How to Move to Fantasyland


Before my senior year of college, during the bad old days of the Bush Administration, I went alone to Europe for seven weeks. It was very scary, important lessons were learned, lasting friendships were made, etc., etc. Then I came back to the US, moved back into my dorm, and resumed life as usual. Things I did not have to worry about when I was planning that trip: What to do about my house (I didn’t have one), what to do about my pets (they were still two twinkles in my eye), what it would be like to be far from my true love (was still looking for him), what fun things my friends would do without me (it was summertime in college—everyone disperses anyway). In other words, when you’re 21, you might be lucky enough to do something big and bold, because you’re not, as they say, “tied down.”

That trip to Europe was the first of a few bold moves I took in my early twenties. Upon graduating, I moved to North Carolina, where I had never been, with a friend right after college. I got a job as a cook in a fancy restaurant (holla Panciuto), with no qualifications, after telling the chef in the interview that I had no Plan B. The following summer, I got a ride with a friend out to Santa Fe, with no job or permanent housing lined up. It all worked out. The spring after that, I had reunited with a college boyfriend and moved out to live in a tent in an avocado ranch (that’s a whole other story). These moves were scary, I guess, but they were also...easy in a strange way. I didn’t have much to lose. Each time I decided to move, I felt I had wrung out all the experiences I was going to get from the place I was leaving: College ended. My yearlong cooking apprenticeship ended, and my roommates were moving on. I was bored with my job in Santa Fe and ready for the next thing.

But this temporary move to Italy to go to handbag school feels different. Now I have a life that I really like, one that took a long time to find my way to. I’m not exactly looking to check out of it for four months. I just got married. I get to snuggle my pets every day, even the mean one. I love our little house, our neighborhood, and our city. I love my friends and the community I’ve found here. In other words, I’m not getting pushed along by my personal circumstances to try to make something better happen elsewhere.* I’m starting to understand what being “tied down” feels like, and I kind of love it.

But I know that in order to move my business in the direction I want, I need to make this move. The reasons not to do it are of two kinds, as is always the case. There are logistical problems (What about the pets? Do I have to change my phone plan?), which can all be solved, one way or another. Then there are the fear-based problems (What if I hate it? What if I’m not cool enough to live in Milan’s Fashion District and I’m exposed as a fraud?). So far I am addressing those ones by doing practical things that can’t be undone (e.g. paying the tuition deposit, buying my plane ticket) until I’m moving along on momentum alone and the fears have less power, although they’re still making a racket in the background.

So yes, it is true that it’s a lot easier to go adventuring when you’re not tied down. But being tied down doesn’t mean it can’t be done, I’m learning. There are just more problems to solve. And the fear-based problems don’t have to be solved! You can just ignore those.

The logistical problems I’m taking one by one. Turns out getting a visa is really f***ing annoying, but that’s a logistical problem if there ever was one. Oliver is talking with his bosses about flexible work arrangements, which felt like a long shot, but it turns out you don’t know until you ask. We’re in the process of finding a house sitter who will love on our pets while Oliver is visiting me, and will probably do a better job keeping our plants alive than we do. I’ve found a tiny apartment to live in (PSA: Italian Craigslist is 100% a scam! Danger!). I’ll call the cellphone people about international plans. Check, check, check.

Back when this was just a dream, I saw on Instagram that one of my leather bag business inspirations Chelli Look of CHC was closing down her studio for three months to go to leather school in Florence (similar program to mine, different city and slightly different focus). I commented, “This is one of my fantasies. Go, you!” to which she replied, “Make that fantasy REAL!” So, thank you Chelli, for those instructions. I think I just needed someone to tell me that.

So here’s my untested-but-seems-right recipe for making a fantasy real: 1. Make a list of problems that stand in the way of the fantasy becoming real. There are probably a lot of them. 2. Sort the problems based on whether they’re fear-based or logistical. 3. Tell the fear-based problems that they can talk amongst themselves in the back seat while you drive (thanks Big Magic and my therapist for the visual). 4. Tackle the logistical problems one-by-one. This is what the Internet is for. 5. Get on the plane to Fantasyland (the fears get on the plane with you too, but that’s okay).

*I’ll grant that losing my studio space was a motivating factor, but there’s a much easier way to solve that problem than, uh, moving to Italy.