Welcome to Part 2 of my trip review (and sorry it’s taking me so long to write it all up – somehow that vision of being a travel blogger jetting off to all corners (hmm, there aren’t actually any corners on a globe, are there?) of the Earth is fading slightly – probably should have written while I was there!). Part 1 dealt with the experience of travelling with srprs.me.
This may well be down to all the introspection I’ve been doing and the whole trying to work out Who am I? What do I want to be? What do I want to do? What makes me happy? and the answers to many other equally self-obsessed questions. But I really really wanted to go on holiday on my own.
I wanted to travel on my own, without the need to talk to other people all the time, or to worry about children annoying other passengers, or running off where I can’t see them. I wanted to stay in a hotel room on my own (that, I’ve done before a few times, to be fair – at conferences, for work, and one time I even booked myself into a cheap hotel in Cheltenham for a couple of nights in the run up to an Open University exam to get my revision done). I wanted to decide when to leave and how to travel. I wanted to be entirely responsible for everything – where to eat, what museums (if any) to visit, whether to walk or get buses or trains, whether to just sit down at the nearest bar to have a beer, whether to sit and draw or read. What time to go to sleep. What time to wake up… Mostly I didn’t want to have to talk to other people all the time – yes, even my family!
Lots of people (especially other mothers) kept saying how brave I was. And I’m really struggling with this. Would they say Chris was brave if he did it? I honestly don’t think so. So is it brave because I’m a woman? Should I be scared of travelling on my own? What should I be expecting to happen? Or is it brave because I’m a mother? And if so, is it because I’m leaving my children? I don’t get this. I’m leaving them with their father, who spends as much time as me being responsible for them. I’m leaving them during the week when they’ll be at school the majority of the time. Why is it brave to do that, but not for mothers who travel to work every day? Is it just because I’m going to be somewhere they’re not? Am I supposed to worry that something awful is going to happen and I’ll be too far to run back? I don’t think I can survive life if I’m constantly worrying about what awful things are going to happen (and as someone who has suffered from chronic stress and anxiety, I don’t need to add something else in there to worry about, thank you).
What I did feel was brave, though, was recognising that this was something I wanted and needed to do and getting it together and booking the trip. I didn’t think it was especially brave that it took me almost 6 months to do so from the moment I realised I needed to do it. I suppose it was brave to embrace the unknown and leave my destination in the hands of complete strangers, but actually that made it so much easier, so no that probably wasn’t brave. Yes, it is brave to recognise a need in yourself and to go ahead and make it happen. I hope I can manage more of that bravery in the next months and years and, well, really for the rest of my life.
So, how was it actually? Travelling and holidaying alone? Was it absolutely perfect? Was it everything I dreamed of and hoped for?
Probably not, to be honest. Loads of it was, though. I definitely appreciated being in charge of the pace of walking round museums – no-one ever ever wants to go at exactly the same pace as me, and that can be sooooo annoying. I also liked being able to just wander without having to worry about small feet or someone else wanting to do something different. I liked being able to change my mind about what I was doing because I saw a nice park, or an interesting looking gallery.
I missed having someone to talk to, though! All that itching for not having to talk people all the time, but it turns out I do need some interaction and conversation. So that’s an interesting bit of self-knowledge. Fortunately, my phone worked completely normally there, so I did speak to Chris quite a lot. But I would have appreciated having someone to sit down with at dinner time to chat about the different things we’d seen or done during the day. (Yes, this is where I should have got my Surface, or a notebook even, out and written it all down. Lesson for next time, perhaps.)
I didn’t ever feel unsafe or scared, except maybe the very first night when I didn’t feel up to going out to explore and ended up eating (not very well) in the hotel bar. If I’d only walked two minutes down the street, I would have been in a lively area near the station, and a bit further and I’d have been in among loads of people. Apart from that evening, I walked around the city in the day and the night without feeling at all worried or scared, even when I took wrong turnings and ended up walking through quieter areas.
I didn’t ever feel awkward asking for a table for one. I had a book with me and sketchbook (somehow never got the latter out in restaurants – maybe because I was so into the book) and my phone, of course, and would get one of them out as soon as I sat down, but then often look around instead of reading. I didn’t ever feel I shouldn’t be having a beer on my own (only drank beer, not wine, for some reason – actually, probably because it was really really hot).
I did enjoy having the hotel room to myself, though I did also miss cuddles with Chris and the girls. I think I spent too much time in the hotel room, though and should have got up earlier in the mornings and come home later (another lesson for next time).
I feel I need to do this again a few times to truly know whether it’s something I want to do (holidaying solo, I mean) as a regular thing. I feel like there are some things I’d do differently. I think I’d probably speak to other people more (I spoke to some lovely people on the train and in the airport queues). I think I’d know where to head in the airport to feel more comfortable. I think I’d walk taller and carry less stuff when walking round the city. I think I’d have more confidence to just sit down in a bar/restaurant and not wander round loads trying to find the right one. I think I’d get out my sketchbook more and also use the Surface or notebook to record my thoughts and impressions more immediately and regularly.
I think I can also take some lessons from this experience and port them to holidaying with the rest of the family, or friends. For example, making sure I get a bit of solitary time, but also making the most of having people there to talk to and laugh with – and doing so! And lots of cuddles.
The experience wasn’t absolute perfection, but it was enjoyable and rewarding and personality-building. And I will definitely do it again – hopefully in the not too distant future.