Our Italian Adventure: Migratory Living
PART 36: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.
We are in Puglia for three months during the summer and then back again in the winter.
Step 1: In another blog post, I explained the evolution of our decision to live in Italy part-time (half the year, following the 90/180 rule) instead of full-time. This situation works for us, for now, at least. But what about the challenges that living in two countries presents?
Step 2: Challenge 1: Finances.
We are a middle-class couple. We have a mortgage, student loans, bills, and other expenses. I recently retired, so I am living off my teacher's pension. We are not wealthy. So how can we afford to live in two places?
In another post, I took a deeper dive into how we are pulling this off, but a few key points are:
We choose to live in a smaller town in Puglia. We could not afford a house in California and to live in a major (expensive) European city.
We reduced our California expenses by paying off the car and following a budget. It is surprising how much money Amazon can eat up if one doesn't have a monthly budget!
We lease a place in Puglia for 12 months rather than for shorter periods, even though we are only here for part of the year. The monthly rent is thus much lower.
While in Italy, we either lease a car from Renault or rent a used one, whichever is lower.
Having local friends is essential. From them, we found the house and the car.
Step 3: Challenge 2: Relationships/friendships.
As I move forward in life, I realize that relationships are my most significant treasure. But friendships must be cultivated; just like a plant needs water and sun, friendships require time and dedication to grow.
Some important factors in keeping friendships alive on both sides of the ocean include:
Continuity: We keep in regular contact with friends in California while in Italy and vice versa. We keep the same communication going, whether in the US or Italy. Whatsapp, both texting and calling, works great for this.
Communication: While traveling or living in Italy, reducing communication with friends to photos and messages about our adventures can be tempting. But friends also share thoughts, feelings, and events. I strive to remember this as we keep in touch with friends in Puglia and California
Making time: Let's return to the plant analogy. A friendship needs time to continue growing. When I return to California, I immediately look for opportunities to spend time with friends. Some of our favorite friendship activities include: making dinner together, meeting for coffee, hiking, or meeting on a mountain in the evenings for stargazing. Then, when we return to Italy, we immediately dive in to do much of the same with our friends in Puglia. Since we love our friends, this is all very easy, but it involves deciding what is important and how to use our time.
Step 4: Challenge 3: Taking care of two homes.
We own a home in California and lease one in Puglia. How this works for us:
Critters. Since we live in the desert in southern California, we are aware of the constant efforts of critters to set up housekeeping inside our house. Two rats living in a wall, ants constantly trying to set up a community in the kitchen, cockroaches coming in through the shower drains…it takes constant vigilance to keep them out. We try to pest-proof the house when we are away for months. We spray the perimeter with natural insect spray (it actually works!), put ant traps everywhere, and seal under doors, drains, window sills, etc. So far, this has worked. Fingers crossed.
Humidity in Puglia. The sturdy houses in Puglia are often made of stone or brick and during the long winter humid months, sometimes water seeps in. Damage or mold can be the consequence. Having friends check on the house while we are gone during the colder months is the best prevention.
The elements: Windstorms and, less often, driving rain can be a phenomenon that can cause damage to the house. The last time we were in Puglia, I looked through the camera of our Ring doorbell and saw that one of the external window shades had partially detached in a windstorm and could break the window with the next gust. We contacted our neighbor, who kindly came over and took care of it. Rain has also come in under our front door when there is a storm. So I continue to weatherproof the house: storing all external shades when we are gone and caulking around the doors. So far, so good.
Neighbors. Relationships are essential, whether in Italy or California, and we are blessed to have good people in both places who come over, check on our house, and let us know if everything is fine. In Italy, since we lease, the owner often looks at the house when we are back in California.
Security: There is some crime where we live in California, so we now have a security system that also allows us to peer through the cameras. Being able to see through the cameras gives us peace of mind.
Step 5: Clothing and Supplies
Carrying clothing, toiletries, and other items back and forth across the Atlantic gets old quickly. So we took steps to eliminate this challenge.
Clothing. For me, finding clothing that fits in Italy has been challenging. To eliminate bringing clothes back and forth, we both purchased enough essentials to have enough clothing in both places. We brought enough clothes for all seasons during our winter stay this year. From now on, we can travel lighter.
Toiletries: We have found that the toiletries used in California are available in Puglia, either the same brand or something similar. That lightens the load in the suitcase.
Useful items: We all like to carry things that we are familiar with, and the temptation is to feel that we must lug all these things over to Italy. I have to laugh at myself for having packed things readily available in Puglia, and Amazon Italy works like a charm.
Fully equipped in two places: Our goal is to have two fully equipped homes, with enough clothing and house supplies in both so we do not have to carry things back and forth. I think we have achieved this now. So for my next trip, I will only bring a small carry-on.
Insights: Living in two countries has challenges, but the rewards far outweigh any hassles. Whether it be housing, relationships, two homes, or having supplies, living in Italy and California is doable and amazing.
Watch for my book soon: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy." https://www.bookdepository.com/Stories-from-Puglia-Mark-Tedesco/9781913680640.
More next time.