“I was twenty nine and decided I wanted to go to England before the working visa was no longer available. I went on my own, jumped on a plane eat, pray, love style and took off. I went to embrace life, to be completely me and to spend time on my own. This trip was an opportunity to evolve, I knew I had the capacity for more growth.
I went to England and did a block of teaching for ten weeks. The teaching was tough, the students would throw chairs and things like that. I had one student run at me with their fist in my face and that was at one of the better schools. My experience as a teacher in Sydney helped me and I knew how to stand my ground. The other schools were all different sorts of scenarios, police on the driveways as you entered, teachers on duty with walky-talkies, staff rooms with CCTV. The kids didn’t have books, pens, pencils, nothing. You had to take your own paper and pens for them everyday. As a casual you’d have to supply it all yourself and you’d never get your pens back, because they would snap them. Everyday you’d need to bring in thirty new pens, it was ridiculous.
When the school year ended, I met my sister in Munich for her thirtieth birthday and from there we went travelling for six weeks together. We’d poured over our mother’s travel photos over the years and she really inspired us to travel the world. We went all around France and then to Italy. While we were in the Italian cliffside village of Positano I met a guy. I’d always been told by a friend when you are in Italy, be seen, sit outside, dress nice and be seen. No joke, we got dressed up, we sat outside this perfect restaurant and a guy walked past. It was like, me: “hi”, him: “ciao”, me: “ciao”, him: “ciao” and that was it. We kept seeing him around over the course of the evening and later that night we met up at a night club and had a great time together.
My sister and I continued our travels throughout Europe, but it wasn’t long before I got a phone call from him (in very broken english) inviting me to a big medieval festival in Tuscany. It sounded pretty fantastic to an Australian chick so I travelled back to be with him and had an absolute ball. I stayed with him for a few weeks and then went back to England as I had a teaching job lined up. He kept ringing me constantly, asking me to come back and stay with him. Something in me just said to take a big leap. The point of the trip was to to be out of my comfort zone and London wasn’t providing that. A little medieval village in Tuscany, however, was just the ticket.
I lived in Tuscany with him for a year. By the end of that year I was in my prime, I’d mastered the art of living in a medieval city, felt amazing, was speaking Italian and my health and fitness had never been better. I had a job teaching English to Italians, had money, a great partner and had been to so many European destinations that my collection of photos now rivalled my mother’s. However, things were about to change drastically. Summer arrived and I was invited to go and stay with a girlfriend at the Tuscan seaside and I jumped at the chance.
One morning, shortly after I’d arrived, my friend suggested I take her spare bike to ride to the beach. I said I’d walk but they were keen for me to ride the bike, so I did. I had a strong sense that I should not have got on the bike, I wish I’d listened to my intuitive self that day. We were riding down to the beach and it was a perfect blue sky day, the glistening ocean views were breathtaking. As I rode, I saw a young boy happily riding his bike in my direction. He started to swing his bike from side to side as he rode and then began to stand up on his bike as he sped along. He was looking out at the stunning view and was not conscious or aware of his surroundings at all. I saw him and got a burning feeling in my gut that it wasn’t safe for me to keep riding, I pulled over to the side of the five metre board walk and waited for him to go past. He started to ride really fervently and lost control of his bike. He hit me hard and dragged me back a few metres. At this point, I was still standing on my bike despite the crash, however, our bikes had become stuck together. He was extremely panicked and proceeded to push down and pump the bikes hard. I was pushed to the ground by the force and it was then that my whole foot joint exploded. I didn’t feel it though, I was still very concerned for him. When he picked up his bike and I was finally free, I saw my foot facing the completely wrong way, my toes, halfway up my calf.
An ambulance arrived quickly and people came running out of their homes to help, I must have been screaming. I was driven to the local village primary school where they put me on a science lab table. Luckily there was morphine and other drugs handy. My boyfriend called his contacts and got me into a hospital in Florence. My mum flew over to Italy, alone, with no word of Italian to look after me. The hospital experience was very different to what I was used to back at home. There was no air conditioning despite the forty degree summer heat, no TV and limited visiting. We spent a lot of the time crying and going to the hospital’s beautiful chapel which looked more like a Cathedral.
It was months before I was fit to fly home to Australia. It was a massive recovery, five surgeries overall and auto immune disease to boot. I was determined to focus on the healing, my goal was that I wasn’t going to let the accident define me. I started doing yoga and meditation again. I’d found yoga before but got much more into it, as I couldn’t walk properly, dance or run; all things I’d done before the accident. I completed yoga teacher training and it was really transformative. I got a new job and focused on wellbeing. I took my life lessons on well-being, self care and healing to my school and started to run programmes with the kids and it was wonderful.
While I was on the trip I was asking the universe to put me on my path. I wonder now, many years later, if in fact the accident was doing just that, putting me on my true path. The accident has given me greater empathy, I can now hold space for other people and truly listen. I feel I’m meant to do healing work with kids, parents and everyone. I’ve learnt that healing is not a quick fix it’s hard yakka, but it can be done. I was so determined not to let the accident define me, that in the end in some ways it did. However, it has been for the better and for that I am grateful. It gives me great joy to now offer a space for others to work on their own well-being and healing”. (Carolyn, Sydney, Australia)
For more from Carolyn head to her Take A Breath Studio page on Facebook or follow @takeabreathstudio on Instagram