Today’s Featured Comment
As a single, 45 year old woman, I moved to Tuscany even though I didn’t know anyone or the language. I rented a room from a woman in her home that I found on the internet. My purpose for going was to experience the Italian lifestyle and really live the way Italians do. I wanted to shop in the markets and cook, stroll the windy streets of the hill towns, nap in the afternoons, spend hours in galleries and, not rush through my days.
The first year, I went for 3 months with about $3000. I brought 2 suitcases and a computer. My room was about $500 dollars a month and the rest I spent on buses/trains, museums, wine, a daily gelato and other food. The cost of living in Italy is very low, even though the Euro is not in our favor. I did not stay in a hotel, rent a car or eat in fancy restaurants. You can eat very well on a budget. Believe me, a bowl of pasta, a slice of pizza or other “street” food is very inexpensive and delicious.
In most places, the language is not a problem. Live abroad first, then see what you need to do about it later. You might start out in Italy and end up in Germany, Spain or France.
Know the weather. I went in May- so spring , then long hot summer days. Pack light! Keep it simple. 2 hands-2 luggages. 50 pound max for the flight.
Renting a car is expensive ($500 a week) and driving is a competition sport! If you have one, it will make getting around easier but not in the cities. Parking is a problem everywhere. Make sure you can park it where you live. You do not need an International drivers license to drive a rental, but you do if you are driving a local’s car. I did not drive the first year, but I do now.
I didn’t work or try to “recreate” my old life. I didn’t have TV and limited my contact with the outside world. The isolation forced me to think on my own and not be bombarded with the opinions of others. I was extremely careful what media I let into my world. It is hard to reset your internal clock without taking a break from over stimulation. I replaced this with purposeful reading, journaling, learning about art, music, language, history and architecture. I reveled in the enjoyment of having no schedule. I explored my area, rode my bike and watched and learned how the Italians love life.
You can go to Italy (all of the European Union (UE) as a visitor for 3 months without any special visas, but you can’t work, vote or get healthcare, just as a foreigner coming to the USA. I ended up staying 5 months the first year without a problem. Check out: http://www.sublet.com . There are other sites, like http://www.easystanza.it (you can change it to English)
- Near Florence (I ended up near Arezzo)
- Walking distance to bus and/or on the train line.
- All inclusive- furnished with utilities
- Host speaks English
If you are going with a partner, you can easily find an apartment. As a single, I liked living with another person and did it several times. The first year, I rented for a month at a time so I could try different areas. I lived in the countryside, then in Florence, and then at the seaside, just to try out different areas and discovered I liked the countryside. Remember, you are not buying the place, just passing through. Stay open minded. Everything is different and funky. It’s a bit like living in the 1950’s. I’ve found that too many choices make us unhappy too, so enjoy the simplicity.
I never looked as it as a vacation but more as a “reinventing” of my live and focused on the quality of how I wanted to spend my days. My only child was off in college, I was divorced from long term marriage and my fiancé died of heart attack. I knew I did not want to spend the rest of my life chasing a dollar and that a house and job did not mean security and one knows how it is all going to play out. My goal was to live within my means and then I figured out how to sustain it!
- Go first for an extended period of time, and really get into your city/area.
- Do not bring more luggage than you can handle without assistance.
- Rent all inclusive. Furniture/utilities/sheets/pots and pans.
- Be open and friendly. Talk to everyone.
- You are not inventing the wheel. There are expats everywhere. Learn from them. If there is a way to do something, they have already figured it out.
- Seek the experience of being alive…which is always changing.
- Freedom and time are like a new sport and require training.
Coming up next:
- What about my job, house and bills at home?
- How do you live without a real job?
- What about a visa and working?
- What about friends and family?
- What about security and responsibilities?
- What about health insurance and the hospitals there?
- The difference between living abroad and traveling.
[This comment was originally posted in this conversation. ~ Eds.]