One reader's experience of moving overseas

Freedom found: One reader’s experience of moving overseas

Ever felt the urge to quit your job, move overseas and chase your dreams?

I had been working for a university for nine years. I had a manageable mortgage on my shoulders and plenty of good friends, and I came from a tight Italian-Australian family where your “business” is always going to be their “business”. Caring about what people think has been hardwired into my brain from birth.

I was 37 and lonely. I’ve never been thick-skinned enough for dating apps — I knew I was so easily replaceable by another woman one swipe away. And it appeared the men I met were single for a reason. Most of my friends were married or in couples and had started having kids. This meant that my social circle of people to go out with was getting smaller and smaller. As much as I love a good dinner party, being the only single person at the table isn’t exactly the best way to meet someone. Pass the vino.

I can admit what most people refuse to say out loud: I was waiting for my life to change based on meeting a man. Work had become a comfortable routine, and I’d known for two years that I wasn’t feeling fulfilled any more. Or really challenged … Or, if I’m being honest, really happy.

Mild depression and anxiety crept up on me. My colleagues saw me crying at work in the kitchen, my tears splashing into my cup of tea. I carried a weight of despair on my shoulders and others felt it, too. One good friend, who meant well, told me she didn’t want to hang around me any more unless I went to talk to someone.

Anger, fear and sadness I felt about my work, my life, my future, my parents, men, myself … it all spilled out in a snotty mess each month.

I started speaking to Paul, a tall and lovely Canadian psychologist who gave my feelings a sense of validation while I cried. A lot. Anger, fear and sadness I felt about my work, my life, my future, my parents, men, myself … it all spilled out in a snotty mess each month.

I had the idea in my head that I’d reach my 10 years’ long service at work and spend it living “la dolce vita” in Italy with my golden EU passport and practising the rusty Italian verbs I learned in high school while getting fat on creamy Nutella gelato.

That was the plan until a bad Friday at work pushed me over the edge. Over the next few days, I lost my appetite, I needed tablets to sleep at night and my period randomly started. The unhappiness I felt was no longer bearable.

I resigned from my job the following week and booked a one-way ticket to Italy the week after that.

Over the next four weeks I packed up the contents of my one-bedroom apartment and packed a small suitcase of 18kg with enough clothes for each season.

Diving in the deep end

I felt a strange numbness before departing Australia. I’d told my family I didn’t want a send-off, and so my brother and his wife dropped me off at the departures kerb.

Anxiety, however, doesn’t go away that easily. I called a friend in tears while waiting in the check-in line, my fellow travellers kindly looking away. I was terrified of having given up security, of having no real plan and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I oscillated between feeling too much about everything to feeling nothing at all.

A month later, I found myself zooming around the Tuscan island of Elba on the back of my uncle’s motorbike, feeling the hot August sun on my bare legs and arms, my helmet hiding the widest grin on my face. I felt free … finally.

Since that motorbike moment, things got interesting. I visited my dad’s home town of Bronte in Sicily, which was famous for its green pistachio nuts. I hung out with my Sicilian relatives, including my aunty Zia Ignazia. She’s a hilarious and happy nun who would tug the thigh-high hem of my denim shorts down daily. She also taught me how to cook the best eggplant caponata and invited me to church each afternoon without fail. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was a lapsed Catholic.

I danced into the early hours of the morning on a trip to Ibiza and met music lovers from all over the world.

And now? I find myself working in a beautiful boutique hostel in a medieval town in Umbria with about 15 elderly Italians, two cats, one dog and a comfy hammock at the top of a tower. The building used to be a school, and the original blackboard still sits over the breakfast area. Only now, instead of sums scribbled on its surface, sit the words: “Travel: It leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.”

And that is what I am. I’m “comfortable with being uncomfortable” and, although I’m not where I thought I’d be at age 37, I’m writing a new chapter for my life and seeing where this path takes me.

My itinerary may be empty, but my heart is filled with hope.

Katia Sanfilippo

Katia Sanfilippo

To read more from Katia Sanfilippo visit

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