After a trip to Cambodia changed her view of life, Rebecca found herself moving across the globe to see what else was out there. She has lived in Jordan, and traveled throughout Asia and the Middle East. She currently lives in Rome, Italy, where we caught up with her for an interview on what life is like living as an expat in a foreign country. Here's what she had to say...
What were you doing before you decided to move to Rome?
Before moving to Rome I was working in Washington, DC for a startup company that works to decrease infections in developing countries. I was also waitressing at a couple of lovely restaurants. I loved both jobs, but needed a change and missed traveling!
Was there a lot to prepare for before making the move?
Honestly, I didn’t do much. I signed up for some freelance websites to maintain a small income, posted a few ads on websites in Rome for English teaching and gave notice to my current employer.
Then I just saw as many friends as I could and packed up my apartment before spending a few days in Wisconsin with my family!
Once in Rome I applied for more permanent positions and ended up with a job I love at the International Development Law Organization.
I was expecting Rome to be more modern and international, maybe like London.
It was different than I expected, but different isn’t bad!
Were there any challenges that you had to deal with?
An obvious challenge was, (and still is), the language barrier. I’m learning Italian but still mime my way through many conversations.
Italians also do things in different ways than Americans, (read: more slowly). In some ways the relaxed “dolce vita” lifestyle is wonderful, but sometimes you want people to move as quickly as you are on a sidewalk or respond to your emails in a timely manner.
Also, I wasn’t expecting to get sick of Italian food, but it does happen sometimes. I never thought I would be tired of amazing pizza and pasta, but I’m craving variety and spice! A pleasant surprise was the city itself. No photographs can do its beauty justice.
What are some things you find interesting about the culture, language or food?
Did you have to deal with culture shock?
It’s funny because I’ve lived in places that are very, very different from the United States. I lived in Jordan and have traveled through Asia and the Middle East.
But I’ve never had culture shock like I did in Italy.
I think it’s because in Jordan, or Myanmar for example, you expect it to be different and you’re mentally excited and prepared for something completely foreign.
They have a distinct way of doing things that is unlike other European countries or the US. It’s endearing once you get used to it, but when you’re waiting to get Internet for two months or missing coffee larger than espresso, it’s a shock.
Have you learned Italian?
How do you get along with the local Italians?
Visas are the bane of my drifter existence. What is the visa situation like there?
Everyone here has told me Italy is pretty relaxed on this, and there are a lot of English teachers here who overstay their visas and never experience problems, but I didn’t want to do that.
I was fortunate enough to find a position with an organization that sponsored me to attain a visa working in the communications department of the International Development Law Organization.
Why should Rome be on everyone's travel list?
I'm coming to Rome! What should I do?
For something different, a day trip to Orvieto is nice. It’s only a little over an hour by train and is a gorgeous little hill town with an amazing Duomo and charming shops. Orvieto wine is from here, so make sure to taste a few bottles!
There is something to be said for efficiency and customer service in the US, and that is something I do miss and never appreciated at home, but probably will now.
But I don’t miss anything enough to move back, (yet), and I definitely don’t regret moving.
Give us some nuggets of "drifter wisdom" if we're considering a move there?
Just do it! It’s a big step, but you’ll challenge yourself and learn a lot. Learning to live somewhere outside of your comfort zone helps you become more confident in everything you do.
Take the chance and the experience or you might regret it. It seems like a big deal, but it’s just life.
You can always move home if you hate it.
Raised in a small town in Wisconsin, Rebecca caught the travel bug while studying abroad in Jordan. Since then, she's traveled through Asia and the Middle East, stopping for rest again in Jordan and finally returning to Washington, DC. Now working and living in Rome, she travels on weekends and whenever else she can. While the Middle East stole her heart, Europe isn't disappointing in adventure and beauty. She's looking forward to working and writing her way through many more countries and continents in the near future! Follow Rebecca on Twitter and Instagram, and read her blog at IntrigueTravel!
EXTRA: Keep a look out for more from Rebecca Holland on The Drifters Blog as she shares with us the ins and outs of Jordanian cuisine! SUBSCRIBE to my weekly newsletter or RSS Feed for live updates and stay tuned..
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And now we'd like to ask you: Would you consider living in Rome, Italy? Why or why not?