This is the second of a series of Interviews as Inspiration. I'm inviting people I admire; artists, authors, people I know, and people I don't. It should be fun! and hopefully inspirational for both you and me.
I've been going to Europe with Carlo Roberts. I teach watercolor as we walk along the French Riviera or on the shores of Lake Como, Italy. How in the world did this happen to me? One of my students, Patrice, who took a one day Sketching and Watercolor: Journal Style workshop with me a couple of years ago. She happened to tell Carlo about me in their mutual yoga class. Carlo called me, she lives in San Diego County, we immediately hit it off. We met for coffee and planned The Art Walk. That's how my life seems to be working lately, and I love it! Now I want you to meet Carlo, and be inspired by the way she's manifested her life into doing what she loves.
Carlo Roberts: I’m the founder of The Blue Walk – my unique walking vacations along the French Riviera, Italian coast, and the Greek Islands.
|Carlo Roberts, on a location scouting trip|
CR: We do half-day morning guided walks, Spring and Fall, in some of the most beautiful coastlines using a combination of coastal walking trails, seaside strolls, and city sidewalks. It’s not boot camp, no hiking boots or backpacks required; it was designed for people who have probably never done or thought about doing – walking trips. It’s such a “feel-good” vacation, and very exciting for me to be able to share this experience with so many wonderful people that have joined us.
It’s designed around how I personally would want a vacation, so we stay in the same hotel all week (unpack once, make yourself at home), and we include an unlimited train pass along the coast so you can explore the French Riviera at your leisure. It works so well on the Riviera, as the towns are gorgeous, varied, and close enough together, so you don’t need to carry much with you.
Now the name came from a trip I’d heard about years ago in Turkey called the Blue Trip – wooden sailing ships leisurely going along the Turkish coast. I always loved that name. When I was creating my walking tours, it was always about walking along the gorgeous Blue Mediterranean coast, so the name “The Blue Walk” came to me instantly.
|Walking The Blue Walk (photo by Carlo Roberts)|
CR: During our two-week April 2000 vacation in France, I wanted to really see every inch of the Riviera, but didn’t want to just sit in a hotel for two weeks. I said to myself, “Hey, why don’t I just walk to Italy…” And I did. Following the coastline every step of the way.
200 miles and 13 days later, it was one of the most extraordinary things I’d ever done. Absolutely spectacular. And it turned out to be life changing.
Despite walking through tunnels, scrambling onto highways, along train tracks, and a flash flood my second day out; I loved every second of it. And never need to do that again.
But being in the travel business, I thought that one of these days, I was going to pick the best six little half-day walks, and string them together into a one-week walking vacation that almost anyone could do.
Four years later, in 2004, I was working on cruise ships on the Mediterranean, and every time we stopped on the Riviera, I’d do a coastal walk around Cap Ferrat. Eventually other friends on board asked to join me when we docked, and they loved it too. So I decided it was time to create the company,
I had kept a journal throughout the walk, so it was easy to go back and pick the best walks. Each time we docked on the Riviera, I would meet with different hotels to set up the program. By the end of 2004, when I jumped ship and joined the “land people” again, I had every detail worked out, having redone the walks, had the hotel contract, and it was good to go.
But not to be. For several reasons, the timing wasn’t right. And for the next seven years, The Blue Walk quietly tapped me on the shoulder as the files sat in the top of my closet.
Jan 1, 2011, I woke up New Year’s morning, meditated on the upcoming year, and said, “If not now, when?”, I jumped up, got the files out of the closet, contacted the same hotel, flew back there to redo the walks, finalize the program, and Voilà, The Blue Walk was finally born.
|Cap Martin Sentier, looking to Monaco. On The Blue Walk (photo by Carlo Roberts)|
JL: Travel is your passion, where do you think it came from?
CR: As soon as I finished the Travel School in 1975, and was able to choose my first vacation, I chose the Greek Islands. And I have been going back, nearly every year since (30+ times).
|Carlo Roberts, researching Greece|
JL: You love to walk? Are you the marathon type or the strolling type?
CR: I’m not sure when, or why, this walking thing started. It just has become a big part of my life. I’ve never been a runner or a marathon type. I’m more a sea-level kinda girl – give me a seaside stroll any day of the week. For me, it’s the meditative nature of walking along large bodies of water, that I love. And the conversations that you get into while walking.
|Entering Villefranche, on The Blue Walk (photo by Carlo Roberts)|
CR: Tuesdays on The Blue Walk on the French Riviera. Really!
It’s the day we do “Gorgeous, Gorgeous”; the walk around Cap Ferrat. I never tire of it, and am still in awe every time I walk it. If you told me I had one walk left to do in my life, that’s the one.
|Cap Ferrat path. French Riviera. The Blue Walk (photo by Carlo Roberts)|
CR: Just about everything ranging from Travel Agent, Travel Wholesaler, Tour Guide, Private Corporate Travel Agent in London; worked for the Airlines, the Cruise Lines, for hotels in Europe and the US, Professor of Hospitality Management in a San Diego Travel School….. to Supervisor in the Consumer Protection Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, handling all Travel Company Related complaints.
And now, the Grand Fromage of The Blue Walk and owner of my own travel agency. It took me decades to create the perfect job for myself. I don’t think there’s ever been anything I’m better suited for, or that’s better suited for me. It feels like all these experiences have led me to this, and I couldn’t be happier about it. And this time, the timing was right.
|The Blue Walk recent participants (photo by Carlo Roberts)|
JL: What is it with you and France? You’re fluent in French? Where did you learn it?
CR: Good question! Ever since I was little, I wanted to live in France. Hard to say why. I even wrote to the French Embassy when I was young to see what you had to do to live there. Right out of High School I went to Travel School because I knew that travel was what I really wanted to do. The travel industry has been my passion and my profession for most of my life.
Then I began college at the age of 41, majoring in International Relations (my friend pointed out that I only did that because “International Travel” wasn’t a major.) But I decided that if I’m going to put myself through school at this age, I’m getting my year abroad! So of course, it was France, and that was where this all began.
Yes, I do speak French. Badly. I’m terrible with languages and it’s only through sheer determination that I speak French at all, but I get by fine these days.
|Nice, France (photo by Carlo Roberts)|
CR: When I hit 50, I gave myself the gift of going to Bali for a month for a personal meditation retreat (and just for the record, that was the year before Eat, Pray, Love came out.)
I wanted to reflect on the past 50 years, and think about what I wanted to do for the next 50. It was really a gift of time – which we don’t often do - to stop and take the chance to reflect. I was armed with journals, candles, incense, paper and nice pens, inspirational books, and a great sense of appreciation, openness and motivation.
It was a transitional time in my life, and being a list person, I made lists of concepts of what I wanted in a career, what I wanted in a place to live, what I wanted to bring into my life.
When it came to careers, I wrote that I did not want my job to be separate from my life. I wanted what I “did” to be a part of who I was, and it would be something that I’d want to do, day and night, 24/7, whether I was paid for it or not.
|Carlo Roberts and Jane LaFazio, in Nice, France|
CR: I have been humbled by the response I have had to my walking tours, and the wonderful people that I’ve met that have joined me. And I just want to be able to continue sharing it with others.
The first year is was just France. That was the plan. Then, so many people that do my walks want to do “something else, as long as they’re already over there”. Some want Paris, some want River or Mediterranean cruises, and the rest want Italy. I had so many requests for Italy that I added it this year (and next). And it’s gotten a great response. And then the opportunity for walking trips in Greece came along.
Future plans? It’s really more fun, fulfilling, and exciting than I could have hoped for already. I have no plans at the moment other than keep perfecting and enjoying my Blue Walks.
|Walking trail in Amorgos, Greece|
Links to my other Interviews as Inspiration:
Mary Beth Shaw, artist and Stencil Girl Products founder
Marcia Derse, textile designer
Lesley Riley, artist and author
Danny Gregory, artist and author
Judy Reeves, writer
Carlo Roberts, The Blue Walk travel company founder
Jane Powell, Random Arts owner