As the plane from Athens started to taxi, I felt relieved that the engines would soon be roaring and I could disguise my sobs. The kind lady sitting next to said knowingly, ‘’Boy trouble. I can spot it a mile away.” I looked at her through puffy eyes, and thought I would try to explain, but a fresh wave of grief knocked my intentions out of me in the form of more snot and tears.
Preparing for take-off, I tried to make sense of what I was feeling.
I have always been guarded with my emotions. I know now that I had never been truly in love before I went on my Contiki. I have never trusted anyone enough to fall in love. I had a few boyfriends since university, and enjoyed the fluffy feelings of infatuation, but I had never fallen head-over-heels in love. Until now. The pain of being away from my love was almost unbearable, but I would have to learn how to cope.
Now is probably the time to mention that I didn’t fall in love with a boy. Or a girl, for those who are curious. I fell madly, deeply, unfathomably in love with my holiday.
I reflected on how I got myself into this mess, and came to a few conclusions. When you go on holiday alone, without anyone that you know, you are with a completely new set of people that have no idea of who you are, and there are no expectations of how you are supposed to behave. I could just be authentic, because everybody on my tour was so different, and being different was a good thing. Being myself without worrying about any reputation, stigma, or need to please was so refreshing.
The same group of people who accepted me giggled at my silly jokes, danced until all hours of the morning with me, and joined me on wild adventures- adventures I never could have dreamed of having alone. I laughed and cried and fought and hugged and kissed and just loved every minute of time spent with these hooligan misfits.
Our tour leader was the most incredible, outrageous human being, and was an example to me in so many ways of how life is supposed to be lived. Jump off that boat, savour every bite, behave like an animal (within reason I guess) and just enjoy your life. This seems like a cliché, to just enjoy your life, but I learned on my Contiki that I could enjoy even the simplest of moments- like the feeling of the sun warming my face, or drinking an ice-cold Coke at our island beach braai.
Greece may be the most charming country I had ever been to. A country is made charming not just by the landscape, but by the people living in it. The Greek islands scored top marks for both! I drank in every moment thirstily, gulping down each experience with vigour and greed. The electric turquoise of the ocean greeted me every morning, bringing a tide of laughter and chaos with it.
I fell in love with my group, and the weird little family we had become. I didn't realise this until I was no longer with them.
I fell in love with a country where free halva is a given and directly proportional to the amount of fun you are willing to have in the restaurant offering. I fell in love with being the truest version of myself. I fell in love with life, and I fell in love with being in love with all of the above.
Leaving Greece, and my Contiki, was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. It only dawned on me that this was so when I realized it was all over. Hunched in my little aeroplane seat, having involuntary flash backs of every beautiful moment, I felt nauseous with grief.
It didn’t stop there. The sadness followed me back to Dubai. I didn’t have regular holiday blues, I felt like I had broken up with the love of my life. I cried nearly solidly for two weeks. I can officially say that I cried longer over my Contiki than I have over any boy, ever. Nostalgia would overtake me at the strangest of moments, choking me with it’s sudden sadness. It was so strange for me.
The upside of falling in love with a holiday and not a person is that you aren’t left with twisted bitterness. My breakup with my holiday was painful, but I was left with a silvery ribbon of joy, hope and expectation. I learned a lot from my Contiki, and the people on it. Most of all, I learned that letting my guard down and letting love in is a good thing, especially when it means falling in love with yourself.
Have you fallen in love with travel, or has travel helped you fall in love with yourself? Share your stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…