Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Visit From The Boot

Well, I'm off to Ireland today, but, fortunately, we have a lovely guest blogger here today to keep you engaged while I travel!  The Boot Blog is one of my (recently discovered) favorite expat blogs and I'm delighted that Marissa was happy to grace us with some of her wisdom.  An American transplant to Italy, she writes about discovering her new country and its people, style, and food.  But, beyond that, she explores how she is, slowly but surely, settling into life in Barletta and making it her own.

I asked her if she could share with us some of her insights; moving across an ocean to start a new life is difficult - possibly even more so when you're joining someone else's already-established life - but she's an inspiring example that it can be done.  Please help me welcome Marissa and do check out her blog!

Just the other day I was drinking a post-lunch espresso with my friend Monica and her parents. We were laughing about how it seems like just yesterday when I landed in Barletta, and now, I’m getting married here. I have jobs that I love. Friends who I adore. A future.

When I arrived I could envision anything but that life. It was a stifling hot August, I had no money and no idea what on earth I was going to do here. But I was positive and, of course, in love, so I knew if my heart was in it, I would be OK. The first few weeks were hard. I was living Manu’s life, not my own, and the transition to speaking Italian 24/7 was not making things easier. I got a job in a cramped, dumpy English school and I hated it. We lived in an apartment with no light and I hated it. I didn’t have internet and I hated it. Yup, I thought, this is going really well!

But then I had an epiphany about halfway through the year; I realized that this new life of mine was a clean slate. I could start it any way I wanted and be anything I wanted to be. I began blogging and it helped me hone in what it was I was most happy doing - writing. I stuck with it and quit my job so I would have more time to do what I loved. I realized I could make more money teaching English privately, instead of in that horrid school. So, I quit. It was liberating to finally be taking charge of my own destiny. I cultivated friendships with the girls I had met, and tried to detach myself from Manu’s hip when we were out in the piazza at night. Slowly but surely, Barletta was becoming my second home. 

Now, four years later, I can safely say that Barletta is my second home. I still teach English privately and now Zumba in a couple gyms in town. The blog still keeps me grounded, connected, busy and inspired. Manu and I are getting married next May (pinch me) and we’re in the giddy planning phase of our engagement. 

My advice to anyone trying to make their significant other’s country their own would be to stick with it. The beginning is hard, trust me, I know. I had crazy anxiety that first year, but the fears and insecurities gently slipped away the more I tried to feel at home. Learning the language is key, as is getting into the culture. Comparing things to your home will just make things worse. Try to get out alone, make friends and be open. Don’t be embarrassed if you make language mistakes or cultural faux pas - people think these things are adorable and they’ll most likely love you for it. And of course, have fun! You’re living abroad, having the experience of a lifetime! There are people out there who would love to be where you are, so cherish it. 

And, if you need any more proof that you can move away and make a life for yourself, you can always stop by the boot and see what I’m up to. :) 
[view of our street]
[the glorious vineyards!]
[the cathedral at night taken from the castle walls]
[me and manu]

Thanks so much for having me today Betsy! 


  1. Cool post, I will be checking out her blog. Sometimes I find it hard adjusting to life in England, I can't imagine moving to Italy and not knowing how to speak their language.

  2. I never read your beginnings in Italy! I know the feeling. I'm from Belgium (not far from Italy), and since 3 years I live in the US. Far away from all what I know, such a different lifestyle, people, and mentallity. It was definitely not easy at all. I knew the language, lucky me. But I had to wait 2 years for a green card - so I could not work, not drive a car, or even leave the state I arrived in. So I was totally attached to my husbands hip for 2 years, awefull time, stuck at home. But I made it, and it feels better now. Although I still haven't found a job - life treats me better with some more independence from hubby. I still don't have any of my own friends, nobody that is really like me here, with whom I feel comfortable to share things, but one day that will come too. The day I have some more social contact other than the store cashier, like at work or even school if I go back to education.
    But it is hard to not hear your mother language or speak it anymore, or even to see your family and friends only once a year... I do not feel like a second home here yet, I could easily leave and start over again somewhere else.

  3. awe, i adore Marissa and Manu!!! she is one big throbbing heart of a girl and i loved hearing more about her transition across the miles coming together in Italy...where now their love is finally realized in it's fullest potential.

    the point about trying not to compare places was awesome, comparison is the thief of joy for sure. very good article to help folks going through a similar circumstance. this was an extremely uplifting and inspiring read. cheers girls and happy Irish steps to you Betsy! ♥

  4. What a beautiful post (I love the photos) and what great advice. I love expat success stories and this is certainly one of them. It is hard, heart-breaking even, but it can be incredible.

    Congrats on the upcoming nuptials!

  5. I adore The Boot! Marissa is always so cute and inspiring, and now reading this post, I find her even more so. The idea of the clean slate is wonderful... life truly is what we make it :)

  6. I love the boot too! As an American expat in Vienna, I've found Marissa's blog to be a source of validation and inspiration. I'm glad I've discovered your blog too! Enjoy Ireland :-)


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