rented it thinking that I would need a space to work AND also a spare room for the long list of people who had promised to visit. I found myself in a situationship which was both modern and confusing but gave me accompanied visits and local tour guide to the towns and cities around Veneto - Verona, Vicenza, Padova, Valdobiaddiene, Lago di Garda. Every town had its own charm, history, and clock tower with the Venetian Republic Lion sitting proudly. Every town had its own story and the locals were so proud of thier local delicacies. The lush rolling hills reminded me of my home in Scotland…. Except there was sunshine, prosecco…… and LOTS of it. Local cheeses, wines and tiramisu regular filled my tummy. Daily doses of pasta were on the menu at the company canteen. My weight slowly increased. Approaching Spring, everywhere started to reopen after Covid had pushed us into lockdown. I wanted to find a place to reengage with my art and found some local groups, but nowhere gave me the freedom to do as I wished. So, I decided to form my own group. Life is too short to wait for everyone else to put in the work.
In the spirit of aperitivo, (which quickly became my favorite social event) I dubbed the group 'Create Spritz Repeat'. The first event would be in May 2021. It's still ongoing, we hosted 2 exhibitions and I met wonderful, open, kind people.
I built my friendship circle. I found new routines. My situationship had run it's course so I returned to online dating, where I would meet a series of very handsome men.
The energy of one of them caught my attention. His bright eyes sparkled with knowledge and we never stopped enjoying our conversations. I stopped swiping and kept choosing more time with him.
Dating led me to discover a new part of Italy; Fruili Venezia Giulia in the North East corner. From there I went hiking, snow shoeing, drank the local wine, discovered a home of proscuitto, went to the beach, enjoyed the local rivers and streams.
I learned to build trust and faith in others. We prioritised communication as our mother tongues were different and I felt respected, understood and supported in a way I'd never felt before.
My job was draining. It was stressful, I felt unwelcome, underutilised and uninspired. I thought I could stay in Italy much longer for the sake of my CV but it was too much, so I started the job and continuing professional development search. Two weeks later I would be suspended and fired. My mental health went through the floor. I got help immediately, finding a counselor and embarking on my journey to become a coach. I loved coaching people and it came naturally to me. I leaned into my lessons and took the downtime as an opportunity to dig deeper. I took the summer off. I went to the beach, to the pool, enjoyed aperitivos in the sunshine. I bought new clothes that would keep me up to date for the spritzing fashion.
My coaches would inform me that although I would SAY that I wanted to find another job, my body language and tone would tell another story.
I didn't know where I wanted to go. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I looked around for jobs and my network offered me things. I turned them down. I decided to follow my heart….. I would find a way to stay in Italy as I had fallen in love with the area. I went all in on something I knew very little about and opened my business earlier than I had planned; the documentation would help me stay here. I concentrated on my mental health and through coaching and counseling, I became more self aware and healthier than ever before. I focused on my values and built them into the foundations of my business. I stopped missing the bustle and started to enjoy the slower pace.
But then reality hit.
I was looking for a place to live in my beloved Treviso. The rental market was tiny and competitive and my non-native speaking, self-employment status left me on the bottom of every selection pile. The recession caused the selection factor to be more of reliable income, of which I had not yet built the momentum. I had ran out of time. I had focused on the wrong thing. The next couple of weeks I was in a state of panic. I was out of options and time and it was time to face my reality. I didn't want to leave at all. Italy had become a place I loved to be, I felt at peace and was building my future. I didn't want to return to london, even though it was a city in which I had previously thrived…. I had moved on. My friends rallied round me, offering me places to stay and their condolences. Everyone knew Italy was my home and their hearts broke with me. They saw me back to my healthy weight and gentle tan, pursuing a cause that was bigger than me, with a partner who was bringing out my best.
Devastated, I made my preparations to leave and it was time to choose a date; November 26th.
In what was planned to be my final afternoon with my soon to be ex-boyfriend, I knew I had nothing left to lose; I put my heart on the table. Logic and sense and what we had originally planned for our future went out the window and now it was so simple; There was something to fight for. It was not the shape we expected, but it was here and neither of us wanted to walk away. There COULD be another way to continue my journey in Italy. We could live together and move forward knowing that we had tried everything. Despite loving Treviso and never imagining I could live anywhere else in Italy, I was ready to make the change as I would gain so much more. I no longer wanted to walk those adorable streets alone. I was ready to pause and create roots. My Italian odyssey continues, but with a new chapter and new beginnings.
My two years in Italy has brought me to a place of reflection, self-awareness, strength and love. Without my career break I would not have found the space and the initiative to recalibrate. I found my values and understand how they had shaped my past and how it impacted me when I went against them.
I shared a coffee with a friend, who was delighted to hear that I would be staying in Italy longer. She said something that stayed with me. "We are all just trying, you know? Let's try to get married. Let's try to live together. Let's try this job.... Life is to try" Nobody knows how the future will unfold; war, recession, a new right-wing party in power….. But for now, I continue to honor who I am and follow what is worth fighting for.
If you are looking to build a life which honours your values, book a free 30minute chemistry call with me today. We will discuss where you are at and how I can help you.