I had the pleasure of connecting with Louise Sportelli– a coaching and training pro working with individuals and businesses all over the U.S., and who lives as a part-time expat in Italy.
We take a closer look at how technology has allowed for more flexibility in her work, and how she personally enjoys La Dolce Vita.
Hi Louise! Why don’t you introduce yourself + tell us where you call home. What type of work/endeavors are you involved with?
The boring answer is I am a Life and Executive Coach and I also facilitate soft skills training programs. A more interesting take on that is that I love helping people be the best they can be personally and professionally. It’s a real thrill for me when someone I am working with has an “aha” moment and is able to see how doing something different will have a big impact on him or her and those around them. For the past sixteen years my husband, Domenic, and I have been splitting our time between the Seattle area in the US and the area around Lucca in Italy. Outside of work, I enjoy snow skiing and hiking in the mountains, visiting the great museums of Europe, reading fiction, and spending time with friends.
Please explain a bit more about your living arrangements + how it came to be with living part time in the US + Italy.
My husband is 100% ethnically Italian. All four of his grandparents came from Italy but he never had the opportunity to visit the country until he was about 50 years old in the late 1980s. After we started dating (shortly after his first trip to Italy), we made several trips to the country over the next twelve years (including our honeymoon in 1993). We talked about moving to Italy for a year but that was difficult to do given different business issues. We were influenced by Under the Tuscan Sun and began exploring the possibility of buying a house. In March 2000 we made a short trip to the Lucca area and met with a real estate agent who showed us six houses. Much to our surprise we ended up buying one of them the following October. Our intent had been to buy a place that didn’t need much work and had a small garden. The place we purchased was half renovated (unlivable) and had grapevines and olive trees. We were lucky in the people we hired to finish off the house and we were able to stay there the next spring. For the next ten years we spent two months in the spring and two months in the fall at our Italian home. We were hobby farmers, making wine and harvesting our olives for oil. Our small village became a true second and we participated in a number of the different festivals, many of which revolved around the church. We exceeded our expectations in our goal of wanting to become more than tourists. in 2010 we sold our mini-farm and in 2011 bought a condominium apartment about 20 minutes away from our first place. We have really enjoyed not having the “farm work” but have really missed “our” village. However, we did not fare well in the recession and we have been unable to spend as much time in Italy. Right now we are only here about 6-8 weeks a year. Our apartment has been on the market for a few years but so far no sale. Our long term plan is to not own a place but come and rent in our former village when we visit.
What were people’s reactions when you first decided to move/live part time in a different country?
I don’t remember anyone being anything but supportive. I come from a traveling family so it wasn’t much a a stretch for my parents and siblings to be supportive. The main reaction was probably envy that we were able to do it. Not having children has certainly made it a lot easier for us.
How does living abroad contribute to your business? Are there difficulties with running a business while living abroad?
Living abroad has not contributed to our business at all. We own several small commercial real estate properties and it was fairly easy to arrange coverage for managing them while we were gone for two months. That’s about the longest period we were comfortable being gone. For many years I was not working and now I am able to do so only because of modern internet technology. Our use of the internet has transitioned from visiting an internet cafe a couple times a month to check email to having a DSL line in our house to using a wireless modem in our current home. I certainly couldn’t do what I do now without reliable internet service and the ability to call the US for less than pennies a minute via Skype or Voca.
What are the biggest changes + improvements you have noticed in the travel industry since splitting your time between the US + Italy?
The big change in the travel industry has been the ease of making reservations online for just about everything and the rise of the low cost airlines within Europe. It’s also much easier to make reservations at the last minute. Also smart phone technology has almost eliminated the need to bring a computer with us to Europe. If it wasn’t for work I would be tempted to travel with just my smart phone and Nook tablet but I really need the keyboard. Reliable wifi also really helps. I do get ATT’s cheapest world travel package so for $30 a month I get unlimited texts, 120MB of data, and calls for $1 a minute. I consider this emergency coverage and mostly use hotel wifi. On a recent trip to Florence and Venice the wifi was good enough that I called my husband each evening on Skype.
Which 3 items can you NOT travel without?
My Nook tablet for books, an unlined raincoat, and really comfortable shoes.
Now that you are a seasoned part-time expat, what advice would you give others who are considering a part-time expat lifestyle?
I would say just do it! There are so many more positives than negatives. The one thing I would caution people who intend to become residents in a foreign country is be sure you understand the tax implications of your country.
How have you been able to create and maintain connection in your business- while living abroad as a part-time expat? Any road blocks you have come across?
This is so easy now that it almost isn’t an issue. With email, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the ability to make cheap calls to the US I don’t feel nearly as “cut-off” as I did 15 years ago. From a business perspective the only real issue is the nine hour time difference to the West Coast. Otherwise, I work from home in the US so it’s just not that different.
Describe your favorite Italian meal, because we MUST know!
I am a big fan of the traditional three to four course dinner–antipasto, primi (pasta or risotto), secondo (meat or fish), and dolce (dessert). Unfortunately I have a much harder time eating all that food these days. I love the mixed antipasto buffets they have in Rome and Southern Italy–mostly vegetables and fish. My favorite lunch at home is Caprese–fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, good olive oil, and a sprinkle of oregano and sea salt. A slice of fresh bread is perfect for mopping up the remaining “juice.” I love so many dishes here–spaghetti carbonara in Rome, trenette al pesto in the Liguria, and tordelli-the traditional pasta of Lucca which is meat filled ravioli with a meat and tomato sauce, grilled chicken, veal or pork chops, Daniella’s spinach at Ristorante La Fonte, and real Italian pizza. Then there is gelato–chocolate, nougat and mandarin orange being three of my favorite flavors. The wines here are fabulous of course and a glass of Prosecco or an Aperol Spritz before dinner is delightful.
Where can people connect with you online?
My personal blog with a lot about our Italian life is www.abbastanzabuono.blogspot.
My professional blog is louisesportelliconsulting.com.
Facebook: Louise Sportelli Coaching + Training
If you missed the interview with start-up founder and world traveler, Daijie Huang, read it HERE.