When I went to Cuba, my first impact with the city, Havana, was shocking. It is incredible how these people live in poverty and, at the same, they still enjoy life.
"We have food for today, my children are healthy and I have a roof under my head, that's all I need for me and my family."
This was the answer from a woman I was talking to. After the talk, she took an old radio, like the ones we used in the '90s and put some salsa music.
After a few minutes, everyone around came and joined us dancing in the street (well I wasn't really dancing but .. I was there). Cuban people are happy despite all their problems.
I grew up in Calabria, one of the poorest regions in the so-called developed world. I am lucky enough to have a job, and I have a salary that is much higher than the average salary in Calabria.
Yet here people are happy too. Of course, we complain about the government and the politicians, but people can still enjoy life. Calabria is a beautiful but we are famous only for our 'ndrangheta, or if sounds more familiar, mafia.
Cuban and Calabrian have one thing in common, we are both used to be forgotten by the rest of the world. We are used to living like this. We are used to be the last.
Many of my friends would not be able to live in a place like Milan or London, they would end up depressed in less than a year. I could not stand anymore living in the Netherlands after 4 years. I missed the sun, the beaches, and the people smiling.
Before leaving I had a job offer from a company who was just acquired by eBay. I rejected it, and instead, I accepted a job in Gibraltar, so that I could live in Andalusia, which is very similar to my region.
I thought a lot about this episode. Many people told me that I was crazy to reject it, that Amsterdam was the best place in Europe for working in IT (it's true, it is) and that I screwed my career because of that.
I still think about it from time to time but I have no regrets. Some people spend their lives working hard to get their promotion, save money for retirement and get burnout after 5 years. Because this is what they are taught.
I knew since I was a kid that I would not have the same opportunity as anyone else, I knew that if I wanted to have something in my life, I had to work harder than anyone.
I did, and despite everything, I checked many of my "life to-do list" items. But I also let go some of them, when I realized that they would not make me happy.
Because I was born in Calabria, and here we see happiness differently. We keep smiling and helping each other no matter what. This is the beauty of my region, and this is why I am proud to say I was born there.