I can’t even remember now how I first came across the Miss Expatria blog, or how I first got in touch with its author, Christine Cantera. But somehow we “clicked” over the interwebs (no pun intended, really), and I was thrilled to finally get to meet her in her favorite city on earth – Rome – earlier this year. Sitting in the secret garden she loves near the apartment where she bases herself when she’s in Rome, we chatted for something like four hours without realizing so much time had passed.
So when I tell you that reading Christine’s book, “Miss Expatria,” is like chatting for hours over drinks with her in her secret garden in her favorite city, you know I’m speaking from experience.
The “Miss Expatria” book, published in 2008, tells the story of how Christine moved to Italy two days after ending a long relationship, and how Rome – and a particular group of its inhabitants – helped her get back on the path where her happiness and well-being was the most important thing. It starts out as something of a memoir, with Christine looking back over the start of her journey, but soon gives way to excerpts from the journal she kept at the time. I’m sure there’s plenty of editing that went into the journal excerpts, but the intimate and honest nature of a personal and private journal remains – and it’s the intimacy that makes you feel like you know Christine as you read the book.
“Miss Expatria” is no “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Christine’s days spent in an internet cafe (AKA her office) in Rome wouldn’t make for a box-office hit. And although she does visit some amazing places during the first couple years of her life in Europe, it’s her descriptions of the people she meets that are the most sigh-inducing. Her “first Italian,” the woman selling cheese with whom she has a conversation in Italian. The “Gay Mafia,” a group of friends in Rome who take her in and shepherd her through the tough times. And Cal, the fellow expat she meets in Barcelona and who becomes the love of her life. Not only do you feel like you know Christine by the end of the book, you feel like you know all of these characters who are her very real-life friends.
You may or may not be inspired to pack your bags and move to Rome when you finish reading “Miss Expatria.” You’ll be envious of some of the things Christine experiences, certainly, but they are her experiences – her life is uniquely hers, and even if you were to befriend all the members of her Gay Mafia (seriously, you have to read the book to learn about them, they’re beyond wonderful) it wouldn’t be the same. This book doesn’t, for me at least, give you the sense that you could have the same life if you followed in Christine’s footsteps. But what it does instead is let you see what’s possible if you go after something you want.
Christine calls herself “the internet’s leading enabler of travel addiction” because she wants people to grab hold of their travel dreams – whatever they are. And because that’s who she is, that’s what comes out in her book and on her blog. She’s the first to tell you that it’s not because she’s any more remarkable than anyone else that made it possible for her to move to Italy – she’s just determined.
So even if what you’re inspired to do when you put the book down isn’t the same thing that Christine did, you’ll probably be inspired to do something. I think she’d be pleased if people who read the book started pursuing their dreams – travel-related or otherwise – and didn’t give up until they were realized. And, in the meantime, you’ll enjoy reading about how Christine realized her dreams.
Curl up with “Miss Expatria” and a glass of Italian red, and I swear you’ll feel like you’re gabbing late into the night with an old friend.
>> And if you need more Italy-related reading material, here are the other Italy book reviews I’ve done.
Full Disclosure & Whatnot: Just so y’know, I won a copy of this book in a contest.