There’s No Reward for Staying Stuck: Valerie Caruso


Afraid to follow your bliss?

Valerie Caruso can tell you from experience, at first it can feel a bit impractical or even self-indulgent to follow your bliss. It requires letting go of the “internal insistences,” Val says, those engrained “musts.” But she did it and you can too. After all, as Val reminds us, “there’s no reward for staying stuck.”

Retired following 25 years as a U.S. Air Force officer, Val traded in military acronyms for ones like these: FWS, CWE, WSET.  French Wine Scholar. Certified Wine Educator. Wine and Spirit Education Trust. She packed two bags and moved to Italy to study wine at an International Culinary Institute for a year. She got hooked.

Valerie says she changed the way she “lives her wine” and lives her life. Returning to Italy several more times for writing projects and advanced Italian language studies, Val then went to France for advanced French language and French wine studies at another Culinary Academy.

Today, Val owns Vino With Val, LLC, a wine education and consulting service, “where homework has never been so delicious.” She speaks, presents and teaches classes and wine 21155_362518730601664_3986633043389753893_nworkshops at a local venue in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and leads wine education for corporate and private clients.

Val hasn’t stopped learning and pursuing her bliss. She’s currently studying as a WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wine & Spirits Candidate. If she sounds dead serious about her wine, you’ll want to catch her delightful (often hilarious) and always informative podcasts: Wine Two Five (with her pal, Stephanie Davis).

Fearless Females 5 Cs with Valerie Caruso

“Be who you are, do what you love.”

1. What’s the most courageous decision you’ve made?

After 25 years in the military I packed two suitcases to move to Italy to study wine. A friend looked at me and said, “So you’re just going to go live in Italy and pick grapes? That takes guts.” At the time I didn’t see it as gutsy. In fact, I saw it as rather indulgent. To hole up in a Tuscan apartment, study wine full time, and immerse myself in another culture seemed idyllic. Yet, I was giving up security and blowing a large chunk of savings.

2. What choices are most important to you?

Having been military for half my life, the simplest choices are most important to me now. Something as simple as getting up with the sunrise, not at some o-dark-ridiculous hour, or making my own schedule are priceless. 

3. What fears have you conquered?

Operating in harsher, not particularly “female-friendly” environments taught me to get outside my head, “woman up”, fit in, and perform. Solo travel is also daunting. Renting apartments, market shopping, stubbornly refusing to speak English, and self-inflicted, potentially embarrassing social situations from being the only American in the room make for great short stories, but reeked of “What the heck are you doing?” at the time.

4. What conversation made the most impact on you?

A conversation after I moved to Italy started with, “So where do you plan to end up?” Years of dreaming of the perfect floor plan for my “retirement” house were flying out the imaginary bay window. “Well, I’m going to end up dead, just like everyone else, so I’m just enjoying the journey.”

The truth is I didn’t know, and was just discovering all there was to experience. Having just finished reading Kathleen Flinn’s book The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry, I’d quote, “As in cooking, living requires that you taste, taste, taste as you go along – you can’t wait until the dish of life is done. In my career, I always looked ahead to the place I wanted to go, the next rung on the ladder. The message is that while on a journey, we are sure the answer lies at the destination. But in reality, there is no station, no “place to arrive at once and for all. The joy of life is the trip, and the station is a dream that constantly outdistances us.” (Flinn’s quoting a parable by Robert Hastings, “The Station.”) Brilliant. And true.

5. What do you want women to get clear about?

Stop with internal insistences that we cannot do something, or pandering to gaff about marriage being a “must” at a certain age, solo travel, or starting a new career. At the end of life, there’s no reward for being stuck in relationships, careers, or lifestyles that aren’t serving you or feeding your soul – particularly if they are physically or emotionally harmful. Be who you are, do what you love.

Cheers to Valerie Caruso for sharing her wisdom! Connect with her at and who knows, you might want to pack your bags too. 

Calling All Fearless Females!  If you’ve found the courage to meet your calling, overcome obstacles, Unknownor take a road less traveled, check out “Calling All Fearless Females” to learn how you can step into the Fearless Females Forum spotlight!

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  1. Wow, Jone – thank you for such a beautiful feature! You really do encourage women to speak up, take ownership of their lives, and live an example … in courage. Cheers ~

    • Jone Bosworth says:

      Such a joy to get to share just a peek into your fearless journey, Val! Thank you so much for being a true inspiration, we need more of that to get unstuck. Cheers and gratitude, Jone

  2. Cheers indeed! Raising my glass to both Val, and Jone, for an inspiring post! <3

    • Jone Bosworth says:

      As always, your positivity shines, C.L.! Thank you so much for your kindness and support. You are very much appreciated! My best, Jone

  3. I practically have goosebumps. Seriously, Val is one of the most powerful women I know. She inspires me on a daily basis, and my husband believes she’s a positive influence on me. I am lucky to know her and be in her presence (although not as often as I would like). She really ought to write a book with all her stories, knowledge and advice. Did I mention she’s funny too!?!

    • Jone Bosworth says:

      What marvelous comments, Stephanie! Thank you so much for sharing more about Val, her inspiration and humor. How wonderful to experience women celebrating other women. I’m grateful to you! Cheers, Jone

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