This is not a primer on financial advice, trust me on that. It’s how I landed here, in rural Italy, alone during a thunderstorm.
How the hell did I get here? I ask myself this often as I turn over at night waking briefly, or while sitting with a group of people who don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Italian, but we are all enjoying a lovely dinner at a country club in Tuscany.
I’ve wondered this over a beer in the garden with people from Brazil, Cambodia, Australia and of course, Italy. I’ve wondered this while trudging down country roads in the heat carrying 50-euro worth of souvenirs to save myself 50 euro on a cab ride (it was a three and half hour walk, mid-day).
The answer could fill a book, a novella, a chapter, or a few paragraphs. For your sake, I’ll make it a few paragraphs as I sip from my homemade espresso, while the goats’ bleat at me and my chore of watering the garden awaits.
It started with adjusting to becoming an empty nester after spending 34 years actively raising my five wonderful children. Who was I without carpools, competing priorities, and sporting schedules? I signed up for an online financial coaching program that forced you to take a good look at your finances and how they fit with your dreams. It reinforced that a house can be a home, an asset, or a liability.
Then the basement flooded, and it became clear to me that my beautiful home was becoming a liability in terms of time and effort—and keeping me from my dreams, which included travel. Not vacations, but travel.
The universe then led me to Holly Bull and the Center for Interim Programs through the New York Times. A well-established gap year company that also worked with “career breakers.” Mid-life professionals who dreamed of taking short or long breaks from their careers to grow and learn.
I started talking about this idea with close friends and coaches, made vision boards that staked out these dreams but, I was pretty sure I’d never do anything about it. I had a good job, a beautiful home, two children in college and a dog. I had a community of dear friends and five beautiful grandchildren. I was rooted.
Then life took over. My job was ending due to a merger, my home was sold to a friend. I had no work and no home in a few short weeks. I started networking, applying for jobs, creating mission statements, and panicking. Then a pivotal conversation was had with my dear friend Suzanne who called my bluff. Thank God she took off her coaching hat and challenged me to look at the opportunities in front of me as assets and not liabilities. She challenged me to stop making (very good) excuses and start traveling.
This conversation was followed by one with my daughter who told me she needed help over the summer with her children and they would love me to live with them. In the meantime, I’d be free to travel. Pretty much the best offer I’d had in years!
This led to a conversation with Holly and shortly thereafter an offer of an “assistant” position in rural Italy at a reading retreat. Six weeks later, with everything I owned in storage, the dog with friends, the house sold, and I was on my way to Italy. My assets had become liabilities and my liabilities had become my assets. My best assets are my family and friends, coaches, and supporters—without all of you, I would not be here today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for holding me accountable, giving me advice, showing me the way.