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The Biggest Lesson Moving to Calabria, Italy Has Taught Me

I wrote this post about lessons learned when moving to Calabria several months ago for Medium, and wanted to share it with you!


Two months ago, I left California with 11 boxes, three suitcases, and two cats. I had a one-way ticket to Italy.


Up until that point, I’d been a planner. Over the two years I spent planning my move to Italy, I’d dive into all the sites I could find about the tiny town in Calabria I planned to move to. I’d obsess over Google Maps Street View, trying to get a sense of what it would be like to walk from my future apartment to the nearest grocery store. Did that bar on the corner look like a good place to have a coffee? How close was the sea?


I planned everything I could to minimize the unknowns. That’s how I am. Or rather, how I used to be.



Release All Your Prior Expectations

I knew that becoming an expat wouldn’t be easy, especially in such a…shall we say less-developed area like Calabria. Had I moved to Rome, this would be a very different article.


But despite all my mental preparation beforehand, I quickly realized none of my American expectations applied here.


For example: in the U.S. if you order internet service, you can usually get it working the same day. In Calabria, it took four weeks.


First, I had to get someone with a car to take me to the internet store. There, we were told that because it was the last day of the month, the computer system wasn’t working properly and my order couldn’t be completed (okaaaay…).


I begged for another ride a few days later and got my modem. Score. I set it up…and it didn’t work. My Italian friend told me to give it a few days since it was the weekend (because everything takes five minutes/hours/days/weeks in Italy).


I did.


Only after my friend called the store four days later to find out what was going on did it magically start working!


I’m not complaining about the slowness of the internet, actually. It was an excellent lesson in lowering my expectations…way way down.

Planning is for Nought

The Type A planner I used to be couldn’t survive here. She’s quietly stepped aside and let a new version of Su take over; one who is adaptable and who can shrug her shoulders when things don’t go according to American logic.

Yes, it takes days for my clothes to air dry outside in the winter. Yes, not having a car while I await my permesso di soggiorno is starting to suck. No, Italians aren’t opening their arms to me just yet, ready to make me their best friend.


But this is what I signed up for. If I hadn’t completely untethered myself from my life, things would have been predictable. Too predictable. I could tell you where I’d be right this minute and what I’d be doing.


Instead, I opted to say goodbye to everything inside my comfort zone. I am embracing the discomfort as best I can because I know living here is the right thing for me.

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