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Moving abroad for love: from long to short distance

Photo by Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash

As a little kid, I used to love listening to my mom telling me the story of how she met my dad. Their love story seemed like straight out of a fairy tale. They met on holiday in Italy, spending the days swimming at a lake, sipping Aperol at sunset, and strolling through winding back alleys. Their holiday romance, however, came to an end when it was time to go back home: she to Austria, and he to his small town in Northern Italy. Both 21, they decided not to complicate things, as the Italian romance became a sweet memory.

Photo by John Jennings from Unsplash

Three years passed and my mom could not get the blissful summer romance out of her head. She grabbed a pen and paper and decided to write that charming Italian guy a letter. A couple of weeks later (the Italian postal service has always been known for its delays), my dad responded. The spark hadn’t faded. For months, they wrote each other letters until one day, my dad decided to get in the car, cross the border, and visit her.

The distance between them, 674 km to be exact, soon became an obstacle. One of the two had to move abroad to the other person’s home country. Moving for love surely sounds romantic, but what is the reality of it? So I sat down for a cappuccino with my mom and asked her to tell the story of how moving to Italy for love really was.

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels (top), photo by JD X from Unsplash (bottom)

Who was the first to suggest moving closer together?

Well, he was the first to suggest it. We were both 24 when we reconnecteed, and he began visiting me in Austria every 2 weeks. I was working as a nurse at the hospital, so it was harder for me to get a weekend off to be honest. This went on for a year, a year and a half, but we got to a point where we just thought “we can’t keep doing this”. We knew that the options were two: either we break up or I move to Italy. You know, he had a company there, so him moving wasn’t really a possibility.

How did you make the decision? Was it a straightforward yes?

It was definitely not a straight yes. I thought about it a lot, probably for like a couple of months. Honestly, I had never had the desire to move abroad. I wanted to stay in Austria. I always loved travelling to Italy, but I surely didn’t see myself moving there. I began considering all the pros and cons. The cons included leaving my friends and family behind, leaving a job that I loved, as well as the fear of not finding any friends, not finding a job, and the language barrier, as I didn’t speak any Italian. There was however only one pro: I was in love.

Did you ask others for advice?

I mainly talked about it with my best friend and with one of my sisters. They were incredibly supporive, you know. They encouraged me to go and reassured me by saying that I could come back home any time, and they would welcome me with open arms. I still remember my best friend telling me to give it a chance and see if it was true love.

What were your first thoughts after you moved?

Well, by the time I had finally made my decision and moved to northern Italy I was almost 26. I was an adult and had already lived by myself for quite a while, but there were so many occasions where I just felt like a little kid who lost their mom at the grocery store. I did not speak the language, and the only person I could talk to there was him since he had learnt German. He was my only point of reference, but at that time he was very busy with work. I was often alone, so I used to call my sisters and friends almost every day. Our phone bill was insanely high during that time! It took some time to adjust to the country. As welcoming as everyone was, I missed home. But I’d say the biggest obstacle was the language barrier. I was not able to get a job at first, find friends, or even talk with his relatives. During the first couple of months, I often thought to myself, “what am I doing here?”

How did it change over time? Did it get better?

Definitely! As I started attending language courses and learning Italian it got a lot better. I began making friends there, and that helped a lot. Most people attending the course were in similar situations as mine: they had relocated for love. After a year and a half, my language skills had improved a lot and I started working. I would still say that the first years were the toughest though. Learning the langauge had helped, but it was still hard finding friends outside of my Italian course. During that time, I had the chance to go home quite a lot and would see friends and family regularly. The best thing to happen to me was when my children were born. I always dreamed of becoming a mother. I had the chance to teach them German, share my love for Austria with them, and through their friendships I was able to find friends as well.

Looking back at it now, is there anything you would do different?

Not much to be honest. I think following my heart and giving love a chance was the best thing I could have done. Although maybe I would do one thing different. I would learn the langauge before moving to Italy. I think if had learnt at least a little bit of Italian before moving, that would have made my first years there more enjoyable.

What advice would you give your 26-year-old self?

I would tell her to cherish the relationships with friends and family back home because those are the people who will support her throughout it all. I’d tell her not to forget where she belongs, to appreciate the cultural diffferences but also treasure her roots. And lastly, I would tell her not get upset after every minor incovenience.

If you are considering relocating for love, psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini offers suggestions and points to consider before taking the big decision.

Forget flowers and boxes of chocolates, nothing says I love you like packing all your things and moving to a whole new country for the person you love. Relocating for love is not a leap to take lightly, but if you take anything from this interview, remember to follow your heart and give love a chance.

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