On travelling solo.

No one can say that my life has not been interesting.  From the very beginning it appears I was destined to live a life full of challenges interspersed with an occasional adventure.

It all began in Singapore where my mother, just twenty-one, fell pregnant with her second child.  She had married my father, a slim and charming Irish airforce man at nineteen and their first posting had been to Singapore.  A couple of years later we returned to England and within a year or so we were off to Germany where I began my schooling. I distinctly remember being dragged to school through the snow… not eager to leave the warmth of our top floor flat and the sweet stories of ‘Listen to mother’ on the radio.  Three years later I had to leave my first best friend Gillian and return to England.  I cried for a week and experienced my first broken heart.

Back in England it felt like we moved incessantly.  House after house and school after school.  I became a bookworm.  The corner of the school library and a soft cushion became my friend. The books I read being familiar faces no matter where I found myself.  It was during these years that I discovered the value of knowing how to be alone and I remember my mother telling me how important it is to know how to do this.  To being easy in your own company.  To savour the very sweetness that is solitude.

Finally in my teenage years when my father left the airforce and started his own company we started to settle and yet life began to fall apart.  My father, a typical irishman was a drinker and the more money he made the more he drank.  During his airforce years he had never really been home and I was probably to young to be aware of his addiction.  Now it was glaringly obvious and his indifference to me became a thorn in my side but, at the same time, I developed a deep friendship with my mother that lasted until the day she died.

A week after my seventeenth birthday, having been dumped unkindly by my first boyfriend, I hopped on a plane and went stateside to escape yet another broken broken heart and my father.  I stood at Atlanta airport feeling tiny, afraid and incredibly vulnerable.  All I could think was ‘how am I going to survive this’….but I did.  I ended up in South Carolina and spent a year exploring life, making friendships that are still alive today, learning to stand on my own two feet and the art of ‘conversation with a stranger’.

A year or so later I returned to England and instantly regretted the decision.  Driving through the grey, damp streets on a foggy November morning I longed for the sunny skies of the carolinas, the friends I had made there and once again to be far away from my father and the shit storm that surrounded him.  Just eighteen I sat in my parents little house in England and felt lost, alone and once again incredibly vulnerable.  No plan and no idea where to start. My parents marriage a mere pile of rubble and his love affair with the bottle all the stronger.

Now so many years later I am so grateful for those early adventures.  I am eternally grateful for those early life lessons of savouring solitude and travelling solo.  Of learning to talk to strangers and of reading anything and everything.  Of knowing that broken hearts do mend and that there is power in vulnerability.  Of knowing that you don’t have to tolerate other people’s stuff no mater who they are.

Today I savour my solitude and that little armchair at the back of the bookstore is still my friend.  I have more books than clothes and still love ‘conversations with strangers’.  To hear snippets of their stories and exchange friendly smiles.   I am alone, a little lost and once again feeling incredible vulnerable…..but it feels like home.

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