Two years ago, when I told a lifelong friend that I had closed my apartment and put my stuff in storage (see Two Years a Vagabond), she replied that she wondered if my travels would bring me to a place that would tell me “this is my new home.” In a way I did not expect, I have found a place to call ‘home,’ at least for the next year.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have spent several months in Italy over the last two years. Each time I had to tear myself away, to the point that earlier this year, I looked into getting a visa that would allow me to stay in Italy for more than 90 days at a time (the rule for US citizens is 90 out of every 180 days). My idea was that I would stay 4-6 months, moving around to various places in Italy. The only visa category I fit into, though, was elective residence, which entailed my name on a lease that ran for 8-12 months. I thought about it and decided that a lease of that duration didn’t fit my vision, so I put aside the idea.
But when I came back to Florence this spring, I realized that I could spend a year here. Even with all that was going in my life at the time, most of it stressful, I loved being here, so I decided to pursue getting the visa.
As I gathered the information and forms I needed, though, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. For one, it was hard for me to imagine being away from family and friends for a year. For another, although I work virtually and have done so from various locations, including Florence, I worried that it would be better in some way to be in the US. A lot of my thoughts then included the word ‘should’ – I should ‘buckle down’ to whatever my life should be, I should be looking at places to live in the US, I should establish a base there, I should I should I should. I came to see that those ‘shoulds’ were the voices of other people and when I listened to my heart, I knew that I was happy in Florence and as scary as it was (both the move and the happiness), I wanted to be here.
Getting the visa took a couple of trips to the consulate and lots of express-mailed, scanned, and emailed paperwork. The day I received the receipt confirming the visa, I went, in the space of ten minutes, from feeling joyous to wanting to burst into tears. I was excited and scared and stressed about all the things I had to do before I left. The six weeks between receiving the visa and leaving the US were filled with a variety of activities, including family visits, cat-sitting for friends, figuring out what to bring or ship, doctors’ appointments, and wrapping up my storage space clean-out. Somehow, what needed to get done got done, although I had to let go of the idea of completing some tasks – there was only so much time available.
Along the way, I received much support and encouragement from family, friends, and strangers, for which I am grateful. Back in June, as the family said goodbye after my nephew’s wedding, I was moved to tears when my brother-in-law’s sister took my hands and told me how proud and impressed she was that I was applying for the visa and reminded me that my mother had gone off to New Zealand for a year as a Rotary Scholar when she was fifty years old. I needed that! Many a time, I had to explain to someone – the staff at my doctors’ offices, a pharmacist, the manager of the storage space facility – why my timeline was what it was. To a person, they all reacted positively – not one ‘why would you want to do that?’ – only ‘good for you!’
So here I am in Florence. I don’t know what will happen after this year. For now, I plan to practice gratitude for all that led me here, appreciate being in one place for more than two or three months, and most of all, enjoy the adventure, because as we say in my family, life is an adventure.
As I was writing this, I remembered that my career coach gave me an assignment three years ago to create a ‘dream board.’ I opened it today and among the phrases I had put on it were these:
- Surrounded by beauty (Florence qualifies on that score, big-time)
- Live in a foreign country (did I say that back then?!)
- Take beautiful photos and share with the world (I’ll try)
Home, for now.