Recently a colleague of mine, who I have always admired, made me feel like a queen. To give you some insight; she’s a classy lady in her 50s, a fantastic sales woman, well travelled and over all a person who I admire a lot. So when she came up to me recently and said I was inspiring her I nearly choked on my cereal (yes I do enjoy the occasional bowl of cereal at my desk!). Her comment came after I arrived home from Milan, my first ever solo trip. She said to me that although she’d been to many places around the world she had never braved it alone, and that it was something she longed to do. She said that after seeing me do it, especially after taking a knock in my personal life so recently, that she feels the inspiration to go and do it now.
Similarly, another friend of mine had been in a bit of a funk for the last year. He has a serious case of wanderlust, same as myself, but has always felt he couldn’t do it alone. All of his close friends are in serious relationships or married so arranging trips with them has been challenging. But after many chats together over the last few months he’s finally booked his first trip – and it gives me so much personal joy to know that I, in some small way, played a part in his decision.
I feel like for the first time in my life I can actually feel the power of positivity. Talking about the joys of travelling alone with my close friends and colleagues has already had a butterfly effect so I feel compelled to put this down on paper. Maybe it will be that little nudge that someone out there needs to take the plunge and go somewhere or do something for themselves that they felt up until now they couldn’t.
Milan will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. It is the place that I faced my fears and discovered that ‘Hey, I CAN stand on own two feet!’ And, cherry on top, I can have a lot of fun doing it. The fear before I went was almost crippling – I even googled safety tips for women travelling alone, I was so anxious about something going wrong. Even as I sat on the airplane I didn’t believe I was going through with it – but as the wheels lifted off the tarmac and I felt the jilt of leaving the runway a huge grin plastered itself across my face. I felt so unbelievably powerful. My Mum told me before I went, from her own experiences of travelling to the States alone when she was younger, that when I came home I would feel like I could do anything – and she was right.
On my first day I explored the city by myself, I took the city bus tour (which I 100% recommend you do at the start of every trip to a new place – it’s a fantastic way to find your feet and if you’re a bit of a nerd like me you will also enjoy learning lots of random facts about the area you are in that you just wouldn’t pick up other wise). I spent a couple of hours walking around after that and eventually made my way back to the hostel for dinner – I stayed in Ostello Belle Grande.
At dinner I felt so nervous, I had stayed in hostels before in Dublin but always with at least one other person and it was only ever a place to lay our heads after a crazy night out on the town. I had no previous experience of hostel culture. So when it came to the communal dinner I felt so awkward and nervous about how I was meant to interact with the other guests. So I sat by myself and played on my ipad while I ate. After a while I was joined by a fabulous Argentinian girl, and two guys from London (one who is originally from Sudan and the other of Indian heritage – we were quite a mixed bunch). The four of us just sat around the table for a few hours chatting and laughing. That night we ended up dancing in the most underground grungy night club I’ve ever been in, we were taken to a secret bakery by some local waiters for the most amazing focaccia bread and we walked the streets of Milan with no worries or cares. It was perfect.
I ended up spending the rest of the weekend with them. On the Saturday we walked a total of 22KM around the city (thank you google step tracker!). We ate fabulous treats from little corner shops and stalls. Enjoyed drinks by the canal. Devoured an all you can eat sushi dinner. Saw an underwhelming Michelangelo sculpture. Were stunned by a Da Vinci painting. Walked down a very dodgy street by mistake!! Travelled on the old city trams. Hung out in hammocks on a roof top until 5 in the morning. Relished in great conversation and made what I like to call ‘Lifers’; people who come in to your life and you just know they will always be part of it in some shape or form.
I cannot stress enough how empowering that weekend was, and how grateful I am to my past self for taking the chance and just embracing something new and scary. I feel like a different woman, and people keep saying to me that they can actually see the change which really is fantastic – that the inner feeling is showing on the outside too.
I met back up with the Milan gang in London for NYE and we are meeting again in Barcelona next week. It’s the last weekend all four of us will be in the same continent for a while as my favourite Argentinan returns home at the start of Feb. It makes me sad that it’s our last trip together but I know we will all meet again, maybe Argentina is calling in the future? But how awesome is it that we have already come this far as a group of strangers? It gives me so much hope and excitement for the future and the prospect of new places and new connections.
So whats next? Well my goal for 2017 is to fly at least once a month… Jan has been hectic already, London, Brighton and Barcelona! I haven’t bedded down an exact location for Feb yet but the dates have been picked so it is just a matter of deciding where. March I’m off to Brussells and in the summer I have a big solo trip planned that includes Toronto, NYC and Boston.. I can’t even begin to express how excited I am.
As the travelling is getting easier I am finding new ways to push myself out of my comfort zone, for example in Brussells I decided to book a mixed dorm (it was all female before this). Its just something small to add that sense of fear back in to it – that’s what makes it interesting after all.
So as I come to the end of this dribble, if you have made it this far reading; I commend and thank you, I just really hope that my experience has sparked something in you. Maybe its not travel, maybe its something you’ve always wanted to do but felt you couldn’t possibly! Well I just want to say to you that you can! You 100%, no doubt, slap fear in the face; CAN! And when you do you will feel so strong and so proud of yourself.
Written with Love,