The seagulls in Italy are the size of small dogs and as vocal as any misanthrope Dachshund who believes it must assert its masculine authority over an Alsation. I’m always taken aback when one flies past or perches on an ancient statue nearby and proceeds to loudly proclaim its superiority and place in the world. You may believe that I am a mere gull, it calls, but I am equal to any of you and king of the skies. At least that’s what I think they’re saying as I shake my head and move on elsewhere.
I’m currently sitting in my apartment in Amalfi overlooking the harbour and one of those gulls just swooped past, hence my reflections. But the memories of them on statues come from my time in Rome.
The gulls are numerous along the Tiber and one in particular didn’t hesitate to compete with the notes of the long-haired guitarist playing outside Castel Sant’Angelo (Mausoleum of Hadrian) two days ago. I stopped to listen to his version of Hallehujah and, as usual, my eyes filled with tears as the notes cascaded mournfully through the air. It reminded me of the first time I heard the song when the radio announcer had played it in honour of Jeff Buckley who had waded into the inky Mississippi River just day before and never made it out alive.
But the gull clearly had little respect for melancholy musings and continued its own demanding calls.
The Italian gulls live large and unapologetically, just as their human counterparts. It’s one of the reasons I love to travel here. From their passionate gesticulations when arguing about anything from football to food, to the languid confidence of almost every Italian man as he appreciates passing women like a smorgasboard and the effortless chic of Italian women (and oh yes, Italian men in their Italian suits), they know how to live wholeheartedly.
I know I am making some very broad generalisations here but I believe culturally, these assertions frequently hold true. And I love this country for all of it.
Why do we, in other countries, believe we must keep our passions under control instead of fully expressing them in all their inconvenient glory? Give me passion over repression every day of the week (and twice on Sundays). Far better to express our emotions and release them in the moment than push them down, way down, where they simmer for years making us physically ill and diluting our joy.
You know what I mean, right?
When I meet people for the first time these days, my first question is rarely the prosaic, what do you do for a living? Instead it is more likely to be, what are you passionate about? What’s your thing, the thing you love? It is there that I uncover the real gold within that unique human being. Because anyone can do a job but passion, well, that is something that is entirely yours and owned by you. You may find others who share it but how you feel and pursue it is entirely a matter for you and you alone.
I love Italy for its unapologetic passion for life, love, art and faith.
The other thing to remember is not everyone is going to share your passion and that is totally perfect because we all have our own path and things only we can do in this lifetime.
That’s why, despite his kind offer and personable manner at the café this morning, I turned down Luigi’s offer to share my bed. His passion didn’t align with mine and sadly, for him, men in their 60s don’t really do it for me.
But his conversation was lovely.
Lucretia is currently on her latest Italian Odyssey, soaking in the passion, culture and love that lives in the country where her Soul feels most alive. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.
Have you ever noticed how people look when they talk about their passion? Their eyes light up, their faces look animated and their bodies become charged with an energy you can’t ignore. Their passion transports them right in front of your eyes and, for a brief moment, you are transported with them.
Passion is a hard thing to resist. It is the energy of creative enterprise and the fuel that drives us to take risks and leave our comfort zones. It enables us to see a way forward when others see only obstacles. A life without passion is pointless monotony, a series of days merging relentlessly with little real meaning. Repetition of the ordinary without the fire of adventure.
Today I met a man whose passion transports him. He was another tutor I had to hurry out of my room because he was running overtime. He was animatedly discussing an issue with one of his students and hurriedly gathered his things when he realised the time. ‘It’s just maths, you know,’ he told me by way of an apology as he moved past. ‘It’s just so exciting!’
I laughed and said, ‘Not for me, I’m about the words baby!’ But I loved how the joy and excitement for his passion pervaded his entire being. I feel that way when I talk about writing.
We should all allow ourselves that feeling or, at least, the opportunity to explore our world so we can uncover our passion (or passions). When I mentor people, we frequently discover the key to their passion lies in the activities they loved as a child. For me, as an avid reader and rarely seen without a book in my hand when I was a child, it’s no surprise that my passion is words and writing.
For some people, their passion is not so obvious and that’s when I encourage the explorative approach. That is, if something grabs your attention, no matter how random or silly you think it may seem to someone else, move towards it. You see a flower arranging course offered at a local florist shop – enroll. You watch a television interview with an entrepreneur in another industry and they are giving a talk in your town next week – book a ticket. You’ve always wanted to learn belly-dancing – sign up for a class.
Your passion won’t be revealed to you until you allow the space for it to show up. You cannot uncover your passion by being passive. Passion is the opposite of passive and requires you to move, to extend yourself in new directions, to learn and to get uncomfortable. Inhibitions strangle passion and must be let go of. Instead you must allow yourself to be absorbed in the moment, to the exclusion of what is around you and to the exclusion of what others may think or believe of you. Your passion is wholly and solely about you and you alone.
Guest post by Ellie Chadwick for the #coolpeopleIknow series.
One thing you’ve got to know about me is that I’m an over-doer, or I used to be. During my time at uni I was the vice-president then the president of a club, I signed up for a few programmes including Business Advantage and Leadership, Development and Innovation (LDI) from which I gained a new volunteer role with Volunteering Qld designing social media graphics and assisting with event promotion. I was also a full-time volunteer state manager with a youth based non-government organisation tackling extreme poverty and I had a part-time job as the general manager’s assistant at a hotel in the city. During my summer breaks I traveled, mostly for volunteer work in Cambodia, first as a participant and then as a leader. Now not all of these ran smoothly for me and on a daily basis I would run into problems where I’d have to deal with a work issue during a lecture, or a volunteer issue at work and so forth. At the time I thought being busy was a sign of success and I always wondered why I had no time for things like drawing or going to the beach. I definitely took on too many responsibilities and didn’t focus on achieving one stepping stone at a time. The biggest lesson I learnt was quality over quantity and learning when to say no.
After I graduated I traveled to the Mediterranean and the United Kingdom. I actually skipped my graduation ceremony because it wasn’t about receiving that piece of paper, it was the experiences I had during that time and the person I grew into which I found most valuable. I’m not perfect, I’m still working on being a better sister, daughter and friend and I also know I have a lifelong journey of learning ahead of me. But I’ve found travelling has made me a part of the world not just the town I grew up in; I’ve met and learnt from people, history and culture and learnt new things about myself.
Returning home was difficult because I was back to reality. After having the job at the hotel and seeing my more mature co-workers stressed and complaining about their jobs, I decided not to apply for any but start my own instead. I applied for an ABN and became my own boss just like that, providing graphic design and communication services to small businesses and social enterprises in Australia from my van. Yes, that’s right, my van. The idea came to me after meeting my boyfriend. As a musician he travels a lot for gigs and I enjoy travelling, change and I had no idea where I wanted to base myself. So now I live in a van, travel Australia and freelance for work. It’s great because I’m combining all my passions into one, including my passion for being a global citizen leading a low-impact life, buying Fairtrade and organic, travelling and exercising my creativity through photography and design.
I got so fed up with consumerism especially fast fashion trends and people believing they needed the newest products. I have a keen interest in organic and sustainable living, using natural remedies over artificial and harmful chemicals, and creating less waste. I’m still to try dumpster diving but I truly believe we consume and waste too much so I want to be part of a counter culture which goes back to basics. I’ve always had a thrift mindset, limiting the amount of plastic I use and re-using, upcycling and fixing my possessions. So I cleaned out my bedroom and kept only what I truly needed: clothes, toiletries, laptop, camera and kitchenware. You’ll be able to find all the things I own in one place, my van.
My van has a duel battery system with two solar panels which run the fridge, pump for the tap (you don’t realise how important running water is until you don’t have it), lights, fan, a USB plug, lighter plug and an inverter to charge my laptop and camera battery. It’s fitted with a queen size bed, pantry, plenty of storage and a pull-out table.
So far I’ve travelled extensively around Tasmania and Victoria as well as visiting Adelaide, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane multiple times. Along the way I take photos and notes about the towns and natural wonders for my own travel blog, Girl vs Van. My focus is on van travellers providing tips about living or temporarily traveling on the road and travel tips and insights about Australia’s beauty.
Living on the road is no picnic all of the time. There’s limited cooking facilities which means we eat a lot of one-bowl meals like rice, pasta, wraps and canned foods but I see it as a challenge to create yummy food with one saucepan. Also I’ve learnt a lot about how the van works because clocking up those kilometres requires a lot of tending to the engine and wheels. On rainy days there’s not a lot of options for activities apart from reading on the bed or retreating to a café. Another weakness of ours is to visit the local café for a coffee that turns into breakfast some mornings while trying not to spend over the weekly budget. The cost of living on the road is reasonably cheap compared to renting although luxuries such as a bathroom are exempt. To compensate for this we stay in free campgrounds and make friends who willingly invite us to their homes to share their company and utilities. I don’t feel like I miss out on anything instead I feel it’s more liberating to make do with limited stuff and it encourages more creativity for problem solving.
In the near future I’ll be travelling up the entire east coast aiming to reach Cairns by the end of August and have a wealth of content to write about. Eventually I’ll make my way around the country, a few times probably. I need to maintain my communication business to be able to live this life. I don’t miss being busy at all, I have found contentment in taking life slow and enjoying the simple things. With time on my hands, I get to work on my own designs and artworks which I had no time for while at uni. I sometimes miss having friends nearby but I enjoy meeting new people and seeing new sights. Living in a van is a challenge but it comes with complete freedom to go anywhere and it creates a sense of blissfulness that I love.
Ellie Chadwick is a freelance graphic designer, writer and amateur photographer born in Tasmania. With a BA Mass Comm (Med, Com & PR) she started her own Communications business focusing on graphic design and copywriting. She lives a minimalist life in a solar powered van writing a travel blog, Girl vs Van to help others explore the best of Australia.
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.