• Elaine Zito

An Unconventional Life: My Past, Present and Future

When I think of the best thing I learned and inherited from my parents, it is hands down my drive for success in a way that encompasses seeing the world and trying new things. I'm not afraid to take risks and I love change. If it wasn't for my past and upbringing, I wouldn't be where I am today, and would not have the big dreams and goals I do for my future.

Past: To the outside eye, it would appear I grew up a normal kid. I lived in a neighborhood, played outside in the cul-de-sac, went to public school and played sports. While most of my childhood was normal, my parents made sure to make the time we could get away from everyday life, exceptional and adventurous. To give you a background of where they came from, it would start in Wakefield, VA. Wakefield is a small, rural town between Richmond and Virginia Beach. This is where my parents met. My mom was working for a bank and my dad was a general contractor. Both attended some college but never reached a degree. They were too anxious to start making money. After building a solar passive home, selling that, moving to Richmond and building another home, where my sister was born, my dad started his own architectural millwork company in their garage. Eventually, his skills and the local demand turned into him creating the first PVC windows in the area. No more wood means no more rot. You could say he was kind of an inventor (at least for the area). This small business grew to be a window and door company with two warehouses, over 100 employees and 10 million in annual sales. My mom did the accounting and helped my dad with everything. This life afforded us to travel to London, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico by plane. We also had an RV which took us from Maine to Florida, cross country to Colorado, and Northwest to Yosemite. It was exciting as a child to get off the bus and hop in the motorhome for a new adventure. When I was in middle school, they bought a sailboat. This was a whole new experience that garnered my love for the water. I learned a respect for the ocean and how truly powerful it is. Through my formative years, I was introduced to so many new people, places, and things that allowed me to see just how big the world was. I knew I didn't want to stay in one place forever. And thanks to my parents, I knew I wouldn't have to.

Eventually, with the recession, they had to liquidate their business and assets to downsize. While they still own our house, they rent it out and made the move onto a boat for good. This also meant a transfer to Norfolk, VA. Through trial and error, they got back on their feet and eventually moved onto a bigger boat and sailed to the Florida Keys. Once I was engaged, they knew there was no longer a reason or opportunity to be in Virginia. They lived in Marathon for a few years while my dad grew his name amongst the building and construction community. My mom taught herself programming and landed a career in computers. Now they live on their 3rd boat since the downsize, in West Palm Beach and enjoy sailing and kayaking on the weekends. No matter where they go, they find success, adventure and new challenges. They truly are sea gypsies and i'm so proud to call them my parents. After all of that, I'm thankful for the recession, because even though it sucked, and we lost a lot as a family, we gained the life we all have now. I met my husband because they downsized to Norfolk. We all learned resiliency and gratefulness. I think we are all better and stronger for it and I can't see it being any other way.

Present: After I graduated high school, I moved to Ocracoke Island for the summer to work at a surf shop. I went to Virginia Tech and got my degree but quickly knew I didn't want to sit in an office. I met Allyn, we bought our own boat to live on, and 2 years into us dating, we moved to Florida. Because he grew up in Virginia Beach, he wanted to find new opportunity elsewhere. I was game, especially because my parents were already down there. We researched and settled on Naples. Now, we live half the year in the Florida sun, and the other half in Virginia Beach, 5 minutes from his family. Our career choice of waiting tables allows us to do this. I truly believe we get the best of both worlds. We never endure cold weather, we spend 6 months with my parents close by, and 6 months with his family down the street. If it wasn't for us thinking outside the box and taking a risk on how we make money, we wouldn't be able to live this life. We never get tired of one place or a certain group of people because we move before the opportunity would arise. And while we're growing our real estate investments (our long term career plan) in Florida, we will continue to be snowbirds even with kids. How cool would it be if we summered in Virginia Beach while the kids were out of school? Sounds pretty swanky to me, and if it makes sense monetarily, and the kids get to be by the Zito family for part of the year, it's a win win.

My point is, ever since I have been on my own I have not been afraid of the unknown. I've lived in a shack in the OBX, an apartment in rural southwest Virginia, our own boat in Virginia Beach (thanks for the idea, parents), and a townhome in south Florida. I love living in new places and having the opportunity to meet new people and see new things. Change is like my kryptonite. It can be so scary, but so, so rewarding.

Future: As for Allyn's and my future, I am thankful he is just as adventurous and risk taking as me. We know our next goal is a house on the water on Marco Island. We want to raise our kids with just as much excitement and experience as I had growing up. We know we want to grow our real estate rentals vastly to eventually exit the restaurant industry and provide us and our children with an exceptional life. I also would love to grow my blog to provide for my family in a way that allows me to stay home with our kids, as well as be able to travel often. And long term, we see ourselves investing in something in Aruba or another Caribbean island. Whether it's an AirBNB or just a vacation home for us, our end goal is a bungalow on the water where we can snorkel, scuba, and fish anytime we want.

Thanks to my parents I know I can create the life I want. I can design it to be whatever I want it to be. I can live in my own version of paradise. And it doesn't have to wait until retirement. Because with a little brainstorming, a lot of hard work, risk taking and embracing change, I will live a life I'm proud of and excited to wake up to every day.

If there's one legacy I want to leave, its this: she wasn't afraid to follow her dreams, no matter what got in her way. She was adventurous, brave and believed the greatest things in life were achieved through risks and change. Success is not one sided, or one way, it is what makes you truly happy and proud to live in this beautiful life. Here's to you creating your own legacy, and living whatever kind of life you desire.

xoxo, Isla Girl