In 85 short days, Stacey and Marco uprooted their family life in Mississippi to start a new life in Italy. Stacey tells us the story of their journey and their first three months in their new home. You can follow their journey on their website, whereweare.family or their Instagram account.
WCIL: Where do you originally come from?
I was born and bred in Mississippi. I have lived there my entire life until 3 months ago. Marco was born and raised in Italy. He moved to the US in 2008 where we met. We bought a house, got married and had Nico in 2014.
WCIL: Where are you living now?
In August 2018 we moved to the Abruzzo region of Italy!
WCIL: What led you to making the decision to leave your home country?
Honestly, we were at a point where we could. Neither of us had jobs we loved and couldn't leave. Our "stuff" was feeling more like obligations than entertainment. Our son isn't old enough to be required to attend school anywhere. So very casually, over breakfast, Marco asked me "What if we try living in Italy for a while? Like maybe in a year or so?" And I said "What if we did it in the next 3 months?" 85 days later we touched down in Rome!
WCIL: What visas did you arrive on and was it difficult or easy to sort your visas out?
None! Marco and Nico are Italian. I am eligible for permesso di soggornio di familia because of our relationships.
WCIL: What was the first impression of your new home?
We have visited before, but it sure is different when it's for keeps! Life is much slower here. There are not as many activities as there were in our college town. We have to work a little harder for entertainment and drive a little farther for big city feeling, but we were excited to see the views and jump outside of our comfort zones.
WCIL: Did you know many people in your new country when you moved there? How did you settle in at the beginning?
We obviously know Marco's family and a few of them are also married to expats. We moved in with Marco's mom to give her some much needed Nonna time with her only grandson, so that has been wonderful. Settling in was easier than I thought because Nico is naturally at ease and easy to please. His needs are simple and his routines were already in place, so we just kept doing what we enjoyed and left the rest back in America.
WCIL: How do you support yourself abroad?
I teach for VIPKid- an online learning platform for English language learners in China. I also help others with their classrooms get started doing the same! It has been a game changer for our adventures.
WCIL: How do you spend your free time? How did you meet people in your new home?
We started Geocaching as a family hobby. It's free and a great community builder. Marco also plays tennis and has joined a few different circolos to find partners. My husband and I also run and have joined a few running club outtings. Plus Nico is a natural conversation starter. We have met tons of other families at playgrounds and meet them there fairly regularly if accidentally.
WCIL: Were you ever homesick? How did you manage that?
Absolutely! We've only just been here 3 months so those days come on pretty strong sometimes. We Facetime or Whatsapp a lot and we are planning our first trip back home already. Usually we hide in our bedroom, curl up for a nice family movie night with popcorn, and watch our favorite movies in English.
WCIL: What do you miss from your old life?
I miss a level of independence I took for granted. I can't drive a stick shift yet and living in a house with your mother in law is always a great way to stretch and grow. Marco feels the same but also adds that he missed the way America is (by in large) organized with parking, rules, bureaucracy and waiting in line.
WCIL: What do you have in your new life that you never had in your home country?
Freedom! We live mortgage free within 2 hours of a major airport. With multigenerational living we have in house support for our son, a built in billingual program and real life world geography lessons as often as we like.
WCIL: If you could go back in time to before you became an expat and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Bring more books! We thought we could manage with a handful and replenish with others brought over when friends visit- but we were wrong. Our son's curiosity has only grown since we got here and we should have brought more books.
WCIL: What have you learned about yourself in this new life?
After the big, scary, doubt of doing it was over (because we had done it!), the rest became easy. Have some things been hard, sure. But the best part about the future is that it comes one day at a time. We touched down in Rome and immediately began working on 100 goals for each member of our family. It has been so exciting to see who we will be after all of this.
WCIL: Tell us about some of your highs and lows of being an expat in a new country
Some of the highs, are definitely the ability to do things again. We each reevaluated our wardrobes, our wants, our jobs, our roles. We get to decide how we want to live all over again from scratch- not just feel stuck because we "have" to go to this job, or stay in this house. Some of the lows are definitely the work that comes along with the highs! We have to learn how to grocery shop again, and how to remake some of our family's favorite dishes. We have to relearn how to make friends and what brand of mascara I prefer.
WCIL: Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experience?
Our #1 concern has been our paperwork and the bureaucracy of our move. Those visits to the half a dozen government buildings are definitely the most stressful part. But there are tons of people who are ready to help. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions and stand in a lot of lines, but reward yourself with fancy coffees and pastries afterward. That's what we do!
WCIL: What would you say to anyone considering an international move?
Do it! And pack light. Everywhere has stuff that will be ready for you when you land.
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