Expat Journey interview: from Sardinia to Denmark

Today, we present a fascinating interview with Silvia Montis, an extraordinary woman who transformed her life through courage and determination in her expat journey. Originally from Sardinia, Silvia chose to move to Denmark with her husband, where they started a gardening and maintenance business.

Besides managing this business, Silvia is a Travel Blogger, Content Creator, Writer, and Creative. On her blog, “Viaggiare Zaino in Spalla,” she shares her travel adventures, encouraging women to explore the world, even on their own.

In this interview, Silvia tells us about her journey, the challenges she faced, and the significant changes that marked her life, inspiring us with her story of transformation and growth.

Silvia Monti’s Interview

Hello Silvia, nice to meet you! First of all, tell us a bit about yourself: where were you born, how old are you, and where do you currently live?

Hello, I’m Silvia Montis, I’m 49 years old, and I’m originally from Sardinia but have been living in Denmark with my husband for 11 years. Here we started a gardening and maintenance business, where I handle the administrative part working completely remotely. This allows me to also have a second career as a Travel Blogger, Content Creator, Writer, and Creative.

I love traveling, I enjoy challenges, and my blog “Viaggiare Zaino in Spalla” reflects the style of travel I love. Adventurous, backpacking, even solo. For years, I’ve encouraged women to embark on journeys, even alone, to rediscover themselves. I share my story of transformation, healing, and change, showing them that alternative lifestyles are possible.

My move to Denmark at a later age, without a job, without a house, and without even knowing the language, proves it. On the blog, I also talk about my native land, Sardinia, and my current home, Denmark.

I offer personalized itineraries and help people organize their backpacking trips. I often talk about Digital Nomadism because that’s what I’ve become in recent years. I love shaping dreams, even those considered unattainable, like my last solo trip to Mexico.

Living in the cold Scandinavian lands was also a dream I thought was impossible.

What motivated you to make this significant life change? And why Denmark?

After ten years in Veneto, where I studied and worked as an Advertising and Editorial Graphic Designer, I returned to Sardinia to open my own business dedicated to the Nordic world, my passion, but after five years, the economic crisis that hit Italy forced me to close.

A month later, my husband was also laid off due to downsizing, and we found ourselves at a crossroads again. We decided to leave again, this time with the desire to gain experience abroad. Denmark seemed, at that time, the most economically stable country. There were job opportunities, growth prospects, and special attention to families and people.

I had always had a fondness for Scandinavian countries and was enthusiastic. Without much money ahead, my husband went first and lived in Copenhagen with an acquaintance who had only one bed. I, eager to join him, looked for work as an Au Pair, and after three months, an Italian-Danish family offered me room and board in exchange for house cleaning.

So I finally arrived in Denmark, and my adventure began. It was not easy at all; I didn’t even speak English, but I was determined to overcome every difficulty. Denmark was different from everything I knew, and the newness excited me. It still does because this country always manages to surprise me. It’s fascinating, stimulating, and when I’m away for long periods, I miss it. I believe I’ve fallen in love with it.

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Have there been significant changes in your life since this decision?

My life has completely changed. I certainly never thought we would start a business after only two years, nor that I would begin backpacking and become a Digital Nomad. Everything has changed, from daily habits to mentality.

Living abroad allowed me to have a very deep experience, especially within myself. It forced me to leave my comfort zone again, but this time in a radical way. Denmark showed me glimpses of reality I didn’t know. I interact with people from all over the world, leading to the discovery of diverse but well-integrated cultures. Denmark has a beautiful history, both political and social, linked to integration and inclusion, despite being strongly nationalist and traditionalist.

Here I learned to have an open mind. From Denmark, I also received the most significant ethical and social lessons, about respect and sharing, sustainability, and harmony between man and nature. Gender equality and parity are also felt in every environment.

I believe that everything Denmark has given me has helped me believe more in myself and in a better world, so now I try to encourage others by showing that change is possible, even in our daily lives. These inputs pushed me to become a Backpacker and naturally influenced my way of working. This is how I gradually also became a Digital Nomad, even though Denmark remains my base.

It all started in 2017, four years after arriving in this country. At one point, I left my job and embarked on my first solo Camino de Santiago. For a month, I walked and shared my experience, and upon my return, I started the blog. With the blog’s launch came the first collaborations and my first earnings, so over the years, I turned my passion for writing and traveling into a job. In Denmark, this is possible.

I started working remotely when Italy was not yet talking about Smart Working or Digital Nomadism, especially for women. In this, I believe I was a pioneer. Today I work entirely remotely and travel freely, taking my work everywhere.

What differences do you find between living in your home country and in Denmark?

There are enormous differences between the two countries, both culturally and organizationally. Here are some examples:

  1. The country’s economy is very strong, allowing us to live peacefully despite the very difficult historical period. Having a dignified life and not worrying about making ends meet is a great achievement. In Italy, we often found ourselves budgeting money to “survive.”
  2. Bureaucracy in Denmark is very streamlined. We were able to open our businesses with a simple click on the computer. Taxes are high, but we only pay based on actual work without having to advance anything, and when we overpay by mistake, the state automatically refunds everything without needing a request. Everything is managed online, digitally, from the doctor to the pharmacy, every appointment, every payment, every document request, even signing up for the gym or booking a washing machine in the condo laundry room. Italy is slowly catching up with this after COVID, but in Denmark, it was already a reality when we arrived 11 years ago, with the difference that here the digital system works perfectly and is fast.
  3. Jobs are plentiful, and companies are always very attentive to employee well-being. There are many benefits, especially for families, and many companies even have spaces dedicated to relaxation and refreshment, with gyms, saunas, and kitchens. Employees often have flexible working hours, allowing them to set their entry and exit times to take their children to school, regardless of the parent. In Denmark, the family is at the center of society; special leave is available for children, like for their seasonal illnesses.
  4. Since most parents here work, there is a lot of attention to equal rights. So it’s normal to see fathers taking care of children without the constant presence of the mother. I often see them taking newborns and very young children to the park, shopping, changing them without problems, while their partners are at work or the gym, or simply enjoying their free time. Parity is also felt in this role reciprocity, not seen as role exchange but as the absence of labels and total equality, unlike Italy, which has always had rigidly defined roles. The fact that these men are fully involved fathers without being considered “mammies” says a lot about how much we still have to progress in our beautiful country.

The concept of equality and inclusion is very strong here. In the workplace, for example, it’s normal to see women carpenters and masons or men in cleaning roles, as well as the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in every work sector, including people who in Italy would never be accepted for their appearance. So it’s not surprising to see transgender people working as sales assistants or heavily tattooed individuals as doctors and bank employees.

Can we say the same about Italy? Perhaps in sporadic cases, but we are far from normal. When there is no discrimination and politics always strongly support inclusion, society shapes itself with this perspective, and this is how we evolve into what I consider a truly Civil Nation. All this certainly contributed to and triggered a greater rebellion in me against the sexist and homophobic mentality often widespread in Italy.

I often talk about it on my Blog and channels. The first concrete change I had from this mental freedom is precisely being able to travel freely, even solo, without many worries. In Italy, for a woman, traveling alone is still a taboo, especially in the south. The patriarchal mentality is very strong and conditions us a lot. For me, backpacking was like a cry of protest and a message of hope that I continue to spread through my Blog.

How often do you return home and how do you feel each time?

Thanks to my remote work, I can return to Italy whenever I want, and I do it very often, at least three times a year, especially since I became an aunt to my two beautiful nephews. Moreover, my parents are getting older, so I try to spend as much time with them as I can.

Every time I have to leave them, though, it’s a great suffering. I thank technology because thanks to video calls, we can shorten the distances, and the separation seems a little less painful.

What do you miss most about Italy?

To be honest, what I miss most about Italy is my family. They are my life, and that’s why, even though I love living in Denmark, I always feel my heart split in two. Apart from that, I miss the sun, my beautiful Sardinia, its scent of Mediterranean scrub, the energy of ancient stones, the sound of sheep bells grazing, but I don’t miss the scorching heat of its summers at all.

The call to roots is always very strong, and that sense of belonging is found with Sardinian and Italian friends we occasionally meet. Sometimes on weekends, we get together to drink unfiltered Ichnusa beer, watch Cagliari matches, or attend some event organized by our Sardinian cultural association in Denmark.

We have also learned to be inclusive, so at the association’s events, Danes and foreigners are always present, a way to introduce our island to them and integrate without ghettoizing ourselves.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a courageous choice like yours?

It’s not easy, but don’t let difficulties discourage you; they will make the experience even more meaningful. Wanting to live abroad must be a conscious choice. It’s useless to complain and constantly compare it to Italy.

Also, I want to reassure you that it doesn’t matter if you start with few resources, without knowing the languages, or already having a job; what matters is your determination. Everything can be learned, transformed, and improved. It just takes a lot of commitment and patience.

Starting as an adult might be more challenging, requiring a bit of healthy madness, but even if this leap into the unknown scares us, it’s possible if it’s really important to us. I have overcome many limits, learned to know myself better, and had great satisfactions. For me, the leap was truly worth it. I hope it will be for you too.

What are your future projects?

I have several projects already in development, including a book on female backpacking Digital Nomadism and a tourism project here in Denmark that I’m working on with fellow bloggers.

For now, I don’t want to put too much on my plate, but next year I’m planning a “sabbatical” period that will allow me to travel much more in honor of my 50th birthday. I have yet to decide on the destination, but I believe it will be in Asian countries or Latin America. Follow me to find out!

Thank You, Silvia!

The story of Silvia Montis is an example of how determination and the desire to explore new horizons can transform our lives. From moving to Denmark, facing initial difficulties, and building a new life, Silvia has shown that with courage and commitment, any obstacle can be overcome.

Her expat journey experience as expat teaches us the importance of stepping out of our comfort zone and embracing change. Continue to follow her adventures and be inspired by her passion for travel and her ability to turn dreams into reality.

You can follow her on her blog Viaggiare Zaino in Spalla and on her social profiles: Instagram, Facebook Page, and Travel Group in Denmark to stay updated on her future projects and adventures.