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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?