What if you had a chance to pick up your life and move to a foreign country? Would you do it? Author Stacey Keith did just that and I had the opportunity to find out how she did it. Below is part 3 of my interview with this remarkable author.
If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?
Despite having taken French, Russian and Japanese, I wish I’d studied more languages. You really can’t speak enough of them. Rice University in Houston (at that time) offered Italian classes. If I had come to Italy speaking better Italian, I wouldn’t hit these walls where the overwhelming urge to ask questions, obtain information, learn more is stymied by my inability to communicate. John speaks perfect Italian. He even does a radio show in Italian. But speaking it at home is a bit of a busman’s holiday for him, so I’m on my own.
Men and women, I’ve found, approach the language barrier a little differently. Like most women, I refused to open my mouth for the first year I was here unless I was absolutely certain that what I was saying was correct. Men just dive in. They don’t care that their grammar is road kill and their accent sounds as though they’re gargling rocks.
What advice would you give to someone who has the desire to pick up and move to another country?
Do it. Even if it kicks your ass, do it. Don’t use your age as an excuse. Don’t worry about not knowing the language. If you can point at something, you will always be able to communicate.
Comfort and ease are soft chains. You swap truly living for cable television and the bleak ugliness of modern American life. How will you ever discover what you are made of unless you put yourself to the test?
We think we have time, but we don’t. What we have is conditioning. We are conditioned to go to work, get married, have kids, pay our taxes, not ask questions.
Moving to another country is like living inside a soccer riot and you’re the ball.
Safe? Probably safer than most cities in America at this point, but you never feel entirely safe halfway around the world from your family.
Scary? For all the right reasons. You’ve never lived until you’ve taken the wrong bus, wind up in the middle of nowhere, have no minutes left on your phone, and don’t speak the language.
Being an immigrant takes a special kind of crazy. Know thyself. If you find yourself being ground down bit by bit by American life, shake off those soft chains. Go do something that terrifies you.
I regret that most Americans, good Americans, have no idea that there is this whole other world out there, a world where healthcare is paid for, where no one goes into ruinous student loan debt just to get an education. It’s a world where food tastes like food—not like chemicals. The cost of living is actually affordable here (although consumables are expensive).
There are no FICO scores in Italy. Leases are usually for five years with another five-year option at that same rate. Don’t think you can come to Italy, teach English and make a living. Your self-sustaining lifestyle is going to have to be a bit more creative than that.
In the United States, the stress is killing us, the food is killing us, the lifestyle is killing us, healthcare is killing us, the cost of education is killing us. Italy has a different set of problems, but they’re sure not those problems.
If you think you can handle it, I strongly urge you to put yourself to the test. Give it a year, maybe two. See what happens. No matter how wild the ride, you will come back a better, smarter, stronger person. You will have taken Eleanor Roosevelt’s sage advice about doing the thing you thought you could not do … and you won.
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Stacey Keith is the award-winning author of the Dreams Come True series (Kensington Books), Dream On, Sweet Dreams and Dream Lover, in addition to A Wedding On Bluebird Way with New York Times Bestseller authors Janet Dailey, Lori Wilde and the talented Allyson Charles.
Twice a Golden Heart finalist, Stacey has won a Maggie, two Silver Quills, a Jasmine, a Heart of the Rockies, and over fifteen other first-place finishes in Romance Writers of America contests.
An avid writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories, Stacey doesn’t own a television, but reads compulsively—and would, in fact, go stark raving bonkers without books, which are crammed into all corners of the house. She now lives in Civita Castellana, a medieval village in Italy that sits atop a cliff, and spends her days writing in a nearby abandoned 12th-century church.
The two things she is most proud of are her ability to cook pasta alla genovese without burning down the kitchen and swearing volubly in Italian with all the appropriate hand gestures.