When I moved to Rome, I realized I was homesick for the first time on Thanksgiving day.
In Italy, Thanksgiving is just a Thursday. Thousands of miles away, my entire family was gathering around a table to laugh and share and eat and celebrate, but I was riding the metro like it was any other day.
My second Thanksgiving in Italy, I decided to go all out and had a fantastic time trying to explain the holiday to Italians in the butcher shop. Since then, I have continued to celebrate the American tradition in Rome every year.
But this year? This year I am home.
Home for Thanksgiving for the first time since 2009. I am thrilled to be with US family, but I am also still so glad that I took the plunge and moved to Italy.
Here are 9 reasons I am thankful that I moved to the bel paese:
- It taught me so much about myself. When you move to a new place alone, you better get used to being alone pretty quickly. Suddenly, my closest friends and family were 9 time zones away. Even being awake and available at the same time became a logistical nightmare. I had to figure everything out on my own and so I learned to trust myself. I also learned what I can compromise on (because this move required a lot of compromise) and what I will not negotiate for any reason. I learned what I love about Italy, and what I don’t, as well as what I want to build into my life in the future.
- It taught me so much about others. It is so easy to assume that you know what is happening from the outside. One of the best things about being expat is the opportunity to get to know another culture so intimately. When people hear that I have left my own home country, it usually starts a conversation about why, with others offering up their own thoughts on everything from politics to appropriate meal times. Being a foreigner forces you try to understand others so much better, rather than relying on your own cultural bias.
- It forced me to learn how to communicate: There is nothing like being thrown into another language that makes you figure out how to really communicate. You have to convey your most immediate needs, as well as your deepest desires, and do so with a limit vocabulary. But aside from learning a new language, I am thankful that I learned how to actually listen in Italy and how to make myself understood. You want to experience real misunderstanding? Try dating someone from another country. Then try marrying them. Communication is key.
- It taught me how many “things” are completely unnecessary. I had to move to Italy with two suitcases and a carryon. I brought a lot of things that I wore into the ground, and a lot more things that I never used because I had no use for them in a new country that it turns out I knew very little about. Now that I live in Rome, I don’t own a car and I am certainly not on the same kind of buy-a-house-and-settle-down track that many of my dearest friends in the US are hoping to achieve in the next few years. It has taught me what I need and what I don’t to be happy and healthy.
- It made me more confident: I can communicate. I can advocate. I can navigate. I can figure this out. That is what moving to Italy taught me. Oh, and that nonna trying to cut me in line at the bakery because she thinks I can’t see her? I do see you and I am next, signora. Get in line.
- I learned how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In Italy, I still get something wrong every day. I am sure of it. I conjugate a verb wrong, or I pay first when I should have ordered first. Who knows! But I no longer let it bother me. I do not waste time stuck inside my own head criticizing myself for tiny mistakes. I just shrug and move forward and for that I am infinitely thankful.
- It opened the world of travel. Let me say this a thousand more times, Rome is perfectly located. From Rome, I can skip off to Africa or hop around Europe. I can use it as a base to explore Italy and beyond. Moving to Rome is what made me traveler.
- The food: The food here is no joke. There are some disgusting pizza-french fry combos, but aside from that, moving to Italy has been a food revelation. Farm-to-table is just a way of life rather than a movement, and there are so many producers who maintain a deep passion for what they make and how. I love the food in Italy, and as we prepare an American feast this week, I am still thinking of how great I have it in Rome.
- My family. Moving to Italy meant moving far away from my family and friends, which has been difficult. Over the next few weeks, I will fly to many states to see many people to spend time with people I love but now live so far away from. I am still thankful that I took the chance and moved, because not only did I learn and experience everything above, but I met my husband and found our cat and started a home, and I am beyond thankful for that.
Wherever you are, and wherever you might be headed, wishing you a very happy start to the holidays!