Finding your dream job is not an easy feat. Sometimes it’s less about finding it and more about taking the necessary steps to create it. It’s also about going through difficult experiences to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Through trusting this process, following my gut, and dreaming big, I went from the New York Minute to the Italian Siesta and found a life I love.
Not that long ago while living in New York City, I was waking up in a cold sweat every morning after dreaming all night about stress at work. I would often wake up in a panic with my heart racing, unable to get out of bed. I’d have to take deep breaths, calm myself down, then convince myself to start another day in a life that no longer felt like my own, in a place that didn’t make me happy.
Overall, I’m very blessed and even the pursuit of a career is in fact a privilege. But I do recognize that the pain we each feel is relative to what we’ve experienced in our own life thus far. That being said, I was trying really hard to love a life that just wasn’t for me, in addition to battling some inner conflicts I had managed to keep down fairly well up to that point. Having grown up in the Appalachian Mountains, the city environment alone was stressful enough and although I was learning and growing a lot, I knew I had to make a change (because, you know, being able to take a full deep breath is kinda important).
I didn’t know exactly what the next step would look like, so I decided to go where I could hear my own voice clearly again, to the place where I was more “myself” than anywhere else- Italy. This decision wasn’t easy; it meant letting go of a stable job, society’s expectations of me, and worse, a person whom I loved deeply.
Because of my experience in the luxury travel industry, I had my pick of several different Italian tour operators to work with and I chose one in the heel of Italy’s boot. For months, I lived a life that was polar opposite of where I’d just come from, in a region most often skipped over by American tourists. I started to breathe easily again, I started to feel excited about work again, and, thanks to a lot of time spent alone, I started to hear my own voice clearly again.
Over those several months, I listened to that voice and gave it the respect and attention I had denied it for years. As soon as I did, something completely unexpected happened: the far-off dream of one day leading my own cultural immersion trips in Italy began to materialize right there before my eyes. It was as if all the pieces I was missing in order to feel ready were filled one by one. Soon enough, I had no more excuses. A door opened and it was time to leap through it.
Fast forward to today- I live half the year in Italy and half at home in the lush Appalachian Mountains where I grew up. I organize and lead the most amazing trips (in my humble opinion) that allow people to experience a meaningful connection with the authentic culture through activities with locals, workshops with artisans, and plenty of laughter over long meals and glasses of wine.
In some ways, it seems this dream was handed to me, the right things appearing at the right time- it has all flowed so beautifully. But it took a lot of courage and strength to say yes to the opportunities that arose, and when the opportunity wasn’t there, I created it myself. It’s easy to think travel planning would be a breeze of a job, but I put in 12+ hour days and I work all weekend. I live, breathe, eat, and sleep this dream- and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
At the end of the day though, it isn’t the determination or hard work that makes Creative Edge strong. It’s the passion that I have for Italy. It’s how I feel totally lit up from inside when an old Italian grandpa walks arm-in-arm with me through town, sharing the story of his life through every corner and cobblestone. Magical moments like that– when I’m welcomed directly into the community like family – are my main drive to give everything that I have so that others may experience the same level of authenticity (rather than visiting a place created to give a taste of that experience).
I used to spend my days trying to push through and be happy in a life that my heart did not choose. I dared to dream beyond my current situation. I dared to believe in myself and do things a little differently than the ‘norm’. I dared to think that travel can be more than just visiting pretty places.
Now, I wake up eager to get to work and excited to help more people experience truly authentic Italy. Sure, my life is a little unsettled, but this journey is one I can’t imagine my life without, one I was destined to take, and one I hope I’ll have the chance to share with you.