Well I did it. I travelled alone for the first time in my life. Eight nights, three cities, and one young mother reminding herself she is something of a unicorn. (And it is okay to be lost, as she re-traces her steps along the cobbles in Prague because Google Maps is failing her.)
I will go back to the beginning, to the day I booked these flights. I’d been giving myself a hard time for a while. (The usual, “You’re not working”, “Are you even a full-time Mum because your own Mother helps you so much”, “When are you going to meet someone??”..and other helpful remarks.) And I decided one day that enough was enough. There are plenty of wankers in this world geared up to give you a hard time, why add to the bullshit with your own? If I couldn’t be kind to myself now, at a real low point, then when would I ever be. I wasn’t about to let all that I’d learnt since becoming a Mother go down the drain. I knew what I had to do.
My restlessness and strong desire to say fuck-you to all thoughts of doubt and self-deprecation led to a very long discussion with my Mother as to where would be best to go. She’d never been keen on me travelling alone. The combination of me being her only child and the fact I have a child of my own makes for a very protective Grandma. But being the remarkable woman that she is, she not only agreed to have Maia for the week, but also supported me 100% in doing this alone. And I did require a little pep talk. Okay quite a lengthy pep talk. Mummy guilt began to sink in and my 101 reasons to stay home that week propped up. Those doubtful thoughts I was so eager to banish began to weave their way back into my thinking:
“Who do you think you are?! Swanning off to foreign lands when you have a little girl to take care of, you have responsibilities, how thoughtless and inconsiderate of the people around you! YOU ARE SO SELFISH. WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?…”
What would people think. – Apparently my sub-conscious mantra. *I mean really, people don’t think a whole lot about other people and their travels, it’s generally: “Oh look this person went somewhere interesting..oh that photo’s pretty..oh lucky them..” and that’s it, then they move on..or if they don’t move on and they continue to linger, staring in envy at the highlight reel of this other person, it becomes a mild case of comparisonitis, a sad sad condition where the sufferer compares his/her life to the lives of others, known to result in bitterness and resentment.
I knew I might get judged for leaving Maia for a week. But no one was judging me harsher than I was judging myself. Nothing was ever good enough. Internships, intense courses, plays, volunteering, posting on the blog as often as possible, nothing ever quite hit the bar. Until I realised no amount of creative fulfilment was going to help me feel less alone until I faced my alone-ness head on. And what better way to do that than…go on an adventure! (I kept picturing Eat Pray Love but without all the crying).
And this, in a nutshell, was the reason I went on this trip, because my thoughts can be such bitches and I needed to get them back in line.
No one championed this more than Grandma.
“FUCK THEM” my mother said as I cried into her shoulder for the third time that day. “This is your life. You are not selfish, you have NOTHING to feel guilty about. I am happy to have Maia, she is a wonderful little girl and it is my pleasure, I have time off work anyway. You deserve a break. Don’t be hard on yourself. I am happy for you. Now we’ve been going back and forth all day, JUST GO AND BOOK IT”.
I mean what do you say to that? (Other than thank the heavens I am #BLESSED with such a badass mother).
I hopped upstairs (literally, bounced, much like Tigger) and booked flights to Budapest, Prague and Copenhagen. Spurred on very slightly (okay a great deal) and inspired by my good friend Jo, who’s visited a glorious total of 48 countries to date, this is her blog right here, she is a brilliant writer, and had some hugely helpful insights into solo travel.
Booking the flights lifted my spirits beyond belief. I couldn’t believe how ballsy I’d become in a matter of hours.“I am doing this for me” became my mantra. Would I start freaking out in the morning when I realised what I’d done?! Possibly. But until then I was just very very excited. And proud too, that finally I believed in myself enough to do this sort of thing. Because spending eight nights alone in foreign countries I’d never visited felt like a pretty ballsy thing to do. (I didn’t know at that point how many awesome people I would meet..)….
So next came the accommodation and after getting advice from friends and solo travellers, the general consensus was “Do not stay in hotels, they are expensive, you will not meet people and you will be miserable…definitely stay in hostels, you might not sleep well but at least you will have company.”
Tempted to ignore just about everyone and book some 2* hotels, I took their wisdom on board and booked Maverick City Lodge Hostel in Budapest, an Air BnB (private room) in Prague and Woodah Hostel in Copenhagen. (I will do separate posts for each of the cities, there are too many photos..)
I approached the trip the same way I approach all big-ish and very-much-worth-it things in life; with a “You don’t really know until you go for it” attitude. It’s the awesome scary experiences that yield the most amazing results. In my gut, as I was booking the flights I just thought “this is exactly what you need, for so many reasons”. I needed to be challenged, to be shaken up a little, to leave my comfort zone and realise I can be alone with my thoughts for extended periods of time. I am safe… with myself.
And I was. I was more than safe, I was walking on air half the time, just so ecstatic that I was able to feel good – thrive even – by myself. There was a clarity to my thoughts, I was aware of them and I truly had a sense of anything is possible. – Which out of all beliefs, has got to be in my top five. It was the most liberating experience and I came home feeling like no one would ever love me more than I loved me, and this is the way it should be.
You, in love with yourself, forever and ever.
*I managed to vlog nearly every day, and post these on Instagram, which was a nice little way of letting all my loved ones know I was still alive..Go have a look.