Photo Credit: Victoria Childress | Founder, Girl Go
The Black Expat: 'Italy Taught Me A Different Definition Of Success'
A study abroad trip to Italy created a burning desire for Victoria Childress to get back to Italy.
“I fell in love with the country and everything about it— its geography, its people, its food, its language, everything!” she told Travel Noire.
It was also during that trip that she realized college was not for her. She aspired to be a writer and didn’t see how college, especially with the costs, would help her obtain that goal. She also watched how her father owned and operated his own business and decided to follow his footsteps.
“After returning home from the semester abroad, I decided to quit college and pursue entrepreneurship while figuring out how to travel more,” she said.
After one year of freelancing, she launched a full-service communications boutique in downtown Dallas and hired a few employees. Working for herself eventually allowed her the ability and flexibility to travel.
Fast-forward to today, Victoria has been a full-time resident in Italy for 7 years, visiting for 16. She lives there with her daughter, in a very tiny rural town about an hour north of Rome; in the same place, she studied abroad years ago. She’s also the founder of Girl Go: a travel company and study abroad program for teenage girls.
In an interview with Travel Noire, she discusses more about why moving to the European country was the best decision for her and her family:
Travel Noire: What have you learned about yourself during your journey?
Victoria Childress.: When I would leave Dallas for 2-6 months to travel, and specifically when I went to Italy, I felt like I could slow down. Business is important, but life is more important. Italians have a saying, “domani, domani,” translated as “tomorrow, tomorrow.” This attitude towards life is basically the idea, “I have a life to live today, whatever work or thing I must do, I’ll do it tomorrow.” I started to adopt this mindset in my personal life and also in business. I started to realize I don’t have to “grind” and run myself into the ground.
Italy and Italians taught me a different definition of success. I didn’t feel this type of calm in the States. They say “Americans live to work” when instead, we should “work to live.” Every time I left Italy to come back to the States, I felt that heaviness needed to prove how hard working I was. I always couldn’t wait to go back!
I also noticed that when I left Italy, my friends and acquaintances would reach out and say, “Vik, when are you coming back?” (Laughing — no one was checking for me like that when I left the States.)
While in Italy and while away, I felt more recognized and appreciated even though I wasn’t looking for recognition or appreciation. I just felt seen. I felt missed. I felt admired. I knew back then that if I were to have a family and raise a child or children, I would want to do it in Italy, and I wasn’t wrong. My kid thrives in ways I could only dream of, and that’s the goal: to provide your children and future generations with better than what you had. All of these things inspired me to keep visiting and eventually relocate to Italy.
Travel Noire: What is the best part about living abroad?
Victoria Childress: The best part about living abroad is living outside of a place where I frankly felt oppressed. Not only in Italy, but I also traveled to several places and stayed for a while, where I felt the same way. Italy just happened to be my “it,” my chosen home. Now at the time when I first left the U.S., I didn’t qualify the feeling of being oppressed as oppression. I know I felt more alive and free when I left. I was chasing the feeling of freedom, health, and the type of life Italy afforded me. When I entered my 30s, I started to understand that I was escaping oppression in micro and macro-aggressions against Blacks, inequality, lack of healthcare, the white gaze, the work hustle, and grind – all of those things.
I learned that basic human rights, like healthcare, were freely given in many other countries. My eyes started to open to the lie that I believe is the American Dream, the lie that it’s the richest nation, the lie that it, compared to other places, is a “first world” country.
So, throughout the journey, I began learning just the basic values that were important to me, not the ones imposed on me. Working 9-5, 355 days a year was imposed on me. Working to have healthcare was imposed. Needing to pursue men or some odd ideal that just because I’m a working woman in modern society, I shouldn’t be wooed was imposed. I learned that I don’t want to work all day, every day. I learned I want to be able to be taken care of if I’m sick and not break my bank or ruin my credit score to do it.
I learned chivalry and romance isn’t dead; it’s very much alive. I learned that I could go slow in life. I learned I could be a prize. I learned I could chill. I learned I don’t have to be so “strong.” When growing up American, you indirectly learn that the American way is superior to the world at large, and perhaps every country feels that way compared to other countries. But the US has a special brand of superiority, and I learned that America and its ways are not superior to the rest of the world, and in fact, pales in comparison.
Travel Noire: What advice would you give our readers considering a “Blaxit” to live abroad?
Victoria Childress. I would advise hopeful Blaxiters to take your time, as much as possible, and find your place. As Black people, we have a place all over the world, and there is a place for you. The conditions of the U.S. give many people haste to leave right away, and I get it. But rushing such an important decision can land you in a tougher situation than you were in and may result in you needing to return home to the States to regroup. I did this twice! (My move abroad plan failed twice because I didn’t have all the information I needed and was unprepared for what it really meant to expatriate or Blaxit.)
So, take the time to research, to understand the lay of the land, the costs involved, the rules, the way that society and culture are set up, get yourself some contacts and friends — allies are important and even have an exit plan in case something doesn’t work out. The best advice is to find a place that makes you come alive. Don’t choose a place just because the dollar stretches farther, although that is a great incentive.
Choose a place because you can breathe easier, you enjoy the food, the people, the landscapes and geography. It’s good for your children; it’s good for a family. Blaxiting is a choice. In essence, choose something you really want. Don’t settle and once you know what that is, there’s only so prepared one can be. I would advise not to overdo the preparation, but be prepared, and when you reach the sweet spot of knowing “this is the time,”: GO.
You can follow Victoria and her daughter in Italy on Instagram.