Have you ever felt so happy that you could literally skip along the street? That is how I felt so many times during my recent trip to Italy. I felt playful, childlike and overwhelming joy for the moment and place I found myself in. Italy often generates these feelings for me and I find many of its inhabitants also create the same response.

On the day I arrived for my stay in a small town called Montefalco, my host offered to collect me from the nearest train station in his little black VW beetle.

Filippo was the epitome of the creative Italian – a furniture designer, painter, musician and writer, his enthusiasm and passion for life simply bursts from his every pore. With kisses on both cheeks and a warm embrace, he then somehow crammed my huge suitcase into the back seat of his car and we were off.

During our drive up the hill, his conversation covered Brexit, refugees, Syria, Libya and Gaddafi, Germany (their policies and the fact they would face off against Italy in a football match that night – clearly they were the ‘enemy’) and so many other subjects.

I liked immediately.

Filippo invited me to join him, his girlfriend Martina and some friends to watch the match at a bar that evening. Of course, I said yes. I’ve never watched Italians watching soccer before but it certainly lived up to all the stereotypes you could imagine; it was an emotional, dramatic and engrossing experience. We sat on plastic picnic chairs watching it on a big screen television. The bar was in a suburban street and drivers would often beep their horns in solidarity as they travelled past while my fellow match-watchers yelled their approval in response.

One supporter had brought along an Italian flag about the size of a Queen-size mattress and every now and then he’d stand in the middle of the street, waving it this way and that (while making way for the occasional passing car and lady on a bike).

As an observer, it was the passion of these people that struck me the most. Passion seems to be a way of life for so many Italians. They are passionate in love (you only have to walk down any street to witness the frequent public displays of affection to know this), passionate in argument and discussions (it’s never about restraint and control), passionate in their expressions (witness the hand gestures that accompany many conversations) and passionate about their football.

Passion for life is a way of life, not an exception. It’s this passion that I find inspirational and my trip to Italy also reminded me of my passion too.

I’m always inspired by people who are passionate about what they are here to do on this planet. I’m inspired by those who take chances and take the roads less traveled. I’m also inspired by those who, simply by getting up every morning and doing the best they can, make a difference just by showing up.

It is passion that is at the foundation of creating change, growth and the diversity of our experiences. For me, passion is the key.

My trip to Italy and meeting inspirational people like Filippo reminded me of my passion and my purpose. My passion is stories; the stories about how we live, the decisions we make, the challenges we face and our willingness to just keep going when we’d honestly rather give up and go back to some place that’s more safe and mainstream. And it’s my purpose, sharing stories to heal, that supports my passion.

I believe that everyone has at least one (usually several) inspirational stories to share. It is only by sharing our personal stories that we enable others to see what is possible; reduce individual isolation and create connections; and ‘normalise’ our diverse life experiences so that others understand that although our journeys are unique, there are always commonalities, challenges and shared experiences (no matter how seemingly unusual and unexpected).

This Wednesday I will begin sharing weekly stories of #coolpeopleIknow on my Lucy and Life blog. The contributors will share their personal stories to help inspire others. They will be my friends or friends of friends who are seeking to make things better through living a heart-led and authentic life underpinned by their passion (whatever that might be).

I’m really looking forward to publishing these stories and I hope that in doing so, readers will be inspired to begin living their passion today.