What Makes You Happy? - Carla Coulson
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What Makes You Happy?

Photo Copyright Carla Coulson Paris Tango

What makes you happy? This was a question I asked myself recently.

Ever since my gorgeous hubby woke up one day in Florence, almost 9 years ago (yikes) and decided he needed to get out of there and move to France, I wrestled with my life in Paris until recently. Was that an International GASP of horror I just heard?

Well the truth is choosing somewhere that YOU want to live is vastly different to living where SOMEONE YOU LOVE wants to live.

Hubby needed to get out of Italy because he is Italian and he felt if he didn’t leave he would never finish his architectural degree, he was suffering from ‘knee deep in mud Italian university bureaucracy’.

All photos Copyright Carla Coulson

Go figure. I had just arrived in Florence, settled in, got the bags unpacked, the camera out and a career started (well that took 4 years).

I was cycling around Florence like the happiest girl in the world with a giant chunk of parmesan cheese in my bike basket and my pictures were published in Australian and Italian magazines. And then of course there was hubby (who was just boyfriend at the time) tall, handsome, gorgeous, kind and my chemicals loved his chemicals and we couldn’t get enough of each other.

I remember the moment when I thought ‘this is too good to be true’ I could have hugged myself and ‘danced like  no-one was watching’ in Piazza del Duomo. Happy was an understatement, I was an atomic bomb of joy at what my life had become, I am sure they could have registered my rays of happiness on the Google Earth satellite on Mars.

As you know we moved to Paris and we are still here. Hubby achieved all he wanted to do and more, started working for Parisian architects including Dominique Perrault and learnt some extraordinary skills. Along the way he found his thing, something that has become a life passion called Geobiology the study of the earth’s natural energy and it’s impact on our health and how to create a healthy home.

Watching him find this passion and fulfil what he set out to do has been almost as good as living my own dream.

After another long winter I decided I don’t want to live the rest of my life in a Northern European city, even one as gorgeous as Paris. I wanna be like this girl skipping down the steps in Capri, Positano or some other warm exotic location with the wind in my hair and sunshine in my heart.

Photo Copyright Carla Coulson Chasing A Dream

So when I asked myself what really makes me HAPPY things became crystal clear.  What’s important to me and has been since the day I turned up in Florence are the simple things in life and they are  some of the things I miss most living in Paris.

Doing the work I love



Good Friends and Family and super kitty

Grass Underfoot

A garden and a vegetable garden

The Sea

Great Coffee

Humanity and little daily exchanges of life with others



Helping others

I asked hubby to do the same thing and writing his list made us both ask ourselves why are we here?

Carla, like many of you out there wants to change her life again and this little list was the first step towards allowing myself the possibility to go and search for a new place to call home. A place to live the simple life I once found in Italy. Wanna come along for ride?

What makes you happy? What are the things that make your life pleasurable and give you a sense of reward? I would love to hear about them.

“Everyone who got where he is has had to begin where he was.??? Robert Louis Stevenson

Footnote: in 2015 we moved into a wonderful apartment, for the first time in 15 years I have a work place and Paris feels like the best place in the world.. Go figure..


  • Currently working in a corporate job I simply “do” for a paycheck I am looking to retire in 3 yrs. I am two years into a five year plan on my way to retirement at age 55. I plan on having my own business and look forward to it very much. It has been quite a journey. I have learned a lot along the way and I’m sure I have so much more to learn!

    March 12, 2013 at 10:51 am
    • Liz your plan sounds exciting so happy for you the way time is whipping past us you will be in that business in no time xxx Carla

      March 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm
  • Robyn Favelle

    Beautifully written Carla……I do understand your quandary even though I am still living in the small country town I was born in… I am surrounded by things I love…my husband, son, family, my pets, garden, the Aussie bush, lots of sunshine, good mates, a career that allows me to work alongside my gorgeous husband, the opportunity to travel lots…..and drink good coffee & buy nice shoes :)….all these things make me happy…..but we are torn between all of that and moving just 400km away to our big beautiful farm house, growing roses & veggies, horse rides along the river, good books, a game of tennis on our old clay court…. and maybe even time to write that novel…..or poem..or something….:) In my home I have a board that reads….”the essentials of life…someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to” …..I think we are both really lucky because we have the essentials covered 🙂

    March 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm
    • HI Robyn, thanks for your lovely list.. So wonderful to see what counts in your world. Love the essentials list.. Carla xx

      March 12, 2013 at 7:33 pm
    • Robyn
      I love your essentials of life list. Both of your ‘situations’ sound wonderful and 400km while not far can also seem like a whole world away which of course it is in many sense of that word. xe

      March 19, 2013 at 4:00 am
  • Ah it’s so complicated isn’t it? I’ve been in Italy for too long it feels, and though my work is going well I miss English culture and humour rather too much. It’s great to live in the country and gosh I would miss it if I left, but we are also writing lists here.
    To be happy I need:
    To write and to publish
    To have cherry trees
    To be close to the Dolomites
    To see my kids (two want to be in London, two in Sydney) and family
    To continue growing
    To have a long hot summer
    To play the piano.

    Ahh! We have no answers here so we are gently moving along

    March 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm
    • Gently Moving on is all we need to start Catherine great just to write the list xx Carla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:34 am
  • A simple beautiful life……I cant wait to hear where it will be, you’ll take your own gorgeous light to wherever it is.

    March 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm
    • Too kind thanks Millie xx

      March 13, 2013 at 7:34 am
  • This is an amazing post, Carla. Thank you for your honesty. I think that quite a few of us are at this stage of asking: what is next? Am I doing what I want? Living how I want? I know that both my honey and I are right there too.

    And Paris is not for everyone, as wonderful as it is–to live there is very different from even extended visits. It wasn’t for me. After four years, I could not stand the lack of sun for five months a year a moment longer. Both of us wanted more space to breathe, more kindness and a higher quality of life.

    ***I stopped typing my comment because it was time for lunch and this lead to a GREAT conversation around the table. And I will definitely write my little list. So again thank you and yes, of course we will all follow you no matter where you go! Your wonderful self is the reason why we are all here. 🙂

    Will look forward to seeing what is next…
    PS. I also loved the statement on the board in Robyn’s house!! So simple but that is IT.

    March 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm
    • Heather so happy to inspire a lunch time conversation and that the post struck a cord xx Carla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:36 am
  • I’m very excited for the changes you will undertake! I too have been working on that.

    March 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm
    • Thanks Amber good luck with your plans Carla x

      March 13, 2013 at 7:36 am
  • Sally Leonard

    As I read your post and the replies that followed, I was struck by how fortunate you and some of your readers are. Most people simply have a job..nothing creative that allows them to radically change course. In my next life, ha, I’ll be that creative person who can forge a career and life with loved ones with the ability to live where the soul wants to go.

    March 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm
    • Hi Sally, I used to think I did not have a creative bone in my body! But once I discovered my passion and turned it into my job it flowed like the dam wall had burst 🙂 We all have something within xx Carla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:39 am
  • This is so timely! Wherever you go, I will follow + I am content right at the moment + I am looking at what will magically follow. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

    March 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm
    • So happy for you Peggy and thanks for following the journey xxx Carla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:39 am
  • Brad

    What a fantastic post Carla!
    Aren’t lists for anything like that so clear & helpful to analyse your situation & work out a way forward.
    I firmly believe no matter where we all are right now – it is always where we are supposed to be & sometimes we divert off & see different things along the way but its always on track for whatever our divine plan is!
    Good luck working out where you will make home next – what an exciting time ahead for you. I personally look forward to following you on this ride…. No doubt it will be a fun journey.

    Ooops I almost forgot…… what makes me happy:

    – my beautiful family

    – my beautiful partner who I met in the Middle East of all places?!

    – living in a challenging environment & being ready for anything & everything to be thrown at you!

    – traveling to new lands

    – getting lost along the way

    – kookie people & their quirky ways

    – laughing often

    – working in the fashion industry with clever people

    – gong to Australia as much as we can

    – acknowledging & being thankful for all that we have in life!

    Good luck Carla! Xxx

    March 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm
    • Gorgeous Brad I adore your comments and ‘happy list’ certainly your joy for life oozes and your creative soul is certainly tested in your work environment in the UAE! Good luck with your list and next phase I know you are ticking them off and love ‘getting lost on the way’ xxCarla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:42 am
  • Cara Carla, tornerete in Italia?
    Bentornati :o)))
    I have often made lists of things which make me happy,just to remember how lucky I am
    In random (well,sort of) order
    My son
    My partner of whom I have never enough and who is the most caring man I have ever met apart from my Dad
    My wonder Dad
    My home town
    Trekking on the Portofino mountain
    Eating a pistacchio and hazelnut icecream for lunch
    Having breakfast with focaccia and caffè latte
    Having fun with the girls whom I met at the burlesque class ( never had so much fun in my life)
    Laying in the sun soaking with it
    The list would go on and on
    I am a very lucky girl ….
    Buona fortuna,Rosanna

    March 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm
    • Adore your list Rosanna the burlesque sounds fantastic!! You are a lucky girl xx Carla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:44 am
  • Such a wonderful post and so timely Dear Carla – as my daughter heads into her last 2 years at High School, it’s a question I ask myself almost daily. I long to live without a suit of armour fighting administrative and corporate battles which aren’t exactly my own! To live the simple life for me is back in Crete – being part of a village, the people, the land – being in touch with the environment, living with spontaneity and simplicity – I’ve been lucky to experience it once – and will hopefully do so again. I wish you love and luck in your journey – you will find it and it will be wonderful. F xx

    March 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm
    • Thank-you Francesca and good luck to you hope you can return to your beloved Crete for the simple life xxCarla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:45 am
  • Meredith Mancini

    It must be “the time” for change. Your post resonated within me. I live in northern NSW but have done so for too long and hubby and I want to change but not sure where. Going back to Italy soon for a break so maybe we will get the clarity we need while away. I will follow your next steps with great interest. Your happiness is infectious Carla. Thanks for sharing.

    March 12, 2013 at 11:05 pm
    • Thanks for the kind words Meredith and have a wonderful trip to Italy, hope she dishes up some answers for you xxx Carla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:46 am
  • Kimberley Castle

    That was a thought provoking post, Carla. After reading the comments following your post it is obvious many of us are looking for what makes us happy. I am a bit in limbo at the moment after retiring (early) from my job to find just what makes me happy and what and where I want to be in life.

    Here is my list of things that make me happy

    My husband
    My daughter and son
    The ocean
    My garden
    My Italian language classes
    Definitely travelling – definitely Italy
    Laughing with friends and family

    Good luck on your own journey.

    March 12, 2013 at 11:07 pm
    • Kimberley the list is a start when we acknowledge what makes us truly happy and are completely honest we sometimes surprise ourselves at how simple the plan can sometimes be . Good luck and am so happy the post was thought provoking! Carla xx

      March 13, 2013 at 7:53 am
  • Im NOT the one to ask this question to right now as I too need to make a list!I have everything to make me happy but Im missing something!Also, I feel Im slowing down faster then I want to be.What makes me happy?Was that the question?The garden, the animals,the Italian husband and those Sons of mine off doing what ever it is they are doing!But something is missing!Maybe as i follow your posts I’ll figure it out!

    March 13, 2013 at 2:32 am
    • The fact you acknowledged there is something missing Contessa is a start in itself sometimes we can roll along and think we have it all but saying this out loud (or typing 🙂 ) is a start xxx Carla

      March 13, 2013 at 7:55 am
  • Sharon Cotter

    Love your posts Carla, and good luck on your next new adventure where-ever that may take you and hubby?
    I have read both your books; ‘Chasing a dream’, and ‘Paris Tango’. I love both of these books.
    I feel a lot like you did in 2000 when you were not happy with your life, and made the huge change! I have been in the same job for one month short of 9 years, and i’m so over it! I need to make some changes in my life but at 57 is hard just to pack up and move else-where on your own. I have travelled a lot through Europe, UK, etc in the past and if I think about where I want to live, and want I want to do with the rest of my life I keep coming up with blanks!!! I will certainly change my job next year if nothing else, but will just have to wait and see what comes to me in one of those “light bulb” moments re if I will move to another place.
    These things are what makes me happy:

    A good movie
    Good food, and also mixed with good company
    Lazing in my deck chair with a good book or magazine
    Long walks
    Long talks with interesting people
    Going on a good “retail therapy” shopping trip


    March 13, 2013 at 4:40 am
  • Sharon Cotter

    Would love to get a reply from you Carla.

    March 13, 2013 at 4:48 am
  • how timely Carla, I am longing to start working on the house in Liguria and my hubby is looking at a little ‘fixer upper’ in the wild mountains of piedmont. I also long for those days in the sun, vespa rides, and coffee with friends. Not sure where we’ll end up but at least now we are in Italy!!! xxx

    March 13, 2013 at 7:25 am
  • Great to hear from you Lisa and all the way from Italy you are so close to me now xxx I am so excited to be following your journey xxx Carla

    March 13, 2013 at 7:57 am
  • Kellie Hoffman

    Happiness is my kids, my husband, sunshine, laughter, good books, and the occasional bargain picked up in an online sale! Good health and the ability to still do a cartwheel are the icing on the cake for me! As long as I can hope and dream, I am happy. It is vital to remember how lucky many of us are…

    March 13, 2013 at 9:04 am
  • Hi,Carla!:-)*

    I love your post realy much!
    This quastion more people would ask…..
    And quite rightly!
    I live in Netherland almost 13 years and came from Russia,but indeed,I ask me too: ”what next?…..”
    I currently have a pause in my work,but I strive towards a more developments,just continue with the creativity:-)))*

    I think always,when do you lissten to your heart and you CAN do it-that’s mostly great adventure!!! And your luck:-)))*
    Because it does not always go together,I mean: your wish,your needs and your ability or your life circumstances.

    I would be very happy for you if it works!:-)))*

    Thankyou once more for your honesty and for share your feelings here!
    I am so happy,I meet you here:-)*

    Sending to you virtual hugs from Amsterdam,

    March 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm
  • This post is inspiring for so many reasons. For me, you seem to “have it all”, but it’s really eye-opening how you’re pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone, evaluate your life, and reconnect with what truly makes you happy. It’s a great reminder that being happy is a journey.

    March 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm
  • Hello Carla,
    I so enjoyed reading this post because you articulate what I guess everyone of us feels at some point. This moment when we feel we need a change but it’s not clear yet. When I left Paris – i lived in rue Vieille-du-Temple, we could have been neighbors 🙂 – for the south of Spain, first i thought it was going to be a complete mistake but I found the sunshine I was missing, a lifestyle which really suits me and…love ! Of course, i miss the city now and then, but now when I’m in Paris, i enjoy it better and i’m always happy to go back to Andalusia. What makes me happy ? my breakfast in the sun, walking through fruit orchards, taking time to cook…simple things but which are valuable in the long term… I can’t wait to hear where your next journey will take you to Carla !

    March 14, 2013 at 10:25 am
  • What makes me happy?….The feeling whatever I am doing right now will make sense in the future.

    All my life I am looking for a place where I could stay forever…I wish we both find that place someday…


    March 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm
  • Carla,

    I always love visiting your beautiful blog and Facebook page. This post is my FAVORITE! Your honesty is beautiful and rare. You are living a life that most people dream of…and yet you long for something different.

    I cannot wait to follow along your your journey to something new.

    As for myself…hmm. I have learned that the things in life that make me the most happy are.


    But like many of readers/comments above your post has given me some food for thought. I am going to put pen to pan and really think about this.

    Enjoy your weekend, Elizabeth

    March 15, 2013 at 5:13 am
  • irene

    Thank you for this beautiful post.
    „..choosing somewhere that YOU want to live is vastly different to living where SOMEONE YOU LOVE wants to live…??? you are so right carla!
    I lived for 10 years in Italy and then moved – because of someone I love deeply- to a big city in Central Europe. And I am not happy there, some of the things I miss most is the sunshine, the mediterranean clima, the plants, the light…
    I am dreaming to live in the south again. But I am not sure yet if moving back to Italy would be a good idea for me. The daily life in Italy can also be very difficult (bureaucracy, la grande crisi economica adesso etc..)
    Did you already decide where to? Did you found your new dream-place?
    It would be great if you let us know.
    A big hug,

    March 15, 2013 at 11:19 am
  • jeanette

    Loved your blog What makes me happy is my family being happy, sunshine, blue skies and gardens,seeing my grandchildren growing into beautiful adults and achieving what they want to do and having been so blessed to have my wonderful husband (53 years) Hector by my side and still in love. It does not matter where I live as long as I am with him that is home.

    March 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm
  • Melissa

    Hello Carla,
    I loved reading this. It made my eyes well..
    I’ve been thinking the same lately. Thanks for the ‘nudge’…Hope I fly.

    March 18, 2013 at 3:00 am
  • Sorcha

    Raindrops on roses….nah, just kidding.


    the face of my beloved

    whispered chatter between my 1 and 2 yr old

    dancing for my boys – they press a toy, it plays music and when it stops, I stop. They press the button again, I dance like a harpie again. It’s a game we play that pleases us no end.

    high tide

    buying tightly bound mudcrabs at the supermarket, taking them to the estuary and
    letting them go



    the night garden

    the creak of a wooden boat

    chinotto or aranciata..and the childhood
    memories that follow that first sip

    rearranging the shelves in Dymocks (putting a certain book that I like out the front..haha)


    We are presently in a similar situation.
    Like you, we are not ignoring our unhappiness.
    It’s funny how a yearning calls to other yearnings and I find this page….
    We moved from Brisbane as, sadly, it had become a confusing maze of roads, massive rents and grey buildings. Now we reside on the coast some 3 hours north and while he loves being out of the city, he hates the small town we’ve landed in. (I do admit there are some VERY strange people here).
    So we are on the move again soon when our lease runs out.
    No idea where to though.
    But not knowing that makes me happy too.

    April 3, 2013 at 6:31 am