How a Trip to Europe Changed My Life

Positano-Italy

The view from Positano, Italy

By: Lisa Ng

A trip to Europe changed my life.

Looking back, it was a definitive moment that got me off a conveyor belt I didn’t want to be on and changed my outlook on life.

I had been to Europe before – back in 2003 on a backpacking trip with Paul. That was also an eye-opening trip where I officially caught the travel bug. But when we returned to Italy and Germany in 2010, things were different.

Olive-oil-farm-Tuscany

Our olive oil farm we stayed at in Tuscany

I married Paul, we bought a house, renovated it, sold it and was planning to spend $600K (the going rate in Toronto at the time) to buy a condo in the heart of the city when we returned home from our trip. We would have been stretched and I’m not entirely sure we would have been happy. I was definitely in a place where I was craving change, but I didn’t know what that was. I thought buying an overpriced condo and setting up this little domestic life in Toronto was where I was supposed to be. It turned out – I wasn’t ready to settle down yet.

Monterosso-Al-Mare-Italy

Dinner in Monterosso – I have the most ridiculous ‘on vacation’ smile on my face

We had flown from Toronto to Genoa, picked up our little Fiat 500 and drove to Cinque Terre where we spent three nights exploring the small towns from our home base in Monterosso. We then drove to an olive oil farm in Tuscany – drank wine and explored the olive groves for two nights in the countryside before heading into Florence and Pisa for four more nights to finish the Italy portion of our trip.

While in Italy, I noticed how happy everyone was – life was simple, people weren’t running to the mall all the time and no one needed a huge house filled with things to make them happy. We were happy. Sipping on wine and eating pasta on a small cobblestoned street and truly savouring the moment was how I wanted life to always be.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy

From that moment on, I was determined to live well. I wanted to live small, eat well, TRAVEL, not fuss over renovations, stress over the house and I wanted my little piece of Europe in my own life. I didn’t want mediocrity, comfort or to play house – I needed to amp up my life in a big way. I had become so consumed with graduating, planning a wedding, buying a house, renovating a house and building my own business that I just got lost in all of it.

Cinque-Terre-Beach

So what happened next? We returned to Toronto and decided to take the OTHER fork in the road. We sold our house and did NOT buy an overpriced condo. Instead, we lived small – rented a 750 square foot condo for two years and traveled the world as much as our schedules and vacation days would allow. Ditching our old 80 year-old home that was in constant need of repairs really freed up a lot of our budget. Our trip to Europe helped us make this decision and by doing so – it changed both our lives. I’m now writing this blog post from my apartment near the ocean in Los Angeles, California.

My guess is that if we never decided to live small, downsize and get rid of most of our stuff – we would not have felt ‘light’ enough to just pick up and move across the country. I truly credit my trip to Europe for pulling me out of zombie-mode and my cycle of eat, work, sleep. Let me be clear – I’m not complaining, my life was pretty awesome – I just don’t think I was truly present or living in the moment most of the time. I think getting away really gave me the clarity I needed to take life into a direction that I was excited about again.

Florence-Italy

Florence, Italy from the top of The Duomo

Last point. Do not let people give you a hard time about renting. I’ve heard it all and you’re not throwing your money away on rent! Do you want to know what throwing your money away actually feels like? Paying $8000 to break your mortgage when you probably weren’t ready to settle into one place for five years during your ever-changing 20s. Sometimes you need flexibility in your life to pick up and go and you seriously gotta do what’s best for you. When the time is right, I’m sure we will buy another property again. For now, we’ll see what life in California holds for us.

 

Have you ever been on a life-changing trip? What was the lesson it gave to you?

 

 

  • http://jbelleisle.wordpress.com Jordan-na

    I’m totally with you about renting. It totally frees up me and my hubby as we don’t have to worry about maintenance and repairs. I hear the same thing about “throwing away our money,” which is bullshit. We’re paying for a nice place to live that we don’t have to worry about or pay taxes on. Win!

    • http://www.ThisBeautifulDayBlog.com/ Lisa @ This Beautiful Day

      Such BS! Do people know who are saying this know how crazy expensive the market is in Toronto? That being said – we’re not ruling out buying one day, I just don’t see what the rush is when everything is SO overpriced.

  • Andrew Broadfield

    So, I totally had to create an account just to come on here and comment on your blog. I happened to stumble on your blog while Googling moving to California from Canada and this particular post really hit home for me. My partner and I both live in Toronto. Both of us are in our late 20s – I’m a Registered Nurse and he’s in HR. Recently we bought a condo downtown and have been in it for 6 months. Everything you’ve written here about wanting change and not settling into one place resonates with me so much right now with how we’ve both been feeling lately. When our mortgage renews in 4 years we’re seriously considering moving abroad and experiencing life. Toronto is so boring! Thank you for writing this post though! I feel like I was meant to read it or something lol.

    • http://www.ThisBeautifulDayBlog.com/ Lisa @ This Beautiful Day

      Andrew! Thank you SO much for your lovely comment.

      I think what really pushed me to move, was that Toronto wasn’t the one that had changed – I had changed. I was born in Toronto, lived in Mississauga and then went to U of T for my undergrad. Toronto was really all I had known for 32 years – that I knew it was time to shake things up a bit.

      Since you’re an RN – moving to the US should be fairly easy! They are always in need of nurses down here. If you need an immigration lawyer to chat things over with, drop me an email and I can put you in touch!

      If you and your partner are under the age of 30 or even 35 – there’s a kick-ass work abroad visa for a bunch of countries for Canadians. I wrote a post about it here: http://thisbeautifuldayblog.com/go-for-it-the-under-35-workholiday-visa/

      Also! I wouldn’t worry waiting 4 years. A lot of people rent their condo out to cover their expenses and then spend a year away. Don’t feel limited in any way by your options. Please do keep me posted and good luck!

      • Andrew Broadfield

        Thanks for the reply! I’ve looked into the option of getting my TN Visa, which is fairly easy for RNs. The process just seems incredibly daunting and there would be a number of things I’d need to do (write my NCLEX, apply for California license which is long and time consuming). I’ve also reall toyed with the idea of doing my Masters and NP at UCSF. What my next 4 years bring I think it getting some more specialized experienced because they’re always looking for that in CA. LA sounds really fun and I definitely want to keep exploring your blog! I think I’m more of a SF Bay Area kind of guy though! Haha :P

        • http://www.ThisBeautifulDayBlog.com/ Lisa @ This Beautiful Day

          Definitely one step at a time! Our visa and paperwork/getting organized took almost 6 months to get together. I think you would love SF – it has more of a city feel, whereas LA can feel like a jumble of suburbs sometimes because everything is so spread out.

          Thanks again for reading Andrew :)