Dream Life vs. Real Life

“Dream Life vs. Real Life” or “Why I Won’t Quit My Job”…

I’m going to turn 40 later this year. My 30s flew by. Actually, when I stop and think about it, A LOT happened in that decade, but I still can’t believe that it’s almost over.

One reason it seems so strange that my thirties could be ending is that I’m in the same place I was when I turned 30. You see, I moved my whole life, from one place to another, until I moved to Sacramento, California 11 years ago. I’m still here. Honestly, I can’t say that I’m excited by that, but I doubt I’ll be leaving any time soon. Why? Because I have a great job. But is it my “dream job”? No. And is this my dream homebase? No.

I face a dilemma that bothers me just about all the time. I have one life, and it’s already flying by, so why don’t I live the “life of my dreams”? Why am I living in so-so Sacramento when I could live in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Italy (gasp), or any of the other places where life is more, you know, amazing?

Sacramento really isn’t a bad place to live–there’s plenty of good food and world-class places to visit within 1-2 hours–but with the crime and very flat valley topography, I wonder if it is the one place I would choose to spend decades of my precious life.

farmers market Sacramento

The fresh fruit and great weather are two perks of living in Sacramento

I have the same wishy-washy feelings about my work. Let me tell you that I feel extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful job. I know teaching college-level ESL may not be for everyone, but it’s hard to beat this combination: supportive colleagues, creative freedom, four months of vacation a year (months, not weeks), great benefits including full health and dental coverage for my family and me, tenure (meaning I can’t lose my job), flexible scheduling, and a decent salary. I can change it up so that I don’t teach the same things over and over, and I get to teach a range of topics like culture, anthropology, art, fiction, and much more. Best of all, my students are (mostly) fun, interesting, diverse people who love learning.

esl students

So what’s the problem? I’ve been at this job for almost 11 years. No matter how rewarding and flexible my work is, as I’ve said before, it’s not really in my nature to do the same thing year after year. I am an inquisitive person who loves learning and doing new things. That creative energy is where this blog came from.

In the past several months, a deep desire to pursue other projects has been building, from taking this blog to the next level and writing more for Travel Mindset, to sending pitches to magazines in the hope of expanding my freelance work, writing those travel guides I planned, and getting my tours of Italy organized. However, I don’t have much time for any of that–I have a full-time job and two kids, and even when I’m on vacation, there are always other things to catch up on.

As soon as I start thinking that way, I remind myself that a good number of people in the world would like to just have a job and can’t relate to analyzing their “dream job.” Many of my students feel that way–they have had to start over in the U.S. and put their dreams on the back burner for years in hopes of getting an education that will ensure them a job simply because they need to work. I feel like maybe a “dream job” is a luxury, one that would be based more on my own desires rather than the needs of those around me (even though I truly believe that having creative pursuits is good for the soul).

living your dream life

When my mind starts wandering to the places I wish I could be and things I wish I could be doing, I ask myself the following questions:

  • What would be the pros and cons of the dream job/dream locale?
  • How can I live the life of my dreams right where I am now?
  • What is really important to me and to those whose lives I connect with every day?

I remind myself that I have built a life here that reflects what’s important to me: my little family, my community, and my workplace (which is inspiring to be a part of).

I remind myself to be thankful for what my work and hometown give me, including the wonderful weather, food, and vibe of Northern California. I know I would miss those things if I moved.

Sacramento River

Finally, I know that through my work, I have a positive impact on many people’s lives…my real job helps people reach their dream jobs. The good news is that the stability of my work gives me a little space to pursue other interests and projects. I know that as my children get a little older and our lives stabilize over the next several months, I will have more opportunities to pursue these paths. In the meantime, I feel grateful for what I have and what I have done, and I accept where I am and what I am doing.

Are you living the “life of your dreams”? Why or why not? 

55 Comments

  • Maria says:

    “How can I live the life of my dreams right where I am now?” That’s a great question and from reading this post i think you’ve got it, or at least have come closer than many of us. Kudos!
    Maria recently posted..Don’t Stop Living – Gets the Accelerated ScoopMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      It’s definitely about perspective. The grass is always greener somewhere else unless we learn to appreciate the here and now.

      • Tricia says:

        Jenna, I definitely agree about the “grass is always greener on the other side.” As we’ve travelled the world, to places where we would be utterly thrilled to call home, locals have expressed how they’d love to move to the United States. It’s a funny phenomenon.

        Of course, It would be naive to assume that living in a place is the same as just visiting it for a few days or months as a traveler, but there are certainly places that make my heart flutter, places I would love to make our home for a while, or permanently.

        We left our beautiful home and familiar surroundings in Heidelberg, Germany 15 months ago, after much deliberation. Many countries and beautiful life experiences later, we haven’t regretted the decision since, but it was made easier by the fact that my job would be ending there eventually. Without that happening, however, I’m not sure we would’ve made the leap. We’ll see where the road winds from here. 🙂
        Tricia recently posted..The Wild Asparagus of Croatia: A Foraging Trip & Lunch in the Dalmatian CountrysideMy Profile

        • Jenna says:

          All good points, Tricia, and I think we Americans are often attracted to places like Europe but can overlook the good points about living here. How exciting that you have been doing what you love for the last 15 months! Wow!

  • Hasan Niyazi says:

    Thank you for this fascinating post Jenna. I have been musing on a similar question myself since being in Florence last November, and all I can really come up with is that life hardly ever boils down to an absolute. Periods of time we spend traveling, attending conferences or doing something special like being part of “teamflorens” (as we were!) are wonderful experiences, but almost utterly devoid of a daily grind and challenges that set in once you actually *settle* somewhere.

    This being said, there is something somatic that happens to me in Florence, and nowhere else it seems. I did not feel it in Madrid last year, or even when I popped over to Rome, or any of the other places I had been around the world previously (from Istanbul to Bangkok). There is something that ties me to that city and I really have no idea why this sensation is such a bodily and consuming one – only that I do feel it each time I am there and it never wears off!

    As for making it there, or not – I am working towards a happy medium. If I can spend periods of time there doing something practical and interesting, it will be nice. I think it would be unhelpful to suppress a yearning we have for certain things or places – if we can not achieve it in a totality, we can get someway there at least. It is definitely not unusual with many drifting in and out of places like Italy eternally.

    Here’s to happy mediums, if not fulfilled dreams 🙂

    Best wishes
    H
    Hasan Niyazi recently posted..Art history and blogging in the digital ageMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I like that…”here’s to happy mediums.” There is no such thing as perfection. However, I do understand what you were referring to about feeling something unique in Florence. I have such a strong pull to that city especially and a couple of other places in Europe as well. It’s something impossible to explain. However, to me, Florence is the perfect place–it has everything I have long been interested in, it is walkable, it is beautiful, and more. Maybe I lived there in a past life 🙂 Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Hasan.

  • Great topic and post, Jenna! I am in the process of trying to bridge my professional training with my passion (luckily they overlap somewhat), so this hits close to home. I’ve also been considering other places to live, even though I do love my city. “I know I would miss those things if I moved” – I know this sentiment all too well.

    I don’t know if there are right or wrong answers here, but it’s great that you’re asking the questions. I believe in doing whatever makes you happy in the long run, and perhaps that’s sometimes appreciating what you already have, while never saying never. You don’t know what opportunities might pop up. 🙂
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: Old Point Loma Lighthouse in San DiegoMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks, Pola! I agree that there are no right or wrong answers, but certainly your point about doing what makes you happy in the long run (I believe that thinking long term is really important) and appreciating what we already have are key. Being open to opportunities is a good point, too. I try to do that but am sometimes restricted by my responsibilities, but that’s OK. Responsibility is part of life.

  • Alexandra says:

    Hi Jenna
    Luckily we have Hasan who coordinates our contacts and he sent me this link. Like him, I appreciate your openness and enjoy reading this post.
    I think many people think I live a dream life, and in many ways it is: I have a home in florence, another in the Maremma area of the countryside, an interesting and varied job, fun colleagues, and public healthcare :). But even I sometimes have moments in which I think I am not fulfilled enough. This happens when I meet up with academic friends who are mostly up for or getting tenure as art history professors this year, some at very important universities, and then I think ‘should i have stuck with art history?’; the other time comes at this time of year when I see do my taxes and see how little I earn. So, as you know, it’s hard to find the ideal balance, and there are always sacrifices. You have a beautiful family and time to spend with them.
    baci from Florence
    Alexandra
    Alexandra recently posted..Hotel Armentarola: a sunny place full of historyMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you to Hasan indeed 🙂
      And thank you for sharing your thoughts. All the things you mention that you have are wonderful. Having fun colleagues and an interesting and varied job are a lot more important to daily contentedness than many people realize. I have asked myself the same thing about art history because it is one of my true passions, but I stopped much earlier in the process than you did and have often thought about going back to school to get the Ph.D. in art history I always wanted. It seems a bit silly, though, considering how many years of school I already have behind me. As you mentioned, I have time to spend with my family, and I am thankful for that.

  • These are my favorite type of posts – Personal musings.

    To answer your question – Yes, I am living the life of my dreams. It took me 37 years but it was worth the wait.

    I have always been a gypsy at heart. Maybe it was because we moved a lot when I was a child so I just developed a habit to it. And I have always had a passion for travel – It started at the age of 10 (when we started to take in overseas exchanges students – hearing about their lives in foreign countries fascinated me even back then).

    So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out my dream life is that of a traveling nomad! And 12 months ago the dream became reality.

    Not everyone gets to live their dream life so I know I need to be grateful every second of every day that I do.

    Thanks for your honest post!
    Nicole @ Suitcase Stories recently posted..House sitting –What exactly does it cost to have FREE accommodation while you travel?My Profile

  • katie says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and trying to find a solution. I have often wanted to try living abroad or nomadically…especially as I’ve started following the blogs of people who do so. But at the same time, I love having a home base close to my family. I’ve always felt equally the need to nest and the need to explore. I try to balance it by exploring the things closest to me, but it doesn’t always scratch the itch. I think I have found a solution — for me, to possibly work remotely a few times a year. The problem is going to be convincing my bosses that my perfect compromise will also benefit them. 🙂
    katie recently posted..The 5 Best Plantations Near New OrleansMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I can definitely relate. Your idea if working remotely is a good one, so good luck with figuring that out with your work. 🙂

  • Cami says:

    About ten years ago I found myself in your position. I have always craved and been energized emotionally and creatively by moving around and getting new challenges. I’d been in the same location for 12 years at that point…. by accident. We moved here (upper midwest) when we both lost out East Coast jobs within a month of each other. Glad to have jobs and assuming that we’d find many positives here, as we always had wherever we’d moved, we moved with great optimism. Unfortunately, although we started with hope and happiness, we found after several years that we cannot fit in here since we weren’t born here. Period. In addition, we dislike the climate and topography, to say nothing of the emphasis on beer and football to the exclusion of almost all else. We stayed for the jobs — good jobs with great benefits.

    We’ve now been here 20+ years and we both wish that around the 10 year mark, we’d made a serious, concerted effort to get outta here! I don’t want to sound like a negative Nellie, but when you’re over 50 and you look back and realize that you’ve spent the bulk of your adult life NOT living the LIFE you want, it’s not a good feeling.

    So we’re right now making a concerted effort to find jobs in an area that hopefully will suit us better so that we can look forward to the rest of our lives.

    My advice is to not get complacent in your comfort.

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Cami. I agree that getting complacent is not good, and that we should constantly change things up in a positive way, whether it’s where we live, what we do, or how we take care of ourselves. I do have to admit that a huge part of the reason I am content to be here even though I sometimes hope for more is that Northern California is great. The people, the food, and the weather make living here a pleasure (mostly).

  • I am going to say it and I dare anyone to argue with me – no one understands or can relate to this better than me.

    We live in the same place, are in the exact same situations, have comfortable jobs, have a desire to travel more, and are torn between the dream life we want, and the reality that is our lives now. I’ve got big travel plans and like you, have a bit more freedom than most to travel (despite having a different job). I like my life here in northern California but I put in many, many, many hours into blogging.

    I am torn between two lives. I wrote a similar post to this recently about travel and my midlife crisis because I feel want to live two different lives and am at an interesting place. I am not sure how many women relate to mid life crises but many men have them.

    This post sums up my life as well. I still don’t have answers for what I am going to do or whether I choose the dream or reality. I am still torn as I love both worlds. However, I only have one life.
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Easter Island travel guide for budget travelersMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I knew that you would relate to this. To focus on the positive, it is the stability that our lives and work have here that have allowed us to start blogging, travel, and learn new things that we enjoy.

  • Dana Newman says:

    It really, truly is all about perspective! I moved to Europe to live my special dream life, but after living here for 4 years, it too eventually becomes “normal!” What someone else is doing always looks more fun. You imagine “oh, if I were doing THAT, I’d never get bored or want anything else out of life…” But you always do! The novelty wears off, and then the only thing to do is move again, or pick a new “dream life,” but I’ve learned by doing just that, that it doesn’t lead to satisfaction, but rather always chasing after a perfect dream life that is just a mirage on the horizon…Hope this helps at least a little!
    Dana Newman recently posted..Lost in PragueMy Profile

  • I have been asking myself this same question a lot lately. I have been living in the same place for almost eight years now and have also been running my own business. The problem is that I have what I wanted ten years ago but I do not want it any more.

    I love the freedom of running my own business but there are downsides. The biggest one is that I can not travel as much as I want. I really want to take longer trips but if I take too many of those I will not have any customers left. I can take as many 4-5 day trips as I want but that is not long enough for the places I want to go.

    While you may not be happy with what you have there are some positives. You have a lot of vacation time which you would never get in most jobs. Your job is stable and has good benefits. The trick is figuring out how to work what you want to do into your current schedule. The trick is figuring out how to make it all work together.
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    • Jenna says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jeff. I agree that there are lots of positives, and I am definitely grateful for all of them. As I said in the post, I am fortunate, but I hope to work more of what I really desire into my life as things stabilize a bit over the next several months. Good luck with your decisions if you do indeed decide to make a change. Having your own business must be nice because it gives you control and flexibility, but not having more than a week off at a time would be a challenge for travel.

  • I hear you, Jenna. I am fortunate to live in NYC, a city that many people from all over the world dream of residing in or at least visiting. There are other places where I feel I COULD be comfortable living, but I don’t think any of them would be more better for me and my interests than New York. And yet, I’ve lived most of my life in this region (including having lived in Manhattan since 1995), and I’m of your generation (actually, a few years older); and I sort of do wish I was able to untether myself and move around more. Because travel is my greatest passion (along with karaoke), and there are so so many places I haven’t seen yet that I want to experience (let alone experience them slowly, as you’ve discussed in your “quality travel” series). I get 4 weeks of vacation per year, which is a lot by American standards, but that still doesn’t seem like nearly enough.

    I’m also lucky enough to have a good job at a highly respected company in my field that enables me to finance the extensive travels that I do take. And I have some wonderful and interesting work colleagues. Additionally, through work, I may even in the not too distant future have a chance to work in a large Asian city for a year or two — a posting that theoretically could serve as an excellent base to explore the wider region (although even if I did that, I worry that I would be working too hard for my company to take full advantage of those exploration opportunities). Anyway, it would be hard to give that all up, and to find a sustainable way to transition to a more nomadic lifestyle. So I continue to seek the answers. 🙂
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    • Jenna says:

      You’re absolutely right that 4 weeks of vacation, living in NYC, and having enough finances to travel are reasons for you to be thankful. Traveling slowly is a bit of a luxury, and even though it’s my favorite way to travel, it’s not always realistic or even preferable in some cases. Working in Asia could be an interesting step but, as you said, you may feel like you would have to work too much. Let me know what happens!

  • Krista says:

    I’m working on it. 🙂 I try to do something each day that either builds towards things I’m dreaming of or makes this time more dreamy. 🙂 I love my life, my man, my work as a freelance writer/photographer, but I also have those niggling dreams that I can’t wait to work on when my health is better. I think dreaming is marvelous, but so is contentment. Finding a happy medium is a bugger sometimes. 🙂
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  • Juan says:

    Great post, Jenna! Love the question “how can I live the life of my dreams right where I am now?” Having moved to São Paulo almost two years ago from Chicago/Miami, I’m fairly sure that it’s not about where you are but what you do there. Moving can be a catalyst, no doubt, but real change comes from within, not from a new address. You pointed out that a lot of those dreams you discussed can be done right in Sacramento (time constraints aside). I hope anyone reading this recognizes that and doesn’t put off pursuing their “dream life” just because they’re still living in the same place, it doesn’t have to be a limitation at all. Life, after all, is what happens while we’re making plans.

    Send my best to Cali 🙂
    Juan
    Juan recently posted..SHARING BEER AND HAPPINESS IN BRAZILMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Yes, I agree that real change comes from within, and we can accomplish that right where we are. Great last line, too–I have loved that one for a long time! 🙂

  • lola says:

    i too struggle with this. i’m such a free bird and would love to set off on an endless journey or perhaps pick a better home base launch pad but the truth is, if you like to flit away – it’s going to be that much harder to create a support system other new places. even though i don’t think i live in the best place for me, i don’t think i can recreate my friendships & network here anywhere else and i guess i still need them.
    lola recently posted..why i will be returning to Costa BravaMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Friendships and a network at home are hugely important. Thanks for mentioning those points, Lola.

  • I know what you mean. Sometimes I have this feeling of panic wash over me saying – “What am I doing?! I need to go and do something extraordinary because this is the only life I have!”
    This feeling is what keeps me traveling in between what feels like the mundane.
    At the moment I know I am in a great spot both for my age and within the grand scheme of the world. I have a job, I work with my immediate family and I own a home at the age of 26. My work promotes and enables me to travel and sometimes that includes my family. It’s not what I imagined for myself after I graduated but I really can’t complain.

    Well written and a very thoughtful post!
    The Wanderfull Traveler recently posted..Where Chefs Eat: My New Travel CompanionMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I think it’s wonderful that you work with your immediate family. Too many people try to get away from their family in their 20s, and I think it is a huge mistake. Family bonds are special!

  • We’re struggling to work out what we want out dream life to be at the moment. I’m totally over “reality” at the moment. The daily grind of being a SAHM is wearing me down. I’m not sure why but being on the road makes life a lot easier for me than being in one place.
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  • I love that you are finding your dreams in your reality. Cause even dream lives have nightmares 😀
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  • These are really good self-reflections to do. I love this style of post that allows getting to know the blogger more.
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  • Christina says:

    Jenna – Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing.

    Balance is the key to everything. I agree that we have to have comfort in our daily lives (ie. enough money to be secure, a job that is meaningful, community and friends) but we can balance that with the “dream” activities whether it is hobbies or walking through Italy. For me, traveling is that much more fun because I am not always doing it. The anticipation, preparation and (dare I say) daydreaming is enjoyable as well.

    Good luck finding your balance. It’s great to see your blog growing and that you are taking on new challenges. And happy birthday too!! 🙂
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  • Kirsty says:

    I know where you’re coming from with this. I just turned thirty this year – another reflective milestone.

    I think it’s all about working out what your top priorities are in life. For some people it’s money. That’s OK – work towards that then. For others it’s travel, or living close by to family, or reaching their career goals. Once you’ve worked out what your top priority is then I think everything gets a bit easier.

    For me personally my number one top priority is freedom – so I quit my job and worked out a way to write and travel more. As soon as you identify your top priority the impossible suddenly gets a little more possible.

    Thanks for a great (and thought-provoking) post 🙂
    Kirsty recently posted..It’s Time for a ChangeMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Good advice about asking about priorities. I like that you took a chance and found a life that is fulfilling for you. Everyone’s answer to that question is different.

  • Andrea says:

    Good god I’m trying to live the life I dream of! I sort of am… just without all of the good stuff you mentioned… regular income, benefits, 4 MONTHS of vacation! Wow! I’m trying to do the same thing you are… work on freelance, work on my art, try to live a creative life on my own terms. It’s a tough road though, especially living in inexpensive city. I feel lucky to be stuck where I am though, because its beautiful and I do love it…. that wanderlust won’t leave me alone though!
    Andrea recently posted..Travel Painting Week 2 Rouen, FranceMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      It’s important to keep thinking about pursuing the things that make us happy and to nurture creativity, which you obviously do. 🙂

  • This is such a thought provoking post. It is really hard to make that compromise between dream and real, especially when you’re real life is a solid and rewarding. Part of me feels scared to reach for the dream as it might make me seem ungrateful for the good real life that I already have! So I’ve started to incorporate parts of what i want for my dream life into my real life. Also in retrospect all the great things in my real life seem like a dream.
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    • Jenna says:

      I hear you. This is something that bothers me all the time. Then I think that it’s a privilege to even be able to think about it–so many other people struggle just to get by day by day. As you said, we can incorporate aspects of our dreams into our real lives right now.

  • Renuka says:

    I’m certainly living my ‘dream life’. 🙂 I’m traveling, writing about my travel experiences, sharing amazing pictures, inspiring people to travel and growing as an individual. I really appreciate that you raised this question – it’s a good way to introspect!
    Renuka recently posted..Looking Back At 2013My Profile

  • Steph says:

    I came across this article through your FB links and wow can I relate. I am very slightly older than you and I honestly believe this is a very common experience for people around our age.

    I fell in love with Florence when I was 14 years old and started reading EM Forster. I grew up in Canada and although I love the beauty of the woods and wilds of Canada, I swore I would never live the suburban lifestyle as an adult that I experienced as a kid. I wanted art and architecture and romance and elegance..all the rest. Flash forward nearly 30 years and I often think, ”Be careful what you wish for.” I am committed to my amazing partner, who happens to be Italian and who lives in Florence, but I don’t really want to move here anymore. I still love Florence, but as I have become more acquainted with it through various long term stays and many many Christmas and other shorter holidays, I slowly am feeling more solidly Canadian and content with what I have back home than ever before. This is particularly true as I grow older and realize that nothing is ever static and the country itself is growing and maturing. All of this is actually a surprise given that I have left Canada many times before, working in foreign service type jobs in Washington, Australia, having lived in Asia on a whim in my twenties and also having left my career entirely once to become a traveling athlete for a few years. I am well-acquainted with the life of an ex-pat and nomad and thought it was what I wanted.

    What I have realized for myself recently is that I could probably be happy in Florence or almost anywhere, as long as I am able to go home at least a couple of months out of the year and more importantly if I am able to create work for myself that fulfills me creatively. I actually really like my job and am proud of the work I do back home, but at the same time I have come to realize that what is nagging at me is that I still feel that a great deal of my human potential is unfulfilled. I have no desire to leave my job any time soon, but I do want to work on figuring out that creative potential stuff. I don’t want to settle for second best and in any case “wherever you go, there you are”, as they say! I guess I am wondering if perhaps your situation is along the same lines. You do fulfilling work with solid parameters, but it seems as though you yearn for other challenges. The place itself may be less important in the long run, but only you know the answer to that!

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Steph! I think you bring up some great points, and I agree that there is no perfect place. Ironically, my favorite city is Florence, which is where I wish I could live.

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi Jenna –
    Sorry, that was a terribly rambling comment made on my Blackberry on which I cannot write to save my life.

    I honestly oscillate between wanting to move to Florence and not. When I have just left (e.g. yesterday), I yearn for it, but when I’m there I’m so maddened by aspects of the city, political culture in Italy, etc., and aware that I could never have the type of work and life that I have at home, that I decide that I don’t want to risk my real life to live there. In a nutshell, I understand your desire! Maybe you’ll get to live there at some point. I tend to think that dreams have a way of eventually working out!

    • Jenna says:

      Your mention of not being able to have the type of work that you have at home is important for me to hear. I have heard that from others, too. I do get tired of my work and long for something else, but the stability and easy life that my work provides would be hard to replicate, especially in Italy where my type of work is not well paid.
      I hope I can at least start spending a month there every year.

      • Stephanie says:

        Hi Jenna,

        That’s pretty much what I do. In the last few years I have been fortunate to have been able to take unpaid leave from my job for up to two months in the spring and have studied (drawing, Italian) in Florence. I won’t be able to do this again in the near future though. Instead I’ll go for most of the month of May this year and then again at Christmas.

        Florence is a wonderful place and it goes without saying that the Italian culture has many wonderful elements, but the truth is that the economic and political realities there are pretty brutal. Virtually all of the people I know well and who live there are underpaid relative to their skills.

        I realized for myself early on that the only way I could move there in the long run would be to have some kind of a business or cobble together a life involving international work and/or local work that would not come close to the quality of work that I have here. The fact that my partner is Italian and is able to earn a decent living would of course be a help, but I am used to taking care of myself and I know that I could not be happy without quality work that I felt invested in. In other words, I’m still trying to figure out what I am willing to do and how to do it. My ideal would be to remain in my own country, continue with my career and for him to come here but for us to spend six weeks a year in Italy. I just don’t know though…time will tell!

        In any case, I wish you all the best with your endeavours and am sure your path will take you where you need to go. You write very well and I enjoy your site very much.

        • Jenna says:

          I have noticed the same, that people are underpaid for their skills and that they have to work hard to make a living. I know I would miss the time off and flexibility that my work offers. I hope to spend time in Florence every year and have been planning to start leading tours there, ones that would focus on the art and architecture of Florence but would present it in a way that would be interesting and easy to understand and would give the people a greater understanding of the city’s history. Before I can do that, I need to spend some time there again doing research. Thank you for the information and kind words. 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    PS But of course you are best off talking with people who actually live there to get a more complete view of the work opportunities available to you! I’m only working off of my own analysis and observations.

  • How are you feeling a year later after writing this post?
    I just entered the big 30, 6 months ago and man… it’s been all about figuring out next steps and looking for work. I don’t want just any work and I know I’m privileged to be able to take the time to look for what I’d like (even if it’s not the “dream job”).

    Could you take a sabbatical and live in Italy for a year?

    The grass always appears greener. I prefer this quote: The grass is greener where you water it!
    Lauren @ Roamingtheworld recently posted..When converting to self-hosting doesn’t go to planMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      🙂 Thanks for checking in. I am feeling the same as last year and think I will feel like this as long as I have roots somewhere. The roots are good, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have my job, but I always long to be exploring. I just turned 40 and that makes this longing harder to take. I like that quote that you shared and will remember that!
      I think about another post I wrote about ayurveda and the different types of personalities people have. This is just my character; my husband is not like this. Just as an example, it’s Spring Break and all I can think about is getting away (I just spent the weekend doing that), but he’s content being at home.
      Yes, I can take sabbaticals, but the circumstances are more complicated. I could take a year off unpaid (with our mortgage, that would be very hard), I could work extra and bank it and then take a semester off paid (that will be my next step once my younger son is in school), or I could apply for a working sabbatical, but that requires creating a very innovative project and then applying. Anyway, it’s a good idea, one I am considering.
      One lesson I learned recently is that if you are going to be working, make the absolute best of it, and if you’re working somewhere for a long time, do something new to shake yourself up. I recently went to a conference and got SO many wonderful ideas and am now full of creative project ideas for my job. Without that, work becomes a chore, which is sad.
      Best of luck with your 30s! They are very rewarding years!

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