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Photo of Romana (L) visiting with a friend in Prague.

Guest Post by: Romana Frey

My parents emigrated from Austria to Canada in 1958, bringing along only what they could carry.  In 2016, at age 56, I left Canada to live in Europe, with two suitcases containing almost everything I own. My choice was to live lightly on the earth, and treasure the people and experiences that I find, rather than the possessions I own.

I didn’t always live so lightly.  In the early 2000’s, I owned a beautiful 5 acre property, with a 4 bedroom house, on Salt Spring Island and commuted daily to my 3000 sq. foot office in Victoria.  As owner and manager of a government funded organization, I employed up to ten staff and contractors, served hundreds of clients every year, and was responsible for an annual budget of over $2 million.  As sole parent to my son, I home-schooled him for three years,and ensured he was involved in sports and social activities.  My life was exciting, successful, stressful and at times overwhelming.

Fast forward to 2016.  The Salt Spring property had been traded in years ago for a two bedroom condo. When my son finished high school, I let go of the condo in order to house-sit full time and gifted the household furniture to him. The organization I launched had been defunded by the government, and I now worked freelance as a business coach and consultant to the nonprofit sector.  I had pared down my belongings considerably to the bare necessities:  a 2006 PT Cruiser, six plastic bins containing paperwork, books, and personal items, and two suitcases filled with clothing.

After a lifetime of responsibility to and for others, it felt wonderful to let go of mortgage payments, childcare, employees, office space and contracts.  I instituted a rule to support mindful purchasing – if I purchase a new item, another item must be taken to the thrift store. I learned to live with less: fewer books and photographs, mementoes and jewellry, clothing and shoes. I found myself with more time and energy to commit to the people in my life, to new friendships and experiences, and to international travel.

January 2016 I flew to Austria for my first international house-sitting assignment: three months in Bad Ischl caring for a lovely mountain property and four elderly cats.  I  reconnected with family members from Vienna that I hadn’t seen since 1978. .  I fell in love with the natural beauty, the people, the customs, the food and the pastries.  I vowed to return.

And return I did, just a few months later.  I planned to spend one month in Graz, Austria, with the intention of researching work opportunities, housing, living costs, and visa requirements. I was also curious to spend time in Prague, as I had family roots in Czechia too.

The trip started with a month in Prague, and after just a few days, my plans to move to Austria were tossed aside.  I discovered that the cost of living is much lower than Austria, or Canada, that obtaining a one-year visa was relatively easy, and that I could work as a self-employed contractor by applying for a ‘trade license’.  After a quick trip back to BC to settle my affairs, I returned to live in  Prague on December 7, 2016.

People tell me I’m ‘living the dream’ working ten hours per week online providing personal, professional and business coaching to clients in Canada and in Europe. The rest of my time is spent visiting galleries and museums,  attending markets and concerts,  exploring the many beautiful parks and neighborhoods in Prague, taking day-trips to villages and towns nearby.   I rent a furnished flat, purchase a monthly transit pass, eat healthily,  have medical coverage, treat myself to a meal out, a concert, theater performance or play once a week….all on $1,000 Canadian per month.  My life is exciting yet relaxed.  I have made many new friends and professional connections.  I treasure the people and experiences that I find.  Life is simple.  Life is an adventure.

If you would like to contact Romana, she is happy to answer questions: romana.frey@gmail.com