So we are three weeks into our trip, I’ve seen things I never really believed I’d get to see in the flesh, I’ve witnessed different ways of life up close, and I’ve met lots of people, with totally unfamiliar worlds to mine and yet similar life priorities. Frankly, it’s still simply blowing my mind that I’ve been to Asia. Something I keep thinking about (mainly because I’ve been reminded to do so by family/friends, thankfully) is my accomplishment. This sounds a bit self proclaimed and ridiculous, but I’ve never done anything like this before. The last few years really have been pretty quiet for me (minus the sound of a new born).
To give a bit of background, the dinner Stormey and I ate in a restaurant at Gatwick airport at the beginning of our trip was the first time we have ever eaten a meal out together. Seriously, that’s not the kind of thing I can usually do on my own, I find it all too intimidating and stressful. It’s not that I’m scared of people, I’m not, I love it when I have a little chat with someone in a shop or with a fellow dog walker at the park. But the process of walking into somewhere, choosing a table, ordering food, I just get nervous and flustered if things dont go smoothly and then I’m even more self conscious because I’m nervous.
Going by the fact that I’ve never eaten out alone before, it’s probably obvious that I’d also never flown on my own, and certainly not gone abroad. I’m not alone of course, I have Srormey as a travel buddy, and she’s a wonderful conversation starter, and is actually causing me to meet more people than I would if I were alone I think. But she is also two, so I am the acting grown up (still a weird thought, but other parents whisper to me that they feel it’s strange too, so I think it’s pretty normal) and I’m having to make the decisions for us both. Not only to ensure that we survive, but also have a great time filled with stories and photos to show little S when she’s grown.
I remember when I had the trip virtually all booked, and people would ask me, ‘how are you feeling about it? Are you scared? Are you excited?’ I was both and more. But other than occasionally trying to picture myself out there doing it, I didnt really feel like any of it was happening. It kind of just seemed too unreal to happen. I’ve wanted to visit New Zealand since I watched the first ‘Lord of the Rings’ film in 2001, so to finally go after 17 years of wanting to really is a dream come true, as lame as that sounds.
I prepared for the whole trip of course, I’m big on preparing properly. From stocking a small pharmacy to cater for almost any ailment, to writing a list of clothes we needed to pack (which was more complicated than it sounds as New Zealand will be in Winter season when we visit and quite cold, whereas South Vietnam has two seasons, hot and hotter). Anyway, I spent the best part of four months arranging everything from hotels to car rentals. Honestly as soon as Stormey was down for a nap or in bed asleep, I’d be organising stuff for the trip. But even in the midst of its organisation and creation, it never felt real. I think maybe three times I had the excited rush where you feel like a little kid in a shop being told you can have a bag of pic’n’mix, when you really thought your parent was going to say you weren’t allowed. A surge of over excitement and laughter and a little jump around on the spot. That happened a few times. But it was saying goodbye to family and furry friends and driving to the airport when it all started to feel real.
‘F***, this is actually happening. I’m doing it, we’re going travelling.’
Was what went through my head a lot on the short 45minute ride to Gatwick. Once we arrived, my parents hung around and helped with Stormey while the baggage was all checked in, then we said goodbye once more, before me and little S went off through security on our own. From that point, where I’m looking after Stormey without any spare hands, I get a lot less time to think, because keeping S alive and well is no easy mission. She’s as quick as a mouse and as strong willed and stealthy as a cat. I can’t afford to stray from the job, she’s just too precious. So all my time is made up of action and movement, whether it be grabbing her before she climbs on to the baggage belt or removing a tissue that she’s, not so wisely, decided to eat. There is no time left to over think things or worry about much else.
That’s precisely one of the reasons that Stormeyhas been such a good influence in my life. Naturally I am a worrier, and I’ll over think things til the sun rises. It’s a very bad habit and it rarely leads to a positive end point. With Stormey around, there’s simply no time for it. When it does come to thinking, it will be about what time to do lunch and whether to get her to nap before or after, I might get five minutes to message someone about plans for the weekend. By the time the evening comes, which always seem to be so quickly, I’ll have some jobs I need to get done which will take an hour or two, then I let myself have the same amount of time to actually try and chill. I’ll watch a film or do some reading or writing. I always end up doing that for way longer than I should if I want to actually get a good length of time to sleep. (I wake up virtually every morning saying ‘tonight I will get an early night’, and it actually happens once a month at the most.), but I’m human so I so need that bit of down time, to me it is worth sacrificing some sleep over.
So by the time I do get into bed, I’m knackered, with a brain only capable of listening to some gentle music or natures sounds. Therefore my habit of over thinking and worrying has greatly decreased in the last two years since becoming responsible for the life of another, and I’m super grateful for it. Over thinking and time to worry brought me down a lot and gave me the chance to become uncertain of things, I’m so much better off now.
After going through security, I got us to a restaurant and ordered us dinner. I actually had an embarrassing incident, a person from the table behind asked if I could put the blind down a bit further, this meant I had to stand on the bench of the booth we were sitting in. As I did the moveable table (I did not know at this point that it was a moveable table) slid suddenly when I learned on it and Stormeys chips went all over the floor. It was pretty loud and a lot of people looked over. This is a nightmarish situation for me usually, but I smiled and talked to Stormey, just reminding myself that I’m unlikely to ever see any of these people again so it doesn’t matter. The more I live, the more I adopt the ‘f*** it’ mentality, and for me that is very much needed.
So three weeks in, for someone who had never eaten a meal out on their own, this is how I’m getting through what is, to be fair, a pretty big trip. Firstly, was making the flight bookings. Once they were booked I would still pay over £500 if I were to cancel them. That’s far too much money for me to lose, especially to lose over fear. I also couldn’t allow the damage I would have had to my pride if I’d have had to tell people that I’d called it all off. Between lots of cash down and not wanting to lose face, I gave myself no choice but to leave my comfortable nest and jump into the deep end of life
Coping skills from then onwards are not allowing or having time to over think or worry, instead just taking things step by step, i.e., pack, airport, plane, get a taxi. Small steps are much easier to tackle. Adding to that, the reinforcement of not caring if you look silly sometimes, and not wasting time worrying what people think. Just being in the moment with Stormey and deep breathing when there are the inevitable trickier times.
In as little as three weeks, things that I once found daunting or even undoable, are now everyday activities I do without question. Whether it be stopping in at a cafe, getting a taxi or getting on a plane even. Everything is so much easier already, and it feels brilliant. It’s okay to celebrate your achievements, in fact it’s important. It’s another thing I’m not very good at, but I’m learning to give myself more credit. We all deserve to feel proud when we work on stuff or face fears.
Not everyone needs to do something big to push themselves, some people wouldn’t even think of going away alone as a big deal, and most certainly wouldn’t think twice about going for a coffee on their own. But for me this trip is so important, I needed to throw myself into the world, have less comfort, less easy familiarity, and get more life in return. So far, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, after having little S of course.