Reid and I have both been fascinated with Italy since we were kids. When we met, we found out that visiting Italy was on both of our bucket lists. In 2013, three years into marriage, we decided to make it happen, and devised a one-year savings plan to make the trip in September of 2014.
September 14th, 2014, we landed on Italian soil for the first time, completely overwhelmed that this life-long bucket list trip was actually a reality. Jetlagged and wild-eyed, we made our way around the Marco Polo Airport in Venice, trying to figure out what to do next. Our two days in Venice were absolutely magical! We left Venice very early that third morning, we’ll spare you the details, but the trip went downhill in a hurry. We spent two weeks in that beautiful country and to be honest, the trip was a bit of a disaster. We had never traveled internationally and made a lot of rookie mistakes, but also ran into a lot of issues that were out of our control. We visited 9 different cities in those 14 days (which is insane!) and made incredible memories!
A couple of months after the trip, Reid brought up how cool it would be to live in Italy and be on-location destination wedding photographers. Our dream has always been to shoot weddings all over the world (Europe most specifically), and that would give us the incredible opportunity to do it. I laughed (because moving to Italy was crazy!) and dismissed it. But he kept bringing it up. The conversations grew longer and deeper each time we talked, and I actually started entertaining the idea. That insane, daunting, and terrifying idea. Even though our trip was far from perfect, Italy had completely stolen our hearts. The people, the culture, the language, the food, the breathtaking beauty around every corner… our hearts ached to be back there.
For the next two years, we battled back and forth with the idea. We researched how to get Visas, find a place to live, find jobs, and healthcare. We looked at the financials and how long it would take us to be financially ready for the move. And we prayed. A lot. There was this big hang up, though, that we just couldn’t get past. There were many factors that would make us want to stay, but one thing loomed over us darker than the others. We wanted a family. Moving to Italy would indefinitely put having a child on hold, and we just couldn’t get past that. After months of hashing it out through tears, fear and frustration, and changing our minds countless times, we had a breakthrough. In May of 2016, God made it extremely clear that it was time to leave the decision totally up to Him, (which we should’ve done from the beginning!) and actually allow Him to tell us which path to take. Have a baby or move to Italy? His choice.
Last August, it really seemed as though He was pulling us toward Italy, and we decided to plan another trip there to move forward with the moving plans. We started telling our family and closest friends, some of the hardest conversations we’ve ever had, and asked for their prayers. We thought it would take at least until spring to save up the money, but when our trip to New York, planned for September, fell through and we were suddenly blessed with an unexpected and large amount of money from new wedding bookings, we picked the ONE available week left for the entire year! What’s ironic is that we landed in Italy on September 13th, exactly two years from our first trip! We had a whirlwind of a week (apparently that’s just the way we do things!) and although we hit a pretty major bump in the road on the first night, it went so much smoother than the first trip! After two years of dreaming of life there, we were a lot more prepared! We were very interested in the city of Lucca as a possible new home, so we spent a day there, as well as Modena. We felt like we were home. After two years of desperately missing this place, dreaming of what life would be like, we felt like we belonged there.
Then something weird happened. On the flight home, we both felt pretty sure that the decision had been made and that God giving us the means to go visit was His way of giving us our answer (that, and that we still weren’t pregnant). When we landed back in Little Rock, went home, and eased back into reality, something changed. Yeah, we missed Italy terribly, but suddenly the thought of possibly never having a child was devastating. And thought of not living in Italy was not. While we were in Lucca, we spent time with our dear friends (our wedding photographers and my mentors) Kari and Caleb, who moved to Strasbourg, France, and they said something that really hit it home for us. They said “to move overseas, you have to want it more than anything else in the world.” What we finally realized is that as badly as we craved the adventure of moving over there and starting this one-of-a-kind business, we wanted a child more.
That was the turning point. We were still open to wherever God called us, whether another city in Arkansas or another continent, but we would do it as a family. It’s absolutely no coincidence that as soon as we realized His plan for us, our precious baby girl came into picture 🙂 One of the places we visited on this last trip was Varenna (pronounced Vuh-ray-nuh), which is a small town on Lake Como. It is without a doubt the most beautiful, inspiring, and magnificent place we have EVER been. We only spent a few hours there, but it changed us. Its beauty is a miracle straight from the hand of God. Our daughter’s name is Ella Varenna Riggan. We haven’t met her yet, but she is the most beautiful, inspiring, and magnificent thing we have ever experienced and she has changed us. Her beauty is a miracle straight from the hand of God, and we are SO thankful that we chose her.