A Work Vacation With My Husband Made Me Rethink Our Entire Marriage

How a vacation led to the realization that I needed to leave.

man and woman working on laptop while on vacation Sjale / Shutterstock

For most of the last 23 years, I had been a personal stylist, entrepreneur, and single parent.

I married the architect of my dreams when my children were 12 and 17.

Being a single parent and small business owner meant I had little opportunity and resources to travel for pleasure. 

So, when my husband needed to travel for work, this was a big deal for me, as it was only my second time traveling to Europe; this time, we would be in Portugal while my husband attended an architecture conference.


I had the week to explore Lisbon, take cooking classes, shop the small boutiques, and wander the city's hills. But while there, my husband and I began to drift apart

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Unfortunately, the reality of the trip was that the problems in our marriage came to join us for our getaway.

He was gone from sunrise to midnight with conference sessions and cocktail parties, leaving me to spend my days wandering the hills, exploring the alleyways, and sneaking into shops to search for the perfect gifts to take home alone.

Despite sharing a tiny Airbnb (and being married!), we barely saw each other.  


I found myself in a beautiful resort overlooking the sea with this handsome, brilliant man, my husband, and I had never been less confident or engaged in my life.

Sure, on paper, everything was great. We had a lovely home in a university town; we were both well-educated, he was an architect, and I owned a business.

But I felt lost and alone. I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what was wrong, but one thing was for sure: We were miserable.  

I couldn't keep living a life that didn't make me happy, and I couldn't keep pretending that everything was okay when it clearly wasn't. 

Looking out over the ocean, I saw what I was missing.

The vast opportunities waiting for me were far from where I called home. It was at that moment, as I sat there on that balcony, that I made a decision that would shock me to my core. I decided that enough was enough. 


We returned to Cleveland together, but our marriage was over.

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And so, six months later, I left. I packed up my things and drove off, never looking back. It was one of the scariest things I've ever done, but it was also one of the most liberating and has turned out to be one of the decisions I have ever made.  

Now, I'm living a new life here in Sicily, Italy, a place that has always held a special place in my heart. I've started a new business and am once again pursuing my passion for entrepreneurship. And most importantly, I'm happy. 

My journey to Italy actually began years earlier, as I had started collecting vital records to prove my ancestry for Italian citizenship.


It was a long and confusing process, involving many fits and starts and countless hours spent poring over confusing Facebook groups. But finally, after much effort and determination, I was ready to move to Italy. 

And so, I set off for the country that had always called to me, where I would start a new life and business.  

But a new life in Italy is not without speedbumps. Although it was a dream come true, navigating the process of obtaining Italian citizenship was far from easy. I encountered countless roadblocks, from locating vital records to dealing with unresponsive communes and resolving document discrepancies.

It was a frustrating and overwhelming experience and one that I knew many others were likely struggling with as well. 


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Oddly enough, all that time I spent trying to figure out how I could prove my ancestry and gain Italian citizenship led to my passion project, Italian Citizenship Concierge.

I now have the privileged of helping other people who qualify for citizenship pursue their dreams of becoming Italian citizens.

Leaving behind my old life as a picture-perfect wife has opened up space for more mental creativity and in the past year, I’ve also launched an online comprehensive course to guide people through the Italian citizenship process so their move to Italy can be the start of “la dolce vita.” 


It has been a daunting journey, but I knew it would all be worth it on my journey toward a new and happy life.  

Looking back, I realize now that the turning point came when I finally admitted to myself that I wasn't happy.

I had been so busy trying to be the perfect wife and mother that I had forgotten about my own needs and desires. But once I acknowledged that something was missing, I was able to start taking steps to fix it. 


I have no regrets about my decision to leave. It was hard, and it was scary, but it was also necessary. I'm now living a life that feels authentic and true to who I am, and that's something that no amount of money or success could ever buy.  

To anyone out there who might be feeling stuck or unfulfilled in their own lives, I urge you to take a step back and really assess what's going on.

Are you happy? Are you living the life you truly want to live? If the answer is no, then don't be afraid to make a change. It might be scary, but it might also be the best decision you ever make. 

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Jennifer Sontag is a freelance writer and the owner of Italian Citizenship Concierge, a bespoke citizenship agency that helps Italian Americans gain citizenship in Italy through Jure Sanguinis.