Where’s my oyster?

So I realised today that it is already May 31st, which means it’s June tomorrow, which means we’re sort of half-way through the year.

And with summer apparently here now (someone tell the weather, please), I also realised I have yet to make any holiday plans for this year and I haven’t had any time off work since Christmas – no wonder I’m so tired!

So I’ve started to think about holiday destinations and ideas and am trying to challenge myself to be brave and try something new. I always put on quite a good show of being fearless and undaunted, but the truth always catches me out in the end and I’m exposed as a big old wimp.

Circumstances are somewhat different this year than usual, as my travelling buddy of the last couple of summers is in a new relationship and making plans with the new love. In fact, this year I find myself in a situation where anybody I would normally plan a holiday with is no longer single and planning a couples trip instead.
So I’m left with two choices – stay home and feel sorry for myself, or be brave and go it alone.

John Cobb / Unsplash

John Cobb / Unsplash

Despite being a massive wimp, I do want to go away this summer, so that means it’s time to man-up and start being a bit braver.
So, today I’ve been thinking a lot about all the people out there who are alone like me, but who just get on with it and go places and see things and do things, and I want to be more like them.
There are entire holiday companies created for the solo traveller, whether they want some help planning an itinerary before they jump on that plane or whether it’s a group holiday that brings together fellow solos – it’s not like I don’t have choices.

And yet despite being single for quite some time now, I have never really travelled alone. I once piggy-backed a friend’s work trip to Prague and spent a surprisingly happy couple of days exploring the city on my own. I was a bag of nerves at the prospect of heading out alone in a strange city, but I ended up having a wonderful time. And last summer I spent the day wandering the streets of Bologna alone when my travelling companion felt ropey and wanted to sleep it off. Again – nothing bad happened!
And that’s it – those are my solitary experiences of solo foreign travel. For someone who spends so much time alone, it’s weird when I see it written down like that.

So now, the prospect of spending an entire holiday alone feels hugely daunting and I get that weird, non-specific, undefinable fear that something bad might happen even though the sane part of my brain knows that literally thousands of people manage it perfectly fine, every year in every country of the world!
I read things by the likes of Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, who continues to be an inspirational woman, I watched the film Wild, about Cheryl Strayed and was blown away by her determination and bravery. And yet I Know I am not like them, I’m not brave – I wonder if perhaps they would even consider packing a bag and going off somewhere a ‘brave’ thing to do.

Today I’ve been looking at the websites for two very similar travel companies – Intrepid and Explore – which both offer group holidays, which I would guess are mostly targeted at solo travellers. Something like this feels like the most likely option for me this year, and yet somehow still feels daunting.
So I’ve been reminding myself of some of Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice today too, and I found this picture, which I’d seen before on her Facebook page and it seemed timely to me today. I absolutely don’t own this picture, Elizabeth Gilbert does, so I hope that reposting it here is ok, because it represents the kind of inspiration I need right now, along with some of the words she posted alongside it:
“So that’s my prayer for you all — not that you will become fearless, but that you will always be SLIGHTLY more curious about the world than you are frightened of it.”

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That is what I need to keep in mind – to acknowledge a fear, but not to let it control me.

So, if anyone has any top tips for a first-time solo traveller, I would LOVE to hear them – destinations, travel companies, planning tips – anything would be most welcome!

Thank you for the music

So it took me about ten seconds to Google some info about a subject that will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, ever:
It has been scientifically proven that music affects our emotions and mood.

No shit Sherlock!!

The nerd in me wants to research this link between emotion and music and try to understand it more, but seriously, am I really going to tell anyone in this blog anything they don’t already know? (Click for more, here, if you must)
There’s the science, which is undoubtedly interesting and important, and then there’s just the reality – the raw, tangible, undeniable, goosebumps, tears, smiles or memories we all get when a certain song comes on the radio or we dig out a CD just to hear it (yes, I still listen to CD’s).

Today, the song Wonderwall, by Oasis, came onto the radio and instantly I was taken back in time to the man I spent ten years with, from 17 to 27. He was a huge Oasis fan and whilst he wasn’t a classic romantic, he used to tell me that it was ‘our’ song in his mind. It was his version of giving me roses, and I loved him for it.

So here’s some songs that trigger memories/feelings/times and places in my mind.
I’d love to hear some feedback about what songs are important to other people.

The OCD in me is quietly agonising about whether I should post these three songs in some sort of order (chronological? importance? type of emotion?) but I’m fighting that, and am just going with whatever comes to mind first.

All I See Is You – Dusty Springfield
So yes, I know that Dusty had her heyday WAY before my time, but goodness me, I love her. Her voice, oh, that voice that conveys a thousand emotions in a word. She captivates me in a way I can’t explain.
I sing this song, in the car, every few days, It’s about him, the one who broke me. The one I loved more than anything on this earth. The one who walked away.
The lyrics say it all – they say everything.
“The days have come and gone since you were here,” and yes, “In every way, all I see is you.”

Do You Realise? – The Flaming Lips
Call me weird, but I imagine this song playing at my funeral, with pictures of all the amazingly wonderful people in my life. Like it is my chance to finally point out to them how beautiful they are, and they don’t get to argue back with a whole load of ‘yeah, but’ because we’re all programmed not to take compliments.
Does anyone really realise how wonderful they are? Are we all too busy putting ourselves down and feeling angsty to notice?
I look at my friends and think “wow”, so many amazing people, and how much time do we really take to recognise that? Is it so bad to notice how massively cool we are?

To Sheila – The Smashing Pumpkins
I have no idea who Sheila is, but gosh, to have someone write a song like this, for you.
I just think this is the most beautiful song ever written. I love The Smashing Pumpkins, and Billy Corgan’s voice is extraordinary. I’d say this is my favourite song, ever.
Can you just imagine, just one person in your life, thinking enough of you to write this song?
This song?

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An oldie but a goodie

I sometimes get a bit of fatigue with all the inspirational quotes and motivational messages that float around on the internet.

Sometimes, seeing something is exactly what I need just to break a thought pattern in the moment, other times, it just seems like more endless quotes.

But, this simple (and well-shared!) image is one I actually choose to come back to over and again.

Magic

Making changes in life, challenging myself, doing things differently and confronting fears are all things I find I shy away from. So, every now and then it helps me to say to myself “ahem, remember this?”

It doesn’t always result in me leaping off in a different direction, but it does help me to remember that whilst staying in my comfort zone is easy, that alone isn’t a good enough reason to stay there.