"What do you mean you found a lesion in my body, is that bad?" The doctor looked at me with that disappointed face we all fear, "Well it's not good Cassandra."
"This can't be," I said to myself. Sitting there in the doctors chair, I sat back and closed my eyes.
I should have been listening to the very important information the doctor was sharing. However, after he said the words "we have to do a biopsy," I shifted my focus.
Closing my eyes for a mental escape was the only thing that seemed logical at the moment.
As the sounds and sights of Italy became more real, I felt the tears fall down my face and was quickly brought back to the reality of the situation.
While my health should of been the priority, I instead found myself panicking. I was worried that something may be stopping from me from returning to Italy.
In the past 12 years of traveling,living, and working there this has never happened before. Even at the age of 22 when I had 500 USD in my bank account, I found a way. But this time it was different.
Italy has been my go-to place to heal all of lives disappointments, challenges, and hardships (I am sure many of you can relate).
After the loss of my father, I went to Italy. When I broke off my engagement, I went to Italy. When I was fired from my full-time job, I went to Italy. When everything in life seemed to be crashing down, I went to Italy.
When I felt the sadness, fear, or discouragement, Italy was there for me.
So surely, if I was unhealthy, I should go to Italy, right? But if I couldn't leave the country how else would I cure it?
It's been a few weeks since that day. And after numerous doctors, appointments, hours of waiting rooms, and tests it seems I will be just fine after a short surgery and I can return to Italy (thankfully).
However, since this could reoccur once removed I decided to take the healing process one step further.
I contacted holistic practitioners and Chinese medicine doctors. I reached out to friends, colleagues, and healers who I have met along the last 15 years of learning and studying spirituality. I wanted to understand where and how this small mass started and how to prevent it from returning. There had to be a reason other than what the doctors called "bad luck."
And of course, my spiritual friends agreed and directed me to the right people and places to help me heal.
In the coming months, I hope to introduce you some of the amazing healers, teachers, and treatment I have experiences for my mind and body. This learning process itself has been a lesson in disguise.
But for now let me get to the point of this blog and the reason I sharing this very personal story.
Well, I think I am learning an important lesson. One that I can share with you in hopes that you too don't make the same mistakes I have made.
I deeply feel that many sickness appeared due to my current emotional state.
Since founding Travel Italian Style I would tell myself that I was a strong solo traveler, a single young woman and successful CEO and Founder. I believed I was truly unstoppable. I could and would do this all on my own.
Especially after my successes and experiences in 2017. I have basically tripled my clients, spent two months living on the Amalfi Coast, six months traveling through eight regions in Italy overall. I have eaten truffles, wine tasted through Piedmont, Tuscany, Campania, Calabria, Sicily (I am seeing a theme here). I have seen sunflowers, umbrella pine trees, palm trees.
I have made fresh pasta, celebrated Sicily's great Patron Saint, walked on an active volcano, lived near another active volcano, tasted homemade cheese, sat in Lamborghini's, tasted balsamic vinegar straight from the barrel and enjoyed endless days under the Tuscan sun.
However, in exchange I gave up a lot my free time, my money, my health, and at times it felt like even my dignity. I took valuable time out of my day to help others (who I thought had good intentions), I gave discount to those who claimed not to have money for my services, and basically sacrificed my value to make others happy.
I have missed weddings, events, parties, births, and many other important occasions. I even missed my own nonna's funeral.
I also lost thousands of dollars, had my website copied (multiple times), dealt with two tough cases of full-out business plagiarism but two women I considered friends, I was threatened by business associates, I worked with and helped some untrustworthy people, and went through a deep depression. Several times I even found myself on the phone with the suicide hotline.
I have had my fair share of too many ups and downs.
I still believe I have the best job and life in the world and have no intentions of changing my life of 6 months in the USA and 6 months in Italy. However, I just feel it's time for me to take my power back, become stronger, and teach others along the way.
I try to be as honest as possible with my journey but I really want you to know that entrepreneurship is no joke!
No one ever talks about the dark side of being a business owner but sadly it's there. If you don't believe me just listen to Gary V here.
I know many of you also want to start a business or dream of having a lifestyle of freedom and travel.
So I want to be straight up, it's possible. But let go of the fantasy and get moving. Start working on yourself and start preparing. Stop thinking that the more followers or likes you have on social media, the more successful you will be. There is much more to business than that.
If you want to be really successful you need to how to balance your life so you don't have a breakdown. You need to learn how to stay afloat, alone.
And as I spoke about in my recent Darling feature you also have to learn to monitor your finances, keep track of your business affairs, and most importantly protect yourself personally and professionally. And I don't mean just with a lawyer and waivers. I mean by practicing self care.
SAY NO TO:
- People who ask you for a discount
- People that ask you for free guidance (without providing a return value) so they can start your same business
- People who tell you it's not possible
- People who tell you can make 6 figures in your first year of business without investing in coaches, programs, or assistance.
- People who disrespect you
Would I trade one moment of this experience? Heck NO! I love my job and I am damn good at it. I wouldn't even change one hardship, including this recent health scare. I am instead am grateful for these lessons. I know it wil make me that much stronger.
And I still believe anything is possible and that you can make any dream become a reality I just want to remind you that anything is possible with the the right tools.
But for those who are interested, I also will start to share a deeper glimpse into the life of a "digital nomad" and entrepreneur.
I will do my best to provide amazing resources, tips, and contacts that will help you stay balanced in all areas of your life. Especially those aspiring to be an entrepreuner.
As far as Italy, if all goes well I will be on a plane within the next week!! Fingers crossed! I may have to make one quick trip back to the states for my surgery but then I plan to stay until November after that.
On a side note, do you remember that part in Eat, Pray, Love when Elizabeth Gilbert (or Julia Roberts in this case) says " I wanna go someplace where l can marvel at something? Language, gelato, spaghetti, something." I couldn't agree more and I am so ready for some of that!!
Thank you for reading this blabber and randomness of a blog, I guess I just needed to get this out.
I personally am ready to become a stronger and more successful entrepreneur and person. During this I also hope I can help you along the way.
I will leave you with one last reminder
- Your dreams are possible, even through trying times
- Don't Give up or question your own intuition about anything in life
- Before taking a leap of entrepreneurship prepare yourself mentally, spiritually and physically.
- Do not for one moment do the unethical thing. Stealing, lying, cheating someone to get ahead does not work. It's not worth it.
- Have confidence in yourself and do not doubt your journey. Trying times is not a sign you should give up on your goals, passion, or purpose.
Grazie for reading an hopefully see you in a few days from Italia!! xo - Cassandra
“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It's the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”
-Mr. Fred Rogers
Cassandra Santoro is the CEO and Founder of Travel Italian Style. As a personal trip planner, Cassandra is an expert in Italian travel with a focus on authentic and inspiring experiences.
She also leads motivational talks in hopes to inspire others on her journey. Cassandra's highlight appearance was being a speaker in Germany for TEDx DHBW Mannheim.
Cassandra currently lives between Brooklyn, NY & Italy. Follow her adventures of life between two countries on Instagram.