Finding the courage to move abroad; From England to Sicily
Why the need for change?
Four years ago, my husband and I upped sticks and left our lives and jobs in England and moved to the sunny Island of Sicily, Italy to start a new life, working initially as TEFL English teachers. We had both been working as managers in pretty stressful business environments with little passion for what we were really doing. That and enduring years of the UK’s non-summers and general greyness pushed us over the edge!
The sunsets in Sicily are stunning
We had heard of people making similar drastic life changes by moving abroad and it always seemed like such a brave thing to do, to just up and leave England, and one could never imagine oneself doing the same. Until... one day the light came on! It was after we returned from a fantastic holiday in St Lucia that we felt the time was right for us to try something new. Whilst we were there, we met and stayed with an American lady who had moved abroad to St Lucia to set up her own B & B, and completely changed her life. She was we would say, the light in our decision, but thinking back, we were already about 75% ready in our hearts and heads to make a change.
Our first summer in Sicily
Facing our fears
When most people think about giving up their steady but often boring jobs, they go into a panic state and think things like ‘what if I don’t get another one?’ Really in our economy it wouldn’t be that hard to re-enter the job market providing you have a strong enough CV and some good work experience. You may not walk back into the exact job that you want or in the exact town or city, but you will find something if you are a little bit flexible.
A typical view of the coast from our hill
Seems a bit irresponsible doesn’t it, giving up a good job for nothing? Not really, as long as you have a safety net financially (you don’t have to be rich, but have enough to cover a few months living costs whilst you get settled), and as long as you have a plan. It doesn’t hurt to try something new, to seek different experiences and challenge yourselves with a new culture, a new environment and a new language! Why should we limit ourselves to thinking this is our life, our country, our work, and that we can’t change it? Our roots will always be our roots, and our real friendships will stand the test of a bit of distance, and you can always go back if it doesn’t work out.
Leaving behind your loved ones
The other fear associated with moving abroad is ‘we will miss our family and friends’. This of course is true, but in many situations, people see their family fleetingly with busy work commitments and often living in different cities etc. Travelling to be together for a weekend can often mean spending 6 hours in the car, stuck in traffic, when in truth you find that having a holiday together once or twice a year provides a more enjoyable and enrichening experience than fleeting get togethers. Of course when you move from the UK to somewhere sunny, you will be inundated with visits from friends and family who want to share a bit of your place in the sun. In part you might feel that you have unwillingly opened a hotel, but that’s not a bad thing as long as the guests are close enough family and friends to all chip in with chores and costs.
Putting a plan into action
So upon facing these - our two main fears, and having let go of the fear, we decided to rent out our house to University students and put our plan into motion to train as TEFL English teachers. We had read about that being a good way to find work abroad. It was an interesting and quite challenging course, and a new experience that was the first something new in the start of our many new things to come! My husband hadn’t studied anything for 30 years, and I left university 20 years before, so for both of us it was a ‘wake up the brain’ moment.
Going back to school was a challenge but fun!
Why choose Sicily?
My husband being fluent in Italian, was a key factor in our decision to choose Italy (his family are Italian though none live in Sicily), and narrowing it down to Sicily was largely based on our passion for nature, the simple things in life and a useful contact that we made with regards to obtaining work as TEFL teachers here. After a bit of work on the internet, we managed to connect with a language school here in Capo d’Orlando in Sicily that were keen to take us both on as teachers. We checked some other details about entitlements, health care etc, and then pretty much signed the contract for the rental of our house from September, and booked our flights ... one way tickets.
The bay of Marinello, (ME), Sicily
Learning how to streamline our lives
We spent the next three months winding up our affairs and streamlining our possessions, which involved selling so many things that we forgot we had (under beds, in the loft etc), didn’t need or want, and in turn raised a fair bit of cash to pad out or safety net. It’s surprising how many things we keep with the idea of “one day I might need that”, when in reality it just clogs up your house and weighs you down.
One-way ticket to Sicily
Making the most of online selling opportunities such as Amazon and Ebay, and local car boot sales was a great experience in itself. After an intense few months of sales, we not only had raised considerable funds, but we had become enlightened on how to trade as individuals on the internet.
Saying goodbye was hard
We won’t deny that saying goodbye wasn’t sad, there were moments of thinking ‘are we doing the right thing’, and a lot of tears.. but the thought that kept us focussed was “nothing is forever and we can always come back”. The flight time from London to Sicily is only three hours after all! Most of our friends were sad of course that we were leaving but seemed to be looking at us in a new light - either they were super impressed with our courage to make such a big change, or they thought we were completely bonkers! Either way, they supported our decision and wished us luck.
When we finally went, we literally packed a suitcase and guitar each and off we went (we are also musicians). The things that we thought we might need later when we were settled were put into storage and packed ready to be shipped as and when we needed them. But to start with, we had arranged a small rented flat in Sicily which was already furnished.
We landed at Catania airport on 22nd August 2011 in the blazing mid afternoon heat and the the sun has shone on us in Sicily pretty much since. Anyone thinking of doing the same, we urge you to have the courage to do so, because if you don’t try, you’ll never know, and it could actually work out pretty well for you too! In part 2, I will tell you the story of our lives in Sicily and all the adventures that we’ve had so far.