Salt Lake City native chucks it all for Italy
What traveler hasn't daydreamed of selling one's possessions and returning to live in the foreign country where one feels alive and full of joy?
But how many people actually do it?
Salt Lake City native Lisa Condie did and is creating a new life in Florence, Italy, where she and another Salt Lake City native are building a tour company catering to women.
Condie, 59, is being celebrated by Huffington Post and the "Today" show as one of "50 Over 50," people who have reinvented their lives, for the better, after age 50. She appeared on the NBC morning show Monday, and Huffington Post included her story in a roundup.
Condie says she is responding to the same magnet that drew author Frances Mayes, whose books, beginning with "Under the Tuscan Sun," popularized the allure of Tuscany for women. The birthplace of the Renaissance, it has art and food that draw people in, she said.
"Tuscany always calls to women. There's great passion throughout Italy, but there is something about Tuscany," Condie said in an interview via Skype from her apartment in Florence.
Condie's own love of Italy began when she was 17 and visited the country, including Florence.
It was nearly 40 years later that she returned to live.
Two summers ago, she and her daughter had just finished a cruise to Italy and Greece a cruise she was supposed to take with her ex-beau and Condie was in a Rome coffee shop, waiting for an early-morning taxi to the airport.
It hit Condie that she didn't want to return to Utah.
By the time she and her daughter were in the cab, she'd made up her mind: She was going back to Italy to live. Her daughter's response was all the encouragement she needed. She said, "Mom, I've never seen you happier," Condie remembered.
That was June 2012. By Oct. 2, she had sold her Salt Lake City home and most of her possessions, tied up the loose ends on her three-decades-plus career as a fitness instructor and was on a flight to Florence.
One of the reasons she chose Florence was its language schools; two years later, she's able to converse, if not carry on complicated discussions, in Italian.
Condie began writing about her Italian adventure for Better Way Moms, a website owned by Sarah Walton, a Salt Lake City native living outside New York who had baby-sat Condie's children years before.
After the first year, in which she allowed herself to not think about a job, Condie began brainstorming ways to make a living so she wouldn't burn through the profits from her home sale.
That's how she and Walton came up with the tour company idea and launched A Better Way to Italy last summer. Their first tour was in April, when 10 women ranging from their 30s into their 60s joined Condie and Walton in Tuscany.
During the tour, the two women Walton is a former corporate executive gave classes on listening to intuition, finding courage and following one's passion.
A Better Way to Italy has three tours scheduled for the fall and two more next spring.
"It's helping women make their lives better," Condie said.
Shelley Emling, an editor at Huffington Post, said the website received 1,200 nominations for its "50 Over 50" celebration.
"Lisa is a good choice," Emling wrote in an email, "because all people probably dream about moving to a foreign country like Italy and starting a new life. And Lisa actually did it."
Though Condie has never regretted moving to Italy, she acknowledged it can be lonely, even with the friendship of other ex-pats in Florence.
"This is part of the story that doesn't get told," she said. "I miss holidays. I see my best friends getting together on Facebook. I miss my kids' birthdays. It's a different culture. There are times that you think, 'This is hard.'
"But I've never questioned my choice. I've never thought it was so hard I wanted to go back."