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Feb. 5, 2018

Live in the Moment but Plan for the Future

Hi, I’m Alessandra Distefano and I am an Italian living in London.
I’m here to tell you how I became a tireless human being.

living in the moment

I come from a sunny land at the very bottom of the Italian boot, Sicily. I was born and raised in Catania but moved to London for work soon after obtaining a PhD in Marketing from the University of Florida.

I moved to the States seven years ago, 2011 and spent three years in Gainesville, FL. Yes, not exactly the place you’d expect to live when thinking about Florida, right? Anyhow, during those three years, I eventually became quite accustomed to that little university town and became friends with people from all over the world. It was a laid back and relaxed lifestyle, cheap food and relatively close to the beaches on both the eastern and western coasts. A perfect combination for me!

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Between my school commitments and my conference papers, I had quite a few chances to not only spend weekends camping and surfing with friends but also to travel visiting friends in different states across the USA.

Immediately after obtaining my PhD (literally, the day after my graduation) I moved to London, as I was offered a job in IT and I have been living and working here ever since.

Family members and friends have often described me as a “hyperactive” person. My nickname at school was “Forrest”. Why? Because I have been running since I can remember, never professionally but surely with a lot of passion and commitment (I ran four marathons and several half marathons in the past and I am currently training for a triathlon). But I also believe that my extremely energetic personality comes from having been exposed by my parents to all sorts of sports and outdoor activities since a very young age.

I learnt how to ski when I was four, snowboard when I was twelve. I played tennis, volleyball, and basketball at school. I did horse riding for 3 years, studied ballet and modern dance for another 3 years. I sang in the opera chorus for 7 years and played in more than twenty operas at the age of seven. In my early twenties, back in Sicily, my father bought me a boat, rather than a car, so I learned to drive speedboats and got into wakeboarding and water skiing. I go scuba diving once a year and hiking anytime I have the chance.

And the list goes on…but what I want to convey here is that despite the fact that I am a full-time employee for an international fin-tech company I haven’t had to give up any (and I repeat any) of the things that I enjoy doing outside work.

I run or cycle to work every day, I go skiing once or twice a year, go hiking or climbing every two weeks in the UK or in any other European destination within reach from London.

living in the moment 3

I travel every month. Correct, every month. Depending on my holiday plans, I tend to book two long trips abroad and several weekend getaways throughout the year. My goal is to visit as many countries as I can, without necessarily giving up my professional career as a manager (why would I anyway? It pays well, keeps my mind busy, and I learn new stuff every day).

Here is how I do it. All begins in bed, yes, in bed. I wake up and plan my day. I don’t even look outside to check the weather. I know it’s going to be cold and dark at 7 am on a weekday in January in London. Anyone would be discouraged by the weather to put the backpack on their shoulders and run to work in the freezing cold rain…but, not me. What I do is basically complaining to myself while actually getting ready to go out. I don’t need a personal trainer…I am the toughest PT I could ever hire to keep me in shape. My brain says “please, let’s stay ten more minutes under the duvet and then we’ll get the tube to work”, while I physically get up, wear running tights and shoes and pack my bag. Once I am ready, I have no excuses but to run.

living in the moment 1

I am committed to a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy a drink now and then with friends, but I am lucky enough to be surrounded by like-minded people that embrace a similar lifestyle. I really believe in the “Carpe diem — live in the moment” type of approach to life. I am a curious individual. I want to learn new things every day and become better at what I do. No one will do it on my behalf. If I want to improve my run technique, I have to wake up and run, no matter the weather. If I want to travel the world I have to sacrifice something else in order to save money for the trip. I don’t need expensive clothes or a fancy car. I’d rather keep the money aside to get on a plane whenever I have a chance. We can all make excuses for not doing something we need to do in order to achieve our goals.

Here is my advice on how to find the perfect work-life balance.

Set short to mid-term goals. Don’t go too far ahead of time because no one has a crystal ball to know what’s going to happen 5 years from now. What will help you achieve your long-term goal is your mindset today. If you want to move up in your career path, attend conferences, take part in training courses, go networking, read books on the subject you want to improve your expertise on. If you want to get fit, start walking to work or at least set your daily goals, such as avoiding the lift when in the tube, walk up the stairs whenever you have the opportunity, avoid eating sugars for a day at a time and so on…do it today, because no one is going to do it for you. Treat your body nicely and feed your brain daily with new ideas and new challenges. Embrace a new hobby. Learn how to play an instrument or how to cook. Attend workshops on how to survive in extreme conditions or on how to build your own Arduino board.

If you wonder what have I learnt recently or what I have discovered about myself that I wasn’t aware of before, that is my deep passion for photography. I have discovered my passion for photography while travelling the world. I wanted to share with my family what I was experiencing during my trips. I wanted them to see places through my eyes. I wanted to capture the moment that I knew would never come back if I’d missed it. I take life the same way. CARPE DIEM. Today becomes part of the story you’ll tell your kids and grandchildren tomorrow. Make it worth living.

Written by Alessandra Distefano (Difrent Alumni)

Her photography can be found at

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