It’s been just over four weeks since we packed up our little Fiat and drove to our new home on the other side of the Mediterranean (well technically the Balearic and Ligurian) in Lucca, Italy. We know. A house in Tuscany sounds super romantic. But within two weeks of arriving, we had 6 feet of sewage pumped out of our front yard, no hot water or heat, and - after attempting to renovate our kitchen and bathroom at the same time (bold) - no running water and a hole in our stone kitchen wall that very closely resembled an archaeological excavation site. There has been more than one moment when we’ve longed for the ease of our rented apartment in Valencia, our trusty landlords just a phone call away, the ability to communicate, and a cafe table full of cheap wine, tapas and our wonderful friends to laugh with. But, even as we stood in the pouring rain, looking down at the almost overflowing tank full of raw sewage, trying to understand why the pump wouldn’t stop beeping, and later forking over nearly 1,000 euro for a new one, we’re confident that this crazy decision was a good one.
Let’s back up. Have you ever had a moment in time that you look back on, when, if you had made a different decision, your entire life would have gone down a different path? For us, this was early Spring, 2016. We had just gotten home from traveling around the world and were crashing in Sonoma, saving some money and trying to decide on our next move. We thought about going back to work in similar jobs, maybe in the Bay Area or Colorado, to make some money and find some of the stability we left behind. But we had the travel bug, a taste of freedom, and a life-is-short mentality. So instead, we decided to move to Europe and evolve our travel blog into a travel business. This was our moment in time.
The thing is, this leap making, ‘just-go-for-it’ strategy had really worked out for us in the past. Every time we wanted to do something seemingly crazy (Ryan moving to Hawaii, quitting our jobs and selling everything we own, traveling for almost a year…) it always felt terrifying at first but ended up paying off big over time. Our move to Spain was no different. And, ultimately, it supported our dream - to work for ourselves and have the freedom and flexibility to spend our (precious) time doing what we love, exploring new places together.
When we were deciding where to move, we wavered between Italy or Spain. Valencia won out, simply because it had everything we were looking for - a big city with low cost of living, part-time work opportunities, a great climate, on the Mediterranean. Over time, we loved the city for other reasons - the running culture and 10km-long park, how social and ‘out and about’ Valencianos are, and mostly, a group of friends we found from a smattering of countries and cultures around the world. But, the truth is, and always has been, that we never loved (like looooooved) Valencia. It was like dating someone in your mid-20’s.... A great long term relationship that you truly appreciate and learned a lot from, but in your heart you always knew wasn’t the ONE.
So last spring, with a bit of savings in the bank, and Cohica supporting us full-time (hooray!), we started looking at real estate in Italy. We booked a few exploratory trips, first looking at beautiful stone houses in the countryside with olive groves, before learning that many were not connected to the city’s gas lines and didn’t have heat, or had asbestos or needed a new roof… The expat forums had renovation horror stories a plenty. We realized that, although we were very excited for some nature and country living, we wanted (actually needed) a working house in good condition, and easy access to a city center with restaurants, bars, events, and, ya know, people under 105. Lucca was a perfect fit. It’s a small city in Tuscany, perfectly located 25 minutes from the Mediterranean, an hour from Florence, within a short drive of ski slopes and a well-connected international airport in Pisa. Plus it’s where Megan’s mom ran her travel business (how’s that for full circle?).
In July, we found our little yellow terratetto, a 2.5 bedroom house, about two miles from the historic center, complete with a 500 square foot barn (w/bathroom) and a pretty big yard for Mac. Although we’re constantly making impractical decisions (um, why don’t you just rent first!? Do you know anything about buying a house in Italy? Are you aware of Italian tax rates?) our parents were in full support and both offered low/no interest loans that, combined with our savings, allowed us to purchase the house without a mortgage from the bank (it helped that homes are far less expensive in Italy than the U.S!).
So, here we are, in a cozy little house in Tuscany, working away at our own business and seemingly living our dream. This mortgage-free home base will allow us to home-swap all over Europe (with Mac in tow) and support our goal of continuous exploration so we can build more amazing trips with personal contacts and first-hand knowledge. So, in the moments when the sewage pump breaks, giant stones are being excavated from our kitchen wall, and we’re communicating solely via mime and Google translate, we’re trying to see the big picture. This may not be a dream house for most people we know, but for us, this is the life we’ve always dreamed of.
A travel design agency.
Follow us on Instagram @CohicaTravel