This was the pinnacle of a five-year long campaign! Having just flown into Venice’s Marco Polo airport, we were looking forward to our new life in Italy. The air was warm and enveloping, reminding us fully what a late summer temperature should feel like, unlike the cold and rainy England we had just left behind.
An hour long journey in almost a straight line took us to our newly rented flat in Vicenza. The vistas we glimpsed from the autostrada were not really that inspiring, but the names on the big signs pointing us ahead said it all – Milano, Padova, Bologna… So much to see, so much to explore, so many places to visit in this Italian dolce vita.
Rivers, streams and canals ran through green corn fields. Powerful mountains laid on the horizon ahead of us. Cuddled in our little red car with a newly acquired dent and a British left-hand steering wheel, I felt a moment of simple, unadulterated happiness. One of those fleeting moments of being content and at peace with life, when things slot into place and are just right.
It all started in April 2009 on holiday in sunny Barcelona. The sun was bright, the city felt welcoming and open and the drizzly English spring was miles away. This is when I came up with the idea that we must, simply must pack everything and move to these sunnier climes for at least six months, so as to enjoy life a tad more. With my job in translation and localisation I could be based anywhere in the world, as long as I kept to the clients’ deadlines.
I was met with my then boyfriend’s (now husband) firm rebuttal. He liked Barcelona, but not to the point of wanting to live there, so he offered a long list of reasons as to why we couldn’t just up sticks and go. Some of which were as follows:
- What firm employment could he find there (I suggested that as a teacher, he could be teaching English, which seems to be always in demand the world over).
- There would be no English papers to buy in the morning (my reply to this was that, of course, there would be, just a little bit more expensive).
- There would be no English sausages for breakfast (here I gasped and had no wisdom to offer, as my very-open-to-the-world-and-different-experiences boyfriend was apparently rooting for any excuse as to why this whole idea was impossible, un-realistic and not about to happen).
For the next five years the idea was brought to the table at any opportunity. The lack of sun, the long wet summers in England and our short and sweet escapades to Europe at any occasion we could afford gave us ground to keep discussing (completely theoretically at first) what it would be like living abroad.
Initially, I was the driving force behind all the conversations. As a Bulgarian living in London since December 2000, I was starting to get tired of the breathless speed of life there, of the apparent coldness in relationships, of the many little things that made me feel I couldn’t quite fit in, in spite of my accumulated knowledge of the city and the English as a whole. A bit of sun, a bit of a more passionate culture and a bit of tasty Mediterranean food could do me a world of good, I reasoned time and time again.
Slowly, slowly the balance seemed to shift though and my boyfriend started to show a modicum of interest. So, we discussed places. I was really insistent on Spain, my boyfriend was really insistent on the south of France. I speak fluent Spanish, he speaks a little bit of French, so we both fought our respective corners. After a lovely Tuscan break in May 2012, we both agreed that perhaps if we eventually did this thing of living abroad, it wouldn’t be so bad to do it in Italy after all.
By that time, I had other more pressing things on my mind. We had bought a flat in Kent and I was struggling to conceive, which made me mentally catalogue the idea of moving abroad as ‘It would be nice, but not about to happen like never’ and stop talking about it completely.
2013 was a happy year! We got engaged in Venice. Our baby girl was born amid lots of shouting and screaming from me and happy tears from our families. I wasn’t even thinking of moving abroad. Life in Chatham was slow, boring and utterly predictable, but what else do you do with a mortgage, a baby and one salary to support you in times of a global recession?
On a bitterly cold winter Saturday in 2014, we just wanted to go out as a family and have a cup of coffee in the local coffee shop in Chatham. Our mistake was that we wanted to do it at 4 pm. By which time the coffee shop was closed! Yes, that’s right. What should be the busiest time with families going out, with friends meeting each other, with life just beautifully bubbling along, in Chatham was the premature end of the day, a dark signal that we should be at home, cooking dinner, watching telly, lounging on the sofa or doing some other boring stuff that qualifies as ‘life’.
That was it for us! In April my now husband started to apply for jobs abroad. In May he was offered a teaching position in Italy. In June he rented a flat for us in Vicenza. In July we put our flat in England on the rental market. In August we went on holiday to Bulgaria for two weeks. Upon our return we packed our flat in three days and then loaded our possessions in two vans. Then my husband travelled across France to Italy in our little red Nissan Micra to meet the vans and to unload the luggage, furniture and other general stuff that we hold dear enough to lug across Europe. At the same time, our baby and I stayed in England for three more days with my in-laws, until it was time to get on the plane at Gatwick and arrive at Marco Polo airport still dazzled by the speed of it all and by the slow realisation that, yes, we had finally done it!
Dolce vita, here we come!