Are you a woman who has ever dreamed of living abroad and experiencing different cultures? Or maybe you already are an expat, but are feeling lost and unsure of your purpose in this new place? Meet Lilly Vercellotti, a coach who specialises in helping women redefine themselves while living abroad. With her unique approach that combines travel, mindset, and personal growth, Lilly has inspired countless women to take control of their lives and find fulfilment in their new homes. In this blog, we'll take a closer look at Lilly's story, her coaching philosophy, and how she can help you on your own expat journey.
1: Tell us about your journey, where are you originally from? How did you get started in your career and where you have lived/worked/traveled?
I am from Italy. I was born and raised in a small “ fraction” of a village in the North-West part of Italy, in the region of Piemonte. My parents were both farmers and so were the generations before. I was the 1st in my family to gain a university degree. I became passionate about traveling, learning about other cultures, and languages in high school; in fact, I started with having lots of pen-friends, so I could practice my English, as well as, meet people from many different countries. The Internet was not so popular as today, so a lot of those first friendships across cultures were still linked to the excitement of receiving a physical letter in the mail ( not email)! Imagine that!
In my early 20s, I began studying foreign languages at the university of Vercelli and started my “percorso”/international journey with an exchange program, called Au-pair in America, in Oregon, USA. I was a nanny for a year, while taking English classes at the local university. The first time abroad was quite tough emotionally, to be honest. I missed home and the familiarity of friends and family. I still remember those huge phone bills at the end of the month. No whatsapp or Zoom back then… On the other hand, the excitement of learning and discovering was stronger than some of the discomfort and sacrifices. After that one year abroad, I was ready to take off. I moved back to the United States one year later and completed a bachelor in Social Work at Brigham Young University in 2003 and a Master in Public Administration nonProfit Management in 2006 from the same university.
After that, I started my career in international development, which had also been my dream. I wanted to work for the UN, Unicef or other big NGOs. Unfortunately, due to health problems and discovering after 10 years of symptoms that were misdiagnosed, that I had endometriosis, I had to undergo several surgeries and I was unable to work internationally as I had originally planned. So after a few years of projects in Switzerland and Tanzania, I decided to become an executive coach and consultant for female managers working in the nonprofit sector. I completed my certification from Royal Roads University in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. My expat journey has been quite exciting and full of discoveries, changes but yes, also challenges. In all of that, I am grateful for the learning and the discovering continues!
2: You are a ‘Women Redefinition Coach’ - what does this mean and what do you do for clients?
Yes, I work with women who want to redefine their course/journey in life ( not just a physical journey but the emotional one along with it). I work with women who are, like myself, childfree or childless due to circumstances. I also help women in general who might go through some life transitions, changes in their family or careers and want to take a sabbatical and travel the world short-term. Being that I am Italian and I am now rediscovering my country from an “expat perspective", after living internationally for 25 years, I help those new expats who want to live in Italy and learn Italian. I love to work with a variety of women, because I am passionate about supporting them in carving your own path, without societal constraints and comparing themselves to others.
I am a consultant, not a life coach. I prefer that term, because my training is in executive coaching but I combine my life experience with my practice, especially when it comes to being childless or as I call myself “ childfree by circumstances”.
3: As an expat, what challenges have you faced and overcome?
Certainly, many! First and foremost, my physical health. I think it is important to distinguish that from mental health, because mentally I am strong but physically, it was so hard to be misdiagnosed or non diagnosed for over 10 years ( from my early 20s to my early 30s) with what ended up being endometriosis between level 3 and 4. That had an impact on my career and yet, it also made me stronger in problem solving and generally, becoming more resilient in life.
While now, the endometriosis is under control, I still deal with other problems and still often get little or late answers from the Western medicine. I have been in the medical system in the US, Canada, Tanzania and various countries I visited or lived in. I also learned a lot from holistic medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, homeopathy, energy healing, etc. Last but not least, I am now still a learner in mindset work and I use that in my work with women. The subconscious programming is fascinating and key in healing the physical body too.
I have created an online community in 2021 for women who don’t have kids, due to circumstances, like myself or also for women, who choose not to have kids. These are two different types of women but yet, there is a common denominator, that is to educate society that every woman has her own path in life and being a mother is not always the “status quo” or the “ go to by default” reality and that is OK, more than OK!
In some cultures, that might still be hard to process or so it has been my experience. When I worked in Eastern Africa, I traveled through Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. I would not disclose my single and “childless/childfree” status at the time to people I met. They usually would start questioning why a woman in her mid 30s still was not married and had no kids.
Now, in retrospect, I think I should have been proud of my journey and clearly stated that.
I love to teach women to overcome their challenges and turn them into a strength. To be proud of their journey and to accept and forgive themselves, in particular, for challenges that were not of their own making. It is so critical that women love themselves and do not compare themselves to others, especially to other women. Every woman in every culture is entitled to her own thoughts, feelings, to discover, develop, cultivate and fulfil her own dreams, turn them into goals and support her “sisters” in the process.
One thing that I love and took away from my experience in East Africa was the term “Auntie”, or “Sister”. We are all aunties or sisters to each other. As women, we should unite, not compete or compare to each other. Society tends to push so much comparison with social media platforms etc. It is possible to stop that and there are tools to do so. Ask questions and start from curiosity, rather than judgment.
In my work, I use mindset tools from practitioners such as Marisa Peer, a British Psychotherapist, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Bruce Lipton, etc. to support women in developing more gratitude, confidence and joy in their life path and that life path is not always accompanied by a physical journey but a journey within their soul.
4: What advice do you have for fellow female expats looking to become Bilingual? Some people find it intimidating…? How to overcome…?
Haha, this is a funny question for me. I still don’t feel confident in public speaking for example, with my “bi-lingual capabilities” but I do enjoy it, anyway. I think in English and for me, it is my 1st language ( although, Italian really is). My advice is to “go with the flow”. It will take effort and time. Try to enjoy the process. That’s what I did in my 25 years studying, working and living internationally.
Make a weekly plan. That is also my challenge as now, I am tackling French and Spanish, as my 3rd and 4th language, and I feel so illiterate at both.
5: As a property consultant and global citizen what advice do you have for first time expat buyers looking to buy property in a foreign market?
Great question! That is a whole new discussion that would take a lot more space here to dive into.
My 1st and most basic advice is “don’t be emotional”. Don’t choose fast. As a property owner in Canada, I must say I was lucky in some of my purchases ( and no, I was NOT an investor, but simply, an immigrant trying to settle) and unlucky in others.
Live in a place long enough to get to know people, systems (infrastructure, services, taxes) and other costs. At least 1 year, I suggest.
With the higher cost of living and other personal and family considerations, I am now not “phasing out” of my Canadian expat life and looking for a more affordable country and place to live.
6: What advice would you give women who are looking for a different direction but feel stuck due to a financially negative mindset or loss of confidence for example… in reaching their dream expat lifestyle?
This is a subject that is very dear to me, because I am continuing to work on improving my own financial mindset and I would tell you first to ask yourself this question: “ Do you come from a mindset of scarcity”? If so, how does that impact your everyday decisions or bigger decisions in your life?
If you want to travel, there are affordable ways to do so.
My husband and I are currently relocating and we have done house and pet sitting, for example, to spend less on accommodations while traveling. That is just one way of many to travel and work economically.
7: Do you have a daily or weekly practice to cultivate health, wellness and to take care of your own mindset as a coach?
I have been a person of faith and throughout the years, I have used prayers as a form of checking in with myself, envisioning possibilities ahead, as well as gaining strength for overcoming obstacles.
I still believe in a higher power and His goodness but I do not follow any specific religious denomination now. I simply consider myself a Christian. I was born Catholic and then became Mormon, which is the “nickname” for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in my early 20s in Italy. That has been such an important chapter in my life and a blessing. I have great love and respect for my spiritual and religious journey. I have attended various religious denominations throughout the years, including Catholic, Mormon, Lutheran, and Seventh Day Adventist.
My daily practice includes prayer and/or meditation, which are not the same, of course. My current go to meditation tool is: “The Blessing of the Energy Centers” by Dr. Joe Dispenza. As for health practices as a whole, that is a topic I am deeply passionate about. Despite the endometriosis and other functioning issues with the spleen, etc., I have always lived a super healthy lifestyle. I love to be outdoors and am crazy about summer. Hiking, biking or simply walking is something that I never miss, unless I am in deep pain or even so.
Also, I have never smoked, drank alcohol or taken any drugs, even when I was young. I take pride in that. I have battled poor health somehow for decades and there is the occasional joke from some about “oh, maybe you should start drinking wine or smoking”. I think if I did, I’d probably be dead by now.
I love my body and I see it as a gift to take good care of. I never had an attraction to alcohol or smoking or drugs, although in Italy drinking wine, for example, is a nice social practice and I don’t mind at all when people do that, with consideration and respect for others. My family was very balanced in that too, so no problems there. I simply don’t like alcohol in general, nor coffee. It makes this a fun topic of introduction at networking events. On the other hand, I am always looking for natural/holistic stores and I love to live in a place where healthy living is in the culture and fabric of the place; yet without a huge commercialisation of it. The yoga piece, however, is not in my equation; perhaps due to the huge hype regarding yoga classes, while I was living in Vancouver, B.C. and couldn’t quite find one that would resonate with needs at the time.
Also, to be clear, my choices are not related to religious beliefs and I don’t care at all what others do or think, if I choose this lifestyle. I also value my mental health and set boundaries on what and who I let in in my life. As an introvert, I love my “me” time. It gives me energy and I recharge that way.
8: Where would be your dream place to live and work? Why?
That is a Million $ question! At the moment, as my needs have changed personally and professionally, my dream place is certainly to live affordably and well but in a warmer climate, where safety is as good as Canada or close to. No winter anymore! I have spent far too many winters in Canada, especially in cold Quebec.
Although I love the many benefits of living in Canada: one of the most advanced countries in terms of women’s rights, economic development, and in general, one of the top ranking countries when it comes to quality of life, I am ready for the next chapter of my life. At 52, I am proud to want to live not the “rat race” but focus on my well being.
I recently got married and my husband, who is Quebecois, shares with me the same goal, which is to live in a more affordable country with a warmer climate. He has a full-time job, which is fully remote, so that is great as we are scouting a variety of places and now considering Italy, although we also need to take into consideration his kids and elderly mother.
My dream, if we choose Italy, would be to live in the south, although culturally and family wise, I would rather be in the north, close to my relatives and friends. We have met amazing expats living South of Rome in the past month or so, but we are not ready to call this area “home”. As for my dream job, that is to grow my consulting and coaching business 'LillyVeglobal', to inspire women, especially those childless or childfree, to create a positive mindset, consciously but also subconsciously, knowing their strengths and moving forward with more confidence, gratitude and joy, daily. Also, my goal is to work part-time in tourism and hospitality, because that is another part of my expat journey that I have enjoyed. In Italy, I would love to be involved in hosting guests/tourists in Agri tourism for example, not owned by myself, but owned by someone else.
I don’t plan to go back to the nonprofit sector, with regards to work. That is in the past. However, I want to keep that piece of my life and passion, as a volunteering option; for example, volunteering in a children’s ward in a hospital or with refugees mothers and children in a local organisation.
9: What advice do you have for female expats who may be bored of teaching English but need to find another direction in their career?
Look inward, first. What are your goals and why? List the way for your main goal and those branching out of your main goal. What is negotiable and what is not. Unless you know what you want and why, it doesn’t really matter what you do. No one has accomplished much all alone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, advice, and help. There is a wealth of information ready to be found.
Know your strength and capitalise on them and know your weakness and where you lack knowledge or wisdom and find those who can genuinely help there.
Speak to a career coach and a mindset coach, but start with the mindset.
10 Lastly, overall what would you say are the pros and cons of living the digital nomadic lifestyle as a woman?
This is a funny question for me, because I don’t feel I can identify completely with the term “digital nomad”. Through my 25+ years living abroad, I didn’t call myself a “digital nomad”. I was either studying, working or volunteering or yes, doing research online, but in the same place for a while and I absolutely hated to move. The times I did move were big ones. It was out of necessity, such as when my father fell ill and I had to move from the United States back to Europe.
I find the term digital nomad related to a certain lifestyle that I can rarely relate to. My husband was a digital nomad during his bike trip, which lasted 10 months, but he was not before that and now, although we appear to be DNs, we are rather scouting for a place to call home for our next chapter. We are in our 50s and happily ready to settle for good.
Connect with Lilly:
Redefine Yourself:Celebrate You! group: