I remember watching Under The Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane. I wanted to buy a house and live in a villa in Tuscany. I wanted to be a writer who impulsively could make that decision!
There was something very romantic about the entire process. And of course the movie Hollywoodized the entire process, bringing a love interest into play as well. Which made for a great movie!
But for me, it was always about the writing and the beautiful villas in what had to be the most beautiful place on earth.
Fast forward a few years, and I finally got the chance to visit Tuscany for myself. We lived in an apartment in Lucca for three weeks, and because I write for a living, I found myself out on the balcony every morning writing away. So in some regards I guess my dream came true 😉 (if only for a little while.)
There is truly something magical about Tuscany. The feeling you get is indescribable when you walk along a path you know people have been walking down for hundreds, thousands of years. To be able to touch a wall that has been standing for centuries is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had.
(As a side note, Lucca is the only city to still have its fortress walls still intact around the old city. While they lost their military significance a long time ago, today it is a pedestrian promenade where you’ll find people playing, walking, biking, playing games, even enjoying a concert or two. We spent many nights walking that circle; its one of the fondest memories I have from that three weeks.)
A while back I was introduced to a website that immediately captured my attention – A Better Way To Italy. Their motto: We specialize in Tuscany … it’s all we do!
What could be better than that? But as I learned more about one of the founders, it captured my attention even more. Lisa has an amazing story of reinvention; one I knew I had to share with my readers. I know you’re going to love it too.
My “aha” moment was just that. In 2012, at the end of a fabulous vacation in Italy with my daughter, I made the decision to move there. It was early morning, and I walked into a bar for an espresso while waiting for the taxi that would take us to the airport; I didn’t want to leave. Divorced for 8 years, kids grown up, I knew in my heart that there was something in Italy I needed to explore.
I have a fundamental belief that life is supposed to be joyful, and the life I had been living in Salt Lake City was no longer that for me. I knew I needed a change. In that moment, it became clear to me what I wanted.
But making the change wasn’t easy. Being alone has been a real adjustment for me and I have learned so much about myself in doing so. I will never know how much of what I learned was from being in Italy, living alone, or just growing older and wiser. The process has taught me that I am stronger and more courageous than I thought I was. I have learned that taking risks can produce wonderful results, and that standing on my own two feet is very rewarding. I have learned to be independent of what others may think.
To know oneself is the journey of life, I think, and I have come to know and understand myself deeply. I have come to know, and have depended on, the kindness of strangers. I am amazed by it every day.
What was it like transitioning to another country, another language and starting a whole new life in the process?
Nothing in my first 50 years would have had me thinking about, or preparing for, life in a foreign country! The challenges of living in a new country, by myself, were many and daily. The language barrier, cultural differences, and just the fact that I was all alone, so far away from what was familiar, was equally exciting and terrifying!
Better Way to Italy wasn’t founded until the second year I was here. The first year, I lived very small, and gave myself the opportunity to travel all through northern Italy, learn some Italian, take art and history classes, and settle into my new life. It was quite a gift!
As I started writing about my adventure in Italy, women seemed drawn to it and were asking if I would show them the Tuscany that I knew. That’s when Sarah Walton and I started to envision a business for women who wanted to travel here.
Better Way to Italy required me to develop skills I had never used before. I was designing tours, planning itineraries and marketing our business. I worked to develop relationships with Italians that our company has come to rely on, and came to understand the nature of doing business in a foreign culture.
The business was developed in answer to the women who were writing to me and reading my blogs on Better Way Moms and my writing on the Huffington Post. Like most new business owners, Sarah and I worked 7 days a week to get the word out about our new company. When Huffington Post named me one of the ’50 Over 50′ who reinvented their lives, the Today Show picked up my story, and our company received a huge wave of publicity! We still are benefiting from that exposure and meet women on each tour that saw the Today Show spot, and knew they had to come to Tuscany with Better Way to Italy!
One thing I consistently hear when talking with people who reinvent their lives is “friends and family thought I was crazy to leave behind a career with a great salary and perks, house in the suburbs, etc”. What kind of friction did you have? How did you handle it? Did they ever come around?
Having been born and raised in Utah, I had a large circle of lifelong friends, students, and clients, who were very surprised at my decision. Most were fairly supportive, but some were not. My good friends have been so consistently behind me…and of course, everyone likes to have a friend who lives in Florence, Italy!
The only people who had a say in my choice were my two children, who were 27 and 30 at the time. They were, and still are, my biggest supporters. My daughter told me that she had never seen me as happy as I had been with her in Italy. My kids knew it would mean that I would miss birthdays and Sunday dinners with them, but they both told me that I had given them everything as they were growing up, and that now it was my turn. I give them a lot of credit for being so unselfish and so mature. We Skype several times a week, thankfully; we still share our lives together, just in a different way.
To make a decision like I did, one can’t really be too concerned with the opinion of others! It took all my energy to jump into this new life, and I didn’t give much thought then, or now, to how it might appear.
- I think it would be that I trust my intuition. I get quiet with decisions, and really trust where my heart and ‘gut’ are telling me to go.
- I have come to know, profoundly, my own strength. That is not always easily acquired, but comforting to know I can stand on my own two feet, and navigate whatever comes my way.
- I know that courage is a heart word, and to live from an authentic place is a courageous life. Courage, passion and joy are my ‘north stars’. They are not so much a place I arrive, but what guides me.
What 3 things would you recommend to anyone contemplating whether to move forward with their own Big Ideas?
- Trust your intuition
- Get very clear on what you are after
- Take the next best step in that direction.
Enjoy the journey! I really do believe that life is to be savored, tasted, experienced and happy.