Living Authentically: How Italy Forced the Issue

Portone, Badolato, Calabria, ItalyYou’ve probably heard the phrase “living an authentic life” kicked around, especially in the past several years. Generally, it means bringing our actions in line with our thoughts and beliefs . . . quite simply, being ourselves, living “your truth.”

Living an authentic life means identifying what makes you feel alive and vibrant and then having the courage to live and operate in that space while battling down any fears that would inhibit you from doing so.

It sounds simple, in theory, but it’s actually rather difficult for many of us to achieve and sustain. Whether it’s societal or familial norms and pressures or just our own inner monologues messing with us, finding one’s authentic self can be a monumental struggle.

Still, living with authenticity has become quite an “in” thing to do, or at least to strive for, though some people may find it a bit too “woo” to call it as such. Before I moved to Italy, I had certainly never heard the term, so it wasn’t a conscious goal of mine.

But several years into my move and many Internet hours logged later, I realized that “authenticity” put a name to exactly what I had been trying to do.

To me, I was simply moving to where I just felt more “me” than I ever had before . . . and, in turn, living here has most definitely brought me closer to living my authentic life. Italy has pushed me in ways I didn’t know I needed, like forcing me to have a little (a lot) more patience with just about everything and, especially in the early years when I spoke very little Italian, learning how to be truly by myself and enjoy my own company.

Italy has also taught me to be happy with living with a lot fewer *things* (and not care so much about the toys other people have) and to become more in touch with my body by making better food choices, eating seasonally and locally, and even growing/raising some of our food supply.

I also move a great deal more than I ever would have in the States, where I most likely would have been tied to a desk for most of my day in a 9-5 (or 8-8ish if I had chosen law firm “life”). Freelancing rocks, and I doubt I ever would have tried it if I had stayed in the US. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else. Here I set my own schedule and take daily walks (up and down *lots* of hills!) — usually several per day if the weather is nice. Yoga has also become a bigger part of my life here, even though I had learned the basics way back in college, several years before I left the US.

Could I have found my truth somewhere else? Possibly, and Italy is definitely not the place for everyone to find theirs. Many people have a romantic idea of living in Italy, especially in a quaint village like mine full of welcoming people. And yes, la vita can indeed be objectively bella here a lot of the time (the scenery is, indeed, *amazing*), but it can also be infuriatingly frustrating and soul-crushing, whether it’s dealing with bureaucracy or trying to express one’s true self in a foreign language.

Any major physical relocation is challenging, albeit in different ways, and I’m a firm believer in “wherever you go, there you are,” but sometimes starting over in a new place can give you the perspective you need to shed old labels and notions you have of yourself and gradually get to know the real you a whole lot better — and not the “you” the people around you have told you that you are for your entire life, or who you’re “supposed” to be.

And that is a big part of finding your authentic self: releasing the past and living in the present.

Italy Blogging RoundtableBeing mindful of the moment and those around you grounds the soul while simultaneously allowing you to be open to new experiences. Mindfulness can also lead you to become more empathetic to the struggles of others, too, as you accept not only yourself as you are but also others’ authentic selves as well.

So is that it? Am I done, having won the authenticity lottery?

Erm, no.

It turns out this living authentically thing is a moving target. As life changes, we change, too — and the quest for living authentically is continuous.

Lucky for us, our capacity to grow, change, and adapt is limitless.

About seventeen months ago, my whole world was upended in a most wonderful way with the birth of my daughter. I’m convinced that my own quest for authentic living in the years preceding her arrival has helped me immensely in adjusting to my new truth — one that now includes providing guidance for my daughter through her life journey.

And if I needed another reason to keep on pursuing an authentic life, well there couldn’t be a more adorable one.


This month, the blogging groups Italy Blogging Roundtable and COSI’ (Crazy Observations by Stranieri in Italy) are writing on the same theme: authenticity. Please check out the rest of the posts as well (links will be added as posts are published):


26 Beans of Wisdom to “Living Authentically: How Italy Forced the Issue”
  1. 03.18.2015

    Beautiful post, I feel so much like you do. That here in Italy, while I like everyone complain daily about issues, feel as if this is the place that I can feel most like, well me. Living in the present is easier said than done, we would all like to think that we do, but the constant stress of daily life and putting off valuable things that are good for the soul, like seeing friends, proves that it is something to be worked on.

    I hope we do this blogger round table collaboration more often, this topic was truly interesting..

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks, Georgette. This was a great topic, indeed 🙂 Always interesting to see where several different people take the same word/topic as it relates to our crazy (in the best way) country 😉

  2. 03.18.2015

    yes, you got it. I just spent 3 months in a place I thought i’d never be, and to my surprise, discovered more of myself there. It’s a town in Florida, where in the winter, I could walk or bike to almost anything I needed. I loved that freedom. I came home and am getting back to my old patterns, but i learned so much in those 3 months.. How can I duplicate that here?
    You truly hit a nerve here with me; it is the question of the hour, month, year.

    michelle Reply:

    Yes, Mimi, yes! Even after living here for so long, I notice how easy it is to fall into old patterns when I visit “home” in the States…and how “off” I feel when it happens…..

  3. Marsha

    It’s interesting the role that place has in pursuing our true selves, etc. When I decided to begin a new period of my life, I intuitively knew that I needed to go away for a couple of years. I’m still not sure where “my best place” is, but am happy to have found a new vocation which is very much in alignment with who I am. Thank you for sharing.

  4. michelle

    Congratulations on your new vocation, Marsha! It’s hard to put into words just feeling “right” but you know it when you feel it, yes? 🙂

    Marsha Reply:

    Yes. 🙂

  5. Kathleen Holzermayr

    I look forward to reading your posts, Michelle and love your ability to articulate themes that are most often current and apropo with me. Authenticity is definitely an ongoing, moving target and I am certainly learning more about myself everyday. Thank you for sharing of yourself … and that adorable little girl you have. Xo ciao for now. Kathleen

  6. Gil

    Good to see you blogging again. Nice post.

  7. Lisa

    This was a wonderful post and I congratulate you on your journey. I can wholly relate to having the courage, and it does take courage, to leave a “safe” and “secure” space to pursue the unknown. Three months ago I left a job of 20 years to give myself the space (and a one way ticket to France) to find what would truly make me happy. I’m still on that quest but the journey is just as important as the destination so I’m not rushing it. Living in moment is a beautiful thing. Congratulations on finding your truth and I look forward to reading more about your experiences.

  8. 03.27.2015

    As you say, it’s such a moving target, authenticity. Which brings me to why I have a problem with the term, as it’s so meaningless. What, for me, is authentic, is totally fake to someone else, and vice versa. Everyone has their own version of reality – and that’s just as it should be. Finding that best place for you – or even coming to peace with the fact that maybe that ‘best place’ is in your heart and in the people around you, rather than a physical location – seems to me to be a much better goal to aim for. <3

  9. 03.27.2015

    Living authentically and mindfully while at the same time being the best parent you can be is challenging. It will test one’s endurance to stick with it. (the last time I visited your blog was in 2008! a lot has happened. you now have a young daughter and my two young daughters are now teens.) I hope to stop in again soon but if I don’t get to, let me tell you about a book that I wish I had in my hands when my daughters were as young as yours. It is called The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary. Have you read it? Based on your taste for Pema Chodron–You will love this one.

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