How the woman who always has a holiday booked is coping
Reflecting on being here, there and everywhere now that I can't be
The effects of this current situation, what it actually is really settled on me this week. I say 'settled on me' because I haven't for a second felt surprised by any of it, I have an understanding of what's happening and why, but a few things happened this week that brought the sadness of it all to me a bit.
One of my best friends knocked on my door one morning, out of the blue, and we had a great chat, just as we always would. It was a brilliant surprise! But I couldn't hug her, just as I always would.
I've had quite a few video calls between work and friends, which is wonderful. But this week I could really tell how far people physically are, despite technology creating a closeness.
An office I've spent a lot of time at was announced to be closing this week. I can see the sense in the decision and everyone's keeping their jobs, but sentimental me is still saddened by it. I've learned so much in that space and done a lot of growing as a professional. I'll miss it.
And that's ok. I'm ok to be sad and mope a little, so I am doing. Within that, I'm doing a lot of reflecting as well, which as an activity in itself can be quite emotional, even without all of the current ~context~.
I've realised that this current span of lockdown, 6 weeks, is probably the longest I've spent in a single city for about 7 years. I started university in September 2013, from then, for 4 years, I split my time between my uni town, my then-boyfriend's home, my home and any other place I fancied. When I started work in mid-2017, it was the same except my uni town became the city of my big girl job. Then at the end of 2017, I split up from my boyfriend.
At that time, I had a decent amount of money saved that I'd ear marked for a house in the not too distant future. When my future suddenly looked completely differently to how I'd been thinking of it for the 4 years previous, I completely changed my priorities.
When I was about 12, my parents realised I'd been to 12 countries. From then, they made an effort to have my countries visited number and age stay matching. I'm really grateful for that effort on their part and the efforts they've always made with my travelling and experiencing other cultures.
At the start of 2018, I was approaching the age of 24 and was on 21 countries. So, I let me almost house deposit burn a hole in my passport and I legged it all over the world.
- February 2018: In January 2018 I declared to colleagues that I didn't want to spend my first single Valentine's in 5 years sat in my flat, alone, so I was going to go on holiday. On 14th February 2018, myself and great work pal flew to Vienna for a few days. We walked all over the city, relaxed, laughed, ate, drank and ice-skated outside the RatHaus to Ed Sheeran. It was wonderful.
- May 2018: My oldest friend and I have known each other since before we knew anything other than sleeping, crying and bodily functions. We 'met' at about 7 months old in nursery. She's the closest person I have to a sibling. Despite this, we'd never actually been on holiday together other than family group trips as children. We changed that in May 2018 when we spent 4 days Lisbon. On the Sunday night, we randomly found a bar in which we were taught how to salsa dance and stayed there till 4am drinking caipirinhas. Safe to say, my insistence on venturing out of the city the next day wasn't a great idea - rum hangovers hurt!
- August 2018: I convinced two mates from work to go to Budapest with me. It was an absolutely brilliant trip! I'd got us tickets for 'the biggest sparty of the summer' which was an experience in itself - a club night in an ancient baths. The night was a great laugh but featured many a questionable action. We had more relaxing times in the baths during the days, and meandered through the historical city in wonderful sunshine and happy chill.
- October 2018: I took my second solo trip ever! This time to Ljubljana in Slovenia. In many ways, the most I got out of it was a good nights sleep and a complete shut off from the world. I liked the city, and I was impressed with how comfortable I was there despite being completely alone and knowing none of the language. My day trip to Lake Bled was absolutely the highlight, the area is absolutely stunning. I even squeezed in a run as I was doing the Birmingham half marathon a week after returning.
- November 2018: This was time for my first trip with my parents in a looooooong time. We went to Warsaw and Krakow, including a day trip to Auschwitz. It was nice to go on a family holiday again and it be a good different to when I was a child. The cities were fantastically historical and beautiful to walk around as well, an added bonus! I'm not sure there's anyone else I would want to have to Auschwitz with. My dad's a particularly good person to have around in situations like that I've found, I can just speak about feelings and he's very caring and honest in his analysis so I work through difficult things quite well with him. I think everyone should go, to learn from if nothing else.
- December 2018-January 2019: One of my great friends from university agreed to head to the other side of the world with me for the first time, and it was an adventure as a half! We spent 3 days in Dubai, which was definitely worth doing as a stop off and our day in the desert there was an amazing experience, but I wouldn't go back. It's a city spread out more than London and nothing that we had to take ages to get to really felt worth the effort once we arrived. Next, we bobbed over to Sydney and were there for New Year's Eve. It was bloody fab to be the first people to see the New Year in and we had a cracking time, but the city didn't appeal to me beyond that event. Our next stop was Melbourne, and honestly, if it wasn't 24 hours away, I'd move there. I LOVED it. Super chill, very well organised for pedestrians, a beautiful riverside set up, great beaches...oh the dream. The final stop was Brisbane, and I really liked it there too, but probably not as much as Melbourne. My friend and I both got tattoos in Brisbane, and I'm so glad we did. The permanent momento always takes me right back to that wonderful time.
- April-May 2019: The best of all worlds - family time, friends time, me time! Mum, dad and I spent time in New York and Chicago. It was lovely in NYC because dad and I had been before so could show that to mum whilst also sharing in brand new things together. An absolute highlight was seeing Beautiful on Broadway, it's a phenomenal show! Everyone NEEDS to see it! Chicago was new to us all, a stunning with, you guessed it, the greatest pizza. I then met friends from university in Seattle. Reuniting with that was great and I fell in love with the city, such creativity everywhere! I then fell in love with the Pacific Northwest as a whole as I travelled to Vancouver alone and never wanted to leave. The landscape is absolutely stunning, I could climb through it's forests every day for the rest of my life. My final stop was Toronto, again, solo. I stayed in a relatively dingy b&b above a bar in the centre of everything. The mix of creative beatniks and business people in the city was a wonderful juxtaposition that I really appreciated on my potters around.
- October 2019: A fab friend from university is currently living in Kumamoto, Japan. I visited her in 2017, staying with her and also travelling to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima (a favourite place EVER) alone. She got tickets for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and very kindly invited me back! I really enjoyed seeing her again, and I always feel a sense of pride and admiration for her at how well she's carved a life in a country and culture so different to ours. It was also comforting walking around Kumamoto again and knowing it, being able to suggest places for dinner etc. After Kumamoto, I headed to countries 29 and 30 - South Korea with a day trip to the DMZ and the North. I really like Seoul as a city, very hustling and bustling, quite Western in parts, but the authentic Korean-ness is still highly prominent.
- February 2020: Classic me, on a whim, I spotted a cycling trip between Vietnam and Cambodia in STA Travel's 2019 Black Friday sale. I *had* to have it, I've been desperate to go to Vietnam and a group trip with 300km of cycling involved sounded too mad an opportunity to miss. So I went for it! I also tagged 4 days of alone time in Thailand on the end. It was one of the best trips of my life. Utterly incredible. We experienced so much of the countries, through visiting significant historical sites, being taught to cook by locals, cycling through small villages and I continued this in Thailand when I hung out with elephants and got a Sak Yant tattoo from a Buddhist monk. Then I came home, and it all started to hit.
Work had me work from home and self-quarantine for 2 weeks, then I was back in the office for 2 weeks and now I'm in my parents home for 6 weeks because self-quarantining taught me I need physical human interaction at least once a day.
It's all been an absolute journey.
In the past couple of years, I've had quite severe anxiety cloud a lot of my experiences. I've been rushing around so focused on always having an exciting answer of *something* to the question, 'so what are you up to?' It's been a running joke with people that this must be the longest I've gone without a holiday. It's certainly the longest I've gone without one booked.
I will definitely be booking more once I can!
But it's more than that.
I look back on the past couple of years, without that anxious cloud, and I'm so grateful. It was busy and mad and hectic and I had no idea what I was doing, but bloody hell have I got some incredible experiences, memories and lessons out of it. What a moment.
And now, without a holiday booked, it's all starting to settle. I don't have anywhere to go, so I'm coming home to myself and what I want for the future. Maybe it is time to start thinking about buying a house again, where I want to be in 5 years, who I want to be with...In fact, there's no maybe about it, it is that time.
However, I'm still never going to turn down an adventure, so if Sicily wants to pay for 50% of my flight there in Autumn, it looks like I'm pottering around Taormina and climbing Mount Etna again!
What are you coming home to in this time you can't travel?