Life Lessons I have Learnt From Travel

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Isabella on the way to Positano with her mum copyright Carla Coulson

I am blogging today from beautiful Argentario in Tuscany! Gobbling one cappuccino after the other and inhaling the best of this country I love so dearly. I thought I would have a little flashback  on a chapter of my life and all the great life lessons that travel has taught me.

Eliza and Isabella, my two nieces, are lost in their thoughts as the boat makes its way back from Laurito to Positano. It is our last day on the Amalfi Coast before we head to Rome. The sun slid behind the mountains an hour ago and everything has been painted in different shades of blue. We are coated in sea and sun. Positano is just minutes away.

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Jumping off the rocks Laurito Copyright Carla Coulson

The lady sitting on the other side of the small wooden boat with her daughter is familiar: I met her during my first summer here almost ten years ago. Our eyes meet and we start to chat about the intervening years and how both of us have made the pilgrimage every year to Laurito, though in different months. As the boat pulls into the small dock, the lady turns to me and says, ‘Noi portiamo questo posto nel nostro cuore’ (we take this place with us in our hearts). Her words stop me in my tracks. I have been searching for them forever, trying to describe the sensation that loving a place brings. Trust an Italian to find the right word! I hug her, knowing we will meet again – were were long ago connected by this special place.

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 A man and his donkey Amorgos Copyright Carla Coulson

Travel has given me some of my fondest memories and dearest encounters. I remember sitting in Paris-Orly Airport waiting to board a 5am flight to Athens, when an elderly lady sat down next to me. She told me that her husband had died a couple of years previously and she had finally found the courage to make her first trip since his death. She was going to the Bahamas. When it was time for her to board her plane, she leaned over and said “I love the airport. Air and port. It’s incredible really – like something out of The Jetsons”. Full of hope, she grabbed her bag and headed to the Bahamas. And I headed, chuckling, to Athens.

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Friends having a heart to heart Seville Copyright Carla Coulson

During my first years in Italy, every street corner was a novelty, every old man who rode by on a pint-sized bike made me smile and the beauty of every marble statue touched me. Every experience filled me with awe and love for my new home. I loved taking my shoes to be heeled at the 200-year-old cobbler’s store, over hearing the lady in the latteria discussing her son’s love affair, and walking the streets where Michelangelo once strolled.

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Cowboys at the Rawlinna Rodeo Australia Copyright Carla Coulson

Travel has inspired me to learn Italian and French. It has given me the education I always dreamed of. I belive the past eleven years in Europe have been my ‘university degree’.

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Ancient statues on the Greek Island of Delos Copyright Carla Coulson

I have studied the Botticellis in the Uffizzi Gallery not once but ten times, and stood before the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’ sculpture in the Louvre with joy in my heart. I have roamed the ancient ruins of Delos with awe and wonder, and scaled a mountain in Anafi to seek out the remnants of a lost civilisation. I have scrutinised the fine detail and beauty of Moroccan architecture and risen at dawn to view the stunning shore temples of Mahabalipuram in India.

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Fisherman Amalfi Coast Copyright Carla Coulson

I have travelled to Naples to see Sanmartino’s breathtaking ‘Il Cristo Velato’ and listened to the stories of the ‘last’ generation of Italians, knowing that when they die, they will take an ancient way of living with them.

Could there be a greater teacher than travel?

What has travel taught you? I would love to hear your thoughts and places or situations that have touched you.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do that you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from a safe harbour and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover”. Mark Twain


PS: I would love you to share with fellow Travellers.

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9 years ago

Strong resonant words. I’ve put my travel into my short stories rather than images. I love the way an idea will come scissoring through, then place will expand on the page, seeping in everywhere. I know it’s different with image, but the same vibrancy has to be there for the work to thrive. I’m sure this will be a beautiful workshop! Xcat

9 years ago

Hi Carla….where do I start. I only really started travelling in the past 10 years, and I love it. Married young, had the babies, babies grew, one moved to Europe and there was my excuse to finally put those wings on and fly! I have never felt so free and open to new cultures and customs. It has enriched my life way more than the house and “things” I thought I needed. I try and get to Europe every 2nd year, but am thinking it should be every year. Love you blog, and admire what you have achieved in your new life.

This is Belgium
9 years ago

gorgeous post and inspirational writing!
you still did not see “Belgium” 🙂

La Contessa
9 years ago

And what a degree you have acquired!I have always said travel is the best education!I was lucky enough to go on SEMESTER AT SEA in the spring of 1981.It truly changed me as a person because I saw places i would never have gone to on my own.Brazil,India, Sri Lanka,South Africa just to name a few.But the biggest education for me was moving to ITALY in 1991 because my husbands parents had passed and we needed to go help with the three young sisters that were in their teens.We sold most of our belongings and relocated with two small sons to live with their aunts in a big house on top of a hill over looking Florence.My biggest fear was driving………after three days of nearly being rear ended for stopping for pedestrians I got the hang of it!Italy drove me nuts at first being an American I was use to order and follow through……….well,I got the hang of it and after three years it was time to come back and I being the American did not want to leave!I still have a hard time leaving if I am so lucky to go back for vacation.
So, sign up for Carla ‘s trip of a Life time!I have been to Puglia you will not be disappointed!

9 years ago

Beautifully written Carla! It’s so true what you learn from stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a chance…..

9 years ago

We don’t get to travel internationally very often but mainly domestic travel. I love any sort of travel even the 45km to the city, but the lesson i get from travel is the sense of appreciation and value of where i come from.
Thank you Carla for your inspiring words. I will get my Italian phrase books out and keep plodding on!

9 years ago

A friend has sent me your post. Aah, yes – Si! Si! Jawohl! È vera! I am Australian. Till I was 18 I had not been out of my state of NSW. And then I did go outside it! And of the 45+ years since I have lived 18 of them abroad – building on school French and Latin with conversational Spanish and German – bits of Greek and Turkish and Viet-namese and fair to middling Japanese. I loved history at school – family tales of my Scottish grand-mother and her connections – and with an English-born grand-father from Kent. I visited parts of the Pacific starting with New Zealand – that green and beautiful land – to Fiji (where a great grand-father was born in 1874) to Europe via Hong Kong (and many times back since – a kinsman buried in the military cemetery in Stanley) – Eurail passing around western Europe – Salazar just gone in Portugal – Franco still in charge of Spain – the Colonels enforcing their perspectives on Greece – and the people – always, always generous and open-hearted and welcoming – no matter the political overlordship. In all my teaching – yes – encouraging my students to want to travel – knowing that the interaction with the otherness of history and people – of cultures and religious philosophies – will reveal our essential humanity to each other – to counter the “them” and “us” of political rhetoric seeking to demonise others – that we are all our brothers and sisters. My wife and I are just back from three fabulous weeks in Turkey – Istanbul and Gelibolu on the European side – and most of western Anatolia – Mediterranean and Aegean coastlines – looking at Kastellorizo and Kalymnos and Samos (this latter where we spent three weeks in 1988) and to Mytilini (Lesbos), too – and so many ancient cultures and civilisations – pre-Byzantine onwards through to the Constantine Christian, Crusader invaders/pillagers – to the Ottoman Turks and their open-ness to others (see the Jewish Museum down from the Galata Tower) – to the modern secular Republic of this 21st century. Thank you for your writing. Inspirational. Lyrical. Brava!

9 years ago

Love this article and thanks for such a timely post Carla, the words so beautifully expressing the joys I’m currently experiencing in the 5th of a six month sabbatical in Italy and France, now in Paris. I find sharing the highlights and selecting photos to compliment with friends via my blog every few days provides wonderful opportunity to relive the days over while reinforcing the wonders of the journey thus far. The bug has bitten and going home will be a toughie. Wish I could join the photography caravan!

9 years ago

I am travelling right now through Italy and later, Paris. I am enjoying every minute. At times I have thought this to be a bit self indulgent but then I remember how lucky I am and how different I feel to when I’m home. I remind myself to enjoy each moment.