In my late teens my Mother started travelling on her own; without my brother and I. I distinctly remember telling my friends in sixth form and at work about my Mum's travels when she was away.
I was so proud of her, doing it for herself and on her own, I could burst. I wanted to be her. A tough and independent woman. My hero.
As my Mum and I got older, I started travelling too, but with my boyfriend at the time. My boyfriend and I met when we were sixteen and we travelled to many places together and made many memories. We spent a great deal of our teenage years together, growing, travelling and experiencing new things.
When I was twenty five and after being together a long time we toyed with the idea of setting roots down. After all, we’d been together for an age – and it seemed like a natural progression to want to settle down somewhat. So we decided we would look into buying a house together.
Before I knew it, we had a mortgage set up on a beautiful cottage. Alarm bells then went off. Something wasn't right. At least that's how I felt...
To the naked eye everything seemed perfect, how things were supposed to ‘end up’ for a couple that had been together for many years, but deep down I was terrified. Terrified at the prospect of buying into a property for umpteen years and settling down. This was not me at all. So I called the mortgage off, to the surprise of my boyfriend at the time. He couldn’t understand why. Neither could I really. There was just a gut instinct that something wasn’t right. Each time I thought about the cottage something would press down on me deep inside and almost make me wretch at the prospect of my life ahead.
Unfortunately, this feeling didn’t pass beyond ending the mortgage. The relationship was tainted by my decision not to commit to that milestone and questions were flagged on my commitment to him. Around a year later, it was all over: I ended it because there was something within me that was incomplete, unfulfilled. It was like there was a knife to my neck, almost cutting me each time I thought of that settled future. I had to do something about it. The guilt of it was killing me inside.
I was a broken woman after the break up. I was in bits, even though it was my decision. I felt like the worst person ever causing so much pain to a person I loved. To hurt this person I’d known practically my whole adult life. Someone I had grown up with. A best friend. Although the relationship was over, I didn’t want our contact to be. But continuing contact wasn’t possible – I think not speaking to me made it easier for him to try process it all.
A month went by and I was still coming home from work upset and still having that feeling of hurt in my stomach. Like I’d been kicked in the gut. It was draining for everyone around me seeing me like this. My Mum then suggested I get away from it all and see some of the world. So that is what I did.
After much soul searching and thinking of place I'd like to go and coming up blank I planned to go the most random place, in my mind. Somewhere I had never ever considered going before; New Zealand.
After about a month of preparation, I was suddenly at the train station in Aberystwyth bidding farewell to my crying Mum. This was the first time I had travelled completely on my own.
When I returned I felt like a new person after meeting new people, hiking mountains, dancing until silly o’clock on bar tables, surfing, skydiving and bungee jumping. I returned healed and rearing to get on with my life. That is the power of travel: it gives perspective and allows for reflection. Not only can you learn about new places, cultures and people – but also you can learn about yourself.
I left Aberystwyth a little girl not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, thinking that I must conform and tick a box and stick to that one for forever and a day. I remember just before landing in New Zealand, the air was clearing in front of me allowing us to see the lush green fields of New Zealand. It was an unimaginable feeling. The prospect of breathing new life into my tired wreck of a heart and mind. I returned with my heart and my mind open to new things, new possibilities and with my zest for life reignited.
Since my return, I’ve achieved so much. I’ve lost over a stone in weight, hiked mountains, ran races, been on courses and met fantastic people. I’ve gained so much life experience in the space of time since my trip. My outlook has completely changed. I am a better person for my travelling experience. I am now a positive, driven and motivated person.
I have travelled alone since my trip and continue to love it and learn more and more about myself. I used to think that the saying 'to find oneself' was a bit hippy dippy, but I did truly find myself in New Zealand.
That’s also why I reflect on my trip like a bridge: the bridge from childhood to adulthood. Also, I have recently reconnected with my ex and spent a morning talking about our lives now and our feelings about the past. It was a truly cathartic experience and we are now good friends. He couldn’t fathom the change in my appearance and personality when we met and said I was like a wild horse that couldn’t be tamed when we were together.
I like the analogy of me as this dark, wild horse with flowing hair, swaying from my mane as I run free. Who knows where I’ll run to next!
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