December 21, 2010
We’ve all read books and watched films about folks (often single women, it seems) who travel to some exotic locale in search of self-discovery, fall in love with this new place, and decide to trade in their not-quite-right lives at home for a new one overseas. You UrbanTravelGirls know the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun” motivated me to move to storybook-perfect Florence, Italy. The Frances Mayes book that inspired the film, Under the Tuscan Sun, has been translated into dozens of languages and prompted countless reader pilgrimages to Mayes’ adopted Tuscan hometown of Cortona.
Author Peter Mayle jump-started the modern expat-exchanges-hectic-urban-life-for-adventure-abroad trend with A Year in Provence, a book that when became an international best-seller when first published in 1989. In it, Mayle chronicled his life as a British expatriate in Ménerbes, a town in this gorgeous part of southern France. This former London ad executive and his wife traveled to Provence on vacation but eventually took the plunge, relocating completely from the UK to France. And once his books caught fire and made him rich—no doubt inspiring legions of folks with visions of living abroad—Mayle became the patron saint of reinventing oneself in a foreign land.
But when does an UrbanTravelGirl decide that a mere vacation doesn’t do it, that she’d rather pull up stakes and actually MOVE to another country and build a life for herself there instead of here (wherever that happens to be)?
My family and friends always laugh at me because whenever I return from a particularly good vacation (as mine generally tend to be), I share the same refrain: “I think I could live there!” Those of you who’ve listened to me wax poetic about Buenos Aires know I’ve thought it and said it, as I tend to travel to places that fascinate me and hold some special allure. And because I tend to rent apartments when I go abroad, I purposely immerse myself in the culture to get a real sense of daily life.
And, if the place grows on me—as Montreal (where I’d planned to move if the 2008 U.S. presidential election had turned out differently), Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, and Buenos Aires did—then I entertain myself with visions of, “What if I actually MOVED here someday?” We all know it’s only a matter of time before I pull up stakes and seek an exciting new life—AGAIN!—outside the United States.
I’m not just inspired by books written by now-wealthy authors. I get it from real-life sistagirls, such as my good friend and fellow freelance journalist Kelly Carter, whose travels to Italy prompted HER move to Florence and Positano—AND who’s writing about it in an upcoming memoir appropriately named Bellini for One. And just yesterday, my Italophile friend Sharon Sanders who knows how I love Argentina sent me a Wall Street Journal article about a California couple who, after visiting the lovely wine-producing province of Mendoza, decided to buy a vineyard, building both a business and a fascinating new life.
But at the end of the day, visions of life in some fabulous villa (accompanied of course by some gorgeous local man with a heart-melting foreign accent) meet reality. Most of us aren’t independently wealthy (and if you are, most countries want you to PROVE it before they let you stay), so we need to figure out how we’ll make a living. But that doesn’t mean we can’t turn a great trip into a real life abroad.
For example, when I visited Montreal back in October 2008 with serious thoughts about moving there, I picked up brochures on immigrating to Canada (which actually seemed to be welcoming foreigners, as opposed to its neighbor to the south). Eventually, I might have looked into obtaining a working vacation visa that would let me “try out” my new country while still (legally) earning money. And if I’d decided to stay permanently, I might have sought out a Canadian immigration lawyer who specialized in helping Americans seeking a new life in their nation. Of course, there’s no ONE way to make such a life-changing move—and if you’re motivated enough to go, the Universe will meet you more than halfway.
So tell us, ladies—if YOU’RE one of those who moved abroad because you fell in love with your current home on your travels, what made you take the plunge?
Or if you’re one of us dreamers, what foreign country tugs at your heartstrings and why?
Nothing like a little fantasy to make life sweeter, yes?
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