Soul Superstar: Stories from My Sober Heart
an interview with Annick Ina
Annick Ina may have a “woo-woo” reason for her initial desire to live in Italy but her success there has also been the result of some concrete steps, like begging her mom for Italian lessons at age 13 (she got them).
In Italy, she has built her online business as a life and business coach, author, and book doula with a combination of asking for help, focusing on one thing at a time, and making room to manifest change. In sharing her life experiences of shame, self-sabotage, and alcohol abuse through to self-love and empowerment, Annick creates sacred spaces filled with love and humour to help you come home to your Self, tell your stories, and heal your past.
- What inspired you to leave your home country to live and work in another country? Tell us a little about your journey and your story.
I was born and raised on the VERY small island of Mauritius (1865 km2) right in the middle of the Indian Ocean. For many people of my age, it is a common practice to go abroad, usually to Europe, for their university degree. Most of them usually come back after a few years, but I knew I wanted to live a different kind of life. I knew I was meant to do something bigger, that’s why I symbolically chose to buy a one-way ticket when I left for university!
Even though my first destination was France, my final goal was Italy. I had no clue yet how I was going to make it, but deep inside, I knew one day I would, and I kept telling my mum and whoever would hear it that “one day I’ll live in Italy, even if I have to clean toilets for a living!”
I had been studying the language for 6 years by then and spoke fluently, so I knew it wasn’t such a crazy dream! In fact, 3 years later when my university opened the applications for a 1-year exchange programme in Italy, I knew it was my window of opportunity! I got accepted, and that 1-year exchange became a 1-way ticket! Moving to Italy was like coming home. In fact, I am now an Italian citizen and Italy actually IS the country I call home!
- What attracted you to Italy in particular?
Sigh. It’s kind of a crazy story… A beautiful, crazy story! The reason behind me sitting at my desk in Italy writing these words to you is an ant. Yes, an ANT, as in the tiny little insect!
I was 13. My family and I were at the ice-cream parlour for a Sunday treat when my mum’s cousin and her 3-year old daughter walked in. They lived in Italy and were on holiday on the island. My mum and her cousin were chatting and catching up, in French, when the little girl saw an ant, and exclaimed “Formica! Formica!” [ant in Italian] to her mum, who started speaking to her in Italian. That was it for me. Hearing the language, and hearing the little girl speak back in Italian was like a spell being cast on me.
I begged my mum to find a private teacher for me to learn the language, and after a good bit of begging, she finally gave in. To say I was in love with the language is an understatement. It spoke to my soul.
I remember 6 years later, I was standing in the hall of a hotel, waiting for a friend, when a tour bus came and dropped a group of Italian guests. I remember that moment as if it was yesterday. As the group of Italians walked past me, speaking Italian, my whole being was swept by a wave of emotions so intense that I was moved to tears!
I know it sounds crazy, but the only explanation I have so far is a very woo-woo one: I must have lived in Italy in a past life!
- What are the challenges with living in Italy and the challenges to finding work opportunities or running a business there?
The number one challenge non-EU citizens face is immigration and work permit-related. The procedure for non-EU citizens to be able to stay and work on a long-term basis in Italy is still quite complicated and the work market being very saturated and not in a good place doesn’t help. Even locals have trouble finding work, and when they do, the salaries are quite low compared to the other EU countries.
Companies aren’t in a good place either, and over the past years, a lot of them have closed down, or had to cut costs and lay people off to be able to stay afloat. As a result, even when it comes to hiring services, their financial means are limited. However, the crisis has reinforced the importance of learning English, since many companies had to relocate or outsource part of their services abroad and needed English to run these activities.
As a result, they are keener on spending on services that could be seen as a way to improve their employees’ English. I see this a lot with my Corporate Workshops: I get far more interest when I offer them in English than Italian, and market them as a way to improve their employees’ English skills.
- What is it like to be an Expat – the good, the bad and the ugly?
Being a young woman of colour, I have and still do experience a mixture of sexism and racism every day. Sometimes in a subtle way, like micro-aggressions that people aren’t even aware of, and sometimes in a more obvious way. People do change their attitude though when they realise that I have a degree as well as several other qualifications, and am well-travelled, very often more than they are.
Which leads me to another thing: many Italians haven’t really had any experience living abroad and as an online entrepreneur who’s lived in 4 different countries over the last 3 years and have met lots of like-minded people in the online communities I’m part of, I sometimes find it hard to find people offline who I can relate to.
That said, living in Italy also has its upsides. The exquisite cuisine is the number one on the list, of course. You can eat delicious food almost anywhere, without having to go to fancy restaurants or spend tons of money. Another considerable advantage: the cost of living here is ridiculously low, especially compared to the world’s big cities. You’ll only need to get used to church bells waking you up every day!
- In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake you think people make when they set off on their dream to live and work in Italy?
I think the biggest mistake is to expect Italy to be only what you see in the movies. The Dolce Vita part. Don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing country, and those things you see in the movies do happen in real life, but so do a lot of other things as well. Italy has its downsides too, but all in all, the upsides win. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here!
- Now, tell us about your work/ business – what do you do…and what’s your mission?
I’m a Life & Business coach, author, and Book Doula. I share my own story to empower women and show them that it is possible for them to go after their dreams, NO MATTER WHAT. I spent a part of my life caught in a spiral of shame which I naively tried to self-medicate with uncountable coping mechanisms, including alcohol, creating even more shame and taking a toll on my self-worth.
A couple of years ago I decided to step out of that cycle and quit alcohol. What happened next is a life that is magical beyond my wildest dreams. I am now a successful coach and a published author, and it keeps getting better every day.
My mission is to teach women that they can have that too, that they too can rise above their past and its limiting beliefs and start crafting the life of their dreams starting NOW. I believe our stories are our strengths and we can either use them as the weights that hold us back, or the weights that will help us build our resilience muscles so that we can rise tall and strong.
- What personal/professional legacy or impact do you want to leave on the world?
As I said above, the legacy that I want to leave on the world is to teach women, and people in general, that they have what it takes to go after their dreams, and that their past doesn’t define who they are. Their present does, and they have the power to act on it now to create a future that gives meaning to their life.
There is no such thing as “missing the boat”, and I want to empower them to take action and start tapping in the potential that deep inside they KNOW they have, but are just afraid to believe in because life has convinced them they shouldn’t.
- How long did it take you to reach important milestones in your business? And, what has really helped you move the needle in making your vision a reality?
It took me about 6 months to get my business set and have a small following, as well as my first clients. But I was still undercharging and wasting lots of time on things that didn’t matter. I was doing what I thought I HAD to do, and neglecting what I actually needed to do to take my business to the next level.
When I finally decided to hire a coach, things started shifting. That, and having my book published were the perfect combination to give my business a super boost! I had someone guide me, hold me accountable, and be by my side as I took the steps towards success and that was huge.
- Tell us about the start-up scares: Was there a moment where you ever seriously contemplated giving up or moving back to your home country?
I am actually moving back to my home country in December, but not because I failed; quite the opposite! I am finally successful enough to be able to go there and afford my dream lifestyle: a house by the sea, yoga by the beach, spending time with my expat friends from all over the world, and organizing retreats and workshops in this dream location.
I’ve always dreamt of being able to live between Mauritius and Italy. It’s happening now. I’m making the most of the beautiful temperatures here, and then will go spend the winter months in Mauritius, by the beach. I haven’t booked a flight back to Italy yet, but I know it’ll come. Probably in Spring.
- Did you ever fail or make a substantial mistake in business or organization? Any serious challenges? How did you overcome and resolve it?
At the beginning I used to teach part-time; that’s what paid the bills. Last year, I decided to make a bold move and quit that job to focus solely on my coaching business. Clients didn’t come as quick as I had expected and after a while, I started struggling financially. I had invested all the money I had in my editor, and my coach, and I never knew if I would have enough money to pay for my groceries at the end of the month. I hated it, but thought I would be sending the wrong signals to the Universe if I took a side hustle.
However, after a couple of months, I thought I’d just do it, because I was tired of worrying about money and just wanted to feel good. Funnily enough, the moment I made that decision, money started flowing from everywhere: teaching gigs, coaching clients, corporate workshops, and even refunds from taxes and the electricity supply company! It’s as if by making that decision something had been unlocked!
I now have several streams of revenue, and it feels good. I’ve understood that sometimes taking a side job is what you need to take the pressure off and speak to your potential clients from a place of serenity, rather than a place of neediness.
- What action have you taken that’s had most impact on reaching your goal/s?
Removing distractions and focusing on what really matters has made a huge difference on reaching my goals. I used to be scattered, working on several projects at the same time, working on my blog, my newsletter, interviews, vlogs, social media, etc., but without having a clear and specific goal towards which all these would converge.
When I started working with my coach, I did the opposite. I dropped everything and focused on my one goal, my purpose. I clearly identified what I wanted to do, who I wanted to work with and what I wanted to help them with, and everything I did was in that direction. This was way more efficient and results started showing immediately.
- What’s the best piece of business or personal advice YOU’VE ever received?
I think for me the one thing that worked best was “Focus on ONE thing”. As a Gemini, I always have ideas bubbling up and would often start a project, get distracted by another idea, quit before seeing the results to start another one, and keep repeating that process over and over again. When I started focusing on one thing instead, and started managing my time strategically, results started pouring in.
One book that I REALLY loved and reinforced this is The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. He said this sentence that really resonated with me: “Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear becomes geometric. You do the right thing and then you do the next right thing.”
It’s exactly what happened to me. When I said Yes to quitting alcohol, it gave me the mental space needed for transformation to happen and led me to write my story. That in turn, led me to creating my programme and approaching one of the key figures in the world of recovery, Annie Grace, whose book actually made me quit drinking. Next thing I know, she reviewed my book on Amazon. I was over the moon and decided to take it a step further and asked her if she’d write the foreword for the print version of my book. Lo and behold, not only did she say yes, but she actually asked ME to be a guest on HER podcast and I’m going to be interviewed by her next week!
If you’d told me a couple of years ago that this would be happening, I would never ever have believed you. And yet, it IS happening. I picked up her book about quitting alcohol, and went through my own transformation which led me full circle back to her, as her guest interviewee this time, and hopefully as a partner in my own online recovery programme as well.
This is just the perfect example of extraordinary success being sequential. It’s all about taking one right step at a time, and that’s what I want to teach my clients too. They don’t need to have every single step figured out, they just need to focus on their ONE next step, and then the next, and the next. And before they know it, success will be there knocking at their door!
- What’s the #1 piece of advice you would give someone who wanted to build a life in Italy for themselves? What would you tell your younger/earlier self about following your dreams?
Do not give up. If this is really what you want, find ways to make it happen. Start somewhere. As I said above, take the first step towards making that happen, even if it’s as small as doing some research and picking a city you’d like to move to. Then take the next step, and then the next, until you’re finally doing it. ONE step at a time.
And if you’re scared, follow my famous steps:
- Decide to do it
- Shit your pants
- Just do it
- Change into fresh pants
- Go celebrate
- What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually wake up around eight or nine. I take an hour or so before getting out of bed. I have breakfast, shower, and do some work between eleven and one. Then I have lunch, write some emails or go for a walk, and have my client calls, usually between 4pm and 6 or 7pm. After that, I prepare dinner and eat. I sometimes watch one episode of Modern Family on Netflix, then read a bit, watch videos on YouTube, or listen to some music, then go to bed.
- Stevie Wonder or The Beatles? (this, I personally must know.) 🙂
Annick Ina is a Life & Business coach, author, and Book Doula. Her mission is to help women rise above their past, reconnect with their Inner Power, and finally tap into their true potential. She has recently created B.Y.O.B – Be Your Own Booze, an online programme for women to use their alcohol-free lifestyle as a golden opportunity to grow and build the life of their dreams. She also created a Book Doula coaching programme to help women birth their book from scratch, self-publish it, and undergo the amazing life-transforming journey that goes with it.
In her book, Soul Superstar: Stories From My Sober Heart, she shares her journey in a raw and unfiltered voice to inspire readers to connect with their own Soul Superstar and shine inside out. Annick is also an official Desire Map facilitator, a Spirit Junkie Masterclass graduate, and trained in EFT.