I Work in Tech, and I Chose Italy Over the Bay Area.
Before I get into it, I must acknowledge that I’m writing this from a place of privilege. I’m a citizen of both the US and Italy, so I can live and work in both countries without a visa.
Growing up in Northern California, it was clear from a young age that I needed to make a lot of money to live the type of life that I imagined for myself.
Even a simple wish, like owning a tiny house or apartment in a well-connected California city, didn’t seem feasible without a six-figure salary and an equally-well-off partner.
Six months later, there was only one problem: I hated it.
A high salary is meaningless if you have a higher cost of living.
I made significantly more money in San Jose than I’m currently making in Milan, but I was living with three 30-somethings in a dingy house near the Amtrak tracks.
Sometimes, late at night, I could hear a police helicopter flying low overhead for up to an hour at a time. My flight-tracker app couldn’t tell me what it was doing, but I doubt I would have slept better had I known.
Since moving abroad three years ago — first to Norway and now to Italy — I’ve never had to pay more than 30% of my post-tax paycheck in rent. In both countries, I’ve been able to afford semi-modern studio apartments inside the city center.
Living alone isn’t for everyone, but having the option to live alone without breaking the bank or living in an unsafe suburb is a huge reason I didn’t repatriate.
I don’t have to worry about using (or losing) my health insurance.
One morning in San Jose, as I got in my car and prepped a playlist, I realized that I could shave off about 15 minutes of my commute by biking to work instead of driving.