Six Lessons I Learned While Working Abroad in Italy

May 18, 2020

Business Tips

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen that my Fiancé and I had the unique opportunity to live in Milan, Italy for a few months. Well, it was supposed to be from January – April, but due to the coronavirus shutting down Italy, we had to leave last second in March. So while our trip was cut a month short, it was still a life-changing and incredible experience!

I learned so much – not just about myself, but how to run a business. I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare my business to work in another country, so it was all a learning experience! One of the biggest perks of being a virtual assistant, digital marketer, or freelancer, is that you can do this too! You can easily take your job anywhere. Whether that means an extended work trip, to a month in Europe. It is fully possible to still run a business, just from your laptop.

These are the top six lessons I learned while working abroad in Italy. Each of these tips can be implemented regardless of your travel schedule! I will be implementing all of these in my business in the future, even if it’s just for a weekend away.


Start preparing months before

I was lucky that I had a year to prepare for this move – but I know that is not always the case. Even if you just have a few months to prepare, or a few weeks, here are some steps I recommend you take.

  1. Let your clients know as soon as possible. Once I had my dates and flights booked, I let my clients know the dates I would be traveling, and when I would be overseas.
  2. Remind them – again and again. I auto-scheduled two reminder emails, that went out two weeks prior, and three days prior to me leaving. These all had the same information, just as a reminder for my clients. I included my travel dates, my out of office dates, my new office hours, my new phone number, and a link to my updated call scheduler. I use Dubsado, so I was able to book out new times for clients to book calls, and made sure they were aware of my new office hours (since I was going to be 6 hours ahead of EST!)
  3. Include days off for your travel time. When mapping out the trip, I knew to add a few days off as a buffer for a few reasons. One, what if the flight got delayed? Two, what if Jet-lag was worse then planned? And three, what if I got sick? When I arrived in Italy I had terrible jet lag and an awful cold for the first 10 days. I also glad I added a few days off into my plan, so my clients already knew I was out of the office! This way I was able to really relax and rest, without feeling guilty.

Six lessons I’ve learned while working abroad in Italy | The Creative VA Academy

Six lessons I’ve learned while working abroad in Italy | The Creative VA Academy

Be flexible with your working hours

I try and keep a consistent office scheduler. I am typically in the office from 9AM – 5PM EST. However, when I was in Italy, I was a full 6 hours ahead of the East Coast, and 9 ahead of the West Coast. This meant I had to be super lenient with my schedule. I knew that I would have to book some late evening calls to accommodate my California clients. By going into the trip knowing this ahead of time, I was able to map out my days easier. This often meant taking a break from 3-6 PM, while I waited for clients to get into the office, and get back to me.

Six lessons I’ve learned while working abroad in Italy | Ava And The Bee - Digital Marketing for Wedding Professionals Six lessons I’ve learned while working abroad in Italy | Ava And The Bee - Digital Marketing for Wedding Professionals

Have systems and boundaries in place

I will be transparent: If I had done this trip a year ago, my business wouldn’t have able to run as smoothly. Why? Because a year ago I didn’t have the right systems and boundaries in place! I have spent the last year really growing the business, not just by adding team members, but by adding systems!

Some of these include a streamlined onboarding process. I onboarded two clients while in Italy, but it was smooth sailing! I had the system set up in place, so that most of the process is automated. This allowed me to book new clients, while being thousands of miles away.

Another one was setting communication boundaries. I have worked to streamline the process of getting information from clients, like blog posts. Clients now enter information into a shared sheet, so I don’t have to keep asking them to email it. By steam lining this process, I was able to work from anywhere, with no communication disruptions!


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Hire a coach – and invest in your business

One of the best decisions I have made in my business is getting a coach and joining a mastermind. This January I joined the CEO Roundtable – and it has been an incredible experience! I started working with Nicole last summer, in her CEO Immersion program. She helped me build better systems that would support my business when I was in Italy. And as I have continued to work with her, she has been able to provide even more support and advice to get my business running even better! I now have the confidence to work from anywhere, anytime!

I would be lying if I said investing a large chunk of money in my business right before living in Europe was scary. It was downright terrifying. But I can confidently say it not only allowed me to run a business from Italy, but I hit record months! In fact, the best month in Ava And The Bee history was February – where I only worked 14 days.

Six lessons I’ve learned while working abroad in Italy | Ava And The Bee - Digital Marketing for Wedding Professionals

Take time off!

This is hands down my biggest piece of advice. If you have the opportunity to live abroad, enjoy it! I was able to take off 3-4 day weekends every single week, and travel to lots of cities in Italy. I swore to myself I would not feel guilty for leaving the office and enjoying the experience. And while I still took my laptop with me, I only allowed myself one hour each day to work. And that was it! By setting in working boundaries on our weekend trips, I was able to really enjoy my trip. And it made me so much less stressed! For the first time in a long time, I was free of anxiety.

Six lessons I’ve learned while working abroad in Italy | Ava And The Bee - Digital Marketing for Wedding Professionals

How to prep your business for trips

Be thankful

I went into this experience so thankful that I could do it. And I made sure to emphasize that every single day. Some days I woke up overwhelmed, and with my mind racing of what I had to do that day. But I opened the windows, walked to a coffee shop, and just embraced the experience. It was important to constantly remind myself to enjoy this short-lived time in Italy – no matter what!

This especially became true when we had to leave a month early due to COVID-19. We had planned a weekend on the coast when we were told Italy would be on a lockdown soon, and we had to get out. Needless to say, I was devastated. Loosing 1 month of travel – that we had saved so hard for – wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. Frank kept reminding me of how incredible the experience was. His constant optimism really helped me deal with the stress of leaving last second.

How to prep your business for trips

Prepare Your Business – And Enjoy!

By prepping my business, and having systems in place, I was able to continue running Ava And The Bee, and hit record sales! As a virtual assistant, it is important to always be setting these items up in your business, regardless of where you work from! By taking steps prior to a vacation, or extended work trip, you can ensure your clients are taken care of (and that you get to enjoy your time!). Are you thinking, “Adrienna, how can I get a job that lets me do this?!” Check out The Creative VA Academy School! This course will get your virtual assistant business set up, clients booked, and get you on your way to world travel!