Maya Angelou writes that "you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."

I can add a fourth thing to the list: you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles being stranded abroad and finding other ways back home when a volcano erupts and airplanes don't fly because of volcanic ash!

Like many other people all around the world, in April I was stranded abroad because of volcanic ash and had an exciting 45+ hour journey home with my family. When I left England at the beginning of April, I thought I was heading to Italy's Amalfi Coast. I wasn't expecting to have a tour of Italy, Switzerland, France and Portsmouth.

So I was in Sorrento on Thursday, April 9th, at the end of an idyllic holiday on the Amalfi coast and getting ready to return home on Friday. It had been a sensational week, enjoying the romance of Capri, the pleasures of long Italian lunches and limoncello overlooking sunny beaches, the mysteries of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the warmth and humour of Italians. And I was ready to get home on Friday and have an organised weekend preparing for a full coaching week back in England.

And then....the volcano erupted...ash clouds filled the skies...and flights were cancelled for the foreseeable future. Plans changed and we were stranded in Sorrento! 5 days later, after an epic adventure which was almost as much fun as the holiday, I was back in England. This is what I learned:

1. Don't let the cloud of unknowing block your sunshine

It was beautifully sunny in Sorrento that Friday morning. Yet we didn't know when or how we would be returning home. We only knew that our original plan to fly home that day wasn't happening. Looking around me, I saw many worried fellow holiday-makers, fretting about what was going to happen. But still, it was a sunny day in Sorrento and we decided to enjoy it, exploring the town, having lunch in an amazing restaurant called Caruso's ( I highly recommend it if you're in Sorrento), and enjoying a relaxing afternoon enjoying the views at the hotel swimming pool.

Learning point: even when there is a big (volcanic or otherwise) cloud of unknowing, enjoy the sunshine and possibilities...

2. Plan B? Sometimes there is no plan B

My own personality, J on the Meyers-Brigg personality J/P scale, combined with my profession as a coach, leads me to be clear about my purpose, direction and focus in life and work, both for myself and for my clients. Normally this works well. If plan A doesn't work out, my usual course is to adjust and come up with another plan.

In this case, no plan B was possible. We didn't know when or if the planes would fly, and when we looked into trains, they were booked up until the following week. And in any case, Italian train-drivers were apparently on strike.

The only thing to do to enjoy the experience was not to plan, but just to be...and let the sunshine of Sorrento in. Which turned out to be illuminating and a wonderful experience.

3. Enjoy every moment

Given the reality of being stranded in Sorrento and the absence of a plan B, every extra moment offered possibilities for fun. I went to Positano on Saturday and had arancini in a restaurant on the beach, my son skimmed stones across the water, we found a sun-lit terrace from which to enjoy the views, and I found a sandal shop which made custom-designed sandals. It was a real lesson in seizing each unexpected moment and enjoying it. As another Brit said on the bus along the hair-pin bend roads back to Sorrento, oh Happy Days!

4. Be open to spontaneous pleasure and fun

I ended up on a coach driving through Tuscany, Umbria, the Italian lakes, the Alps, France, to Caen in Normandy from where we got a ferry. The journey was 45 + hours total, uncomfortable, tiring, very, very, long and yet lots of spontaneous fun. Some other passengers on the coach were distinctly irritable and not at their best. And yet....we experienced so many highlights....the gorgeous scenery of Tuscany which I had never seen before, a 2 am jive in a car-park during a short rest stop to get our circulation going (the hokey-cokey would have been next if the bus driver hadn't arrived back), inventive guessing games, the excitement of racing to Caen to see if we could get there in time to catch the ferry...

Whatever the circumstances, you have the choice to have fun or to react as less than your best self.

5. Grace under pressure

Back to Maya Angelou's point at what you can learn about people in certain circumstances. The WW 2 motto of "Keep Calm and Carry On" was on my mind through much of the experience. And there was real camaraderie on the journey with other passengers, the possibility of lovely connection.

6. Be kind

See point above. When under pressure, it's so important to be kind to others and see how you can help them, everything from not putting your seat back on the coach when people behind you are already cramped, to helping an old lady with her luggage on the endless walk from the ferry to the terminal in Portsmouth.

7. Change your perspective

That afternoon in Positano when I should have been back in the UK, that magically gifted space of extra time, I was sitting with my family and enjoying a lemon granita and the spectacular views, as well as our conversation and the feel of sunshine on my skin. At that moment, I got a text from a friend in England, which said something like, "Poor you being stranded. I feel so sorry for you and hope you're home soon." I have to admit I got the giggles. Such is the power of perspective!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Nicola Bunting is a top international personal and professional coach, one of only 1% of coaches in the world to have attained the Master Certified Coach credential from the ICF (International Coach Federation). Nicola's company, La Vita Nuova (the New Life!) Personal and Professional Coaching, is devoted to expert bespoke executive and life coaching for successful and ambitious professionals (in Europe and the USA) who want to dramatically accelerate their success and fulfilment. With individual, group, and corporate coaching programmes on offer, La Vita Nuova can design a coaching plan to help you design and create an extraordinary life and work.