Move to Italy? Write a Book? 10 Inspiring Women Who Followed Their Dreams

10 crazy, unattainable dreams these women actually achieved. From picking up and moving to another country to starting her own art gallery, they'll tell you how they started from scratch and got from point A to Amazing!

The dream: Live in a foreign country

 Live in a foreign country

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Eugenie Bisulco, 41

How did the idea to move to Italy come about?
I had always wanted to live overseas, and when we left in 2007, I definitely needed a change. I was kind of bored at my job, and I figured that, even if I waited tables, I'd be doing it in Rome. (Little did I know it's actually rather difficult to find wait staff jobs in Italy, as they are among the most secure.) When my boyfriend actually got a position overseas that’s when the doubt started to creep in — not about Italy or moving or work, but about the mere notion of moving overseas with a man who hadn’t proposed in five years. I ended up taking him to my therapist and making him promise me that he’d propose to me “soon” after our arrival in Rome. Six months after we arrived, he put a ring on it.

What excited you about the process? What made you trepidatious?
I arrived into an embassy community, which was not something I’d bargained for. I felt like an outsider. American woman my age in Rome had kids. At the pool, no one talked to me. People wondered why I was there, if I wasn’t married. And why was I working? Most were enjoying La Dolce Vita. Was I out for their men? Rome can also be a very isolated place. You can speak perfect Italian, but if you do so with an accent people will look at you like you've just arrived from Mars.

What words of wisdom would you give to a woman thinking of making a similar move?
Get your ducks in a row first — know what paperwork you’ll need to be legal and/or get a job beforehand. Don’t squander any opportunities, particularly with regard to learning a new language and getting to know a new culture and new people. Make sure your relationship, if you’re in one, is solid before you go. In general, keep your mind open. Follow your heart.

The dream: Get a book published

 Get a book published

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Colleen Oakley, 33

How did your dream to get a book published come about?
I finished my first whole novel a few years ago and was ecstatic. I really believed that my agent would be calling within weeks to tell me all about my amazing book deal. Weeks turned into months, which turned into a year— and no book deal. I was disheartened, well crushed, really. But in that time, an author that I had turned to for support had suggested I throw myself into another project so I wasn't sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. So, I did. I wrote another whole novel. And this one just felt right. I had learned so much about plot and character development from the one that didn't sell, and as with most things in life, the experience helped me hone my craft. This time, we had an offer within a week and agreed to a deal a week later. My book, Before I Go, comes out January 2015 from Simon & Schuster.

What excited you about the process? What made you trepidatious?The exciting thing about writing a book and getting published is knowing that your work will be read, pondered and appraised by other people (hopefully, a lot of other people!). The terrifying thing is knowing that your work will be read, pondered, and appraised by other people. It can be paralyzing. During the writing process I had to push those fears out of my mind and really get back to writing for myself. I love to tell stories and I love to write and I can't let what people may think of my work hold me back from doing what I love.

What advice would you give someone with a similar goal?
Know when to give up. Not on your dream, but on the current plan that may not be working. I had to decide to pull the plug on the first novel and accept that it just wasn't going to sell. I also had to admit to myself that it wasn't my best work. You have to know when to let go and look for another path to get to the same destination.

The dream: Open an art gallery

 Open an art gallery

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Cherie Via Rexer, 45

How did your dream to open Ripe Art Gallery come about?
I had been working freelance for various art galleries here on the North Shore of Long Island and I was taking faux-finish gigs for friends. One of the galleries I was working for was run by two partners. One day I went in and the partner that wasn’t there very often, was. He started a fight with me over a job order, said a few nasty things and fired me! I had never been fired from a job before. That afternoon I went to a framing supply house, bought $250 worth of supplies and started a fraiming business for myself!

What steps did you take to meet any challenges you faced in opening your gallery?
I say that I took the step when the step came to me. My gallery started very small. I needed a studio so my paint wouldn’t freeze in my garage, so I rented a small space in the back of a friends clothing boutique. I outgrew that quickly, and that’s when I made the move to my first real gallery, which was a small space off of a much larger gallery space. My first few shows were people that I was friendly with, and then artists started coming to me! Within a year I was ready for a bigger space, so I moved into my last gallery. I was there for seven years, and I just continued taking those steps as they came to me.

What words of wisdom would you give to a woman with a similar goal?
Don’t open an art gallery and think that you are going to immediately start selling art. This is a business that takes longevity, and (often) something else associated with it to make money. I'm lucky I have the frame shop because that is how I make 99 percent of my living.

The dream: Train horses

 Train horses

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Regina Preciado, 42

How did your dream to own/train horses come about?I can't remember a time when I wasn’t horse-crazy. I have a photo of my first pony ride, at the zoo, and my face is transcendent. When I got old enough, I looked for opportunities to clean stalls and do chores in exchange for time with horses. However, I somehow always had the idea that owning a horse was something that happened only to other people. At 36, I had an epiphany: If not now, when? I started taking riding lessons again and enlisted my instructor’s help in finding a good first horse of my own.

What excited you about your owning a horse? What made you trepidatious?
I had concerns about the finances, of course. I’d factored in standard monthly expenses like board, but had no idea how much other stuff horses need. I learned quickly that my money also had to stretch to cover supplemental feed and vitamins, because hay does not provide all of the nutrition they need. I still had to pay for lessons, because I was still very novice as a rider and now I had all these other aspects of horsekeeping to learn too. And the vet bills! Do not get me started on how many thousands of dollars in vet bills that a healthy horse can rack up simply by twisting his ankle here, cutting his elbow there and developing arthritis at a young age.

What words of wisdom would you give to a woman with a similar goal?
It's not too late. If you are still horse-crazy, a horse can still happen to you. It doesn't matter if you feel too old, too unfit, or too scared to ride — horses have a lot more to offer than just riding. I spend more time playing with my horses on my own two feet than I do riding them. A relationship with a horse can be amazingly transformative for the human.

The Dream: Put the intials “Dr.” in front of her name

 Put the intials “Dr.” in front of her name

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Angela Whidden, 31

How did you go about earning a Doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology (EdD)?
I knew that finishing my dissertation was a part of my fulfillments to become a doctor. So I focused on that. I wrote "Dr. Whidden" on chalkboards. I practiced introducing myself as Dr. Angela Whidden. This was actually a recommendation of one of our faculty members, who is a psychologist and uses hypnotherapy, which is what this technique really is. I made mock-up pictures of my name plaque, pictured my name and title on a lab coat, etc. I planned a celebratory trip for when it would be completed. This made what otherwise seemed too abstract (me being a doctor) seem actually possible. These all sound a bit cheesy, but they are a part of picturing the outcome that is driving you...

What strategies did you use to stay focused?
My dissertation actually is related to achieving goals, utilizing the Theory of Planned Behavior. In my research I found that whether or not people actually did something was more related to whether or not it was possible ra than whether or not they thought it was valuable, required or if everyone else was doing it. Perceived control over the outcome was the biggest predictor. The most influential was still, “I CAN do this” and equally as impactful is “It’s IMPOSSIBLE.” At our residencies we talked a lot about Imposter Syndrome, which is this concept that you may be amidst achieving something and you self-sabotage based on the realization that you might not be able to complete your task because you CAN NOT, even if everyone around you already is.

The Dream: Open a small business

 Open a small business

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Jen DeMarco, 34

How did your dream to open Local Barre come about?
I have always fantasized about owning a boutique in a small town. But to provide what service? I had no idea! In the meantime, I was living the quintessential life of a twenty-something in the city, working long hours on a trade desk in Manhattan as an executive assistant to a senior portfolio manager at a leading hedge fund. I would rush out of work at 6pm to catch the nearest barre class. I started wishing there were barre classes in my hometown and had my ah-ha moment!

What excited you about your project? What made you trepidatious?
I looked forward to the flexible schedule, that put my personal wellness as a priority. I was most trepidatious about the financial investment — we liquidated every penny of our personal savings, as well as took out a small business loan and even some high interest personal loans from friends and family. It was the most intimidating responsibility I had ever experienced. And then my husband and I discovered we would soon be parents, too!

What words of wisdom would you give to a woman with a similar goal?
Go for it. Fight through the barriers — and there will be plentiful. It’s impossible to forecast everything, so make mistakes and learn from them. I am often told that it’s apparent that I grew up outside of NYC because, while I have earned my street smarts, I still wear my heart on my sleeve. I am not suggesting that is for everyone, but be true to yourself, whoever you are. Be kind, be genuine and you will find that others are rooting for your success!

The dream: Start a wealth management firm

 Start her own wealth management firm

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Elle Kaplan, 35

How did your dream to go into finance come about?
My dream emerged from a tragedy. Very suddenly, due to illness, my mom ended up managing our family finances. I desperately wanted to help her. When I came to Wall Street looking for a job, I couldn't help thinking, Is this a firm where I would want my mom to become a client? The answer way, sadly, no — again and again. So I began dreaming of a firm that focused on empowering people in their financial lives. I was able to collect the “best of” from every place I had ever worked, and put them together into a dream that became Lexion Capital Management LLC where I am CEO & Founding Partner.

What excited you about your project? What made you trepidatious?
I was thrilled to be able to combine my passion for investing and the markets with my ethical values and strong belief in a rigorously client-centric approach. However, I took my life savings, invested in a business and left a thriving career on Wall Street. So I took on a great deal of financial, personal and career risk.

What words of wisdom would you give to a woman with a similar goal?
Sometimes your personal mission emerges from tragedy. It did with me. Had my family not been struck by illness, the entire series of events that propelled me to create a wealth management firm worthy of my mom would not have happened. So look for that rainbow after a storm and believe in your dreams.

The dream: Get “happy”

 Get “happy”

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Nataly Kogan, 37

How did your dream to start Happier and specifically, the Happier App, come about?
I immigrated to the US with my parents when I was 13, after escaping the Soviet Union. I chased the American Dream and made a lot of money. That failed to make me happy so I turned to science and learned that it’s things like focusing on the positive that research shows make us truly happier. I was inspired to start Happier to encourage people to stop saying, "I'll be happy when..." and start saying, "I'm happier now because..."

What excited you about your project? What made you trepidatious?
Being able to create products that help people have more awesome lives is incredibly exciting. But it’s also a huge responsibility: We’re saying using our products will make you happier. That’s a huge promise.

What words of wisdom would you give to a woman with a similar goal?
Know what your strengths are, what you’re awesome at, and focus on that. Always manage to your strengths and build a team of people around you who can help you with everything else.

The Dream: Master a unique musical instrument

 Master a unique musical instrument

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Natalia Paruz, 36, aka

How did your dream to play the saw come about?
I saw a guy play the musical saw in a show for tourists in Europe, and I fell in love with the sound and visual. I went backstage and asked to schedule a lesson with him, but he refused to teach me. He told me to get a saw (regular handsaw from the hardware store), imitate what I remembered him doing on stage, and figure it out myself.

What excited you about your project? What made you trepidatious?
The beauty of the sound, so spiritual and angelic, excited me, as well as the novelty of it — our culture is so saturated — it is hard to find something that isn't already over-done. The fact that I could not find a teacher to teach me made me trepidatious, as well as the hardship of introducing something new to people who have set tastes in music.

What words of wisdom would you give to a woman with a similar goal?
If we want to better ourselves, then application, diligence, and cheerful persistence pays off. If what you feel truly matters, then you will endure. Life never stands still — don’t wait for opportunities but create ones for yourself, and see what unfolds.

The Dream: Become a doula

 Become a doula

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Cara Del Favero, CLC, PCD, OSHA, 27

How did your dream to become a doula come about?
When I was pregnant with my first I realized just how important it is to have hired, informed support people with me and realized that I am actually great with research and statistics! I did not have a very good first birth experience, which just made me even more eager to give loving support to other families during labor and beyond so they can reduce their chance of having an experience like mine.

What challenges did you face?
It made me trepidatious to consider what my first doula birth experiences would be like – could I really support a woman through her whole labor? Could I really make a difference in the birth experience and those first few precious moments between a baby and their mother? As it turns out, yes, I was amazing at it. Which was such a relief.

What advice would you give to a woman with a similar goal?
I would say go for it! First, though, it's best to make sure that you have worked through any issues you may have had with your own birth or child-rearing experiences so you are not potentially bringing your own problems to another family. The best thing to do is make connections in your local maternity community with other doulas, obstetricians and labor nurses, midwives, photographers and breastfeeding support groups like La Leche League, which will not only give you referrals but also a good idea of what types of support families in your area need.

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