Je ne regrette rien
Photographer Carla Coulson is proud to say she has lived a life with no regrets – or as the French say, ‘Je ne regrette rien’. We meet this incredible Paris-based Australian who has lived a lifetime of global adventures all in the quest to live an extraordinary life.
Fifteen years ago, Carla Coulson did what many of us are too scared to do. She listened to her intuition and did what it told her to do. She recalls, “The voice inside me was telling me I wasn’t living the life I was supposed to be living. I tried to squash it for many years and then one fateful day I could do it no longer. I listened to my heart, left my job, packed up my apartment and went on an adventure to find the right life for me. I arrived in Italy in 2000 and signed up at a photography school. Fast-forward over a decade I am now based in Paris.”
I listened to my heart, left my job, packed up my apartment and went on an adventure to find the right life for me.
That ‘fateful day’ came in the form of a jewellery box gifted to her from her local Thai take-away – a gift for being a very loyal customer! “I had eaten more take-away than anyone that year in Darlinghurst and for that I received the jewellery box. For me it was the sum of what my life had become and that night I did something about it. I called my business partner and told him the truth about my life and the next day I was planning a year off and a year later I was living in Italy and starting photography school in Florence.”
That moment of clarity has lead Carla on an epic journey of discovery – of both the world and herself. She says, “A lot of aspects of my old life didn’t resonate with me including what I was doing, how I was living and how much of the truth I was willing to show. I had a business that I wasn’t passionate about and I think this was a big part of ‘the wrong life’ – it stopped me from finding my crowd and people with whom I had things in common.
“When I was younger it seemed to matter less but as I hit my thirties many questions kept coming up and I felt like I was living a meaningless life lacking passion, excitement and love. Following my heart has been a rollercoaster ride of every emotion you can imagine, it has given me the chance to live life up close and be rewarded on a daily basis through the wonderful connections I make, the places I get to go and the people I photograph.”
Following my heart has been a rollercoaster ride of every emotion you can imagine … it has given me the chance to live life up close and be rewarded on a daily basis through the wonderful connections I make, the places I get to go and the people I photograph.
Initially based in Italy, Carla’s then-boyfriend decided he wanted to finish architecture in France. Carla was guided by her intuition yet again and took the risk to move countries again. She says, “Eleven years have passed, we are married and still here in Paris!”
As a photographer, Carla’s work gave her the opportunity to connect with people, travel to amazing places and grow as a person. “Photography pushed me out of my comfort zone almost daily and made me grow, learn, feel and be a better person.”
Her journey has also led to wonderful business success, including working with some of the world’s most prestigious and influential magazines. Carla reflects, “I have had the great fortune to publish three books of my own and collaborate on a further five books and worked with Australian and international magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Entertaining and Travel and Gourmet Traveller.
“A real milestone for me was getting my first story published in Marie Claire and the editor went onto publish two stories of mine in the same issue.”
Carla’s first book was a moment of pure joy for the photographer. She recalls, “I’ll never forget the feeling writing and photographing Italian Joy [Carla’s first book] and walking out of my publisher’s office with a book contract. When a publisher gives you the chance to tell your story and you also get to photograph it you realise you have been handed one of life’s great opportunities.
“My publisher cleverly mentioned to me about another successful author and a book I had loved, she said it was great because ‘she told the truth’. Those four words inspired me to go home and write how I truly felt. My story connected me to so many people and I have Italian Joy to thank for so much.”
Carla is certainly a woman who carved out her ideal life for herself. I ask her how she was able to design her extraordinary life: “Passion, clarity and curiosity,” Carla replies. “I made it work because when I arrived in Italy, I felt so deeply attached to the place and the way of living that I wanted to stay. When I found my way to photography, I did everything in my power to make it happen. I believe because I put myself in a vulnerable situation and wanted it with all of my heart and I took the steps to make it happen, the Universe continued to show up with the answers. My curiosity has pushed me to keep learning, finding answers and moving forward.”
I believe because I put myself in a vulnerable situation and wanted it with all of my heart and I took the steps to make it happen, the Universe continued to show up with the answers.
Today, Carla is living the dream – based in Paris, a husband she adores, a tribe of women she inspires – and is inspired by – everyday. She says, “I pinch myself every day that I have the chance to live this life.” Paris is one of those places that many dream of living but is it all that it is lived up to be? Carla says, “I like the layers. I love that it can be picture perfect in one arrondissement and you turn the corner into another and it is grungy. I love the appreciation of art, culture and aesthetic and the Parisians take time to make things beautiful.
“I also love that the French protest, if they don’t like what the government is doing they march and often the people’s power wins. They just don’t talk about it, they do something about it.”
In comparison to Australian, where Carla originates, Parisians live quite differently – “Parisians don’t need as much, they live in small spaces and have different expectations. I think they place different value on what’s important and they savour time a little more than us Aussies.”
Living in a foreign country, travelling the world creating and inspiring women Carla really is living an extraordinary life. So just what does Carla beleive is an extraordinary life mean? She replies, “An extraordinary life for me means being in the flow. If you get to live your truth everything else flows. In my old life nothing flowed, I was single, in the wrong job and with the wrong crowd. When I found my purpose all the things I needed and wanted came to me without forcing it.”
An extraordinary life for me means being in the flow. If you get to live your truth everything else flows.
And as we all know, sometimes even an extraordinary life doesn’t ‘flow’ and I ask Carla what she does in the times when life takes a slight detour. She says, “I have a range of secret weapons! I allow myself to wallow only for a short time and then I do any of the following – go for a walk or a swim or get moving. I put on music I love and let the music change my mood. I do a couple of positive things that will get me out of where I am – that could be write emails, do the dishes or cuddle the cat. I know from experience if you can change your state of mind the Universe will follow.”
Carla is taking her purpose to inspire one step further and is branching out to mentoring for women in business. She says, “I am currently doing a 12-month life coaching and business course so I can help others make the changes they want in their lives. Changing my life has had such a huge impact on every part of who I am, I feel to help someone else live their best life this would be the greatest gift I could give someone.”
It is women, like Carla, who the world needs more of – women who are clear on their purpose, live by their passions and are here to empower other women. I ask Carla where she gains her strength and values from. Carla says, “So many people including my parents. But I think photography has helped me understand all of this a little better. It holds a mirror up to you everyday. It challenges you to ask questions about life daily and how you feel about values, issues and situations.”
And lastly, I ask Carla what advice she would give other female entrepreneurs about how to live out their best life. She responds, “Love yourself, it’s the greatest gift or power a person can give themselves. Everything follows thereafter. I put this piece of advice off till I was 35! I spent so many years comparing myself to others and I always came up short in my eyes. Know that everything you need is within you. I spent so many years looking for love from the outside only to learn we are born with endless amounts of love.”
Carla’s advice on living an extraordinary life:
Follow your passion
Don’t waste years of your life doing what others think you should do, do what makes your heart sing. If you are truly passionate about something, you will find a way to make it work.
Get out of your comfort zone
Get out of your comfort zone on a daily basis. Walk a new street, go take a course or do something you have never dared to do. This will bring inspiration and clarity.
Follow your heart
If you follow your heart whatever you do will have love and passion in it and you will always find a way to make it to work.
Tap into your intuition
Start trusting when you feel ‘sick’ about doing something that is a clear ‘no’. When you are lit up that is a ‘yes’. Use the feelings in your body to help you decide.
This means sometimes putting yourself in vulnerable situations such as walking across a room and talking to someone standing on their own, daring to love again or saying ‘yes’ to life.
It’s only when you take some risks will you be rewarded with what you need. Je ne regrette rien… don’t have any regrets.